A pyramid that could possibly rival those in Egypt is American psychologist Abraham Maslow’s groundbreaking Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. In 1943, Maslow wrote one of the most significant papers in the field of psychology, A Theory of Human Motivation. In it, he presented his theory of how humans meet their needs, starting with pure survival and, ultimately, self-actualization.

The Hierarchy of Needs is remarkably versatile. It can just as accurately apply to the human condition as it can to business. Whether you have an embryonic organization or a megacorp, you can integrate the pyramid’s principles into your company culture. Here’s how:

The needs, which comprise a five-tiered pyramid, are:

  • Survival | Food, water, shelter
  • Safety | Security, stability, freedom from fear
  • Belonging | Friends, family, spouse
  • Self-Esteem | Achievement, mastery, respect
  • Self-Actualization | Truth, creativity, fulfillment

Businesses, as well their employees, have an inherent drive to excel and succeed. Therefore, Maslow’s theory is equally relevant in the workplace. Here’s how the hierarchy can be used in business settings:

  • Survival | Customers are the foundation of any business. Acquiring them is the basis of business survival. Employees also need to be provided with the survival basics of food, water, healthy air and adequate break time. According to Maslow, deficiency of these four requirements thwarts any development of ambition.
  • Safety Needs | Safety needs encompass everything from eliminating safety hazards from the space to helping employees feel secure in their position with the company.
  • Belonging Needs | Create a work environment that fosters participation and connection with others. Celebrating employee birthdays and anniversaries will encourage friendships and team interaction.
  • Esteem | Employees desire their co-workers’ and bosses’ respect, appreciation and acknowledgment. Fairness and consistency are imperative when recognizing an employee’s achievement — appreciation encourages productivity.
  • Actualization | It’s vital that supervisors determine where employees want to go in relation to the company. Employers can foster actualization by appreciating an employee’s “journey” through a project, rather than rigidly focusing on the finish line.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is an extraordinary tool that can apply to personal and business advancement, alike. It charts growth and endless possibilities. “What a man can be, he must be,” said Maslow. “This need we call self-actualization.”