How To Motivate Employees Using The Hierarchy Of Needs

There is a rumor going around that all staff want nowadays is a high pay cheque (well yeah, have you seen the cost of living?), the freedom to work from the beach while Instagramming their tans and a workplace full of bean bags. If this is what your company offers- then go you!

But for the most part, companies aren’t ready or able to make such drastic changes to their workplace culture and budgets. And let’s face it- while some people may want bean bags, employees needs run deeper than a broad selection of sitting furniture.

We have looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to help explain what really keeps employees happy and motivated.


  1. Physiological Needs (basic issues of survival such as salary and stable employment)
  2. Security Needs (stable physical and emotional environment issues such as benefits, pension, safe work environment, and fair work practices)
  3. Belonging Needs (social acceptance and the feeling of acceptance in the company culture.)
  4. Esteem Needs (respect and recognition in the workplace, nice work spaces, and prestigious job assignments.)
  5. Self-Actualization Needs (workplace autonomy, challenging work and increasing expertise)

Maslow’s theory is a hierarchy for a reason, we seek to have all of these needs met in order of 1st to 5th. Most importantly is their physiological needs which cover wages and stability.


If you want to have high performing employees they will need to be compensated according to their workload and skills. I know it sounds obvious but underpaying workers results in high turnover, lack of loyalty and unreliability which may cost you more in the long run.


Security needs covers a broad spectrum of elements including not only safety but perceived fairness and commitment from employers.

If an employee believes that they could be fired at any time or is one of the 1.1million Australian’s who are underemployed, they are hardly going to give your workplace 100% of their energy and inspiration.

You could benefit from seeing how you can meet security needs in other ways, tailoring benefits and ensuring that there is a fair division of workload for each staff member.

Seeking Fulfilment

After needs 1 & 2 are met, employees will seek fulfilment in the other 3. If employees highest level needs have not been met, they will sacrifice Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization for Compensation and Security.

Self Actualisation

Self Actualization is becoming a more popular need in today’s company culture as employees seek autonomy and trust to complete tasks over structure and rigidity.


Looking at these needs may help you ascertain that while you may not be able to let your employees work from the beach- perhaps what they are actually looking for is the trust to complete a task in a way that they find most productive. Perhaps you can increase their Belonging by having team bonding activities. You could contribute to their Esteem needs by rewarding achievements.


Whilst this all may sound like a lot of work and it may seem overwhelming for small businesses- all we can say is that valuing employees adds value to your business. The costs in productivity and retraining after the loss of an employee is often far greater than nurturing the staff you already have.