In his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs. He never portrayed them in a pyramid and he recognised that while one need might dominate at a given time, different levels of motivation could occur simultaneously. His hierarchy is perhaps, a set of guiding principles, rather than an A to B process as they are often used. Similarly, employee engagement is not an A to B process. It is a complex combination of drivers and enablers that different people look for in different ways at different times. Organisations can’t control engagement – it’s a 2-way street that employers and employees walk along together. What organisation can do though, is put in place some key elements that Maslow referred to in his paper over 70 years ago
The first level in Maslow’s Hierarchy relates to physiological needs e.g. food, water, shelter – but I want to focus on another basic employee need. This one is normally placed in Maslow’s 2nd level (Safety and Security), but I’m going to address it here as it is the most basic need in the employee relationship – to be compensated fairly for his or her contribution. As many other notable studies have concluded money doesn’t motivate. But if you don’t pay enough to remove pay as an issue, it will always have the opposite effect and demotivate or disengage. In his book Drive, Dan Pink sets out the science behind his assertion that money isn’t a motivator. J Stacy Adams has a complimentary perspective through his Equity Theory on Job Motivation. At the heart of Adams’ theory is an important distinction – one of fairness – how people are treated/compensated in comparison to one another. It’s not all about money, it’s the total package and it becomes lined to other levels of motivation and well-being, such as development opportunities.
The bottom line – reward people well and fairly so they can focus their energies on being the best they can be. It will improve the employer brand and in the next 10 years employer brand will be a key differentiator. Start now!
The next level is Safety and Security. for this I mean your well-being strategy. people need to feel safe and secure. Job security is hard to promise, but what is in an organisation’s control is how employees’ physical and emotional well-being is managed. Physical well-being is clear enough at work- health and safety, but what about emotional well-being?
Stress is the #1 cause of sickness in the UK and affects one in five of the working population. Managers have a key role to play here and it is their lack of skill in managing staff effectively that is often cited as the main reason for staff turnover. Stress related absenteeism costs employer £1.24 billion with over 105 million days lost ash year (source HSE). Management development, mental toughness, resilience training – all aiming to combat the effects of stress, but may be looking in the wrong place. Are we pushing people to fit into a model that is inherently dysfunctional? Should we rather change the organisation to harness the talents of its people instead?
One hidden and far less discussed issue is domestic violence. In 2011/12, 7.3% women (1.2 million) and 5% men (800,000) report having experienced domestic abuse (source ONS). Whether they want it to or not, the impact and effects come to work with them. There is a likelihood that an employee in your organisation is a perpetrator of domestic violence. It is an uncomfortable truth, but a truth none the less. If you want to engage your workforce, put in place the relevant policies to communicate and confront this reality. The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence is a registered charity that works with UK business to provide practical support in this area http://www.caadv.org.uk.
The bottom line: well-being isn’t just a touchy feely HR issue, it has tangible business impacts. Making well-being a core business strategy will deliver a positive return on investment.