Moving Past Maslow

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It has been a good run for Abraham Maslow and his motivational theory The Hierarchy of Needs. But after 75+ years, a new generation of employees may be turning Malsow’s motivational pyramid upside down.

It was in 1943 when Maslow first publish his concept of the Hierarchy of Needs in a paper titled A Theory of Human Motivation (Click here to read the article)

In the rare case that you have missed or forgotten the concepts, let me refresh your memory of the long lasting and ground breaking theory of human motivation. Maslow professed that all human motivation goes through distinct levels. Here they are as summarized in Maslow’s original research:

“There are at least five sets of goals, which we may call basic needs. These are briefly; physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization.”

Over the years, there has been criticisms of Maslow’s hierarchy theory. The main one being that one must start at one level and then pass to the next in a certain order. That being said, Maslow’s pyramid of motivation is still being discussed in every published organizational behaviour textbook today.

Society talks about companies such as Apple, Airbnb, and Uber as being societal and economic disruptors. Perhaps the millennials who are now the largest generation in the workforce (click here to read the official statistics) and their deep desire for meaningful work, is the ultimate disruptor in the workplace.

What would Maslow think of this statistic?  According to a recent survey, 47% of millennial respondents would give up a pay raise for more meaningful work. Of those who would forgo the raise, the average amount they would give up was $9,639. That is a huge reduction in income.

Click here if you wish to read the whole article.

It seems for the millennial workforce, self- actualization is the first step in their motivation – not the last. Almost 50% of millennial employees will forgo safety and security needs that come from earning more income in order to find employment that is meaningful to them.  Organizational and HR departments must start to deliver on this need.

This truly is disruptive behaviour in the workplace, and it turns traditional motivation and behaviour economic theory on its head.  How are HR departments going to respond? No longer can HR professionals stick their heads in the sand and think this trend will blow over. The largest group of employees in today’s workforce are demanding meaningful work and following a 75-year-old motivational theory will no longer cut it. There are not enough Gen Xers around to fill in the holes when the baby boomers are gone. What is HR to do?

Discussion Questions

  • Research and create a list on the ways millennials are different as compared to the baby boomers.
  • What are the key expectations of millennials in the workforce?

‘Pawternity’ Leave Has Tails Wagging

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Your chief human resources officer (CHRO) comes up to you one day and asks: “Have you have seen the most recent HR KPIs? Our employee engagement score is dropping like a rock. Do you have any ideas how to turn that around?”

You respond confidently, “I have an idea that could improve employee engagement by up to 30% percent with very little costs. It is called ‘furternity’ (or pawternity) leave it is so new no one has settled for a common term yet.”

The CHRO looks at you funny and suggests, quite wryly, that you might be violating the company’s new cannabis policy.  “What the heck is ‘furternity’ leave?”

You state “it is part of a new benefit trend that seems to be catching on with employers and engaging employees.”  The CHRO says that it is nonsense and you hand them a copy of this study.

Click here to read the workplace wellness study.

Furternity leave is a paid leave so an employee can take time off or work from home if they have a new pet.  It is part of an even larger trend called the “pet effect” on workplace wellness.

To enlighten the CHRO, on some of this study’s findings about companies with pet friendly policies, you state the following list of statistics:

  • A significant positive increase in employee engagement from 65% to 91%
  • Employees feel their work is more rewarding from 46% to 83%
  • Retention: employees would decline a similar job offer from 44% to 72%
  • And the topper: improvement in the relationship with their bosses increased from 14% to 52%

Paid leave to take care of a new pet is just one possible benefits. Others include pet insurance as part of the company’s benefit package, stress reduction by having pets in the workplace, and some even say, better customer relations.

The CHRO says, “I had no idea. Prepare me a proposal of how we could implement pet friendly policies in our workplace and have it on my desk by next week. Don’t forget to include the research.”

And off you go back to your office wagging your tail behind you.

Discussion Questions:

Research two companies that have pet friendly workplace polices and create a list of the most common pet friendly policies.

From that list, create a 5-minute PowerPoint presentation, which you could present to your CHRO on the benefits and drawbacks of implementing pet-friendly policies.

Time for Baby

There are so many challenges and opportunities that come with the joyful arrival of a baby. People become parents, single or couple units suddenly become a family, and life changes dramatically for everyone involved.


Along with all of these changes, a new parent must also choose whether or not to take time off from work in order to care for their child. This may seem like a straightforward decision, especially for mothers who give birth and are caring for a newborn child along with their own post-birth recovery.

However, there are two challenging considerations that all new parents must face. First, whether or not they can afford to the take time off from work financially; and second, whether or not they can afford to step off their personal career trajectory for an extended period time.

There is no doubt that taking time off from work to have a child is costly. As the cost implications impact both the individual employee and the employer, Canadians can access childcare related benefit programs offered by the federal government. These benefit programs provide both financial subsidies and time-related provisions that allow new parents to spend more time at home. Recently, the federal government introduced new provisions that allow parents to extend their time at home from twelve to eighteen months. There is also a new benefit offering an additional five weeks of leave for those choosing to share parental leave benefits. These are federal government programs for which new parents must apply and meet eligibility requirements order to receive the monetary benefits.

An extensive review of the impact of maternity and parental leave benefits is provided in a recent article published by Benefits Canada.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to read about the additional five week parental leave plan.

As noted in the article by Benefits Canada, with the new 18-month extended benefit for parental leave, the monetary payments are at 33% for the duration of the leave in comparison to the traditional twelve month leave during which time the parent can receive a maximum of 55% of their total salary. The article notes that the uptake for Canadians accessing the 18-month benefit is slower than anticipated, which may not be surprising if individuals simply cannot afford either the reduced benefit and/or the increased time away from work.

The additional five weeks of parental leave benefits also comes with a catch. New parents must decide whether to use it or they will lose it, based on their eligibility requirements and by determining which parent will be able to access this new benefit.

In order to alleviate some of these financial impacts, employers can choose to offer a financial top-up for employees who are in receipt of federal parental leave benefits. Again, this is a cost decision that an employer can make based affordability.

All of these considerations must be taken into account in the context of thoughtful compensation planning when determining how much support in terms of time and money can be provided for new parents.

New parents do need all of the support that they can get, so they can focus on what is truly important – their new child.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you agree with the use-it or lose-it requirement for non-birthing parents eligible to take the new the five weeks of parental leave? Explain your rationale.
  2. In your opinion, why is the uptake for new parents taking maternity and parental leave time in Canada so low?
  3. Identify three barriers and three benefits to the employer who provides top-up provisions to maternity and parental leave plans.

When Changes Keep Changing

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Imagine that you have lived with that ugly, out-of-date bathroom in your house for the past 20 years.

The eyesore tiling from the ‘80s is chipped, the toilet overflows from time to time, and the bathtub drains keep clogging. So, you finally pull the plug, get your finances together, and hire a contractor to renovate it.

It eventually gets done. The new bathroom looks a lot better, although a few things did not get finished and the cost was much more than you had anticipated. Granted, it is finally an improvement from what you had before. Suddenly, the contractor you hired to do the work is replaced with a new contractor who tells you that the bulk of the completed work is wrong. The new contractor begins to rip out items that were just installed. The new contractor tells you that you have to re-renovate the bathroom by finding and putting back many of the broken items that you were happy to have removed. Also, the things that you had planned to keep working on to continue the bathroom improvements are just not going to happen. Of course, you have to pay for it all over again. Throughout all of this you realize you have no choice other than to keep trying to figure out what and how to proceed because it is the only bathroom you’ve got.

This little analogy can be applied to what has happened in Ontario as a result of the continuing changes to the provincial Employment Standards Act. Under the previous government, Bill 148 began to be implemented in January 2018. The changes under this bill were significant, given that no amendments had been made for over twenty years. The primary impact included ongoing increases to the minimum wage, scheduling, vacation and holiday pay changes, along with other amendments impacting compensation plans across the province. A new government was voted in and introduced Bill 47 for immediate implementation. By January of 2019, Bill 47 had repealed and/or replaced many of the aforementioned changes, some of which included the requirement for employers to revert back to pre-Bill 148 practices.

Click here to read a summary of the changes from Canadian HR Reporter.

Click here to refer to the updated guide to the Employment Standards Act.

While there are many opinions on whether or not the impact of Bill 47 is good for employees or employers or both or none, the bottom line is that HR practitioners across the province have had to deal with all of it. Anecdotally, it has not been a smooth transition. An HR colleague, who works in compensation and didn’t want to be named, described her departments’ reaction as follows: “We were in shock. I could feel myself shaking when the new changes were announced. We had absolutely no idea what we were supposed to do. What would happen to our employees and their wages? What would happen to all of the work and changes we needed to put into place over the past year? It was all gone. We had to start all over again. Trying to figure out what was new and what we had redo has been a nightmare.”

As she turned away, she left with saying how lucky she was to work with a team of HR professionals because they would get it done.

Perhaps, upon reflection, all of this represents the challenge and the opportunity of working in Human Resources. No matter what happens on the political, legal and implementation landscape, sometimes our job is simply put – just get it done.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How will you work through implementing changes that you may or may not agree with on behalf of your employer as an HR professional?
  2. Review the changes to the Employment Standards Act and identify three areas that have a direct impact on compensation planning.
  3. How will you calculate wage increases (including minimum wages) for the next five years?


How Do You Show Your Employees You Care?

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How do you show your employees you care? You care for your employees’ children.

All employers are looking to use perks and other benefits to create sustainable bonds and lasting connections with their employees. Throwing more money at employees may seem like an easy way to improve employee workplace satisfaction but it is not they only retention tool out there. Employees stay with a company because they believe the company cares about them and their well-being.

If they really want to show employees they care, perhaps more HR departments should follow Starbucks’ lead and provide child care—not full-time child care, but a service many would consider almost as valuable—back up child care when an employee needs it the most.

Starbucks in the United States has partnered up with a company called Care@Work. Each eligible Starbucks employee will receive a free premium membership to access Care@Work services including subsidized day care at a cost of $1 per hour for up to 10 backup care days.

This isn’t only for child care, however. Starbucks realizes that many of their employees are in the sandwich generation and are looking after children as well as dependent adults. This benefit perk applies to both dependent groups.

Click here to read about Care@Work’s services.

With the tight labour market in North America, employers are looking for ways to stand out and attract prospective employees, while retaining existing ones. Providing subsidized child and adult care may be a key factor in helping your organization stand out.

Click here to read more about Starbucks’ innovative benefits.

Starbucks has been a leader in the service industry, which traditionally treats its employees as low-skill, entry level, transient workers. Starbucks has done the opposite by providing its employees with the full spectrum of benefits including medical, education, stock options, and even pensions.

Cynics might argue that Starbucks is adding all these benefits just to retain employees; however, it’s worth noting that the Starbucks mission statement highlights a desire to “inspire and nurture the human spirit”, and that among the company’s core values are commitments to foster a sense of belonging, to find new ways to take the company forward, and to “challenge the status quo”. Others might argue that in providing backup care for its employees’ loved ones, Starbucks is doing an admirable job of living up to this mission statement and these core values—that it is doing business “through the lens of humanity”.

Click here to read Starbucks’ mission and values statement.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Research two other service industry companies. What types of employee benefits do they offer their employees?
  2. Why don’t more service companies take the Starbucks approach to employee benefits?