Maslow Hierarchy of Needs was developed by Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist in the 1940’s. He formed the theory in 1943, which shed light for millions of managers and students to human psychology on how people are motivated and also, just as importantly, why some struggle with motivation, while others excel in certain conditions and situations.
Now, more than sixty years later, Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is still used in Human Resource Management across businesses around the world, to help understand:
Imagine that you could understand at a deeper level, what motivates your team members and so too, imagine if you could ‘tap’ into their psyche and provide them with the right ‘environment’ that goes a large way to meeting those needs.
I’m sure you would agree, your team would be more focused, probably have more energy and so too, be a happier group of individuals.
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs aims to provide the tools to enable leaders to do just that.
Maslow’s model typically represents a 5 stage tier system, often depicted in a triangle format, as seen below:
The theory is as follows:
Each of us are motivated by needs and in order for us to feel happy and motivated in life, we must satisfy those needs.
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs range in an ascending order, from level one to level five and as individuals, we have to satisfy each level in turn, starting with one and then moving through to the next level and so on. The needs range from simple and basic needs of water, air, shelter, at level one, through to more complex self-actualisation, or achievement at level 5. The levels are famously known to be split into two distinct categories:
It comes as no surprise really, that in order to aspire to grow and be motivated to achieve your own potential, you would have first satisfied your basic needs. Likewise, if someone you know doesn’t seem to be motivated in achieving personal growth they may be ‘stuck’ at fulfilling a basic need somewhere lower down the model.
1. Biological and Physiological needs – The first in the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs model represent the basic biological needs of air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. In many cases, they form the first level as without the majority of them, you would not exist. Often, you can see that whereas we in the western world are searching for the meaning of our lives and to develop ourselves, some disadvantaged societies in Africa are happy just to receive shelter, food and water. Their ‘priorities’ and motivations are not set on level 5, but merely on level 1 for much of their time.
2. Safety needs – The second of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs model represents the needs of the protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc. Our need to feel safe and stable builds on our biological needs. We then seek security and a foundation of stability in our lives.
3. Belongingness and Love needs – These form the third order to Maslow Hierarchy of Needs and depict the need for a sense of belonging. In most instances, this feeling comes from being part of a work group, or family; to receive affection, and develop deep rooted relationships. Once we have achieved our biological and safety needs, we quickly seek belongingness to people and things and look to experience deep rooted relationships that will enhance our lives further. Maslow suggests that people at this level, seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. In the work context, as an example, Managers must understand this motivation and try to create an environment that creates a belongingness and team work.
4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc – These follow the first three needs levels and are focused on achieving success and development in our lives. On an employee level, lack of esteem may impact on productivity and prevent the person from working in a team and indeed on their own.
5. Self-Actualization needs – The last in Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is the most illusive and forms the goal to realising personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and optimum experiences. This fifth need opens up to understanding yourself as a person, answering questions as to what are you all about? What potential do you have, whilst aiming to fulfill these needs and being the best you can be. It must be noted that not everyone achieves this level of success. In fact very few people do!
Naturally, as individuals, we continue through life trying to create this balance along the five levels, trying to satisfy each group and staying happy and content.
The prevention of attaining your needs is usually a cause of stress and therefore, motivation suffers. After all, you cannot motivate someone in the workplace to achieve their sales target (level 4), if they are struggling with bereavement in their family (level 3). Nor could you expect someone in your team to be totally motivated as a team player (level 3) if they are struggling to keep a roof over their head and face the possibility of being evicted! (level 2)
The point is that Maslow hierarchy of needs creates a link between how we as individuals feel to how we relate to our internal needs. Often you hear (and in fact you may have said it yourself – I know I have) that “i have a great family, a decent career, I am progressing, but I am still not happy!”
These statements would point that somewhere in your motivational hierarchy; you haven’t fulfilled all of your levels, therefore creating that flat and sluggish feeling, and in some extreme cases, depression.
Maslow Hierarchy of needs is not really a technique or a process. It is more of an understanding. It allows you to gain a deeper insight into people and how they are motivated; what motivates them and indeed how you as a leader can help keep them happy.
Managers often on an instinctive and incorrect basis, establish money as the only reward for employees, and emulate to use it as a sole motivator. The limiting factor is that, particular during a recession, money is not always readily available to service rewards in a transactional way. Much the same as in our examples above, Needs are not met by just hard earned cash, which satisfies levels 1 and 2, the effective manager will seek other ways to create motivation, like empowerment, a team belonging, building relationships and developing the person’s true potential.
If a man is struggling in his home life and facing a divorce, he will more than likely not be interested in self-development and driving to self-actualisation. The leader’s goal here, would be to give him time; maybe time off, to help resolve the issues he has, as well as coaching and counselling to try and satisfy this need. Once he is stable, the manager can then help coach the individual through the next level of needs, to eventually self-actualisation.
On the other hand, a person that is already at the self-actualisation stage, can be empowered, delegated to and given new tasks and further ‘advanced’ training to help them reach new levels of success and development.
The Model helps in two areas:
1. Use the model when conducting regular one-to-one reviews and try to create an honest relationship with your team. You can use the Motivation Analysis Form to help.
2. Again, practice makes perfect. As you use the model more often, you will develop more autonomous skills and your ability to understand people’s motivation levels will quickly develop.