Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in the Contact Center

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					Maslow 鈥檚 theory on the "hierarchy of human needs" is quite relevant in today 鈥
檚 business environment as it can be applied, not only in behavioral studies of the
general population, but also in most organizations including the contact center.
Understanding the needs driving contact center staff 鈥檚 motivation at work will
help develop and sustain a plan to create an engaged workforce, and most of all,
positively impact the customers 鈥?experience.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who proposed a theory about the 鈥
渉 ierarchy of human needs 鈥? His theory can be found in his paper 鈥?A Theory of
Human Motivation published in 1943.
Maslow 鈥檚 theory categorizes human needs into five basic layers, or tiers in a
pyramid. His argument states that as lower needs are met or fulfilled, there is a
tendency for higher needs to emerge. He says that a person does not feel a higher need
until the needs of the current level have been satisfied.
5. Physiological Needs
In Maslow 鈥檚 theory, physiological needs are obvious 鈥攖 hey are the literal
requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body
simply cannot continue to function. These needs include breathing, food, water,
homeostasis, sleep, etc 鈥?In other words, we breathe, eat, drink, and sleep so we can
Drawing a parallel between the needs for human survival and the workplace, the most
basic of workplace needs is directly related to the compensation for one 鈥檚 time
and effort invested at work; these include wages, bonuses, sales commission, etc. For
many, this may seem counterintuitive at first because we tend to see wages and
monetary compensation as a result of work. But in an employer-employee relation,
the opposite is true. Without an offer for compensation, a business will not be able to
attract the staff required to do the work. Compensation is therefore the most basic
need for anyone willing to do the work.
4. Safety Needs
In Maslow 鈥檚 theory, with physical needs relatively satisfied, the safety needs
begin to take priority and dominate an individual 鈥檚 behavior. These needs have to
do with people's desire for a relatively predictable life and workplace in which
perceived unfairness and inconsistency are under control. In the contact center, these
safety needs manifest themselves in such things as job security, grievance procedures
for protection from authority, 401k or other savings accounts, reasonable disability
accommodations, healthcare insurance, etc 鈥?/FONT>
3. Love and Belonging
After physiological and safety needs are met, the third layer of human needs are social
and involves feelings of belonging. This is the need for emotionally based
relationships, such as friendship, intimacy, family, etc 鈥 ?In a contact center,
employees need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. The workplace is after
all where many of us spend a majority of our time, or at least a third of each day.
Especially in the contact center, creating an environment that fosters team cohesion
must be a top priority of management. This is because of the competing business need
to be available for the incoming demand, which often includes dissatisfied customers
who may vent and emotionally drain anyone willing to listen. It is important to note
that failure in creating this environment of belonging for employees can often cause
them to overcome the previous two needs. When this happens, employees themselves
may create an unpredictable work environment for each other and/or leave the
organization altogether regardless of how competitive the compensation package may
2. Esteem
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is so much more than a tune; it is a need for self-esteem and
self-respect. It is the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by our peers. In
the contact center, creating the opportunities for people to engage themselves to gain
recognition through an activity or activities will most likely give the person a sense of
contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued. Included in the need for esteem are the
need for self-respect, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and
freedom. Lack of fulfillment of these needs can lead to an inferiority complex and
even helplessness.
1. Self-Actualization
鈥淏 e all you can be 鈥?slogan of the US Army says it all. This forms the basis of the
need for self-actualization. This is a broad definition and in the contact center, the
definition must be more specific. Aligning the day to day activities of an employee
with the purpose of the organization provides a clear image and goal to work towards.
The understanding and recognition that successfully completing one 鈥 檚
assignments and work is necessary for the achievement of a greater purpose will not
only motivate the contact center staff to seek excellence in their work, but they will
see themselves as partners of the organization in the achievement of a greater goal.

Hierarchy of a Contact Center Agent's Needs

About the author: Andrew Liao is the Executive Director of -
Workforce Optimization City. He has over 10 years of contact center experience and
holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine. is a vibrant community for contact center professionals where
networking, collaboration, and continuous improvement take place every day.