Levels of Wants, Needs and Motivation

By Shawn P. Quigley

Needs and Motivation – Organization and the Individual

In our article “Needs, wants, and motivation” we discussed the correlation between the needs of an organization and that of the individuals who comprise it. This would be an example of “The Macro fit” or job fit as commonly stated in the Human Resources Department. This is a good a start, but must be followed by “The Micro Fit”, which we will discuss later. First we must define the Macro-fit better. The Macro-fit can be considered the long term goal or goals of the individual and the overall goal(s) of the organization. While this is good for determining the long term applicability of an individual it does little for the short term maintenance of the employee’s motivation. We must note that in this instance long term and short term are not actually determined by time, but employee motivation, goal setting, and perception of progress towards either or both. This is to infer that these terms will be different for each individual and can only be properly assessed by the interaction of supervision and management with the individual.

Macro-fit and Motivation

The Macro-fit (Job-fit) has been well defined and calculated in the Human Resources field, but the lower Micro-fit has been left to the management and supervisory personnel. Most supervisors and managers think that a good day’s wage and sense of accomplishment for completing the task should be enough for employee motivation (wants and needs). This thinking and approach is most likely true for new employees when their motivation (commitment) is high and their skills are low. However as their skills improve and their motivational drivers change it may not so certainly apply. Enter the Micro-fit to fulfilling the employee’s wants and needs. What is the relationship between the employee’s current task assignment and their motivational drivers? How does the department or project show the individual the relationship between the department goals and that of the individual? If the answer is that this does not occur and the individual is selected for the task based solely on the department or project’s needs it may only produce a negative experience for the individual. This will in the long term likely produce negative experience for the individual.

Micro-fit and Motivation

Another way to look at Macro and Micro fits is with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Theory of Hygiene and Motivation, and Theory “Y” and “X” by Douglas McGregor. Where the Marco-fit would be the base need of the individual (pay, food, house, etc…) and the Micro-fit would be the blocks that come after that (belonging, accomplishment, self-actualization, etc.). It seems many organizations are good at determining the initial fit of a potential employee, but assume that is where the story ends or worse yet assume that the organization’s plan for the individual does not require tending as the individual develops. Again if we apply human developmental theory we can see that wants and needs (motivators) change as the individual develops. Therefore, constant interaction is required to maintain the alignment between the wants, needs, and goals of the individual, project, department, and organization must occur. This is an example of the application of all the theories pertaining to motivation and the changes that occur with individual development.

Environmental Factors and Motivation

We would be remiss if we did not also discuss that there are environmental factors that affect an individual’s motivation. By this we mean the manner in which the main motivator changes when an individual is assessing their position as an organizational member, a departmental member, a team member, and as an individual. What one sees as their wants and/or needs can be reordered by the group or activity they are employed with. This is not to say that the initial want or need is no longer applicable, but with the situational change may take a different place in its’ ranking. This reordering may or may not require attention to maintain the individual’s motivation and can only be determined through positive interaction by supervisory and management personnel. We will delve into the dynamics that affect wants and needs in another article.

We will end this discussion with the question, “How many levels does your organization see as affecting individual motivators, why, and what actions are done at these levels to ensure motivation is maintained as high as possible?”

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