Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied To Employee Engagement 

Employee engagement is a key issue for managers and HR departments all over the world– even if they are not aware of it. An engaged workforce is going to be more productive than a workforce that is not engaged and this makes a difference to the bottom line. Not only that, but an engaged workforce also makes for a more enjoyable working environment for all involved.  

This leads to the question of how to ensure your workforce is engaged. Approaches include treating employees with respect, maintaining a pleasant working environment, recognising achievements and paying a competitive salary. Communication is also essential when it comes to employee engagement, whether it means regular meetings including video conferencing, newsletters, or even digital billboards that help keep people updated regarding procedures and expectations. 

When taking about the issue of employee engagement, it helps if you can recognise where people are in the process. This helps you work with them according to their needs and wants, enabling you to resonate with them. Placing them into categories or hierarchies is a very effective way of achieving this, and when it comes to employee engagement Maslow’s hierarchy can be an effective tool. 

What Is Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Maslow’s hierarchy was developed in 1943 by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. The hierarchy is a five-level model that breaks down people’s needs. 

These levels, from top to bottom, are:

  • Self-actualisation
  • Esteem needs
  • Belongingness and love needs
  • Safety needs
  • Physiological needs

According to Maslow, somebody must first meet the needs associated with their category before they can progress to the next. They will then need to meet the needs of their new category before they can move onto the next and so on.

How can this be applied to employee engagement? Let’s take a look at each category, from the bottom up and see how they relate. 

Physiological Needs

When applying Maslow’s hierarchy to employee engagement, the “physiological needs” category becomes the “survival” category. Here, the employee is completely disengaged, only doing what it takes to keep their job. They turn up as late as possible, watch the clock throughout the day and are gone the moment they are allowed to. They are not at all excited by their job and are not happy with it. They are also de-motivating to others around them. 

Safety Needs

When applied to employee engagement, “safety needs” becomes “security.” These employees are not engaged and don’t like their job, but still they push on to get it done. They don’t like their working conditions or the people they work with, including their team members and manager. They call in sick regularly and keep an eye out for other jobs they might prefer. They are often willing to do overtime but this is only for the extra money. These employees are de-motivating to other people around them.

Belongingness And Love Needs

This category becomes “belonging,” and they are almost engaged. Although these employees almost feel engaged, there are still times when they are disengaged. They feel as though there are no opportunities to progress and may take another job if the chance arises. However, they feel as though they are part of something and may even feel quite proud of their job — but it’s not something they feel like telling others. They have a motivating influence on those around them.

Esteem Needs

“Esteem needs” becomes “importance.” People in this category are engaged. They feel as though they have an important role to play and are a vital part of the organisation. They feel as though they are achievers and are often very busy, but they can become stressed. Moving jobs isn’t on their mind and it would take a considerably better position for them to leave. People in this category motivate other people around them. 


The name of this category remains the same and these people are very engaged. They love their job and feel as though they are a high flyer. They look to inspire other people around them and try to do what they can to help others. These people have a significant motivational influence on other people around them.

How Is This Useful?

Recognising where employees are within the hierarchy can help you identify the problem and this is the first step to fixing it. For example, if somebody is always watching the clock then you should try and speak with them and ask them why they are unhappy with their job. Listen to what they tell you and their reasons might be easier to overcome than you think. The more engaged they become, the more productive they become and this is beneficial for all concerned. 


The impact of a disengaged workforce is likely to be significant. Not only can it cause an unpleasant working environment, but it can also have a considerable negative impact on your bottom line. It doesn’t have to be like that, though. You can take steps to improve engagement and doing so can improve your business in many ways. Using Maslow’s hierarchy as a tool will help you get the best possible results.

Author bio: Nicholas Rubright is a digital marketing specialist at Mvix – a company that provides digital signage to improve business communications. Nick has several years of experience writing and loves creating fresh content that is informative and helpful, usually revolving around marketing and business management. In his free time, Nicholas enjoys playing guitar, writing music and building cool things on the internet

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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