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Career, Community & Cause, What Employees Really Care About

Harvard Business Review looks at Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs and discuss the needs and wants of employees.


Abraham Maslow’s big idea was that we all have a hierarchy of needs: once our basic physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, we seek love and belongingness, then self-esteem and prestige, and finally self-actualization. But as the pyramid has been build over half a century ago, phycologists reveal it needs an update. If your basic needs aren’t meet it's hard to focus on anything else. This pyramid was built during a time many workplaces in the manufacturing economy didn’t have basic physiological and safety needs covered. But today companies are not just keen to cover the basic needs, they want to fulfil all needs by offering company perks like free snacks and gym memberships. In these environments, survival isn’t in question.



If Maslow were designing his pyramid from scratch today to explain what motivates people at work, beyond the basics, what would it look like? That’s the question Forbes set out to answer at Facebook, in collaboration with their people analytics team.

In this article, Facebook informs us they survey their team twice a year asking what employees value most. After examining hundreds of thousands of answers repeatedly, they identified three big buckets of motivators: career, community, and cause.


  • Career is about Work: Working for a company that allows you to use your strengths and encourages self-development. It's key to motivation.

  • Community is about people: Working within a company that is respectful and caring. This in turn drives a sense of connection and belonging.

  • Cause is about purpose: Working within an organisation gives you a sense of worth regarding the work you are doing and aligning with the organisation’s mission. It’s a source of pride for many people.



These three buckets make up what’s called the psychological contract — the unwritten expectations and obligations between employees and employers. When that contract is fulfilled, people bring their whole selves to work. But when it’s breached, people become less satisfied and committed. Many people want more than the fluff often advertised as a perk. More than a quarter of Facebook employees rated Career, Community & Cause as important. And 90% of our people had a tie in importance between at least two of the three.


“To know what one really wants,” Maslow argued, “is a considerable psychological achievement.” Facebook’s data suggests that people are very clear on what they want at work — and they fundamentally want the same things. Regardless of your role or hierarchy within a company, and irrespective of your age or location within the world, we all want the same thing. We’re all hoping to find a what, a who, and a why.


To find out more about the survey Facebook conducted in conjunction with Harvard Business Review, click here.



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