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Understanding Human Needs to Motivate People

Understanding Human Needs to Motivate People
This week, we’re gonna talk about three different models of human motivation, human motives. The first one we’re gonna talk about, hierarchy of needs, created by Maslow. The second one we’ll talk about are the hygiene versus the motivator factors, created by Hertzberg. The third one, extrinsic versus intrinsic, created by Deci and Ryan. The first one I wanna focus on is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maybe you’ve heard of Maslow, maybe you’ve heard of the hierarchy of needs. It was originally created by Maslo in the 1940s. And what he discovered was that individuals work or outside of work had really fundamental need that they brought to work. And they started with what Maslow called the physical or the baseline needs, food, shelter.
We need food. We need shelter. Those are our baseline needs. And Maslow hypothesized that if those needs are not met, then any of the other needs really didn’t matter in terms of motivating people to perform. So it really was those physical needs that created the foundation, if you will, of the Maslow Hierarchy or the pyramid. The next layer was what he called the safety needs. An example of a safety need in a job context would be job security. People need to feel safe. They need to feel secure. And again Mazlow hypothesized once the physical needs were met, then people’s attention, their needs would transition into these safety concerns.
And then once those were met then priorities or attention would shift to what Maslow called belonging needs. This is our need as human beings to feel part of something, to feel part of a community. Really the social or relational aspect of our being of one’s self.
Again, Maslow hypothesized that once the physical needs were met, then the safety concerns became a priority. Once those were met, then those belonging needs, the social relational needs, became a priority. Once those were met, then, what Maslow called esteem, self-esteem needs. This is our need to feel good about ourselves, to have a clear sense of identity, be confident. And that was the next layer in, if you will, the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Again, hypothesizing that once the physical needs were met, then the safety concerns, then the belonging needs, and then ultimately the self esteem. And then once those were met, then what Maslow called self actualization needs.
And this the really point at which we start to care about the meaning in life, the meaning in work, and what meaning we derive. And so, the important thing that I want you to take away from Maslow’s hierarchy is that people have a variety of different needs, that span from the physical to the safety to belonging to the esteem, and ultimately what Maslow called self actualization, what I refer to as meaning. What’s the meaning of why we exist and what we’re working towards. Interestingly, research since the 1940s has shown that Maslow’s hypothesis of this needs progression, that you have to satisfy the physical needs in order for the safety or the belonging needs to become a priority.
Research suggests that it’s not as linear as Maslow expected, that for many people, belonging becomes more important than safety, or esteem becomes more important than belonging. And so I give you the framework not to create this expectation that you have to satisfy the physical, then the safety, then the belonging. That’s not the take-away. The take-away really is to understand that people have a range of needs that span across these different categories. And these needs create opportunities for you to leverage if you can identify that, for Scott, he really cares about belonging and feeling part of a community. More so, than esteem or safety. Then, in terms of aligning rewards to what I value.
For example, if I value safety less than belonging, job security is not going to be the key motivating force for me, the key motivating force for me would be to create a sense of community and belonging. And so what you need to do is be able to assess your team members, yourself, along this pyramid of needs to understand what do people value. Good example that comes to mind is Herman Miller, the manufacturer of high-end office furniture. And what Herman Miller did, they have a team called the human dynamics team. And what this team did is they scanned over 80 years of academic research, talked to thought leaders, interviewed customers.
And what they tried to do is identify a common set of needs. That their employees and their customers have that might inform how they actually design their product, the office furniture, then to meet those needs. And interestingly in all of this work that they did, they came up with six needs that they determined were universal across cultures, across the globe. And many of these needs actually align with what Maslow predicted in the 1940’s. You’ll see for example security here where we desire healthy, safety, familiarity, and competence. You’ll see status which is a corollary to what Maslow called esteem. You’ll see achievement, autonomy, a sense of purpose. Purpose would align with what Mazlow talked about in terms of self-actualization.
We want to make a meaningful difference in the world. And then you’ll see belonging, which Mazlow talked explicitly about. And so Herman Miller actually identified the six needs and concluded that they were universal and actually started to design their product, their office furniture in ways that would try to meet these needs for their customers. And so here, they’re not only using these needs to motivate employees to perform at a higher level. But they’re actually using these needs to inform how they design products so that customers will be more motivated to actually purchase from Herman Miller relative to the competition.
And so the question that I had for you, you can see how they’re using these needs to motivate, in this case, consumer behavior. But the question that I have for you is are these needs actually universal? There’s a lot of debate around the world around to what extent are human needs actually universal across cultures, across backgrounds, experiences, and so on. And so a question that I would have for you and I’ll pause for a minute to give you a moment to think about it, is from your experience in your personal experience, work, outside of work, to what extent do Mazlow’s needs or Herman Millers needs that they’ve identified, to what extent are those needs universal across people.
So, let me pause for a moment and to give you a chance to think about that question.
One of the things that I often think about in terms of how universal these needs are is, can people learn or develop these values, these needs that people have? And our research generally shows that they can. Where do these values come from? They come from our life experiences. An early age with our parents is a huge imprint on who we are and what we value and what we need in life. A lot of researchers talk about the impact that religion, for example, has on the different value sets around the world.
And so if you take into account that these values, these needs, are largely shaped by our life experience, you would think that there is a lot of diversity around the world in terms of what people might value or need, because the experiences we have are so diverse. So for example here’s a map of the world. With the prevailing religions around the worlds. So for example, Protestant Christianity would be the dominant religion or the most prevalent religion in the United States. Very different in South America where Catholicism and Christianity are the prominent religion. Whereas, Islam for example in North Africa and the Middle East would be the most common religion.
So one question you might ask given the diversity around the world in terms of these religious backgrounds, the life experiences that we have as we grow up, is do we actually, globally have fundamentally different values and needs that would shape why or how we’re motivated at work? And so there’s an interesting, this is an interesting question that researchers have been trying to answer now for a couple of decades. And one of the most interesting and most comprehensive that I’ve seen conducted, is the one that I’m listing here by Schwartz and Bargie. Published in the journal of Cross Cultural Psychology in 2001 they looked at employees, individuals, across fifty different nations around the world. Ultimately looking at over 30,000 people.
And the question they had is, are there differences in the values that motivate people at work. And the conclusion, the short conclusion Interestingly, was no. They ultimately looked at 10 core values. Power, the extent to which you want or need power, status. Achievement, pleasure, excitement, independence, understanding, Wisdom for example would be another word that’s often used for understanding. Benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. These are the ten core values.
And what they did is they had a survey that they surveyed again over a 30,000 people from 50 different countries and asked people to rank order the importance of these values, much like I had you do at the beginning of this session when I asked you to rank order the importance of everything from meaning at work to pay. And what was striking about the results was that with very few exceptions the values from across all of these different countries came back right in the exact same order benevolence and independence being number one and two. Understanding being number 3, security, 4, conformity, 5, achievement number 6.
One of the few exceptions was that for the younger people, maybe the millennials that are now joining the workforce achievement for those younger individuals. Tended to rank higher, fourth and fifth, relative to older generations where security was a little bit higher. But then for everyone pleasure seven, excitement eight, tradition nine, power status last at number ten. And so, with very few exceptions, these values are ranked exactly the same. And so, we like to think and focus on the differences and values and needs that we have as individuals around the world.
But we actually are more in common than we are different and I think that’s really important for us to understand as team members as managers who are trying to motivate people at work. The values that people have at work, what they care about, what really moves them to want to perform, are pretty universal according these data. Ultimately over 83% of the samples across these different nations. The results were at least an 80. Correlation, a point eight correlation or higher across the different cultures, meaning that their rank orders were almost exactly the same without fail. Pretty striking data. But the one exception was this generational.
Exception that I mentioned and so I’d like to focus on a little bit more of that. And share with you some data that we’ve discovered here recently about some of the key generational differences. We hear a lot in the media today about what’s called the great generational divide. Where younger employees, the millennials are having trouble relating to the baby boomers, and vice versa. If you survey employees around the world, you’ll certainly get results that confirm that hypothesis of this generational divide that’s creating conflict. For example, Vital Smarts, which is a training organization, completed a survey where they found that one in every three people working today reported wasting five or more hours per week on conflict between generations.
They found that the resentment between these different generational categories, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials, decreased productivity by 12%. And so you get these reports that talk about these generational differences that create a lot of conflict, and so the question that we then have to ask ourselves is, is to what extent do we see values differing between generations, do they differ and importantly, on what dimension. Because it’s important for us as managers, as team members, to understand how do generations differ, so that we can align rewards with what people care about, and what they value, so that we’re maximizing motivation.
And, so, one study that i think does a wonderful job of answering this question, was published in the Journal of Management back in 2010, where they looked at data collected in 1976, which was the year, on average, baby boomers graduated from highschool. So these are highschool seniors, then they looked at 1991 data collected from high school seniors in that Gen X category. And then, in 2006, they collected data from high school seniors, which would be that Generation Me. Or that largely millennial generation, so called. And so you got in all three cases, data being collected from high school seniors just in different time periods to capture the generational affect.
And what you see is you actually do see changes in the value placed on each of these different categories. So I’ve broken them down here in terms of leisure, so a value on leisure, or pleasure time. A value on extrinsic motive. Again, these are pay, recognition, bonuses, things of that sort. And then ultimately, the intrinsic motives. And I share this data with you because a lot of people today assume that the younger generations, the millennials and so on, are much more intrinsically motivated than the past generations. And what I’ve done here is I’ve used the baby boomer population as the comparison and then looking at change from relative to that baby boomer population.
And interesting what you find is that the Gen X group and the Generation Me, tor hat millennial group is actually less motivated by these intrinsic motives. Meaning at work and so on, and you actually see an increase in the value placed both on extrinsic motives, again paid bonuses. Those sorts of things, as well as leisure. And so these younger generations want both more pay, more bonuses, and more leisure time in the form of vacation etcetera. And that is fundamentally changing how organizations, how managers are able to motivate and really inspire higher performance and commitment, really at work.
And so I’d be interested in your reflections on these data that I’ve shared with you, both in terms of cross-cultural differences where we see much less, but then these generational differences were we do begin to see some differences. And so I would encourage you to go to the discussion forum online in the section where we talk about Maslow’s hierarchy and differences across cultures and generations and share your own experiences. In your own experiences, in your personal experience in work, outside of work. Are you seeing these same trends? Are you seeing these same themes? And discuss with your fellow classmates how these different trends are appearing in your own life, the behaviors you’re observing in other people.
And in particular, how are you managing those themes or those trends? If you’re a manager in a team, for example, how are you managing either cross-culturally or across generations, given these differences in values and needs, and what can we learn from each other about best practices, in that regard?
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