11 essential employee needs and how to satisfy them

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Meeting employees' needs is important because it can help drive workplace motivation. When employees feel heard and valued, they experience higher job satisfaction and show more commitment. Employers that meet staff needs can also benefit from increased productivity, improved retention rates and better business outcomes. In this article, we define employee needs, examine what can happen in cases of unmet needs, provide 11 essential needs of today's employees and explain what employers can do to satisfy staff needs.

What are employee needs?

Employee needs are the outcomes and feelings that employees desire from their work. Some needs are irrefutable, such as being paid, and many employees place increasing importance on less tangible needs, such as those that arise from their professional aspirations and personal values. American psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed a five-tier hierarchy of needs and theorised that humans satisfy these in a specific order. Once individuals satisfy one level of needs, they become motivated to satisfy the next:

  • Physiological: the need for elements for basic survival such as food, water and shelter

  • Safety: the need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally, in your environment

  • Social: the emotional need for belongingness and connection to others

  • Esteem: the need to feel valued, respected and have a sense of self-worth

  • Self-actualisation: the need to realise your full potential and become the most that you can be

Read more: Examples of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (With definitions)

What happens when employers don't meet staff needs?

Feeling that their needs go unmet in their current work environment is a primary reason employees leave their jobs. The needs Maslow proposed in his hierarchy correspond with some of the most frequent reasons employees give when leaving their jobs:

  • Inadequate salary or not enough hours: If employees don't earn enough, they may not meet their physiological needs. It can also cause feelings of insecurity in their work environment.

  • Problems with management: Ineffective management can make employees feel unsupported or that their job isn't secure. This may prevent employees from meeting their safety needs and can impact their esteem.

  • Not feeling valued or appreciated: This may cause employees to become apathetic about their work. This can lead to feelings of unfulfillment, which might lower their self-esteem.

  • Boredom: If employees feel unchallenged or that their work is monotonous, they may seek new opportunities that provide more stimulation and a better sense of self-worth.

  • Lack of opportunity for advancement: When employees feel they have little chance of moving up, they may leave for a job that can better meet their need for self-actualisation.

Related: Identifying and improving a hostile work environment

11 staff needs and how to meet them

By taking steps to meet staff needs at all levels of Maslow's hierarchy, employers can create a more positive and productive work environment which can attract and retain the top talent. Below are 11 essential staff needs and what employers can do to meet them:

1. Fair compensation

Employees who believe employers don't compensate fairly can become disgruntled and resent the company. To ensure that compensation is fair, conduct regular salary assessments and adjust salaries accordingly. Employees' pay may also need adjusting if they have greater responsibilities or achieve better performance levels. Salaries that don't reflect an employee's experience, skills and responsibilities may lead to employees leaving for better-paid positions.

2. Healthy work environment

Having a healthy work environment is important not only for employees' physical safety but also for their emotional well-being. Promote a healthy work environment by encouraging employees to take breaks, providing areas for them to do so and ensuring that the workplace is clean and free of physical hazards. Employers can look after their employees' emotional health by not tolerating gossip, avoiding bias and favouritism and ensuring that support is available for employees who experience difficulties or stress.

Related: 11 common reasons employees leave their roles (Plus tips)

3. Job security

Job security helps to ensure employees feel safe in their work environment. Employees who lack a sense of security in their jobs may have the constant worry of losing their income and may experience high levels of stress. Employers can help employees feel secure in their jobs by providing long-term contracts, investing in internal development and keeping employees informed about company changes that might affect their employment.

4. Healthy work-life balance

Employees who have a healthy work-life balance can better fulfil their need for safety while also maintaining their social relationships outside of the workplace. To foster a healthy work-life balance, employers can offer flexible working arrangements, encourage employees to take their full annual leave entitlement and enable mental health days. These steps can help employees maintain their focus during the workday and avoid burnout.

Read more: Work-life imbalance: what it means and its effect

5. Access to resources and knowledge

For employees to do their job to the best of their ability, they require access to the resources and knowledge which support professional development. Resources might include up-to-date technology, office supplies or equipment. Knowledge might include structured training, self-access knowledge bases and support from more experienced colleagues. Employees that can access the tools, training and knowledge they need may be more engaged, productive and better able to fulfil their potential.

6. Feeling valued and appreciated

Feeling valued by their employer is important for employees' esteem, which Maslow identified as a need to be met for people to be motivated. Employers can show their employees they value them by providing regular feedback, involving employees in decisions and publicly recognising their achievements. Establishing a workplace wellness programme can also reflect a culture which values staff as individuals and cares for their growth.

7. A sense of belonging

Having a sense of belonging in the workplace can help employees feel more comfortable and valued by the company. Employees who feel part of a team are more likely to want to stay with the company, encouraging them to work harder and be more productive. Employers can promote a sense of belonging by providing a supportive environment, encouraging peer support, having cohesive teams and offering opportunities for all employees to participate in company activities and social events.

8. Trust

Trust helps create a bond between an employer and employee, and it's crucial for employees to feel secure in their roles. Employers can build trust by being transparent, communicating effectively and being consistent in their actions. Developing a culture of trust in the workplace also encourages employees to feel comfortable raising concerns and contributing ideas.

9. A sense of purpose

Many employees want to feel like the work they do has meaning. Employers can help employees find a sense of purpose in their work by making sure that all employees are aware of the company's goals and that they know how their role contributes to achieving them. Viewing a role from a different perspective can help an employee see how their work is important. When necessary, changing an employee's job title to something that more accurately reflects their duties can also help them feel a greater sense of purpose in their work.

Read more: How to define purpose in business: a step-by-step guide

10. Development

Providing continuous opportunities for skills development and self-development can help employees meet their need for esteem and self-actualisation. Offering training to improve upon and learn new skills and knowledge can allow employees to track their progress, even if they stay in the same role. Mentorship programmes and encouraging employees to attend conferences and seminars can provide opportunities to interact with industry experts, which can improve the quality of their work and increase their confidence.

11. Opportunities for career advancement

Many employees choose to pursue a new job or stay with their current company because of opportunities to progress in their careers. By supporting and investing in employees' potential for growth within the company, employers demonstrate that career development is important to the organisation. This can motivate employees to work harder and contribute their best ideas and efforts to the company. Providing structured career paths with clear routes for professional advancement can also help employers develop and retain their top talent.

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