Millenials and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

by: Nichole Gunn September 12, 2014

A week ago we discussed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the way it impacts employee engagement. Today we want to look at the hierarchy again and see how it effects millennials, those born anywhere between the early 80’s and the late 90’s. The Millennials will soon be the largest demographic within the American workforce.

Let’s check out Maslow’s proposed need once more:

  • Survival – Biological needs such as food, water, shelter, sleep.
  • Safety – Needs stability, security, order, law, and protection from elements.
  • Belonging – Needs friendship, love, affection, and intimacy.
  • Importance – Needs to achieve and master things, independence, and self-respect
  • Self-Actualization – Needs to fulfill individual potential and capability.

So how does these needs relate to Millennials?

In recent studies , Millennials defined what they expect from their professional lives. When you compare what they said were their needs to Maslow’s needs, you’ll see that their needs are incredibly similar Maslow’s last three needs.

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In the studies, Millennials said they require:

  • Work that’s meaningful
  • To receive recognition and respect from their jobs
  • Autonomy & flexibility
  • A chance to learn, grow, and better themselves personally and professionally
  • The opportunity to have fun with those they enjoy working with while they work

Obviously, the needs for survival and safety are intrinsic needs that apply to everyone. However, Millennials place much more of their focus on the last three needs - belonging, importance, and self-actualization. It would almost be safe to say that those three needs are driving force behind most of their motivation. If you’re a business owner and for some reason you think this data is irrelevant, you might want to reconsider. By 2025 Millennials will make up over 75% of our workforce. By 2025 you’ll have to meet the needs of the majority of your employees if you don’t want employee retention to be one of your major issues. Millennials are unafraid of “job hopping” in order to find a company that meets their demands and fulfills their needs. Where older generations had around five jobs during their career, most Millennials will hold upwards of 20. Meeting their needs and maintaining employee satisfaction is going to be more important (and more challenging) than ever. It’s a good idea to start adapting to those expectations now. So how do you get going in this direction? You must create the type of environment that Millennials and all future employees will be searching for. We recommend that you try some of the following tactics:

  • Build a team-centric environment that rewards all efforts, ensuring that work is meaningful
  • Give employees the training they require to “self-actualize”
  • Launch an employee recognition program, making them feel respected and recognized

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Starting now places you way ahead of your competition, and prepares your organization for challenges your peers aren’t even thinking of yet.

The easiest way to launch these initiatives is with an employee recognition program. This helps your employees feel valued by rewarding and recognizing them for their accomplishments and efforts.

At Incentive Solutions we’ve built incentive programs and recognition cultures for over 30 years. We know that when you foster employee culture in your workplace, your employees’ performance will improve due to the fact that they are being respected, recognized, and feel like their work is meaningful.

If you’d like to begin preparing for the future of your business today, and to find out where you stand with your current workforce, take the hierarchy infographic from above and ask your employees where they feel they are on it. They’ll inform you of how engaged they are, or if there are areas of opportunity they feel you could work on. If you’d like to discuss how an employee recognition program can help your business or to start this process today, call us at 866-567-7432.


About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.