In May, we asked our readers what drives them most to succeed in their careers, and with 37% of the votes, “Providing for your family” was the most selected option followed by “Financial freedom to pursue personal interests” with 24%.
The rest of the results were received as follows:
- Building personal wealth (7%)
- Personal recognition (6%)
- Enhancing your status/power (4%)
- Just being able to get by (1%)
Another 22% selected the “Other” option and provided their own thoughts on the question, including:
- To make a difference
- To feel accomplished and work toward something bigger
- Not letting co-workers/bosses down
- The phrase “it’s impossible”
- Fear of failure
Workplace motivation according to Maslow
Although you may know your own motivations for achieving career success, it’s also important to understand what drives your employees. Most often used to describe human motivation and behavior in general, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides a great framework for understanding employee motivation.
The hierarchy of needs as first described by American professor of psychology Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, is typically portrayed as a five-level pyramid, starting with the most basic and fundamental needs at the bottom and the need of self-actualization at the top. According to the theory, each level of needs must be satisfied before we can move up the pyramid to the next level of needs.
In the workforce, the hierarchy may be described as follows:
- Level One: Physiological Needs – If our most basic survival needs, like food and shelter, are not met, the main motivation to go to work is simply being able to get by and make ends meet. Employees are likely more concerned with earning a paycheck than advancing their career.
- Level Two: Safety Needs – If physiological needs are met, the next major factor is the need to feel safe. Whether that’s driven by job security, health benefits, or physical safety (i.e. properly maintained machinery, well-documented safety procedures, etc.), if workers don’t feel comfortable in their position, performance will suffer.
- Level Three: Belonging Needs – Strong workplace relationships are important. As employees begin to feel safe in their position or overall work environment, they will seek to establish positive working relationships with co-workers, which helps build a stronger sense of belonging.
- Level Four: Esteem Needs – At this level, workers are comfortable in their role within the company and are building a reputation based on work ethic and receiving recognition for the quality of their work.
- Level Five: Self-Actualization – In the final level, employees feel like they have established themselves as a leader. They know their work is important and take an active role in strategic planning. These are the workers who will likely move through the ranks to become future leaders within their companies.
Although a very watered down explanation of the hierarchy of needs, thinking of motivation in these terms can help shine light on what is truly driving your employees and where you may be able to help guide them to achieve the next level in their careers.
What drives you to perform at work? How do you motivate your employees to grow in their careers? Let us know in the comments section below.