We read a recent article explaining how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to employee engagement. The theory suggests there are five, interdependent human needs that must be met in order to for someone to reach their full potential. The author argues that in the context of employee engagement, when five distinct needs are met, people are more motivated to be a high-performing leader.
Just as with Maslow’s theory, there’s a cause-and-effect relationship with meeting specific needs and fulfilling one’s potential in the workplace. As employees’ needs are met, their job satisfaction and commitment to the organization increases. Listed in order from most basic to complex, the five motivators are to feel: seen, accepted, included, trusted and empowered.
By building modern engagement practices into your culture, employers can help move individuals up the path to empowerment. Here’s how to use Maslow’s theory as a backbone for structuring your own engagement strategy:
Make employees feel seen by involving them in the decision-making process. A variety of survey methods can help you accomplish this goal. Frequent pulse surveys can create a constant feedback loop, while periodic, longer surveys give employees an opportunity to share new ideas or bring issues to leadership’s attention.
A strong recognition and rewards program can ensure employees feel accepted and included. Implementing real-time, peer-driven recognition creates a social workplace culture where good work is acknowledged regularly and inspires others to do the same. Both individual and team achievements should be celebrated by peers and managers, rather than merely recorded privately and acknowledged during an annual performance review. Success breeds other success, and making accomplishments public gives employees a chance to identify and repeat good work.
An effective way to show employees they are trusted is by looking forward, not backward. Managers should focus on employee development by creating an environment of continuous coaching, conversation and constructive feedback. Establishing this type of relationship will give employees the confidence needed to reach their goals.
Finally, employees feel empowered only after the first four needs are met. Empowerment is a state of complete engagement, where individuals are actively pursuing their own goals and helping others achieve theirs. As a result empowered employees are a key differentiator between successful companies and those trying to keep up with their competition.
While the idea first seemed to be a stretch, Maslow’s theory applies itself nicely to understanding employee engagement. Building an engaged culture isn’t a one-day process; it’s a constant work in progress that requires attention and commitment from employees, managers and executives.