How to Apply Maslow’s Hierarchy Model in Real Life?

Amelia Jackson
4 min readMay 22, 2024

Business leaders realize the importance of keeping their employees happy and motivated. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs aligns with the needs of employees at different levels.

To successfully support and inspire your employees, it is important for HR to understand Maslow’s hierarchy and how to apply it.

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Abraham Maslow in 1943 devised the model as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He was a psychologist who devised a motivational theory in psychology. Also called Maslow’s theory of motivation, it includes five levels of human needs. The levels are different needs that make the individual feel motivated or fulfilled. The hierarchy is often represented in pyramid form.

Maslow classified human needs into five tiers.

  • Self-actualization on the fifth level
  • Self-esteem on the fourth
  • The third level belongs to love and belonging
  • The second level is the safety needs
  • And the first or bottom level is the physiological needs.

The needs of a fresh graduate just entering the job world will be quite different from the pre-retirees at the apex roles in the company. Business leaders need to understand what motivates their employees to extend support to them. According to Maslow, humans like to fulfill their first-tier needs and then move up. This way, they keep trying to achieve a higher level when the bottom level is met.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Application in Today’s HR

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy model of needs in your professional life can offer significant benefits. This model has helped HR professionals enhance employee engagement activities. They can dig deeper into each pyramid level and know how the model translates to the workplace.

While the employer fulfills employees’ needs, as an employee, you must know how these needs can impact your success. This model has helped employees discover areas that need improvement.

This psychological needs theory allows you to build a roadmap for navigating your professional purpose. Understanding and applying Maslow’s components can address our fundamental needs and ensure growth. Here, we explore different levels of needs.

First Level: Physiological Needs

As stated earlier, the new graduates from college who are starting their careers have basic psychological needs. They want to become financially independent for the first time in their life. Their exciting independence journey begins, and they focus on fulfilling their basic needs like housing, food, paying off student loans, and other living expenses. Employees at work need access to a washroom, safe drinking water, meal breaks, and a healthy working environment.

Second Level: Safety Needs

Now that the employees have spent considerable early years in their jobs and their basic needs have been met, they are worried about meeting their safety needs. They want to be financially secure and wish to buy a home, start a family, etc. Due to the additional responsibility, they want a secure job and a steady paycheck.

A safe workplace would mean ergonomic office furniture, no risk of injury, etc. You must also include emotional safety norms like job loss due to layoffs, an unsteady future, etc.

Third Level: Love And Belonging

In this third level of Maslow’s hierarchy, the need for belongingness is felt. The person wants to remain connected with influential people personally and professionally. At work, you want to be in the organization’s inner circle and included in decision-making processes. These middle managers are often like a bridge between lower-level employees and higher management.

Companies often organize many social engagement activities for their employees. One of the important roles of HR is to provide relationship-building opportunities to their employees. You feel motivated to work harder when you feel that you belong and fit in the organization.

Fourth Level: Self-Esteem

Not every employee can rise to level four or five of the hierarchy. Some people like to stick to middle management, drawing a decent paycheck and remaining content. Some people demonstrate their strengths and talents and rise to this level.

After reaching the peak of your career, your needs change. You want to contribute to a higher goal and want your efforts to get recognized. In the workplace, you want to know whether you are advancing your career and giving results. Receiving positive feedback and encouragement develops more confidence. The organizations often provide recognition and appreciation to their employees, enhancing their esteem.

Fifth Level: Self-Actualization

With extensive work experience and a long list of achievements, you want to know whether you have maximized your potential. Individuals at this level want to know whether they have been the best at their position. This helps them get encouragement to continue on their career path.

To reach the top level, you must be self-actualized. You must identify your skills. Companies should help these leaders hone their skills and abilities, bring new challenges, and provide constructive feedback.

Wrapping Up

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains the understanding of human motivation and behavior. By addressing each level of needs, individuals and organizations can enhance well-being, motivation, and performance.

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Amelia Jackson

Human Resource Professional. Passionate about Human Resources. Writing has always been a passion with strong interest in talent management & HR Industry.