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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Millennials

Last week we talked about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how it relates to employee engagement. This week we’re going to talk a little bit more about the hierarchy and how it relates to the millennial generation, which will soon be the largest section of the workforce.

Let’s look at Maslow’s needs one more time:

  • Survival – These are biological needs such as food, water, shelter, sleep.
  • Safety – This need requires stability, security, order, law, and protection from elements.
  • Belonging – This is a need for friendship, love, affection, and intimacy
  • Importance – The need to achieve and master things, independence, and self-respect
  • Self-Actualization – This is the need that requires people to fulfill their potential and what they’re capable of.


So how does this effect Millennials? In recent studies , Millennials have clearly defined what they expect to gain from their professional lives. When compared to Maslow’s hierarchy, you’ll find their needs to be very similar to the last three needs on Maslow’s graph. Millennials say they want:

  • Meaningful work
  • Recognition & respect
  • Autonomy & flexibility
  • A chance to constantly learn and grow
  • Fun with those they enjoy working with

It goes without saying that the needs for survival and safety are basic needs that apply to everyone. But the Millennials place an incredible amount of focus on belonging, importance, and self-actualization. Those three advanced needs are the entirety of their driving motivation.

If you’re a manager or business owner who thinks this data is irrelevant, think again. By the year 2025 the millennial generation will comprise over 75% of the American workforce. That means that by 2025 the majority of your employees will require you to meet all of their needs if you want them to stay with you for the long haul. Millennials are a generation that is unafraid of “job hopping” in order to find a company that meets their demands, and not the other way around. Whereas previous generations held around five jobs in their lifetime, the average Millennial is predicted to hold around 20. That means that meeting their needs and keeping them satisfied is going to be more important (and more challenging) than ever. It’s a good idea to start adapting to those expectations now.

How does a company begin heading in this direction? You can start by creating a culture that fosters the type of environment that your future employees will be looking for. A number of experts recommend you try some or all of the following tactics:

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  • Provide employees with a team focused environment that rewards team and individual efforts, making their work meaningful, flexible and autonomous.
  • Give all employees the tools and education they need to “self-actualize” their full-potential.
  • Put an employee recognition program into place that recognize employees for their work, making them feel respected and recognized.

Setting up these practices now puts you way ahead of the curve, and prepares your organization today for the challenges of the future.

First thing’s first. Begin your future-proofing Millennial initiative by launching an employee recognition program like we mentioned above. This will help your employees feel important and valued by rewarding and recognizing them for their achievements. At Loyaltyworks, we specialize in providing these incentive programs and have found them to be invaluable in creating what we call a “culture of recognition.” When you foster employee recognition as a culture in your workplace, your employees’ performance will improve because they will be able to feel like their work is meaningful, and that they receive the respect and recognition they deserve for it.

If you’d like to jump start your company’s culture and begin preparing it for the employees of the future, take the hierarchy infographic from above and ask your employees where they feel they are on it. They’ll let you know if you’re engaging them the right way, or if there are areas of engagement that your business could focus on. If you’d like to discuss how an employee recognition program can help your business begin preparing for this “workforce of the future,” call us today at 1-800-844-5000. We’d love to give you a free demo of how our products work and to speak with you about the challenges we can help your business overcome.