“100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.” – Simon Sinek
This series is based on my Passion and Productivity workshop. Last week we looked at how employees could be left feeling unengaged due to the way they were treated. This week we are going to take a look at how we can better try and understand the factors behind human motivation. For a more indepth explanation view my video.
As you may have realized, if you are following this series, my mission is to give employees their spark back. Often times I find that in business we are good at the business of business, but not at the people part of the business. In the quote above, Simon Sinek perfectly captures the importance of why business leaders need to understand their employees’ (and their customer’s) perspective on the world. The question that often is asked is “how do we know what motivates individuals in our business?”. And let’s face it, it is difficult given the diversity in organizations today. However I would like to propose that Maslow’s work on human motivation still holds water, even more than 70 years later.
The nature of human motivation
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper in which he focused on the nature of human motivation. He identified five distinct human needs that follow on each other to form his now famous hierarchy of needs, as seen in the figure below:
The first and second rungs of the pyramid focus on people’s most basic needs for food and security. The third rung focuses on how people relate to each other outside of their immediate environments, while people at the fourth rung will ask: “Am I appreciated?” People who reach the fifth rung have achieved everything they could and are looking to give back to society.
What does this mean in business?
It’s important to know where in the hierarchy your employees find themselves. When you understand where your employees fit into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you will have a better understanding of how to motivate them in the workplace. You will understand what they need from you as their employer and where they are in relation to what you can offer them.
An employee at the safety and security phase will have different needs than the employee at the self-actualisation phase. Businesses that are looking to grow and expand will have to pay particularly close attention to which employees are able to grow with them.
Motivation to Purpose and Passion
Sometimes, it will be a difficult – but necessary – to have this discussion. It’s better for an employee to be in a place where they can have more purpose and passion, than to try and fit into an organisation that’s unable to meet their needs.