Leadership, Motivation and satisfaction

How to use Maslow pyramid to boost employee engagement now

Abraham Maslow is one of the most commented minds in the business world. His theory about the hierarchy of needs is a basis for different researches, strategies, and plans connected with companies’ employees.

Maslow divides people’s needs into 5 different categories, starting with those who are close to the animals and nature and finishing with those who place people on the top of the evolutionary chain.

Maslow pyramid of needs covers different areas and levels of personal development. It looks like:

His work is widely used by organizational leaders to define, measure and upgrade employee engagement. The five categories are structured so, that they can explain the level of satisfaction and engagement people experience and basic characteristics for the people answering to each category. Bellow, you will find a short explanation based on what I read on the topic or have experienced in my work:  

1. Survival = disengaged employees

People in this category are mostly with the company because of factors like money. They don’t learn anything and don’t have plans to change this in a short period of time. In their work, these people don’t see anything exciting. They watch the clock and after the bell rings, they are the first to leave the office. Their thinking is I-‘m only worth the money I have been paid.

2. Security = Not engaged employees

These people don’t like authorities and team settings. They often have more sick days generated and like showing commitment by having some overtime hours and blame working conditions for not getting things right. In their team, these people don’t like the manager or leader of the team, or the team itself, and show it by often talking about the situation in their team and how negatively this situation differs from situations in other teams.

3. Belonging = Partly engaged employees

The group of people here feels like if they are part of something bigger, but often can’t define what this bigger thing is. These people generally like what they do. There are some things, or parts of the work, they don’t like, but they also don’t want to change and prefer to keep it that way. They are neutral when need to describe their job. People with a strong sense of belonging don’t plan to leave the company, but they can be tempted to do it if they get an offer that is tempting for them. Career opportunities are something that people with a strong sense of belonging don’t see clearly. They think that they are only good at the position they hold now and promotions will pass around them.

4.Importance = Engaged employees

People with a high level of understanding for importance feel that they are successful and contribute to the company success. They are, in most cases highly engaged with work and probably feel a little bit more stressed, because of the tempo of the work they set. These employees are the type of achievers. They will live the company only if something much better and bigger as an opportunity crosses their way.  

5.Self-actualization = Highly engaged employees

People from this category are often called high flyers. Only about 10-12 percent of employees can reach this level of engagement. They like very much being with the company. In their work life, these people inspire and teach others and believe that their work brings a high impact on company goals and results.

The first two categories are more seen as de-motivators. If you find people in thee categories you, as a leader or manager should focus on understanding what caused this dissatisfaction and work closely with them to move them to the engaged employees’ categories. The activity with employees from the Survival and Security groups is in the hands of the manager or leader.

The third group of people is an irrelevant one. As a leader or manager, if you want to change these people for good, you should focus on activities such as more involvement in significant tasks and include more praising to your set of tools.

The last two groups are the people who are really engaged. These people are part of your set of tools to influence the people from the other 3 groups. Use their passion, their energy, their positiveness to influence others. Let them take the people from disengaged or irrelevant groups and work with them. Allow people from the Importance and Self-actualization groups to contribute to team and company change. They will stronger their positions and will further increase their level of satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty to the company model.


The hardest thing to understand and manage is the level of engagement. People are different and have a different level of satisfaction. Using a model, such as the one described here can support managers or leaders process of planning for improving engagement. Understanding the specifics of each category and people specifics can not positively boost engagement and build a wider and more strategic framework for business achievements.


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