How the Theory of Maslow Can Be Applied to Organizational Development
Use an understanding of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory of motivation to develop an organization that meets employee needs while encouraging increased levels of performance. The theory offers a basis for organizational development with high employee motivation to achieve company objectives. An organization that satisfies Maslow's principles can feature high employee satisfaction, excellent employee retention and cohesive teams.
Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of five needs in 1943. He postulated that human motivation acted to satisfy the most basic needs first, and when those were met, the individual was motivated to meet higher level needs. The hierarchy classified physiological needs such as food and shelter as the most basic needs, followed by security needs such as personal safety and job security. Social needs such as the need to belong to a group and friendship; self-esteem needs which include recognition and competence; and self-actualization needs for growth and development round out the five types of needs.
Translate Maslow's needs into needs for organizational structures by identifying those that are relevant to a work environment. The most basic needs require an organizational flexibility that lets employees take breaks for snacks and meals. A stable organization with clear responsibilities provides security. Making employees feel part of a team, allowing for recognition of achievements and employee training programs can address the needs for social relationships, self-esteem and professional development.
Maslow divided his five needs into lower-level needs that were physical and high-level psychological needs. He proposed that if the low-level needs were met, individuals would focus on the high-level needs. In terms of a work environment, if a company meets an employee's basic needs for a comfortable workspace and job security, the employee is self-motivated to fulfill the higher-level needs. A company merely has to provide the opportunity to fulfill such needs by offering appropriate work. If the employee can fulfill his high-level needs by working on a team, successfully completing a project and learning new skills in the course of carrying out the work, he can fulfill the three high-level needs and will be motivated to do the work well.
Applying Maslow's theory to organizational development lets you ensure that your organizational structure encourages employees to reach their full potential. While most organizations are flexible enough for employees to satisfy the basic Maslow needs, promoting self-motivation through opportunities to satisfy the higher-level needs is more challenging. Hierarchical organizations sometimes limit employee interaction and the scope for professional growth. Matrix and team-based organizations often contribute to employee insecurity if there is no job after a project is finished. Their loose organization sometimes fails to acknowledge employee achievements. To apply Maslow's concepts effectively, your organization has to specifically support fulfillment of the high-level needs. Design your company to allow social interactions that form the basis of a sense of belonging, acknowledge accomplishments to engender self-esteem and provide opportunities for employees to fulfill their potentials.