Maslow’s Hierarchy and Employee Engagement – Make the Connections!
In a recent search for topics about employee engagement on Twitter, I was presented with a couple of compelling visuals that took on the task of tying the depth (or lack) of employee engagement to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I present you with one of them here, found on HRZone.com (not sure if the author made the graphic or found it):
We can take issue with a few of the specific connections made*, but the idea that springs from this is that you have to vary your employee engagement approach not just by person but where each is within the organization, because motivations are driven by needs, which vary by age, experience, security and a host of other factors of which every leader needs to make themselves aware.
We spend a lot of time in our work with clients exploring the leadership skills that uncover and respond to the needs of followers (not just subordinates, but peers, bosses, et al.). This engagement/Maslow tie-in concept leavens that approach with the relative professional position of the people you wish to engage.
Entry-level people are not paid much, and their driving motivation may be to “catch on” with the organization, gain some job security and win a promotion. What they most wish to hear through your engagement efforts as a leader are “you are performing well,” “I can see great progress,” and “let’s get you some more training to expand your skill base.” Also: “Yes, I would consider you a candidate for supervisorial positions.”
The attractions of that first rung of management, the front-line supervisor, may not be in the specific tasks of the job, of which many aspirants won’t have prior experience: The job of leading other people might still be a theoretical concept, but the opportunity comes with more pay, and the recognition that up to this point you have performed well.
As a leader of middle managers, you know the leadership ‘bloom’ may be off the rose. The challenge of leading people rather than processes demand a more complex mix of support from bosses, and motivations are a more mixed bag. Not all middle managers want to ascend quickly into senior management positions, for instance, so that type of incentive now has less appeal. “In-Place Motivators” must take center stage, especially if you want to keep productive mid-level employees contributing at a high level even when promotions are scarce.
- You must impart a sense that the work each person is doing is critical to the success of the organization (“meaningful work”) as step one.
- Increasing opportunities to work on projects outside a person’s core responsibilities is a second step.
- Regular access to senior management in meaningful interactions (not just meet-and-greets) is a third.
- Rewards (bonuses, trips, time-off, an assistant) tied to successful results from current work could be a fourth.
Seasoned employees who do not fear for their jobs need different motivators than entry level employees trying to catch on and stick. As a leader, you need to start a dialogue with your followers about how best to inject value and meaning into the work they are doing, and what you can add to their work that would further engage them in the mission of the organization.
What can you do to foster higher engagement in each of your followers? How will you make their lives better by the end of the year because you tied their professional performance to their own internal motivations?
You start by asking them, both as a group, and one-on-one.
If you want help with that process, let us know. We do this sort of team-building engagement exercise all the time, with great results.
*People at the bottom of the pyramid are definitely not all disengaged just because they aren’t making money or lack job security. Lots of people in low-paying jobs are highly engaged, because they see possibilities for the future, or simple take pride every day in a job well done and are recognized for it. Or you have successfully harnessed their nervous energy and aligned it with your mission. Employee engagement comes in all shapes and sizes!