The appreciation playbook: Reassessing employee needs, level by level

Appreciation is the cornerstone of employee satisfaction and contentment, yet its impact really shines when employers meet their broader needs. Our recent Economic Value Study reveals that the real value lies not only in the traditional benefits offered, but in employer’s ability to address the diverse spectrum of needs effectively. Drawing from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, business leaders can strategically assess and cater to each level, from basic physiological and safety needs to higher aspirations like belonging and self-esteem.

Continuously updating and tailoring offerings to fit a unique workforce is crucial to keeping benefits effective, relevant, and useful for employees. For desk-based organizations, where knowledge is key, and frontline organizations, where productivity reigns, a customized and thought-out benefits package, while keeping the hierarchy of needs in mind, can be a game-changer.

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Breaking down employees physiological needs:

At the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are the basic physiological requirements such as food, shelter, and financial stability. Ensuring these basic needs are met is often more important in a Frontline workforce as compensation is less likely to naturally cover these basic needs. Employers can address these needs by offering discounts, benefits related to food and travel, and competitive pay. For instance, providing employees discounts on groceries can help stretch their money further, adding an extra layer of comfort and security. This financial support not only helps alleviate stress, but also fosters a sense of appreciation and loyalty across the company, ultimately leading to higher retention rates.

Safety and security: 

Next up in the pyramid is wellbeing: covering physical, mental, nutritional, and financial wellbeing—a priority in today’s workplaces where employees face challenges like economic hardships and mental health concerns.

Programs like gym memberships and counseling services boost health, while benefits such as health insurance and flexible work relieve stress and promote personal growth. In fact, recent research indicates that desk-based organizations offering wellbeing plans show an employee wellbeing score 13% higher than those that don’t. Clearly, integrating health insurance, preventive care, flexible work options, and financial planning assistance, creates a supportive environment that not only promotes professional and personal growth, but also alleviates stress.

Love and belonging:  

At the heart of the pyramid lies love and belonging, centered on communication, culture, and connection in the workplace. Companies can achieve this by going beyond traditional benefits with initiatives like voluntary employee committees dedicated to charity, mental health advocacy, DEI efforts, and social events. Regular employee forums and innovative management approaches not only motivate teams but also encourage open communication, an important aspect of workplace culture. Providing opportunities for off-work meetings and family-related benefits further strengthen the bond within the organization, supporting employees on their path to self-actualization. 

Self esteem:  

Once a strong employee connection is established, organizations can concentrate on enhancing self-esteem—a vital pillar of self-actualization. This includes investing in learning and development opportunities – and implementing effective recognition, rewards, and incentives that align with employee accomplishments. For example, tangible rewards like cash bonuses tied to clear goals provide motivation and inspiration. Customizing these initiatives ensures they resonate with the team’s dynamics and needs. Other research underscores the importance of recognition and appreciation, revealing that two in five people do not recall being recognized by a manager or senior leader in the past 12 months, while 60% express a desire for more recognition.

Additionally, while this isn’t groundbreaking, offering flexible work arrangements can further support wellbeing by accommodating individual preferences, improving productivity, and fostering a healthier work-life balance. These strategies collectively empower employees, enhance their self-esteem, and propel them toward reaching their full potential within the organization.

Developing a holistic approach to appreciation

This comprehensive approach not only attracts and retains top talent but also unlocks the full potential of the workforce. Implementing these strategies isn’t about meeting minimum requirements; it’s about creating a workplace where employees feel valued, supported, and inspired to excel, driving long-term success and fostering unparalleled levels of employee engagement.

Companies that prioritize employee wellbeing, foster strong connections, and boost self-esteem across every level of the needs pyramid gain a significant competitive edge. From essential physiological requirements to the higher aspirations of self-actualization, organizations that put employee wellbeing front and center build a workplace where people are genuinely excited to be.