Maslow's Hierarchy of Employee Needs (with help from Gallup)

I previously talked through Zod's axioms, which form the cornerstone of my management philosophy.  However, they aren't the complete set as I've added a few things to how I think about management.  Consider this the second pillar of my overall management philosophy.


The Gallup organization surveys companies all over the world, and once they had amalgamated data from over 1,000,000 employees, they dug into their data and did some research.  Their goal was to distill management principles that were the most predictive of a successful company.  The result was Q12, a set of 12 questions that best predict company success based on the engagement of their employees.  While Gallup uses them as a measuring tool, it's interesting how many of them form a checklist to management to ensure they're creating the right environment.  I find these questions are something of a Maslow's hierarchy of needs for employees, ranging from the most basic necessities to some of the last few which I don't worry as much about.  The questions are all true/false and phrased as statements from the employee.

1. I know what is expected of me at work.
This is so basic and obvious that managers assume they have explained this already, and often haven't.  If an employee isn't 100% certain how he's being measured and what you expect of them, they have almost no chance of delivering against it.  Especially when someone is joining a new organization it may not be obvious what falls in their domain or not.  Is setting the schedule the engineering manager's job?  or the product manager's?  How about prioritizing the next 3 months? Is the current product critical and has been promised for customers?  Or a research project?

Regular reviews are critical for delivering on this statement.  New employees particularly should have quarterly reviews, and once they're got the rhythm you can probably fall back to semi-annual.  Reviews should cover clear goals of what you expect should be done, and evaluation of how they've done against those goals in the previous period.

2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

If the first statement is water, this one is food. Knowing what you need to do and not having the tools to get it done is a recipe for frustration and resentment.  Again, it's so obvious as to be frequently overlooked.  Perhaps your Unix developers need a side windows box to read the Word file requirement documents.  Or Valgrind doesn't work on your platform so you need to find an alternate memory leak detection tool.  Your job as a manager is to remove obstacles for your stars, and providing the right tools is one of the simplest obstacles to overcome.

3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
This statement echo's Zod's first Axiom that people don't change. Since people don't change, the job of a manager is to put people into a role that plays to their strengths, allowing them to do what they do best every day.  Take the person who is super anal, and put them in charge of a very complicated project management task with lots of details.  Give your creative person an open ended design problem to solve.  Not only will they do it well, but they'll love their work since everyone loves doing something they're good at.

The challenge here is that you have a set of work that needs to be done that usually doesn't match up 100% to the skills you've got on your team.  That's the art of management.  Understanding the principle that you want to assign roles based on what people are great at, you will also have to get people to do work that doesn't match up 100%.  The key to me is "every day" not "all day". There will always be work that doesn't match your interests, but you should have some time every day to work on something you are great at.

4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. 
5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. 
6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
I lump these three together as the Maslow equivalent of "Love."  Does someone care about you and work to make you better.  #4 is so basic and easy, and one that I struggle with.  I'm just not a cheerleader and I assume that people know that I appreciate the work they're doing.  But it's so cheap and easy to tell someone "great job on that feature!" that there's no excuse not to.  #5 and #6 are reflections of Zod's axiom that you are only as good as your lieutenants. If you hope to develop and take on more responsibility, then you need to be encouraging your lieutenants to develop and care about them as people.

7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
This argues for a transparent decision making process where input is broadly solicited.  Oracle is well known for having a top down decision making process.  The top exec team decides on the priorities and strategies and maps those down through the organization.  Google, on the other hand, is known for a bottom up decision making process.  I've heard managers there complain that they can't even get their own team to work on something.  To ensure that people's opinions count, it's got to be clear where to express them to have an impact on the company.

8. The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel that my job is important.
This simple sentence really needs it's own post.  It's super important for every person on the team to know how what they're working on maps to the short term projects, and how those map to the companies strategy, and how that maps to the overall mission of the company. 



9.  My associates are committed to doing quality work
While not immediately obvious, this is a corollary to Zod's not being a communist in compensation.  Your job as a manager is to build a high performing organization, and it's critical to highly reward the high performers, and to get rid of the low performers.  Jack Welch talk's extensively about 20%/70%/10% and the culture of rewarding high performers and getting rid of the bottom 10% each year.  While it may seem a little harsh, letting the low performer remain in your org will lead to people thinking their peers aren't committed to doing quality work, and thus they don't need to work as hard.  It's a cancer in your organization that will spread if you don't get rid of it.

10. I have a best friend at work

11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about your progress.
12. In the last year I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow
The rest of the list.  11 and 12 are a little redundant with 4-6.  10 is something that comes about when the culture is excellent, but I see it as more akin to self actualization than driving actions for the management team.

I use this list as a checklist, particularly at review time.  I run through the list and try to answer for all of my directs, and for the key people in their orgs.  Any areas that I find I don't have good answers to create a clear list of actions I need to take.

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1 comments:

Mr. B.Nain said...

Maslow was wrong. See SSRN article:
Nain, Bhavya, Nain's Hierarchy of Needs: An Alternative to Maslow's & ERG's Hierarchy of Needs (June 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2279375

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