We can help businesses to connect better with employees by showing appreciation and with managing employee recognition.
Whilst many might think that providing a regular salary and a comfortable work environment is all that is needed by an employer, we are going to look at the psychology of motivation and break down the key factors that influence human behaviour so that employers can ensure they are getting the most from their employees.
Back in the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow published his Theory of Human Motivation. Fundamentally, Maslow believed that all human beings have the innate desire to be all that they can be (referred to as self-actualisation).
This is great news for employers as inspired and hard-working individuals constantly striving to achieve their best are a dream for any company.
However, in order to unlock this desire within people, Maslow believed that more basic needs have to be met first of all. According to Maslow, humans work their way up through a hierarchy (see image below) in terms of needs that they are looking to be fulfilled, starting with the most basic physiological needs.
Our needs are constantly changing so as soon as a certain tier’s needs have been fulfilled, we begin to desire the next tier’s needs to be met. However, all the time that the needs from a lower tier on this hierarchy remain unfulfilled, a person will not be influenced by the levels further up.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
How can you apply this to your workplace?
According to Maslow, only 2% of people achieve self-actualisation in this hierarchy. In order to help more employees reach this level of motivation, where they are actively looking for opportunities to develop and improve, it is important to ensure that employers are doing all they can to meet their other needs: physiological, safety, social and esteem.
The bottom two levels of physiological and safety needs are fairly straight-forward for most organisations to meet – these needs can be met by providing employment contracts, a safe and comfortable work environment, a regular salary and any other benefits that may help employees feel secure such as a workplace pension and sick pay. On their own, these do not engage employees within a company and they are unlikely to feel any emotional loyalty to you as an employer but they are important as the fundamental building blocks of a satisfying professional life and career.
It is the social and esteem needs which can be a bit trickier for employers to crack as they go above and beyond the basic requirements and require certain values to be instilled into the company culture from the top-down. In terms of social needs, people want a sense of belonging and desire good interpersonal relations with their peers. Many organisations arrange team-building activities throughout the year to build relationships within their teams but another way of building on this is by encouraging employee-to-employee recognition within your company. Whether it is a “thanks” given in person or a digital ecard saying “well done” sent to the employee, these team recognition activities have been shown to have positive effects on both those who give recognition and those who receive it. Also, it is becoming best practice for employers to pro-actively encourage a healthy life style, like quitting smoking, losing weight, to encourage employee well-being and sustained active participation as part of the workforce,
Once an individual employee has this sense of belonging and/or experiences encouragement of a healthy life style by the employer, they will move on to see how their esteem needs are being met. At this stage, employees are looking to see that their work is valued by their employer. Employee recognition plays a big role at this stage as recognising and rewarding an employee’s achievements helps them form a positive self-image of themselves.
If an employee is given a tangible reward, particularly one that they can choose themselves, they will emotionally connect this reward with their job and feel important and accomplished as a result.
By meeting your employees’ needs at these levels, as an employer you encourage positive engagement with your organisation and increase the confidence that employees have in their work. As a result, it can have a remarkable impact on employee retention as they feel little need to look elsewhere for their needs to be fulfilled. However, it is important to note that meeting these needs is not just a one-time occurrence that will satisfy them for life. It is something that needs to be repeated and instilled as part of the company culture – awarding someone a corporate employee award for an achievement two years ago is not going to keep them feeling valued today.
Although it can be difficult to meet all your employees’ needs all the time, once you do have an employee who feel that their basic needs have been met, that they’re a key member of the team and that their work is appreciated by their employer, they will feel inspired to take on more ownership and responsibility within their role and this can even have a positive knock-on effect to the rest of your employees who are likely to feel inspired by this employee’s attitude to work.
We advise employers about employee recognition and fulfillment psychodynamics and we have established a partnership with EachPerson.com to help implement a fully digitized advanced employee recognition and reward scheme for employers in the Netherlands that addresses the above mentioned employees’ needs and which is easy to manage and administer.