16 AUG, 2016

Meeting Individual Needs in a Sea of Workers

individual employee needs

When an organization is small it’s easier to gauge what employees need. You can conduct a survey by asking for a show of hands in response to a question during the all-hands meeting. Or, you could simply gather insights from a dozen hallway conversations each month. But when you have 1,000 employees—or 10,000 employees—staying in touch with their individual needs becomes more difficult.

Understanding Your Employees’ Needs

There have been numerous studies done over the years that show a correlation between motivation and work performance. In order to improve performance you first need to understand what motivates your workforce. The most basic approach to identifying human needs was established by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This hierarchy has been adapted for the workplace. For example:

Employee-NeedsImage Source: CultureUniversity

Each individual will fall somewhere different on this spectrum according to his or her age, experience, personality, and career goals. So, how do you understand individual employee needs in a sea of workers?

Start with the basics—conduct an engagement survey to gather standard information. Ask questions that help determine if employees:

    • Have the tools and equipment required to efficiently complete tasks related to their job.
    • Feel like they’re part of a workplace “family” or community.
    • Have someone they consider a best friend at work.
    • Gain a sense of accomplishment from the work they perform.
    • Believe that they are recognized when they do good work.
    • Feel that your organization provides a means for them to reach their full potential.

Thanks to new technology, you can solicit individual employee answers to these questions fairly easily by sending out quick email or pulse surveys rather than waiting for the traditional annual version. In addition to surveys, there are other ways to solicit feedback from individuals in regards to their needs:

  • Create an online suggestion box in which employees can anonymously give feedback to upper management via an online form. You may even want to offer rewards for great suggestions, especially if they are implemented.
  • Ask leaders to host quarterly open forum meetings. You may not be able to cram every person from your company into a conference room, but several regional open forums will provide an opportunity for individuals to voice their concerns, as well as express appreciation for the good things your company is already doing.
  • Conduct focus groups. Gather employees into groups of 10-15 people for a facilitated discussion. Choose a particular topic (e.g., training and development) and ask questions to dig into issues, or ask a variety of questions to gain a broad understanding of whether or not employee needs are being met. It’s important to have an unbiased facilitator who can lead the discussion and record any key themes they hear from employees.
  • Require line managers to conduct “pulse checks” with their teams. Managers are the front line when it comes to understanding employee needs, and they have the ability to address team members as individuals daily. Make sure they’re gathering insight during one-on-one meetings and are also conducting pulse checks with their team to ensure everyone’s needs are being met. Respond when they ask for resources or changes that will support them in answering employee requests.
  • Encourage executives to connect with individuals. As the CEOs highlighted in this Fast Company article demonstrate, there are many creative ways to get to know employees. Encourage your executives to make personal connections with employees by hosting family dinners, playing board games, or starting a book club. In those social venues, employees will be more likely to open up and give leaders insight into what they care about.

It’s true that you can’t please everybody, but as an organizational leader it’s important to try as best you can to meet the needs of your employees. You’ll reap the rewards in terms of engagement, retention, and performance, and become a better manager in the meantime.


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