While I was a student at Auburn University I took a psychology class. During the class we learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who wanted to understand what motivates people’s actions in certain areas of their lives. Each level of the pyramid represents a need that must be fulfilled in order to progress beyond that level, and on to the next set of needs. In the first level you want to satisfy the needs for food, water, and the other necessities for survival. Once this level is met you can then focus on meeting the next level needs, such as protection and security. The desire to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration for which they are denied; for example, the longer someone goes without food, the hungrier they will become.
Because ethics is also studied within the realm of psychology, I wanted to find more research on how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs relates to ethics and compliance in the workplace. I came across a short video in Small Business Chronicle by Joe Homs, a hypnotist and serial entrepreneur. In this video he provides a quick examination of what the ethics might be at each level of the pyramid and how people display ethics at each level.
Maslow gave us information about the needs and desires that motivate people in everyday life. Companies can learn how to use tools, such sexual harassment training and code of conduct training, to meet those needs in the workplace.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs In The Workplace
1st Level – This is the lowest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and it addresses the basic need for food and water. When it comes to the workplace, organizations need to address the basic needs of their employees first. Organizations can provide written policies that cover how many work hours a week employees must work, when an employee can take time off, and how much an employee should get paid. These policies clearly define the expectations of the employee, but also impact an employee’s ability to meet their physiological needs. After all, employees need to know they can take adequate food and water breaks, for example – but no naps on the job.
According to our VP of Human Resources Debbie Magid, wage and hour issues are a huge concern. Wage and hour claims are rapidly becoming one of the greatest employment law risks for companies. Policies are important, but training makes them memorable and relatable for each employee. Employers need employment law training courses that educate the workforce about the basics of state and federal law as well as their policies. Managers need to understand their responsibilities in regards to classifying employees, calculating hours worked, and applying minimum wage and overtime. Wage and hour training should put employment law into a real-world context to resonate with the day-to-day duties of supervisors of hourly workers. Interactive exercises and quizzes can further enhance employee’s problem-solving abilities when faced with common situations.
2nd Level – Maslow’s second level is the individuals need to feel safe in not only their family and self, but also in their workplace and job. It’s important for your employees to feel safe and secure in their environment. One way to do this is to offer a variety of training programs from discrimination and harassment training to workplace violence training.
Let’s say one of your coworkers says something offensive to you during your first week, leaving you feeling ashamed and degraded. You might be unsure of what do to and if you should even say anything to your manager in fear of retaliation from that individual. Our discrimination and harassment training educates employees in regards to what to do if an incident like this occurs and also provides the tools necessary to help prevent future incidents.
We also offer an anonymous whistleblower hotline that allows employees to report any wrong doing without the fear of retaliation. Let’s say your boss wants you to work late hours and offers you a gift card to an expensive restaurant as payment, what do you do? If you accept, then you could be involved in a bribery case, even thought the gift card that might have seemed trivial at the time. To help mitigate this risk, you can provide your employees with anti bribery training that educates employees on the different bribery policies there are today and what to do in case something like this happens. By providing the necessary training, whether it’s sexual harassment, workplace violence, or anti bribery, you fulfill your employees’ needs to feel safe and secure while at work.
3rd level – Maslow’s third level addresses the need for individuals to seek love and belonging. In the workplace, employees want to feel comfortable around their coworkers and managers so that they can develop healthy work relationships. It is human nature to want to feel like you belong.
One way The Network helps its employees fulfill this need is through Code of Conduct training. A Code of Conduct sets the standards of expected behavior within the workplace. Everyone is trained to act with integrity and educated on appropriate workplace behaviors. This helps set the stage for a more agreeable work atmosphere which makes it easier for employees to develop relationships with one another. During Code of Conduct training, employees are educated on what behaviors and actions are compliant with laws, regulations and the company’s policies.
4th level and 5th level – These are the highest levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They encompass the need for individuals to feel valued and respected by others. Employees want to feel valued and respected by their managers and colleagues.
One way your ethics and compliance program can highlight this is by using a training system that focuses on positive behavior, rather than just listing negative behavior. Your program also shouldn’t shy away from letting employees know what their responsibilities are in various ethics and compliance-related arenas.
For example, our harassment and discrimination training course, Harassment and Discrimination: Maintaining Respect, focuses on behaviors that build a respectful workplace and a culture of inclusion, while preventing retaliation.
Another example would be our security awareness course, Information Security: Safeguarding Our Business. Trained, engaged employees combined with a proactive culture of security are an organization’s best defense against internal and external breaches. Every employee has the opportunity to put the company at risk, but an educated employee can also play an active part in protecting their organization.
Ensuring that even the highest level executives participate in training further highlights your commitment to a respectful and inclusive workplace environment. We speak often of “tone from the top,” but that’s truly where the values of your company are best showcased and communicated, where your culture begins.
Merely handing your employees a list of no-no behaviors is a sure way to make any employee feel like a defiant five-year-old. Being entrusted with the business environment and being held accountable for your own actions is a great way to make employees feel valued and respected, rather than being talked down to or belittled.
The bottom line is that employees are an organization’s biggest assets . Is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the a useful tool in measuring if and how your employees’ needs are being met in the workplace? Let me know if you agree in the comments.