Everyone likes to feel appreciated. After you cook a lovely meal, you want your family to express their appreciation for your hard work. Or, if you go out of your way to do a favor for a friend, you usually hope that the friend will appreciate your good deed and repay the favor when they can.
The same principles apply in the workplace. Even though employees go to work to make a living, most of them also yearn for appreciation—especially when they go above and beyond the call of duty.
In fact, according to one study, 70% of employees prefer recognition that doesn’t involve extra or increased pay. So, is employee appreciation worth more than pay?
Understanding employee appreciation with “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”
It’s impossible to make informed decisions about employee appreciation versus pay without first understanding some basic psychology. Examining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can help us understand why and when employees might actually prefer non-monetary forms of recognition as opposed to more pay.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a model that claims that there are four levels of deficiency needs (D-needs) and one level that is a growth need (B-needs). People become motivated to change their circumstances when the first four levels are not met. Once one level of needs is satisfied, the human mind will turn its attention to the next level.
The five levels, from bottom to top, are:
- Physiological – Biological needs such as food, drink, shelter, sleep, etc.
- Safety – Security needs such as medical care, economic stability, etc.
- Love/belonging – Social needs such as feelings of belonging, kinship, and friendship.
- Esteem – The need for respect, both of oneself and of others.
- Self-actualization – These are the B-needs that include seeking personal growth, interesting experiences, and so on.
As an employer, you can use this model of human needs to better understand what your employees need from you. Pay falls into the first level of “Physiological” needs. Without adequate pay, your employees will find themselves struggling to afford their most basic needs of food and shelter.
However, once your levels of pay reach a certain sustainable level, your employees may begin to focus on the next layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Safety, Love, and Esteem. After all, money isn’t the only thing humans need.
As Paul Warner, Ph.D. told Forbes, “Supporting employees goes beyond just pay. It’s employee well-being and providing a work environment where they can actually thrive in their lives.”
In other words, employee appreciation is not more important than pay, but, after a certain point, it can become an equally important factor in your employee’s satisfaction.
The importance of employee appreciation in a sustainable business model
As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows, pay rates aren’t the only factor that contributes to your employees’ well-being. It’s important to also nurture your employees by making them feel like esteemed members of the team.
Without fulfilling your employees’ base needs from a job, you’ll risk losing your team members to other employers who may offer a more appreciative, inclusive environment. As Bonusly found, 63% of employees who feel recognized at work are unlikely to seek a new job.
Gift ideas for employees to improve employee recognition
If your company needs to improve your employee recognition practices, gifts can be a wonderful alternative or extra to make employees feel more appreciated. Here are a few gift ideas for your employees.
- Special Gifts– You can’t ever go wrong with some delicious chocolate or candies.
- Gift cards – Gift cards are always a great option for employees as they give your employees a chance to choose something special for themselves.
- All-inclusive holidays – A trip is a great way to say thank you to your team members for a job well done.
- Team meal – Surprise your employees with a free meal at a nice restaurant to break up the work day.
- Subscriptions – Subscriptions to relevant magazines or food packages are a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.
- Spa treatments – If you work in a stressful environment, a spa day will help your employees to unwind and return to work feeling refreshed and appreciated.
- Gym memberships – A gym membership is a great way to show appreciation as it will help your employees to focus on self-care and health, another key level of Maslow’s hierarchy.
While you may think that extra pay is the best and only way to encourage employees to stay for years, understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can help you realize that other factors can be equally important. Once you’ve ensured that your employees are paid fairly and adequately, turn your focus to employee appreciation to keep your employees feeling fulfilled in every aspect of their life while at work.