Core human needs at work

Much has already been said about hierarchies of human needs which need to be met if workers are to be motivated

However, a recent study of 12,000 white collar workers by Tony Schwartz, CEO of ‘The Energy Project’ and Professor Christine Porath of Georgetown University is well worth noting

They claim that employees have four core needs:

  1. Physical needs – People are most productive and satisfied at work when they feel supported, rewarded and aligned with the work they’re doing and are encouraged to take frequent breaks to recharge
  2. Emotional needs – People need to be valued and appreciated by their bosses and team-mates for their contributions – to feel cared for and supported, especially by their immediate boss – to feel they’re contributing not just to the bottom line but to their customers’ lives and the world at large
  3. Mental needs – Managers should stay close to all in their team, especially in times of stress, offering a shoulder to lean on, not back-stabbing – then, team members can cope with just about anything – they can prioritise, focus on one task at a time and not be constantly side-tracked – they can define when and where they get their work done
  4. Spiritual/ social needs – Support from above is also vital – empowered managers need the ability to get the support to do what needs doing – it makes work so much more enjoyable and long hours become no problem


The more the above needs are met, the more loyalty, job satisfaction and energy from a team, and the lower their stress levels

Meet one of the above and performance will improve – meet more and the more the impact (although how much more is not clear)

Nevertheless, if you ask a manager: “If your employees work so much better when these needs are met, how much do you invest in meeting them?” be prepared for the uncomfortable silence that usually follows

The fact is most managers have no formal measures of their employees’ motivation levels – they rely on noticing lateness, absenteeism and sickness rates – they rarely ask or find out how that actually feel – instead they just tell them how they’re performing maybe once a year – and do little if valued staff hand in their notice despite often having spent a fortune developing them – they just let them go

In my experience, all workers at all levels, once inducted, settle down to a steady state effort level of working, mostly determined by their level of interest in what they do and the way they’re treated by their immediate boss – make their jobs more interesting and most will stop watching the clock – treat them as valued friends/ equals and performance levels will soar – extra pay, bonuses, job perks might have an impact but it’s never a ‘quantum leap’ and never lasts long – get these two fundamentals right and the rest should be ‘plain sailing’

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