How to Improve Your Company Culture With Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

How to Improve Your Company Culture With Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

How to Improve Your Company Culture With Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs 1500 1071 Lindsey Polevoy

In the last decade, companies around the globe are revolutionizing their approach to company culture. There’s been all kinds of crazy new workplace trends, from on-the-clock midday naps in sleeping pods to ping-pong tables in conference rooms…

But upon reflection, these trends aren’t nearly as crazy as they may appear. A recent Oxford University study found that happier employees are 13% more productive in their job. Studies have also shown that increased worker engagement can lead to a lower turnover rate, decreased absenteeism, increasingly satisfied customers (due to interaction with happier employees), and tons of other growth metrics.

As a small business owner or manager, you may be interested in capitalizing on these trends, but there’s a method to the madness. Adding a ping-pong table to the break room is only the tip of the iceberg! Each company that has successfully revitalized its company culture has founded their workplace on meeting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.


Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs Pyramid.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Pyramid.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is a theory of motivation in psychology that was developed by Abraham Maslow. In the hierarchy, Maslow organizes basic universal human needs into five tiers: 

  1. Physiological
  2. Safety
  3. Belongingness/Love
  4. Esteem
  5. Self-Actualization

According to Maslow, there are two types of needs: Deficiency needs and Growth needs. Deficiency needs make up the bottom four tiers of the hierarchy and motivate behavior when they are not met. Before individuals can attend to higher-level needs, the bottom-most needs must be satisfied. Growth needs make up the top tier of the hierarchy. Unlike deficiency needs, they do not appear as a result of deprivation, but instead the desire for personal growth.

By looking at Maslow’s Hierarchy, we can better understand how employee motivation functions in business environments. When workers feel that their needs are satisfied by their job, they are more likely to aim for growth. On the other hand, employees may become frustrated and unhappy in their situation if basic needs are not met. This could lead to a decrease in productivity, customer service quality, and innovation.

Business organizations can ensure that employees will enjoy their jobs and easily reach their full potential by offering resources to meet basic needs. This is a very effective method of employee branding – where employees are motivated by the brand, and therefore consider themselves part of that brand. This improves company morale, and the resulting culture marketing attracts top talent. 

Let’s take a look at Maslow’s five tiers of needs — and the ways in which your business can promote a positive company culture by helping employees fulfill them.


Open office workspace with sofas and tables.

Open office workspace with sofas and tables.

Physiological Needs

Physiological needs make up the bottom and most basic tier of the human need pyramid. Put simply, physiological needs are what individuals require for survival. In this category, you can find needs like food, shelter, warmth, sleep. Maslow deduces that individuals must satisfy all deficiencies at this level before they will try to satisfy other tiers. 

Workplace Execution: Fulfilling physiological needs in the workplace is quite straightforward. Businesses must ensure that employees are provided with comfortable and clean work conditions, as well as pay an adequate and living wage. Workloads should be manageable enough that employees have time for rest and relaxation. 

Note: To give you an idea of just how essential this level is: if these needs are not being satisfied in your work environment, your company would could be in violation of labor laws. 


Safety Needs

Following the physiological level, we have safety needs. This tier consists of both the tangible and intangible components of ensuring one a sense of security and safety. It also explains people’s desire for order and control in day to day life. 

Workplace Execution: In the workplace, HR can encourage a culture of trust and security through harassment training and nontoxic work environments. 

Other ways companies can further satisfy employee’s safety needs include:

  • Providing job security
  • Granting access to health care
  • Providing insurance coverage
  • Implementing robust retirement plans

Ultimately, the better-protected employees are, the more satisfied they will feel in their job. 

To learn about a company that successfully fulfills physiological and safety needs, take a look at this Kairos blog.


Coworkers looking at a computer and smiling.

Coworkers looking at a computer and smiling.

Belongingness and Love Needs

Without interpersonal relationships, people tend to feel isolated and lonely. Maslow claims that after ensuring oneself survival and safety (the basic needs), individuals will turn to fulfill their desire to be a part of a community. 

Workplace Execution: Within a work environment, managers can facilitate social connections by offering opportunities to build camaraderie.

Some examples of this include:

  • Happy Hours
  • Holiday and Birthday parties
  • Chat times
  • Team-Building events — scavenger hunts, escape rooms, etc.

If your group is remote, many of these events can also be facilitated online over video or Zoom calls. For more ways to connect with your team in a virtual setting, check out this blog!


Esteem Needs

The fourth level of Maslow’s Hierarchy contains esteem needs — the desire for reputation, respect, and appreciation. Esteem needs arise prominently as a motivator in behavior once the bottom tiers have been fulfilled. 

Workplace Execution: Businesses can give employees the opportunity to fulfill their esteem needs by:

  • Offering recognition for good work
  • Giving job advancement opportunities
  • Delegating responsibility
  • Providing monetary incentives, such as cash awards and bonuses (if they reward employees based upon performance)

Satisfying esteem needs does not necessarily mean constantly showering employees in praise. Still, the occasional pat on the back can go a long way in making your employees feel appreciated and valuable in their job.


Office desk with a computer, coffee, books, glasses, a tablet, photo graphs, and hands writing on a planner.

Office desk with a computer, coffee, books, glasses, a tablet, polaroids, and hands writing on a planner.


Finally, at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy, we have self-actualization needs. In simplest terms, self-actualization is characterized as self-fulfillment. Think of it as the achievement of one’s full potential; it is satisfied once a person can utilize talents, skills, and resources to their best ability. 

In Maslow’s Hierarchy, self-actualization is a state that all humans are ultimately driven towards but only have the capacity to focus on once all other needs are fulfilled. Being ‘self-actualized’ in the workplace might consist of finding enrichment and meaning in one’s job. 

Workplace Execution: Helping employees find fulfillment in their work might seem like a daunting task. However, there are various ways in which managers can help facilitate self-actualization.

This includes:

  • Striving to provide employees with work they like and find rewarding
  • Encouraging employees to take pride in their work
  • Allowing for creative flexibility
  • Offering opportunities in which employees can see the fruits of their labor


Final Thoughts

Remember: sales and productivity are not the be-all and end-all for a successful company. Creating an environment with happy and engaged employees can be gratifying in itself.  If you’re looking to improve your company culture, Maslow’s Hierarchy can be a great tool.

About the author

Lindsey Polevoy

Lindsey Polevoy is part of the Editorial Team at Kairos Design and a senior at Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey. In her free time, she loves to write plays (comedy much preferred to drama), binge watch new television shows, and spend time with her family, friends, and dog Max. On winter weekends, you’ll probably find her up North, skiing double black diamonds and hopefully not wiping out. 

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