Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow’s pyramid detailing the hierarchy of human needs is actually a more general listing of things on which every human should be able to rely on, but is applicable to the issue of Employee Motivation. In any job, from the most basic to the most specialized, the employee should be able to rely on their employer and their co-workers to uphold their access to the most basic needs – those which are essential and without which a human’s health will suffer. The absence of access to these needs is the basis for everything else. As we go up the pyramid the needs become less essential but arguably more decisive.

A sense of security and of belonging is also important to any employee. Knowing that one’s physical safety is ensured allows a person to do their job without fear. Security is not merely a physical concept; it also refers to the security of a person’s job and the conditions that allow them to do that job. Giving a person tasks to do is an essential part of motivation, but providing them the environment in which to carry out those tasks is no less important for motivation. Allowing a level of interaction and encouraging a team ethic will further a person’s intent to do their job and do it well.

In the upper two echelons of the pyramid, the needs are now more refined and specific. It is possible to do a job without self-esteem, but it is undesirable. Encouragement and positive feedback are important factors in ensuring that an employee does their job to the best of their ability. Without these factors, the likely outcome is a drop in performance and a reluctance to carry out further tasks completely and reliably. Self-actualization needs such as creativity and spontaneity allow the mind to work to its optimum level, and actively motivate the employee. These theories fit in somewhat with Herzberg’s – that there are certain things which must be guaranteed as an absolute base, and then others which guarantee the effort of an effective employee through their desire to be part of something good.