The seven motivators

One limitation of the Acquired-Needs Theory (or the Three Needs Theory) is that it recognizes only three types of needs. In fact, research has proven that there are totally seven types of needs by which the vast majority of employees are motivated. Since different people are motivated differently depending on their needs, each type of needs is corresponding to one motivator. The purpose of this post is to introduce the seven motivators, how to recognize them and suggested treatment that managers should have for each motivator.

Seven motivators

The following table shows details about the seven motivators:

Motivator Description Might be heard saying Suggested actions
Achievement These employees want the satisfaction of accomplishing projects successfully. They want to exercise their talents to attain success. They are self-motivated if the job is challenging enough. “I’d like to take on more responsibility” – Assign challenging tasks that stretch their skills
– The “right” assignment is essential
Power These employees want satisfaction from influencing and controlling others. They like to lead and persuade, and are motivated by positions of power and leadership. “Bob, you take this task. Jim. you complete that task. Send me an email at the end of each day with your progress” – Provide the change to make decisions and direct projects
– Assign a mentor
Affiliation These employees gain satisfaction by interacting with others. They tend to be highly social and they enjoy people and find the social aspects of the workplace rewarding “Let’s get the team together to talk about next steps” – Provide opportunities to interact with others such as teamwork projects, group meetings, brainstorm sessions
Autonomy These employees seek freedom and independence. They like to work and take responsibility for their own tasks and projects “Ill take this task and report progress in two weeks” – Allow to set own schedules and work independently
Esteem These employees seek recognition and praise. They dislike generalities, so the praise should be for specific accomplishments and it does not necessarily to be public. This motivator is also mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs “Would you take a look at this and tell me how it looks?” – Recognize and praise often, both in private and public
– Show that you respect their efforts
Safety and Security These employees seek job security, a steady income, insurance benefits and a hazard-free work environment. This is also mentioned in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs “How does that impact my job?” – Provide clear and predictable salary, benefits and vacation policies
Equity These employees want to be treated fairly. They tend to compare work hours, job duties, salary and privileges with those around them. They will become discouraged if they perceive inequities. This is also mentioned in the Equity Theory “Peter always seems to get the good assignments and I get the ones with all the problems” – Address equity issues immediately
– Answer the questions that are asked honestly
– Demonstrate fair and consistent treatment

Please also note that one employee can have multiple motivators at the same time. As a result, multiple actions can be combined together to motivate an employee appropriately.

Bess, D., 2012. Seven Motivators, BUS 626 Organizational Behavior. University of Hawaii at Manoa, unpublished
Pathways, 2007. The Essential Seven Motivators, [online]. Available at: [Accessed 17 December 2012]

What is your motivation orientation?

The main purpose of this post is to introduce a quiz that can helps you to identify your motivation orientation. But before taking this quiz, it would be helpful to understand the theory behind it, which is the Acquired-Needs  Theory (or sometimes is also called the Three Needs Theory).

The Acquired-Needs Theory says that all individuals possess a combination of 3 types of needs:
  • Need for Power: the need to influence and lead others, and control one’s environment.
  • Need for Achievement: the need to be successful; to accomplish goals, excel, and strive continually to do things better.
  • Need for Affiliation: the need for friendly and close interpersonal relationships; to be liked and accepted by others.

Acquired Needs Theory

Among these 3 types of needs, the dominant ones will drive the individual’s behavior. As a result, managers should understand the dominant needs of their employees to be able to motivate them. While people who have a high need for achievement may respond to goals, those with a high need for power may attempt to gain influence over those they work with, and individuals high in their need for affiliation may be motivated to gain the approval of their peers and supervisors. Among the need-based theories of motivation, this theory is the one that has received the greatest amount of support.

This quiz can help you to identify your dominant need, or in other words, your motivation orientation according to the Acquired-Needs Theory. Please click here to do the quiz.

Bauer, T. and Erdogan, B., 2009. Organizational Behavior. 1st ed. Flat World Knowledge, Inc.

Motivating people using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Acting as an expansion of the post about “Theories of motivation“, the purpose of this post is to discuss how an organization can motivate its employees using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s theory says that human beings’ needs can be hierarchically ranked in 5 levels and  once the lower needs are satisfied, people will start looking to satisfy higher needs. Basing on this theory, organization can motivate its employees by proving them with satisfactions for their current needs.

In order to suggest how to satisfy each level of needs, it is important to understand each of the level:
  • Physiological: the need for food, water, shelter and other biological needs. These are very basic needs and when they are lacking, the search for them may overpower all other urges.
  • Safety: the need to be free from the threat of danger, pain, or an uncertain future.
  • Social: the need to bond with other human beings, be loved, and form lasting attachments with others.
  • Esteem: the need to be respected by one’s peers, feel important, and be appreciated.
  • Self-Actualization: the need to become all one is capable of becoming.
By understanding each level of needs, an organization can motivate its employees by providing them with satisfactions for their current needs:
  • Physiological needs can be satisfied by:
    • Providing financial benefits (salary, bonus…) that can satisfy physiological needs of the employee
  • Safety needs can be satisfied by:
    • Providing generous financial benefits that can help the employee to save for the future
    • Providing health insurance
    • Providing company-sponsored retirement plans
    • Offering a measure of job security
  • Social needs can be satisfied by:
    • Having a friendly working environment
    • Providing a workplace conducive to collaboration and communication with others
    • Providing company trip, company picnic or other social get-togethers
    • Scheduling and sponsoring team activities
  • Esteem needs can be satisfied by:
    • Providing high financial benefits
    • Providing promotion opportunities
    • Designing a reward system that recognize employee’s accomplishments
    • Conferring job titles that communicate to the employee that one has achieved high status within the organization
  • Self-actualization needs can be satisfied by:
    • Offering development and growth opportunities
    • Assigning work that is interesting and challenging to the employee

Organizations may ensure a highly motivated workforce by making the effort to satisfy the different needs of each employee. It is interesting that good financial benefits can satisfy not only physiological but also safety and esteem needs. It should also be noted that the same “treatment” may have different reactions, depending on the employee’s current needs. For example, an employee whose current needs are esteem needs may feel satisfied when his supervisor praises an accomplishment. However, another employee who is trying to satisfy social needs may not like being praised by his manager in front of peers if the praise sets the individual apart from the rest of the group.

Bauer, T. and Erdogan, Berrin., 2009. Organizational Behavior. 1st ed. Flat World Knowledge, Inc.