Maslow's pyramid

Maslow's pyramid


Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory sheds light on individual motivation and is a simple management tool for understanding employee engagement and experience. It allows you to :

  • Become aware of all our basic needs and by extension, those of your employees.
  • Establish an inventory to assess whether all the needs are met in your teams.
  • Create an action plan based on the right levers to encourage motivation and commitment.


1. General description

As early as 1943, Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, developed his theory which suggests that as individuals we are motivated to satisfy 5 basic needs.

According to him, these needs are hierarchical, and we would tend to prioritise the first need (e.g. physiological) before moving on to the next (e.g. security).

Maslow's theory is often represented by a pyramid, which for a long time conveyed the idea that a need must be 100% satisfied before the next need emerges. This is not the case!


For Maslow, each need can appear progressively and gradually in the passage from one level to the next. Maslow said: "the average citizen was 85% satisfied in his physiological needs, 70% in his security needs, 50% in his love needs, 40% in his esteem needs, and 10% in his achievement needs.”

On the other hand, recent studies show that an individual may, depending on his or her character, be more sensitive to a particular need, regardless of whether or not lower needs are met.

Important note:

Maslow's theory must be approached with caution in the light of new discoveries in the field of psychology. It cannot be a universal approach applicable to everyone without distinction, and it should be noted that each individual may have his or her own preferences in terms of the hierarchy of needs.

It is also important to note that this pyramid illustration does not come from Maslow himself. It is also important to note that this pyramid illustration does not originate from Maslow himself, but was created by others to simplify the theory at a much later stage.)

2. Maslow's theory in a business context

If we bring this hierarchy of needs back to the professional world, we can detail the 5 needs as follows:



Maslow's real contribution is to be able to recognise what your employees need in order to avoid the disengagement of your teams and to find the levers of motivation.

1. The first needs

According to Maslow's theory, an employee will start his or her career by focusing first on physiological and security needs such as salary and a stable work environment. If these needs are not met, this employee will tend to make decisions and behave based on notions of compensation, security and stability.

Also, it is always difficult for an employee to be motivated if their salary is not perceived as fair or if their job is threatened.

  • In contexts of restructuring, for example, if employees do not feel secure, the role of the manager is to address these initial needs.

2.The Intermediate needs

Subsequently, employees want to work in an environment where they feel accepted and interact positively with each other.

  • The role of the manager is therefore to create a working atmosphere that favours cooperation, but also an atmosphere where information flows freely, because the less informed an employee is, the more he or she will feel excluded from the group. It is therefore essential to create an atmosphere of team cohesion where everyone feels integrated.

3. High level needs

Self-esteem is linked to self-image, but also to the recognition and respect obtained within the organisation.

The more a manager recognises his or her employees and involves them in decisions, the greater the self-esteem.

  • It will also be fundamental to develop the skills of employees, as well as their autonomy, and to offer work that allows them to grow. Today, the need for achievement is major among Millennials (generation Y).


In view of the different needs, take the time to map your team by identifying what you think your employees' current needs are. These needs may have been expressed directly, or you may use your knowledge of the team, or even rely on your intuition.

Answer these questions:

  • Which of your employees' needs do you think are being met, and which are not?
  • What do you notice when you look at these needs?
  • What levers do you have at your disposal to fill the unmet needs?
  • What commitments can you make to satisfy the needs of your employees?
  • And finally, what are your own needs that are not being met today? What would it take for you to meet them?