Category | Leadership | Boost Employee Satisfaction by Meeting These Six Human Needs

First made popular by life and business coach, Tony Robbins, the six core human needs encompass the primary emotions driving human behavior — and once acknowledged and properly balanced, can lead to a more satisfying and fulfilled life.

As a manager and leader, there are certainly benefits to understanding how these needs tie into your own life, belief system, and behaviors. However, you can go a step beyond that and view these needs through the lens of your team. Once you do, you’ll begin to understand why they do what they do, and on the flipside, learn how to boost satisfaction, deepen engagement and loyalty, and create the change you want to see within your team and culture.

Here are the six needs defined, plus some ideas to create a more balanced needs approach in your restaurant.

1. Certainty

Certainty represents the need for stability, routine, predictability, and security. Your employees need to know that someone is steering the ship and has their backs.

  • Offer support, in good times and bad (i.e. enrolling in college, getting married, losing a loved one, mixing up the inventory order, etc.);
  • Provide a set work schedule or give ample notice, if possible, when modifications are necessary;
  • Keep employees in the loop about changes that may be happening, what they can expect, and how it will affect them;
  • Be fair in your actions and avoid favoritism; and
  • Aim to always be in control of your emotions. If you can’t, temporarily remove yourself from tense situations until you can have a more level-headed approach.

2. Variety

Variety represents the need for excitement, challenge, change, and freshness. Variety and certainty counterbalance one another.

    • Offer opportunities to shadow and cross-train in other positions, including lateral moves on up through leadership roles;
    • Help employees identify their strengths and which roles may suit them. Many times, no one has taken the time to help them sort through their strengths and potential career paths, so employees will flourish under your dedicated coaching and guidance;
    • Establish short- and long-term goals to keep employees moving forward and expanding their skillsets;
    • Offer a tuition reimbursement program and encourage employees to pursue courses, certificates, or degrees that challenge them; and
    • Occasionally switch up meeting formats, job rotations, menu items, background music and just about anything you can think of to keep things fresh. Assign special tasks to employees periodically as well.

3. Significance

Significance represents the need to feel valued, important, and worthy.

    • Find small everyday ways to show you care;
    • Celebrate life events and major milestones, both personal and professional;
    • Organize employee appreciation days;
    • Create an employee of the month award. Post a small writeup about each winner in the restaurant and share on social media; and
    • Seek employees’ input and put it into action as often as possible. Be sure to give them credit for their ideas.

4. Connection

Connection represents the need to feel part of a group or team with shared values or interests, to feel welcomed and approved.

    • Have a solid onboarding procedure in place to welcome new employees, introduce them to coworkers, and immerse them in the team culture;
    • Encourage teammates to compliment one other;
    • Organize a teambuilding event once or twice a year to get employees working toward the same goal and deepening trust and relationships; and
    • Ask the team to stay M.I.N.D.F.U.L when interacting with their coworkers: Make eye contact, Inquire about their day, Note their interests, Demonstrate gratitude and appreciation, Find a common ground, Use their name, Let them teach you.

5. Growth

Growth represents the need for ongoing development, including professional, personal, emotional, and spiritual.

    • Invite guest speakers — a fellow teammate or someone from the community — to share their stories of overcoming adversity, launching a business concept, or fulfilling a dream;
    • Incorporate TED Talks into employee and leadership meetings. These drilled-down, impactful presentations can inspire new thought patterns and be a catalyst for all types of growth. Kick it off by having the leadership team watch this 3-minute video of Tony’s 2006 TED Talk where he touches on the six human needs. You can find the full uncensored 20-minute version here;
    • Form a book or podcast club, where teammates read or listen to the same content and then spend 15 minutes discussing it at the weekly meeting. For extended engagement, place a whiteboard in the breakroom and encourage employees to jot down their thoughts and reactions throughout the week; and
    • Create a growth plan in partnership with each employee, where new monthly goals are identified for them to work toward over the next year. Consider all types of growth fair game — whether that is taking an art class, meditating for 10 minutes each day, exercising three times per week, or taking a free food and beverage management course through Coursera. If it benefits the employee’s overall well-being and mindset, it will be a benefit to the company too.

6. Contribution

Contribution represents the need to give back, serve others, and make a tangible difference.

    • Draw meaningful connections between the company’s mission and purpose and how employees intersect with those day-to-day;
    • Reiterate just how impactful a positive dining experience can be for customers, as it may be the only kindness or warm meal they receive that day;
    • Encourage employees to perform one small act of kindness during each shift, whether that is holding the door for an exhausted mom wrangling her small children or helping an elderly customer to their table or vehicle; and
    • Coordinate community outreach days, where employees can partner with local organizations like Habitat for Humanity and food pantries, or conduct cooking and meal prep presentations to veteran groups, nursing homes, and schools.

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