Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can be used to plan any type of project. In fact, the Maslow Theory of Motivation can be the key to unlocking successful project results. Although all of these requirements appear to be unrelated to project management, they can be adapted to suit many areas. Self-actualization, esteem, belonging, safety, and psychological well-being are among the needs that project managers must strive to achieve if they want to unlock that next level of project success. 

In this article, we’ll explain the hierarchy of needs, how to apply it to a project, why it is important, and how Wrike can help. Keep reading to discover some examples and benefits of the Maslow Theory of Motivation that will give you an edge in your project planning you never knew you needed. 

What is Maslow's theory?

Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs is a concept commonly used in psychology and various professions to help people reach their goals and live happier, more productive lives. This concept was created by psychologist Abraham Maslow after he observed how certain animals prioritized their needs based on their unique behavior patterns.

Nowadays, this tool is used to study how humans respond to different kinds of behavioral motivation. The goal is to work your way up the Maslow hierarchy pyramid from psychological needs all the way up to transcendence. According to Maslow, each level must be achieved in order to reach the next level and will eventually lead to fulfilling your highest potential in life. 

These are the steps:

  1. Psychological needs
    Psychological needs include the essentials humans need for survival. Food, clothing, and adequate shelter are among our basic psychological needs. 
  2. Safety needs
    Safety is also sometimes thought of as security. This includes feeling secure physically, emotionally, financially, and socially. Job security is a good example of this type of need. 
  3. Belonging and love needs
    Human beings are social creatures and require many types of love in order to fulfill this portion of Maslow’s pyramid. Examples include romantic love, family connections, friendships, a sense of community, and even a healthy work culture. 
  4. Esteem needs
    This category of needs has to do with how we view ourselves or how we believe others view us. Respect, self-esteem, and status are a large part of this category. 
  5. Cognitive needs
    Cognitive needs are related to our mental stimulation and continued growth. Additional education, job or skills training, and a general sense of curiosity about the world are all great examples. 
  6. Aesthetic needs
    Aesthetic needs have to do with how we perceive our surroundings and the world we interact with. To be fulfilled in this area we must see beauty, art, order, form, and balance in the majority of our spaces. 
  7. Self-actualization
    This is the state we hope to achieve after fulfilling all of the lower levels. In this category, we are satisfied with our lives and our work. We are certain that we are living our best lives and realizing our true potential. 
  8. Transcendence 
    We have unlocked holistic consciousness and are now one with humanity, nature, and the world around us. In essence, it means to transcend so far beyond our own needs in order to be in tune with needs outside of ourselves at a high level. 

Some illustrations of the Maslow theory of motivation show only five major categories: psychological, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. These broader strokes include all of the above eight steps we mentioned but both are useful to know when studying this concept. 

Hierarchy of needs example 

To use our project management example, in order for a project team member to secure their psychological needs, they must first have the basics for survival, including clean water and shelter. After that, they’ll need to have a strong sense of security in their life, which in this context may mean job security. Next, their work relationships should be enjoyable and fulfilling. 

Then, they’ll need to feel confident in their performance in order to reach a level of self-actualization in their project work. Once that’s achieved, they’ll have the freedom to be more spontaneous, creative, and motivated to produce great results. 

The benefits of understanding employee motivation theories

Having the confidence to know that your needs (and the needs of your team) are being met can help you achieve success. It can also influence the attitudes of those around you. 

Self-actualized employees are a project manager’s dream come true. Their personalities are often warm, grounded, and positive. They’re able to see issues from multiple perspectives and understand human nature well enough to make fair yet balanced decisions. They also tend to be great at working both independently and in groups. 

Even having just one self-actualized team member on board can influence the rest of the group and improve project outcomes or, at the very least, everyone’s experience of the project. 

How is Maslow's hierarchy of needs used in project management?

In project management, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often used to determine how to motivate and make sure that the needs of employees are met. 

This concept has been especially important in recent years. During the past 18 months, many people experienced burnout due to the pandemic. Aside from COVID-19, we also witnessed extreme environmental disasters and social and political upheaval. 

It’s no secret that this has impacted many in the workplace. And, as you can imagine, mental health and employee wellness issues can have a significant impact on a company's culture and project goals. 

Establishing a mental health program and providing resources for employees is an important step in addressing this issue. Applying the Maslow theory of motivation in project management isn’t the only way, but it is a significant one. This is especially true as we reenter the workplace after the pandemic

Despite all of the changes in the world, our basic human needs are still the same. By honing in on the direct application of this theory, project managers can provide a foundation for employees to feel great and do great work, which is a cornerstone of authentic leadership

Using Wrike to ensure needs are met

Wrike is a project management tool used to help employees achieve their highest potential. Wrike makes it easy to communicate goals and objectives through features such as visual Gantt charts. Giving employees insight into how their work fits into the big picture makes them feel important and needed. Their work is more fulfilling when it ties back into a shared vision. 

Wrike also allows project team members to be both autonomous and interconnected with the rest of the group. This is done through individual task assignments that include details such as owner, approver, and dependencies. 

This level of structured freedom makes it easier to build trust among employees while allowing room for their own creativity and independence. It also allows them to take calculated risks while leaders provide oversight without micromanagement. 

Wrike also gives users the ability to provide feedback at any stage, which is essential for growing employee confidence. Team members can loop others into ongoing conversations with @mentions so that they can get questions answered and receive notes as needed. 

They can also apply the feedback and request approval from specific department members directly within each individual task, making teamwork easier while increasing their sense of belonging. 

Ready to foster a community of employees whose work and lives are a reflection of their very best selves? Get started today with Wrike’s two-week free trial