10 essential employee needs and how to meet them

Employees are the backbone of any organization. 

If they feel satisfied and engaged, they will go the extra mile to ensure the company’s success. However, if their basic physiological, emotional, and social needs are not being met, employees will not care about your organization’s growth.

What is more, a lack of employee satisfaction usually leads to high turnover and absenteeism rates which reduce profits and are a serious threat to any business. 

This is why it is so important to foster a happy and fulfilled workforce that builds positive employee experiences and actively contributes to the company’s goals. 

To help you do that, we have prepared an in-depth guide to 10 fundamental employee needs, as well as expert advice on how to meet them. 

10 essential employee needs and how to meet them

10 essential employee needs and how to meet them

1. Fair compensation packages

Let’s start with the most obvious one. Even with great company culture, mission, and vision compensation is still a major factor in employee retention. Money is what helps satisfy people’s basic physiological and safety needs. 

What is more, financial rewards largely reflect our self-worth and define our role in the company. It is essential that your employees feel like they receive fair compensation for the work they do. It is one of the most impactful ways to show your appreciation for their skills, effort, and commitment. 

A good rule of thumb is to reassess your employees’ financial rewards every six months. This way you can ensure that your salaries are competitive and that the professional development and loyalty of your team are being rewarded. 

2. Work-life balance

Here’s a simple truth many employers seem to forget: work does not equal the meaning of life. While being career-oriented and ambitious is great, no one should put work above all else. 

In fact, employees who do that usually end up burnt out. Their productivity and creativity levels decrease, they become less committed to the company’s success and finally decide to look for a job elsewhere. 

A Glassdoor survey revealed that 87% of employees expect their employers to support them in maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal life. So what exactly does it entail? Here are a few ways you can improve your employee’s work-life balance:

  • Offer flexible work hours to accommodate people’s lifestyles
  • Choose a remote or hybrid working model
  • Provide a fair number of paid vacation and sick days
  • Offer maternity or paternity leave
  • Help employees prioritize their workloads efficiently
  • Avoid glorification of overworking

3. Physical and mental well-being

Employee’s physical and mental health should be your first priority. After all, if the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not being met, no one can perform at their best. 

As a business owner or a manager, it is your responsibility to build an environment where employees do not have to work themselves into the ground to feel appreciated. Provide your staff with clear and reasonable expectations and encourage regular breaks and team-building events.

Knowing and supporting your employees’ strengths, interests and passions will significantly contribute to their physical and mental well-being. Here are a few additional support actions you can offer that will help reduce stress and make the work experience rewarding for your employees:  

  • Healthy snacks and drinks
  • Company team building exercises 
  • On-site counseling
  • Improving trust and communication
  • Mental health day
  • Free health screenings

4. Recognition

According to Achievers, 44% of employees change jobs due to a lack of adequate recognition of their efforts. Indeed, a feeling of accomplishment and pride are effective drivers of motivation and loyalty. 

When employees feel noticed and appreciated, they will continue to work hard to improve their performance and are more likely to enjoy their work. That is why a proper feedback framework and reward system are key to creating a productive and rewarding work environment. 

When giving feedback, make sure it is sincere, personal, and regular. Mention what exactly impressed you about an employee’s performance and point out the improvement areas they should focus on.

What is more, remember that each employee has their own unique goals, needs, and motivations. Asking them how exactly they would like to be recognized will help you take a more individual approach to their career experience. 

5. Growth opportunities

Another factor that defines whether employees feel satisfied and fulfilled in the workplace is personal and professional development. Everyone wants hard-working and ambitious team members, but not everyone is ready to invest in their growth. 

However, if your employees don’t see any career or development prospects on the horizon, they will quickly become disengaged and put less effort into their career growth. 

Helping employees build new skills will not only help enhance their performance but also ensure long-term employee retention, especially for the millennial and Gen Z generations. Besides, it is in your best interest to help your team evolve into industry experts. 

So what can you do to fulfill your employees’ development needs? Here are a few examples of effective initiatives:

  • Regular detailed feedback on employee performance
  • A personal development plan for each employee
  • Alignment with career training, opportunities, and goals
  • Internal coaching/mentoring systems
  • A personal development budget for each employee

6. A sense of purpose

A sense of purpose is another basic emotional need of humankind. People enjoy doing something meaningful and making the world a better place. What is more, employees who share the company’s mission and vision are usually more committed to its success. 

Purpose-oriented employees are 54% more likely to stay at an organization for more than five years and 30% more likely to be high performers than those who work solely for the money. 

But what do you do if your company does not conduct cancer research or sells green energy? Well, it doesn’t have to. Your product still brings benefits to its customers and that’s what you should emphasize. 

Moreover, you can organize events or volunteer/fundraising activities to support important charities and community needs. Then use the proceeds and/or part of your profits to help charities and the community.

Another example could be establishing environmental and green initiatives in your workplace or donating a percentage of your revenue to these causes. This will help employees see the organization in a new light and understand what your company brand stands for. In addition, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues have become increasingly important to employees when considering where and for how long to work.

7. Clear goals

One of the most common causes of high employee retention and absenteeism rates is a lack of transparency and clarity in the workplace. When team members don’t understand their role in the company or their direct responsibilities change every week, they become lost and frustrated.

It is up to business owners and managers to establish clear goals for each employee that align with the company’s vision and mission. This way it would be easier for employees to understand their contribution to the organization’s growth, as well as meet deadlines. 

There are many frameworks that help set clear and consistent goals that drive employees’ performance (for example SMART). Whatever framework you choose, it is important that it keeps employees engaged and purpose-oriented, since, as Gallup findings show, highly engaged teams show a 23% increase in profitability. 

8. A sense of belonging

One of the most overlooked employee needs is a sense of belonging. People spend a huge part of their day in the workplace, so it is vital to have social ties with one’s coworkers. What is more, being a part of a friendly and collaborative team usually boosts employees’ productivity and innovative thinking, so it is definitely a win-win. 

Managers play a key role in cultivating a sense of companionship and team spirit. Ask them to assess their team and solicit input from employees on how they can encourage better teamwork and improve morale. For instance, try to answer questions like:

  • Do people in your team often collaborate on solving problems/coming up with new ideas?
  • Do employees actively interact with each other during/after work?
  • Can they describe these interactions as fun and friendly? If not, why?
  • How could we improve in these areas?

This way you can determine the main issues that interfere with effective teamwork and a strong sense of belonging and address them. 

One of the most common ways to improve teamwork in the workplace is by providing opportunities for employees to meet colleagues and managers from other departments, participate in special projects with co-workers or arrange team events for the employees to better know each other. 

9. Diversity, equity, and inclusion 

A happy workplace is a diverse workplace. Creating an environment where people from different backgrounds feel welcome should be one of the main goals of each manager. 

This is just not just about “checking the box” or improving your employer brand. Diverse and inclusive teams tend to be more creative and productive. Recent research proved that companies that score above average in diversity have almost twice the innovation revenue as those with below-average scores.

In addition, when employees from different backgrounds, nationalities, or cultures are not included in department discussions or other professional events they do not feel valued and see themselves as outsiders. This leads to employee disengagement and possibly even resignation.

That is why DEI initiatives are an integral part of a modern and successful organization. In fact, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace requires a complex approach, namely a DEI strategy that covers all areas of the employee journey. Managers play a critical role to ensure that ALL employees are valued for their contributions and their input is welcomed and needed. 

It is not enough to hire employees with different identities though. A company culture that values and makes use of those differences should be the end goal of your DEI strategy.

10. Good leadership

Last but not least, employees need supportive and inspiring leaders to guide them through their careers and help them achieve personal and professional growth. Managers play a key role in staff retention and they are usually the main cause of high employee turnover and absenteeism rates. 

If a manager disregards employees’ emotional and social needs, glorifies workaholism, or creates a toxic work culture, they will probably lose team members every year.

On the other hand, a leader who cares about their employees’ needs builds trust and can expect their team members to be committed to the company’s growth.

So what does a good manager look like? Here are a few signs of great leadership in a company/department:

  • Transparent two-way communication
  • Healthy, friendly, and positive work environment
  • Employees constantly share their ideas and suggestions
  • A variety of learning opportunities for team members of each level
  • An atmosphere of trust and respect

Key takeaways

Understanding and meeting employees’ physiological, emotional or social needs should be every company’s top priority. Happy and fulfilled team members will work harder, be more innovative, and stay committed to the organization for longer. 

Our guide has walked you through 10 basic employee needs and offered some guidelines on how to meet them. However, this topic cannot be covered in one or even a series of articles. 

Learning to understand and satisfy the many needs of your team members is a continuous process that every manager has to go through. But there is a way to make this journey smooth and fast. 

Manage2Retain offers coach support for managers across all industries. Our expertise and carefully developed employee retention solutions will help managers build a productive and rewarding work environment, where all employee needs are met. 

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