Employee engagement continues to be a challenge for many leaders and organisations and it’s something that I find many clients want to address. A great place to start is by better understanding what motivates your people. What motivates them to show up, be their best selves and do a great job, both as part of a team and individually? With everyone’s busy lives and workloads, this deeper understanding is often not a priority but it is something that can be incorporated into your leadership approach.

At the heart of employee engagement lies a deep understanding of the six core human needs: certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution. I’ve been running public workshops on How to retain and engage your people using the six core human needs (and will do so again in August) and what has resonated is the focus on creating an environment that empowers and energises your people.

So, what are the six core human needs? 

1. Certainty

In the workplace, certainty refers to the need for stability, predictability, and a sense of security. Employees seek clarity in their roles, expectations, and the overall direction of the organisation. Providing clear communication, well-defined job responsibilities, and a supportive work environment helps fulfil the need for certainty. Regular feedback and recognition also contribute to a sense of security and stability.

2. Variety

Variety represents the need for excitement, novelty, and challenges. We all thrive when we have opportunities to learn, grow, and experience new things. Incorporating job rotation, diverse projects, and professional development programs can meet the need for variety. Encouraging creativity, innovation, and embracing new ideas also helps your people to feel stimulated and engaged.

3. Significance

The need for significance relates to feeling valued, recognised, and having a sense of importance. We all want to contribute meaningfully and have our contributions acknowledged. Recognising and appreciating employees’ achievements, providing opportunities for autonomy, and involving them in decision-making processes contribute to a feeling of significance.

4. Connection

Connection refers to the need for positive relationships, belonging, and a sense of community. Employees desire social interaction, collaboration, and support from their colleagues and supervisors. Building strong interpersonal connections through team-building activities, fostering open communication, and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity all help to build connection.

5. Growth

The need for growth encompasses personal and professional development, continuous learning, and progress. Employees want to expand their skills, knowledge, and abilities to reach their full potential. Managers have an important role here as they can also support employees’ career aspirations and provide constructive feedback.

6. Contribution

The need for contribution revolves around making a difference, having a sense of purpose, and making meaningful contributions to the organisation and society. Employees find fulfilment when they understand how their work positively impacts the organisation and the broader community. Clearly articulating the organisation’s mission and purpose, aligning individual goals with the company’s objectives, and providing opportunities for employees to contribute to meaningful projects satisfy the need for contribution.

These are the six core human needs – a useful framework for building engagement. And remember – you also have the needs so tend to yourself too!