Onboarding and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In my college days, while studying social work and education, I often encountered Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” in psychology, sociology, and education classes. That was decades ago. Recently seeing Maslow’s work at the center of an HR blog post about onboarding surprised me. A quick Google search indicated that it shouldn’t have.

I found lots of articles, posts, and books about applications of Maslow’s human needs theory for organizations. In the 60s, business people sought him out, using his theory in motivating the workforce. His work is still used in management training and, as a Forbes post shows, it can be tweaked a bit for workplace employees in the digital age. It’s also applicable to marketing efforts, satisfying the true needs of customers.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Pyramid diagram of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological, Safety, Love and beloniging, Esteem,m and Self-actualization

If you’re not familiar with it, the Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology that was proposed in 1943 by American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in an article “A Theory of Human Motivation.” It is often represented by a five-tiered, pyramid-shaped model that moves from base to tip progressing from the most basic physiological needs (like nourishment, shelter, rest, etc.) to safety needs (e.g., security, stability, freedom from fear) and then through psychological needs of love and belonging to esteem and finally to self-actualization. A sixth level, self-transcendence, based on Maslow’s later research and writings, is added by some.

Over time, Maslow refined his theory and noted that his model was not as inflexible as implied in early descriptions and that needs in one level did not have to be 100% met before one could move on to needs of a higher level.


Onboarding in 2019

So, what can a decades-old theory of human motivation contribute to onboarding practices today? A lot. In her HRZone blog post, Melanie Guy suggests that Maslow’s research can provide insights into what an “onboardee” is looking for.

She looks at each of Maslow’s five categories of needs and applies them to different stages of the onboarding process. For example, Guy compares the basic physiological needs to those of someone going through onboarding to get their contract agreed. His or her job will provide the means to pay rent, buy food, and pay bills—all part of meeting a person’s basic physical needs.

How does this impact an organizations onboarding procedure?

According to Guy it should include these:

  • Fast and efficient contract handling
  • Error-free process
  • Clear communications

How are you doing?

Take a look at Guy’s post, then take a look at your organization’s onboarding process. How would it stack up alongside the “Hierarchy of Needs”? Are you taking care of your new employee’s deepest felt needs and concerns? Making them feel comfortable and confident that taking a job with your organization was a wise decision? Is your organization a psychologically safe space where suggestions and feedback are welcome? Are you providing an onboarding experience that communicates how much you value them individually and as part of your team? They are used to conducting business online at their convenience. Do you streamline the task of completing onboarding forms by making them available 24/7 on multiple devices?

How we can help

Delphia Consulting developed the Sage endorsed solution Sage HRSM HR Actions that contributes to a smooth onboarding experience by providing web-based forms that can be completed anywhere at your new hire’s convenience. Discover a paperless HR that will continue to make your employee’s experience a positive one.

Give us a call at 888.421.2004 or use the CONTACT SALES button on our website. We’re happy to listen to your needs and respond with a solution that could be just what you’re looking for. You can also visit our Sage HRMS HR Actions web page or attend a webinar to learn more about it.

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Mary van Balen
Mary van Balen
Technical Writer at Delphia Consulting
Mary is our copy editor and writes for the Delphia blog on Human Resources issues and product news.