Effective employee motivation has long been one of the elusive “Holy Grails” of management. Motivation refers to the internal and external factors that stimulate excitement and energy in a person to be continuously interested and committed to a particular goal.

Leaders are often faced with the challenge to motivate their employees: How do I consistently motivate my employees to “go the extra mile” for the organization? How do I get employees to give their 110%? Although motivation is highly individualized, having a sound framework to understand the psychological processes involved in motivation will greatly help leaders. One such framework that can be applied to the workplace is Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory is one of the most popular needs theories. Maslow postulates that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization. These five basic needs can create internal pressures that can influence a person's behavior.

Maslow proposed that these needs exist in a hierarchical order. This means that lower-level needs must be first met before higher-level needs can be met. Furthermore, once a need is satisfied, it is no longer a motivator because an individual will take action only to satisfied unmet needs.


Maslow’s Hierarchy at the workplace

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy to the workplace helps us develop new insight to motivating employees. Please refer to our modified Malsow’s Hierarchy.

The obvious key insight is that employees needs have to be met from the bottom up. Most organisation spent considerable resources and time implementing best practices that address needs further up the Pyramid. This approach will certainly fail if the basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid hasn’t been address. Leaders ensure that they build a strong foundation before moving up Maslow’s Pyramid.


Maslow’s Pyramid also helps us to strategize how to use monetary incentives most effectively to motivate employees. It should be noted that wages are part of the deficiency needs at the bottom of the pyramid.  To motivate employees further up the pyramid, a different approach such as performance based bonuses are more effective. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs model, these can serve to fulfil the need for esteem. Most importantly, leaders must note that monetary incentive alone can never motivate employees to the top of the pyramid!!


We at ChangeDynamics ( http://www.changedynamics.biz ) have been helping clients to drive performance in their organization. If your organisation is interested in improving overall performance, please contact us to learn how you can drive performance through multiple dimensions. We are happy to have a no commitment discussion to exchange ideas that may help your organisation.