The top tier of the hierarchy of needs includes self-fulfillment needs.
In the first two parts of this series, Part 1: Basic Needs and Part 2: Psychological Needs, I described Abraham Maslow’s 1943 Theory of Human Motivation and the idea of a Hierarchy of Needs. As humans, we all strive to achieve our full potential and feel a sense of self-fulfillment. Before we can reach the highest level in our hierarchy of needs (self-fulfillment), we must first ensure our lower levels of basic (physiological and safety) and psychological (belongingness & love and esteem) needs are addressed.
This same theory of motivation and a hierarchy of needs can be applied to employees in the workplace. In Part 1 I described how the physiological need equates to the need of adequate workspace and the safety need equates to security & stability in the workplace. In Part 2 I described how the belongingness & love needs convert to team camaraderie in the workplace and esteem needs match individual achievement in the workplace.
These basic and psychological needs must be met in the workplace before an employee can achieve a sense of self-fulfillment, or engagement & innovation.
If you address the first four levels of the employee’s hierarchy of needs, you’ve given your employees the tools they need to succeed and it’s likely they will have the potential to be truly engaged. By reaching the top level of the hierarchy, employees are given the opportunity to meet their self-fulfillment needs. Your employees will begin to feel a sense of ownership over their work and sense will empower them to continue working toward the greater good of the company while simultaneously inspiring those around them to do the same.
There will always be little things that go wrong, but employees who exist in the self-fulfillment tier of the hierarchy will be able to look past these things and focus on the work in front of them with intrinsic drive, passion, imagination, and creativity.
Once employees make it to the top tier of the hierarchy, it’s a lot easier for them to stay at this level and bring other employees with them. Employees at the self-fulfillment level inspire those around them and create a ripple effect of engagement. Their enthusiasm and attitude help others strive to operate at their same level and engagement becomes contagious.
It is important to remember that moving through the hierarchy of needs is fluid; we can always be bumped down to a lower level of the hierarchy and we can climb our way back to the top. This means we have to work through challenges and barriers to get back to the top, which can sometimes be difficult to deal with. However, once employees reach the top of the pyramid, it becomes much easier to get back there the next time around.
It is a long and difficult journey to help employees reach the top of the employee hierarchy. That’s why true employee engagement is so rare! According to Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. After working through this hierarchy, it’s easier to understand why.
If only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged and exist at the top of their hierarchy, where does everyone else fall? About 67% of employees are considered “not engaged.” These employees likely have their basic needs met and are looking to meet their psychological needs. The remaining 18% fall into the “actively disengaged” category. These employees are probably struggling to have their basic workplace needs met.
The big challenge for employers involves identifying the “not engaged” employees. These employees are often the hardest to identify because they are usually relatively happy or satisfied in their role. They do the bare minimum and are not invested in their company’s mission, values, vision, or goals.
Connecting the Dots
When reviewing the hierarchy as a whole, the first two tiers of employee engagement are generally covered by compensation, stability, security, and benefits. Some workplaces need to address basic resources so employees can do their jobs (technology, temperature, workspace, etc.) but in general, the first two tiers should be easy to confront as an employer. In addition, our need for social interaction, friendship, and belongingness can at least be partially addressed while at work. It’s the last two tiers that can be the trickiest to address.
When it comes to individual achievement, each person is different in the way they want to be recognized or respond to motivation. This takes more effort on the employers side to individualize the experience for employees. The critical point (no pun intended) is the top level, self-fulfillment, which is the hardest aspect of employee engagement for most employers and organizations to achieve.
When organizations provide the tools, the education, the environment, and the stability, employees can realize their potential. They start contributing ideas, leading, and bringing others along for the ride by inspiring them to be better employees. Reaching the self-fulfillment level of engagement gives employees the opportunity to inspire others around them and perform optimally – which is not only best for your employees, it is best for business.
It is important to see engagement as a day-to-day experience that ebbs and flows. Engagement is not something that will happen overnight, and change is hard. Engagement should improve with time and dedication from all levels of an organization. If an organization focuses on the day-to-day experience, the benefits of achieving or striving for engagement will become evident.
This was originally posted on LinkedIn on March 7th, 2018. See the full post here.
If you missed Part 1 on Basic Needs, you may read it here.
If you missed Part 2 on Psychological Needs, you may read it here.