What Employees Want

Extract from The Values-Driven Organisation, Chapter 3.

In the last chapter, I presented data to show that organizations with strong financial returns focus specifically on satisfying the needs of their employees. When employees’ needs are met, and employees feel aligned with the mission, vision and values of the organization, they respond with high levels of engagement and commitment: They come to work with enthusiasm and commitment and are willing to go the extra mile to support the organization in its endeavours.

The question I now want to address is: What do organizations need to do to create a highly motivated workforce where employees are willing to devote a significant amount of their discretionary energy, as well as their commitment and creativity, to making the organization a success?

I believe the research presented by Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us points us in the right direction.

Baseline rewards that are sufficient and fair (fulfilling some of the employees’ survival needs); a congenial working atmosphere (fulfilling some of the employees’ relationship needs); freedom to make choices—autonomy (fulfilling some of the employees’ transformation needs); opportunities to pursue mastery—learn and excel in their field of expertise (fulfilling some of the employees’ self-esteem needs); and perform duties that align with a higher purpose—(fulfilling some of the employees’ internal cohesion needs). In other words, Pink’s research points us towards the seven human basic/growth needs presented in Table 1.2.

Thus, the answer to the question, what do organizations need to do to create a highly motivated workforce, is as follows: Organizations need to identify the needs that motivate their employees (what they value) and create a culture that addresses these needs.

Table 3.1, which is based on Table 1.2, provides a comprehensive list of the actions and opportunities that organizations need to focus on to serve employees’ needs at all levels of psychological development. Also listed in this table are the feelings and experiences that are associated with the satisfaction of the needs associated with each level of development.

Table 3.1 Actions and opportunities that organizations need to provide to support the full spectrum of employees’ needs

Level of development Cause of happiness/joy Actions and opportunities
7 Service Leading a life of selfless service for the good of humanity. Opportunities to serve others and/or care for the well-being of the Earth’s life support systems.
6 Making a difference Actualizing your sense of purpose by collaborating with others to make a difference in the world. Opportunities to leverage your contribution by collaborating with others who share the same values and have a similar purpose.
5 Internal cohesion Discovering your authentic self and finding a sense of meaning and purpose that is bigger and broader than meeting your own needs. Opportunities for personal growth and development to support you in finding your life purpose and aligning your purpose with your daily work.
4 Transformation Experiencing a sense of freedom, autonomy and responsibility by taking on challenges that stretch your capacities. Opportunities to develop your skills by being made accountable for projects or processes of significance to yourself and/or the organization.
3 Self-esteem Feeling acknowledged and recognized by those whom you respect. Opportunities to learn and grow professionally with frequent support, feedback and coaching.
2 Relationship Feeling accepted, cherished and nurtured by your family, friends or colleagues. Opportunities to work in a congenial atmosphere where people respect and care about each other.
1 Survival Feeling safe and secure, and being able to meet your physiological needs at home and in the workplace. A safe working environment and pay and benefits that are sufficient to take care of employees’ needs and the needs of their families.

It is important to recognize that not all employees are the same: Different employees will have different needs (want and value different things) depending on the levels of consciousness they are operating from. The levels of consciousness they are operating from at any moment in time will depend on three factors: The employee’s level of psychological development; the employee’s ­general life circumstances; and the specific life challenges the employee is ­experiencing.