I’m a fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see illustration at right). It’s a succinct, clear way to summarize the needs we all have for a full and fulfilling life, including compensation and benefits to meet base needs for security and sustenance, and recognition and praise to meet higher-order needs for fulfillment and self-actualization. If I have one quibble with the traditional hierarchy, it’s with the traditional presentation of it as a pyramid. A pyramid is a very finite visual model, implying a starting point and a finish, a foundation and a pinnacle of achievement. I argue, the hierarchy of needs is more like a virtuous circle and far more fluid than the pyramid implies.
I recently learned Maslow himself tended to agree. A recent article in Inc. magazine shared this from Maslow: "We have spoken so far as if this hierarchy were a fixed order but actually it is not nearly as rigid as we may have implied.”
The Inc. article goes on to discuss results of a study on what engaged employees. Conducted by Susan David, a psychologist and organizational consultant, the study found:
“Only four percent of respondents mentioned pay. Instead, they highlighted feeling autonomous and empowered, and a sense of belonging on their teams. We all know people who trade high salaries and even safety for love, esteem, and self-actualization at work--the accountants who become high school teachers, or the journalists who move to war zones with pennies in their pockets...
"There are many factors that contribute to engagement, including teams, autonomy, interesting work, recognition, and individual development. So don't let the basics of compensation and benefits drive your people strategy or the way you lead. Your employees deserve much more than a pyramid."
Survey after survey reveals the truth of this. A recent one conducted by LinkedIn (reported in Forbes) shows the importance of acknowledgment of everyday achievements. Why is this so important? Because it communicates, “I notice your work. I see what you do. I appreciate you for it.”
“Now a new study from professional networking site LinkedIn shows that a significant number of employees care a lot about being recognized for their contributions with kind words from the boss. They don’t just want compliments on completion of big projects. They want their everyday achievements to be noticed and recognized.
“An online survey of 450 adult full-time employees in late September and early October found that if the boss appreciates their everyday successes:
- 58% said they were more likely to have a better attitude at work
- 45% said they would be motivated to do a better job
- 32% said they would be motivated to stay with the company longer
“Supervisors who don’t make a show of appreciating their employees run the risk of losing workers. Younger workers care about this the most. Some more findings:
- 33% of workers across the board said they have resigned from a job because they didn’t feel their everyday contributions were appreciated
- 37% of workers under 40 said they’ve quit because they were under-appreciated
“The message to bosses: It’s easy to take your employees for granted, especially when you’re juggling deadlines and demands from above. But don’t reserve the compliments for your team members for the culmination of a project or meeting a deadline. Instead appreciate their work every day.”
As we enter 2015, many are predicting an increase in employee voluntary turnover as burnout reaches its peak after years of asking fewer employees to do the work of once-larger teams. Raises and promotions alone aren’t going to be enough to either keep employees or to engage them more deeply in efforts and commitment to achieve your organization’s strategic objectives.
How can you make frequent, timely, and specific recognition and appreciation integral to achieving your personal, team, departmental and organizational goals in 2015?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.