11 Essential Needs of Employees

Charisma, strategy and vision are hallmarks of history’s great leaders, but a newer trait, “emotional intelligence,” has found its way into the workplace. People today have a great sense of independence and a need for empowerment. This means leaders must exercise authority and management skills while also encouraging participation and empowerment.

An emotionally intelligent leader knows when to exercise authority; when to encourage participation; and when to keep his or her own ideas, feelings and emotions private.

Emotional intelligence means being in tune with employees when it comes to their needs and expectations in the workplace. An easy way to figure out what your employees need is to first look at the dark side and ask: “What drives people away from their jobs?”


Dave FergusonEmployees leave jobs for five main reasons:

  • Boredom
  • Inadequate salary and benefits
  • Limited opportunities for advancement
  • Lack of recognition
  • Unhappiness with management

In my experience as a corporate leader and as an executive coach, I’ve also identified a pattern of employees’ essential needs:

  • Reward: Employees need fair compensation for their work.
  • Vision: Your staff needs to know where the company is headed in the long term.
  • Resources – Teams need the right tools and training to get the job done well.
  • Loyalty: Employees need to feel that supervisors “have their backs.”
  • Connection: Employees need to feel that leaders are competent, genuinely care and want their employees to succeed.
  • Teamwork: Your staff needs a workplace culture that supports and encourages teamwork.
  • Value: Each of your employees needs sincere appreciation and recognition as an individual.
  • Growth: Your team needs programs and paths for growth and career advancement.
  • Self-development: Employees need opportunities to be coached, challenged and inspired.
  • Strengths: Employees need roles and responsibilities that fit their strengths.
  • Purpose: Team members need opportunities for meaningful contribution to big-picture goals.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s influential theory of human motivation, known as the hierarchy of needs, can be applied to the workplace. Maslow’s theory says that after people have achieved food, water and shelter, they’re motivated by the need to feel physically and emotionally safe. If they feel safe, they go on to seek love, friendship and a sense of belonging. Only when these needs are met do they go on to seek self-respect, status and recognition from others.  The need to reach one’s full potential is at the top of the pyramid in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

When leadership teams address employees’ 11 essential needs and keep Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in mind, the result will be lower attrition rates and a profound and positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Dave Ferguson1Dave Ferguson is an internationally recognized executive coach, speaker, teacher and author. Connect with him at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@LivingToLead.com. Ferguson lives on Hilton Head Island.