What’s it: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory to show how our needs vary and have levels, from the most basic to the least important. Maslow divides our needs into a pyramid with five hierarchies, starting from the lowest (most basic) to the top. Basic needs are essential, and we must meet them to sustain our survival. The following needs are less essential but important to satisfy because they affect our motivation. And, they are only satisfied if the needs in the hierarchy below have been met.
Applying Maslow’s theory in business is useful for identifying what factors companies need to consider to motivate their employees. And, their needs are not always related to money. For example, when the company has offered fair and competitive salaries and benefits, employees need to satisfy their other needs to keep them motivated.
Why does Maslow’s hierarchy of needs matter in business?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides important insights into effective human resource management. It explains how employees have diverse needs – and therefore, requires different ways of satisfying them. Thus, designing a human resource program requires your company to understand your employees’ needs. So, you can satisfy them more – and ultimately, motivate them.
With the right program, employees are more motivated. Thus, companies can increase productivity. In addition, motivation is also important to reduce turnover, minimize absenteeism and encourage innovation.
Maslow’s theory is important because it describes what motivates employees. In addition, it is more comprehensive than Taylor’s theory because it lays out motives other than money.
Employees don’t just need money to satisfy their needs. However, they also have other needs to be satisfied, including security, love, and esteem. Money only satisfies their physiological needs. Thus, offering a competitive salary may not necessarily lead to higher motivation once fulfilled.
What is the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
Maslow’s theory explains motivation by relating it to the extent to which we can satisfy some of our needs. He then groups our needs into 5 hierarchies. In order, they include:
- Esteem needs
- Love and belonging
- Safety needs
- Physiological needs
Maslow describes the five as a pyramid, where physiological needs are at the bottom while self-actualization is at the top.
Physiological needs represent the most basic needs. And it must be fulfilled because it is related to our survival.
The higher up the hierarchy of needs, the less essential they are to our survival. And, to satisfy the needs in the higher hierarchy, we must have met the needs of the hierarchy below.
And, for the discussion here, we reverse the order above, start from the most basic, and then work our way up to the top.
Meeting physiological needs is the first priority for employees. They need food, drink, and clothing to carry out their daily activities. Such needs are essential for their survival.
In this case, your company should offer fair and competitive salaries to employees to satisfy their physiological needs. If not, they will apply to other companies to get a higher salary.
When the salary you offer is sufficient to meet the physiological needs, it no longer acts as a motivator. So, your company can no longer rely on salary to motivate employees. Instead, you must focus on the next need, namely the need for security.
Security needs can be related to several aspects of work, such as physical security and job security. For example, your company can satisfy this need by providing safe and comfortable working conditions. Thus, employees can work effectively in their roles.
On the other hand, employees don’t want bad situations to happen while working. For example, work puts them at high risk for injury, disability, or stress. For this reason, an occupational health and safety program is vital.
Meanwhile, for job security, your company can offer a permanent contract. For example, part-time employees who get permanent contracts will be more motivated to work. They feel your company appreciates their hard work. Their career future is brighter with a permanent contract, and their finances are also more secure.
Love and belonging
This need is related to intimacy and kinship in the work environment. Your employees are social creatures, so they need a comfortable workplace to interact with coworkers.
Your employees are happy if they have coworkers who are supportive and cohesive. And satisfying this need requires management to establish a positive work environment with good communication in the workplace. Another way is to encourage teamwork. In addition, developing conflict resolution is also necessary to maintain harmony in the work environment.
It is the employee’s need for recognition, appreciation, and respect from others. Management can satisfy this need, for example, through praise or appreciation.
For example, suppose your company holds an award ceremony for outstanding employees. And, when an employee gets praise and appreciation from the director for his superior performance, it makes him happy. As a result, he will be eager to maintain his performance going forward. It will also motivate other employees to perform better.
Then, promotion is another way to satisfy this need. Your company recognizes high-performing employees by promoting them to higher positions. Finally, your employees are motivated and view working in your company as the right choice because it offers a prospective career path.
It is the need for employees to grow and maximize their potential. For example, allowing employees to introduce their ideas is a way to satisfy this need. Another way is to provide autonomy and work flexibility to develop their talents.
In other cases, employees are motivated if given a challenging job. So, they can actualize the abilities they have learned so far.
What are some criticisms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
Although it comprehensively describes individual needs, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory has also received criticism.
First, needs vary between individuals. Take, for example, physiological needs. It can vary between individuals, for example, depending on their social status. Those with high social status tend to satisfy themselves differently from those with low social status. It ultimately affects how much salary they can tolerate. Thus, providing a competitive salary may satisfy some employees but not others.
Second, what employees want is not always sequential as in Maslow’s pyramid. For example, employees may meet self-actualization needs after satisfying security needs. Thus, motivating them by giving appreciation or creating a supportive work environment will not motivate them.
In other cases, they perceive love and belonging as more important than esteem needs. Thus, the first is in the hierarchy above the second in Maslow’s pyramid.
Third, measuring the degree to which needs in Maslow’s hierarchy are satisfied is difficult. There is no definite indicator to measure it. Thus, it is impossible to develop a motivational program that is truly appropriate to satisfy these needs.
Fourth, although it fulfills basic needs, money can play an important and decisive role in satisfying other needs. Take security needs, for example. Part-time workers may turn down a company offer to become a permanent employee because the salary is not high enough. Although they can satisfy security needs (through permanent contracts), they are not enough.
What to read next
- Motivation: Why is it important? Theory and Types
- Why Are Well-Motivated Employees Important To Business?
- Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: Examples and Differences
- Taylor’s Theory of Motivation: How it Works, Principles and Criticism
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Importance, Order of Needs and Criticism
- McClelland’s Theory of Needs: Types and How to Satisfy
- Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation: Examples and Explanations
- McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y: Categories, Characteristics, and Implications
- Adam’s Equity Theory: How It Works and A Brief Explanation
- Pink’s Theory of Motivation: Elements and A Brief Explanation