Blog: When Needs Must

Blog: When Needs Must

Can Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provide a way forward for organizations struggling to reconcile the very diverse needs and expectations of the four distinct generations waging cultural war in today’s workplaces?

With Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers, and Veterans all crying out for recognition of their unique needs and fighting to protect their turf, many IT shops are struggling to maximize productivity and achieve inter-generational harmony.

It’s been a truism for some time that with boomers getting ready to retire and the pool of Gen X employers proving too small to effectively replace them, attracting the best and brightest from Gen Y has become the name of the game. It has equally become painfully clear to those who have succeeded in this endeavour that while these young professionals have much to offer, most of what they offer is going to be given on their terms, or not at all. That means their bosses must find ways to accept and accommodate their core values of self-reliance, balance, techno-literacy, informality, fun, diversity and pragmatism, all without stamping on the sensitivities of their older co-workers.

A question posed on the LinkedIn social networking forum recently canvassed one possible way forward: applying the theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to your Talent Management practices.

The hierarchy of needs, first proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, is represented by a five-level pyramid, with growth needs associated with psychological needs on top. Below these are the four levels of physiological needs which must be met before the individual can even consider how to meet those needs at the top of the pyramid.

Those four basic needs Maslow defines as instinctoid: equivalent of instincts in animals. First are physiological needs – oxygen, food, water and a relatively constant body temperature. Once these needs are satisfied the needs for safety and security become active. Next come needs of love, affection and belongingness and the drive to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. Then comes the needs of esteem – both self-esteem and the esteem one gets from others. To achieve psychological balance humans need a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. With it, they feel self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. Without it, the individual is left feeling inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

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