Now that you can see how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs relates to employees, how do you turn that into an innovative plan to get your team motivated? Lawrence J. Gitman and Carl McDaniel offer some suggestions for understanding employee motivation in their book, The Future of Business: The Essentials.
One suggestion that won’t cost an extra dollar but offers a huge return in terms of motivation is flexible scheduling. Your company may already utilize flexible schedules, but the idea here is to allow employees to choose. Although we may live in a nine to five world, people’s internal clocks don’t always cooperate. In some cases, a shift in work schedule forward or back by just a couple of hours might enable an employee to work when he or she is most motivated. A worker who regularly seems tired or sluggish may simply be a night owl. Let this employee come to work a bit later in the day and you might be astonished at the increase in productivity.
Try offering four 10-hour shifts instead of five eight-hour ones, or consider permitting employees to telecommute for at least part of the work week. The more choice you allow your employees, the more you are reinforcing your respect and trust in them, which fills the need for esteem.
In the area of self-actualization, tuition reimbursement is increasing in popularity, but so is another, less well-known practice: sabbatical. According to Gitman and McDaniel, a practice once reserved for academia is gaining traction in the corporate world. They cite the fact that, “about 75% of office employees feel that work has infiltrated their private lives," and recommend offering sabbaticals at 50% pay to allow employees to pursue personal interests. The additional benefit of this practice for the employer is that since sabbaticals are often used for educational purposes, the employee who returns to work is likely to be more of an asset than the one who left.
Where once the bottom three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy satisfied most workers, understanding employee motivation today must include esteem and self-actualization needs as well. Meet these needs with innovative strategies that emphasize choice and flexibility, and watch your employees get motivated.