Last time I looked at the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs and how that could be translated into increasing employee engagement.  This time we’re going to loo at the other three.  Next up …

Love and Belonging.  Everyone want to feel that someone cares about them. It’s become clear that in recent times organisations and line managers in particular have overlooked that simple fact. It’s not enough to pay people and expect them to get on with it.  The power of acknowledgement cannot be underestimated. MIT studies have
demonstrated  that acknowledgement is a powerful motivator.  And anyway, isn’t is just polite to say thank you?

The line management role in showing the organisation cares is critical and by developing a deeper relationship through informal coaching (not managing performance) reaps untold rewards.

At an organisational level, how are employees involved in the decision making process? Annual culture and engagement surveys are great – if the organisation acts immediately upon the feedback.  surveys as a box ticking or reporting exercise are worse than worthless.  I remember the first ever staff satisfaction survey I sent out.  The results were horrendous and made very uncomfortable reading.  However we picked out and implemented 3 simple low cost measures we could do and the results were amazing. It also made other changes we were making easier to introduce.

The bottom line:  Recognition is a core responsibility  – no one ever resigned over too much praise.  Managers have to build effective relationship with their staff, listen and respond to concerns.  Develop the culture of recognition with organisational surveys that have teeth and take swift action to show you are listening – and care.

Achievement. Ah yes, the dreaded appraisal or performance review process, where we sit down, review previous goals and set new ones. There’s nothing wrong in principle but its implementation has been patchy to say the least, often due to the importance attached to it (see above).  Lets take this to another level.

Everyone has the desire to get better at something they are passionate about – why do people spend hours practising the piano for no material reward?  It’s that sense of achievement and accomplishment that drives them.  In the workplace its all about career development.  Understanding where an individual’s talents and passions lie and channeling that energy through a career path is what creates the win-win.  Again it comes down to the line manager – can they hold a developmental dialogue that promotes growth?  It’s these softer skills that managers often lack, which makes the difference between engaged or disengaged employees.  These skills are often found in a coach’s skill set and building these skills into management development programmes is a must.

Alongside this, the organisation has to have in place the mechanisms for supporting employees and creating career paths. For example, If the only way your top sales people can achieve long term career success is by moving into a sales management role and removing them  from what they do best (and love doing); that isn’t the smartest thing to do.

The bottom line: Match individual talents and passions to organisational roles.  Provide career development support through managers with coaching skills.

Self Actualisation.  A tricky one perhaps, but I think not.  The hardest thing is to describe what self-actualisation is. I think of it as those moments where you feel one with yourself and the world – a beautiful sunset, a work of art (Sergeant’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw does it for me ).  It’s that moment of connectedness to something bigger – purpose.

what every organisation has to do is build meaning and purpose in every aspect of work and create a connection with each and every employee.  go to any company’s website or read their set of annual accounts and there is likely to be a reference to the company’s mission, vision and values.  But how often are they played out day to day on the shop floor?  Not very often.  It’s the missing link that ties in everything I’ve written about above.  Without meaning or purpose, everything else is window dressing.

Let me go back to the MIT study I mentioned earlier.  The experiments were conducted by Dan Ariely and he found that recognition led to higher performance.  what he also discovered was that meaning increased performance.  Where employees could see meaning in what they worked on it led to increased motivation and performance.  you can read more about the research  and what happened to a software company that took the opposite approach here.


The bottom line: Maslow’s work is still relevant today, but maybe turn it on its head. Build up from the values and purpose – Just like in the film Field of Dreams – build it and they will come.

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