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Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Workplace

According to this study, cited by Forbes, more than half of US workers are unhappy in the workplace.

Abraham Maslow believed that we all have needs which we need to fulfil. As we take care of a set of needs, a new set of needs become salient. Maslow thought we aim to satisfy these needs, but that some take precedence over others. For example, if you are hungry and thirsty, you tend to take care of your thirst first, because you can survive weeks without foods but only days without water. By looking at how strongly different needs were felt, Maslow was able to arrange them into a hierarchy. In Maslow’s hierarchy, the needs towards the bottom of the pyramid were most important, and must be satisfied first. These needs, as shown in the above diagram, are physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualisation needs.

How can we apply this theory to the workplace?

But what does this mean for HR managers and the employees in their care? How can you translate a theoretical tool into something that can help motivate, recruit and train employees.

Here are some examples:

Physiological Needs: These needs can include; having a place to work, a regular salary, comfortable working environment and essential facilities (such as a tea/coffee machine making facilities).

Safety Needs: These needs include having formal contracts of employment as well as benefits such as a pension scheme and sick pay. There should also be an emphasis on health and safety in the working environment.

Belongingness and love needs: Managing an employee’s social needs can usually be done through promoting group working across teams, departments and different levels, as well as encouraging team building through social activities. But, with many of us working from home this can be tricky. Make use of communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom so employees can socialise and collaborate with each other and make sure management are having regular meetings and catch-ups with their team. Don’t forget to take some time out to have fun as a team too, from the classic online quiz to a bake-along, there are many options out there for a virtual get together.

Esteem needs: At the self-esteem level respect for others and praise is important. A 360-degree feedback and appraisal system can help, you can reward employees’ contributions and a peer to peer or social recognition programme will celebrate employees’ achievements and confer prestige and respect.

Self-Actualisation: At the highest level personal development plans, training, secondments, mentoring, and the opportunity for promotion enable staff to be the very best they can be. By implementing regular talent planning meetings among managers and HR, having career discussions with employees and offering options such as fast-track management programmes your organisation can fulfil employees’ self-actualisation needs while ensuring they have the expertise to fill future vacancies.

How you can use the theory to keep your employees engaged, even during the Covid-19 pandemic;

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