Maslow - Motivation and Personality, 1954
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, all people have a hierarchy of needs that begins at the bottom with physiological needs, such as food and shelter, and moves upward through safety, love, and esteem needs toward the pinnacle of self-actualization. When this hierarchy is used practically by managers it allows them to make note of exactly where their employees fall and what needs are most important to them at that time. By identifying these needs, managers have a better understanding of what will motivate a particular group of workers. For example, in a country where food is scarce employees would very likely fall on the very bottom of the Maslow's hierarchy, and would be wholly concerned with their physiological needs. Offering these employees a course on respecting one's self and others would not contribute to their overall well-being or job satisfaction because such a course would only appeal to those in a higher needs category, such as esteem.
However, identifying which need category employees are in at any given time is not always as simple as in the above example. In the United States, for instance, Generation Y is just beginning to enter the work force, and many well established companies are finding it very difficult to retain new recruits. Some of this may be due to the fact that Generation Y is in a different needs category than were previous generations. Things that used to motivate new employees, such as high pay, good benefits, and high status positions don't seem to be enough anymore.
The answer to why could be seen as a generational shift from the Esteem category to the Self-Actualization category. In the esteem category, people "have a need or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-respect, or self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that which is soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others." (Maslow 1943) Today, many companies try to recruit and keep employees by appealing to these needs. After all, high pay and high positions are all valuable to someone who needs to feel like they are an important contributing factor to a company's success. And while these needs may have been the driving force for previous generations, it is not for Generation Y.
One reason is because Generation Y has grown up in an environment that stressed the importance of self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others from the very beginning of their educations. (Business Week 2005) Movements such as feminism and anti-discrimination laws have all helped to shape the idea that they are valuable and worthy. Unlike in the past, Generation Y does not need that kind of validation from their employers.
Instead, Generation Y is approaching employment with the goals and needs espoused in the Self-Actualization category, which "refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming." (Maslow 1943) In fact, this definition is precisely what many Generation Y employees say they are looking for from their professions. Many are consciously leaving or turning down high-paying, prestigious jobs in order to follow their individual dreams. (Business Week 2005) By seeking out opportunities for self growth, even as unpaid volunteers, Generation Y is posing a challenge to the way many in corporate America reward and motivate employees.
Rather than quickly labeling Generation Y as selfish or fickle, companies should instead focus on ways to challenge new recruits on more personal levels by offering opportunities for self-directed work, entrepreneurship, or by working toward larger goals such as environmentalism. Companies that realize and exploit this shift in needs will surely benefit from Generation Y's creativity, high ethical standards, and innovations.
Crainer, Stuart. March 2006. The Ultimate Business Library. Capstone Publishing Limited.
Maslow, A. H. A Theory of Human Motivation. Jul 1943. Psychological Review, Vol 50(4), pp. 370-396.
Reference URL: http://ebsco.waldenu.edu/ehost/detail?vid=10&hid=113&sid=
Welcome to the Gen Y Workplace. May 4, 2005. Business Week Online. Reference URL: http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2005/nf2005054_4640_db_083.htm
advice, business, generation y, management, Maslow, opinion