Maslow focused on the psychological needs of employees. Maslow put forward a theory that there are five levels in a hierarchy of human needs that employees need to have fulfilled at work.

All of the needs are structured into a hierarchy and only once a lower level of need has been fully met, would a worker be motivated by the opportunity of having the next need up in the hierarchy satisfied. For example a person who is dying of hunger will be motivated to achieve a basic wage in order to buy food before worrying about having a secure job contract or the respect of others.

A business should therefore offer different incentives to workers in order to help them fulfil each need in turn and progress up the hierarchy. Managers should also recognise that workers are not all motivated in the same way and do not all move up the hierarchy at the same pace. They may therefore have to offer a slightly different set of incentives from worker to worker.

Key summary for Maslow:

  • Workers motivated by having each level of need met in order as they move up the hierarchy
  • Levels of needs are: Physical, Security, Social, Self-esteem, Self-fulfilment
  • Workers must have lower level of needs fully met by firm before being motivated by next level
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