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5 Essential Needs for Employee Motivation

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • April 4 2022

When employees are demotivated, this can reflect in their work and have an overall negative impact on team morale and the success of a business. Therefore, as a leader it is essential that you hold the skills to help motivate employees, to inspire them to work towards the company’s vision and goals and enhance employee satisfaction and performance. 

There are many motivational theories that can be used to guide organizational behavior and elicit employee motivation. One of the most renowned and earliest motivational theories, developed by Abraham H Maslow in 1943, is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This motivational theory suggests that there are 5 essential needs (physiological, security, social, ego and self-actualization) - and that people are motivated to fulfil their basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs. This can be seen as a pyramid (see below), with the basic needs at the bottom, and more advanced at the top.

  • Physiological: This is the fundamental need that must be met for a person to survive - e.g. food, clothing, and shelter. These needs in an occupational setting would be a person’s salary. 
  • Security: This is the need to feel safe. In the workplace this can include job security, and health and safety in the working environment. 
  • Social: Humans are social animals, and have a need to belong in a group, form friendships, relationships, a family – and feel like a valued member of that group. In an occupational setting, this can be achieved by encouraging team building through social activities, or promoting group working across teams. 
  • Ego: Humans tend to feed their ego by achieving recognition, respect and status. In the workplace this can be achieved by implementing a peer to peer o social recognition program to celebrate employee’s achievements. 
  • Self-actualization: Once an individual has ticked all the other needs off, they then move into the self-actualization stage - where their desire to realizing ones full potential and personal development grows. You can help your employees fulfil this need by providing them with the opportunity to develop within the organization. This can be achieved through implementing talent planning meetings with manager and HR, and offering employees the opportunity to develop through training, mentoring and promotions.

While this is a well-known and effective theory to understanding employee motivation, it is important to note that no one size fits all. A leader must view each member of their team as an individual with their own needs, feelings and motivators, and the best way to do that is through communication. Therefore, the best way to motivate employees regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or culture is to have a clear, open and honest communication channel. A channel where employees feel that their needs and concerns are heard – and where leadership will react accordingly to accommodate them. 

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