How to Understand What Your Employees Really Need

Thriving employees means a thriving business

Being in tune with what your employees needs will allow your employees to flourish, and thriving employees make a thriving business. Because when people are thriving and happy, they will do their best work, they will be more committed to the business, and this permeates throughout leading to better performance.

So, what are your employees most important needs? Pay? Benefits package? These are the obvious ones, but there are numerous other factors that companies overlook.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Many people turn to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when pondering employee needs, as it is useful in breaking down the different things people need from their employer. The 5 levels are:

  • Physiological needs

  • Safety needs

  • Social needs

  • Esteem needs

  • Self-actualisation


Physiological/safety needs

These needs relate to how safe people feel at work, and whether their basic needs are met.

Often referred to as “hygiene needs”. The obvious one is pay; people want to be fairly compensated. However, it also includes a safe working environment, ensuring conflicts are fairly resolved, stable employment and basic mental health.

Pre-COVID, many of these basic needs were fulfilled and provided by most employers. This has now changed. On the one hand, there is growing anxiety over job security. On the other, the need for social distance means many jobs now unsafe by nature, and new work environments and practices are needed. We, therefore, cannot afford to presume that these basic needs are met and must ensure employees have the opportunity to raise these issues.


Social needs

The next set of needs is social, such as feelings of belonging. The quality of a person’s interpersonal relationships is perhaps the biggest predictor of happiness.

This can go two ways, firstly do people feel connected to their colleagues. Do they have values in common? Is there a sense of camaraderie? Again, pre-COVID these connections grew organically with chats across the office, lunch breaks and team night outs. With many people now working from home, these may need to be more formally scheduled in. At Stribe, we have a virtual ‘coffee catch-ups’ and ‘Thursday drinks’ for all the team.

On the other hand, is the need for a good work/life balance, so people can have their social needs met outside of work. This year some of the more traditional leaders have been forced out of their comfort zone, introducing flexible work environments and policies in order to keep the business functioning during COVID-19.

Now we are in an interesting time. Leaders have seen what can be achieved from home at a much lower fixed cost and their employees have had a taste of what flexible working would be like.

For example, researchers in England found adding an additional 20 minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. By allowing employees to commute less, you help to increase the time they spend with loved ones, one of the biggest predictors of happiness.


Esteem needs

Esteem relates to mutual respect in the workplace. It includes factors such as a positive self-image, and more prominent job assignments. It also includes more practical aspects, such as nicer work desks, and better job titles.

People want to feel that they’re achieving and that their contributions matter. They also want to see that you recognise this as their employer. This recognition can be formal, such as awards and promotions, but informal recognition can be very powerful as well, such as giving public praise for a job well done.


Self-actualisation needs

Finally, self-actualisation is our need to reach our potential and use our unique strengths at work. When you enable people to meet these needs, they feel empowered, and in control of their future.

For employers, this is all about giving people the chance to use their passion and creativity.

To fulfil these needs, you can:

  • Provide autonomy and challenge (with appropriate support)
  • Give people chance to show their subject matter expertise

Entire organisations can even self-actualise by aligning with a company-wide goal backed by employees, and goes beyond making a profit.


Needs are not one size fits all

What is important for one employee might not be important for another. To fully know your employees’ needs you need to reach out to each and every member of the team to understand their individual motivations, and how much different needs relate to each person.

It is important that you gain feedback based on employees’ true feelings and sentiment, without any unconscious bias creeping in.

How can you do this? Ask employees to respond anonymously.

By anonymising feedback, you can be more confident that the information your employees are feeding back is 100% honest, as there are no risks attached to answering truthfully.

That is why we developed our new technology, Stribe. So, employers can more easily be in tune with what their employees’ needs are, and in turn have a happier, healthier and more productive organisation.

People’s needs are ever-changing and evolving, and the best way for employers to understand these needs is to regularly ask in a way that will receive the most honest and worthwhile feedback. In a time of high stress, this is how you make sure your employees are happy and motivated.

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