What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? ​

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a famous theory of human behavior and psychology. What is this idea? What does this doctrine mean in life? Learn more about this via the article below of Viindoo!

What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Created by an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Maslow's pyramid) represents different levels of human needs from basic to advanced. This theory of motivation is considered the most valuable one in the system of psychological theories, and it influences and is applied widely.

This theory states that within every human being, there exist different levels of needs from low to high. These needs are divided into 5 levels in the following order: (1) Physiological needs, (2) Safety needs, (3) Social needs, (4) Esteem needs, and (5) Self-actualization needs.

Maslow's pyramid is also considered a guideline in corporate management, especially the applications in the human resource management industry.

The meaning of Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

The most apparent example of it in life is the growth of a child. Newborns will be satisfied as soon as their needs for food, sleep, and warmth are met. By the age of kindergarten, the child will begin to love and hate, fear not being loved, and want to make friends. But as children grow up, they will notice the difference in status and want to be expressed and be heard.

On the other side, this idea in HR management is interpreted in a different way. According to this theory, in order for employees to feel satisfied and engaged with the company, businesses need to meet all 5 levels of their needs.

5 levels in Maslow hierarchy of needs​

This Model is simply built with 5 levels, representing human needs gradually from low to high. According to Maslow, while the first four needs are born from deprivation, the last need comes from the desire to develop.

Physiological needs

This level represents the most basic and mandatory needs to sustain human life. Only when physiological needs are met in Maslow's hierarchy of needs do people have the desire to satisfy the next level.

This need includes food, clothing, and shelter - the basic factors that help people live well biologically. Therefore, physiological needs are assessed as the most basic and important needs. Once these needs are not satisfied, people cannot fulfill or want other things.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Physiological needs in Maslow's model

For example, an employee cannot focus on creativity and dedication when the current income is not enough to make ends meet. Or, people cannot work enthusiastically in a state of hunger and thirst with a tired body, no strength and a sluggish mind.

Safety needs

The second level in Maslow hierarchy of needs is needed for safety. Once the physiological needs are met, people will look for things that help them maintain that security.

This need includes 3 basic contents as follows:

  • Life safety.
  • Health safety.
  • Financial security.

For example, people who have low incomes prioritize cheap stores for food to save costs. However, as income increases, this person tends to pay more attention to health by choosing better, hygienic, and better-quality restaurants.

Another of this Example in businesses is expressed in the employees’ needs for insurance, a fully-equipped environment, etc.

This need, together with physiological needs, helps people leverage their living quality. In other words, these 2 levels of needs fulfill a human’s physical side. Because of this commonality, in some documents, these two needs can be grouped together.

Social needs: Love and belonging

Once fully satisfied physically, people desire to have their social needs met. Therefore, in levels 3 to 5 of needs, the desires for social fulfillment begin to emerge.

To eliminate feelings of loneliness or anxiety when being alone, people will have a need to expand social relationships. Typically, relationships with family, lovers, friends, groups, etc. can bring familiarity, and closeness and eliminate loneliness.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Social needs in Maslow hierarchy of needs

For example, the first thing an employee cares about when going to work is a living wage. After that, he will take care of whether the work is dangerous, and whether the company pays adequate insurance and benefits to ensure the safety and health of employees. When this is satisfied, the employee begins to make friends to better integrate with the work.

The need for respect

Level 4 in this idea expresses a desire to receive esteem and acceptance from others. When it comes to this stage, because of the desire to be recognized, people will not stop trying and making efforts. The most obvious manifestation of this need is a person's self-esteem, level of success, and trust.

So What is Maslow's hierarchy of needs in level 4? According to this theory, the fourth level needs are divided into two groups as follows:

  • Desire for reputation and respect from the outside: Expressed in the reputation, status, and position a person achieves in an organization, collective, or society.
  • Self-esteem: This is an important factor for personal development and is reflected in a person's self-esteem, self-esteem. If people lack self-esteem, it is easy to feel guilt and anxiety when facing difficulties in life.

In fact, after gaining respect and recognition from the outside, people will respect themselves, and feel confident and proud of their abilities. When people want to achieve the need for respect, people will try to develop themselves by all means. Therefore, trying to get promoted at work is the most obvious manifestation of this need.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

The need for respect is at the 4th level of Maslow's pyramid

For example, after getting used to the environment at the new company, the above employee will want to learn more knowledge and skills, become a good employee, and be appreciated by his superiors. At this time, this employee will work more, give more initiatives, and contribute more to the department and the business.

The need for self-actualization

This is the highest need of each person, located at the highest position in this idea. This need will appear when the lower 4 human needs have been satisfied. However, according to Maslow, this need does not arise from a deficiency like the previous 4 factors but originates from the desire to develop in each of us.

"Man is not born to disappear like an anonymous grain of sand, but to leave his own mark on the ground and in the hearts of others." This is probably the statement that best describes this need. People always want to be recognized and contribute to the community.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

The need to express themselves motivates people to live and work for their passion

The need for self-actualization often appears in people who have achieved certain success in life. When these people want others to see the process of developing their potential, wisdom, and strength. At this time, people will work to satisfy their passions and find their true worth. Therefore, if this need cannot be satisfied, people will feel regret.

That's why people at the top are willing to give up a job with a reputation, high status, and "huge" salary to pursue their interests and passion. In fact, in every human being do exist all 5 of the above needs. However, each individual has different levels of requirements with different needs.

Application of Maslow hierarchy of needs model

In practice, the model is applied in many fields, such as the application of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in business, tourism, etc. Here are the two most typical applications of this theory in life.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Need in Marketing

Since 1943 when the model was invented, this theory has been considered an effective tool to implement marketing strategies for businesses. Marketing activities in general and marketing strategies, in particular, have the same goal of targeting potential customers of the business.

When understood and applied Maslow's Hierarchy of Need in Marketing, businesses can sketch in detail the portrait of the target group. From there, businesses can easily find customer insights and come up with effective marketing strategies.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Maslow's hierarchy of needs in Marketing helps businesses locate target audiences

For example, retail businesses of necessities and food can rely on physiological needs to offer products to meet these needs. Corporations can also rely on this to update many new insurance packages with incentives and high safety for many target groups. In addition, big brands such as Unilever, Apple, Starbucks, and Samsung are also at the forefront of applying this model to marketing activities.

>>>> Read More About: What is customer insight? How to Define Those Insights Precisely

Maslow's hierarchy of need in human resource management

Physiological needs

Compensation and benefits are the first aspects that employees care about to maintain basic living conditions (eating, drinking, sleeping, resting, etc). This should be respected Because they can only devote themselves to the company when their life is stable.

The solution for businesses is to offer salary, bonus, and remuneration policies based on fair and transparent performance evaluation.

In addition, managers may also be interested in benefits that meet employees' basic needs, such as healthcare programs, annual travel, etc. Businesses can refer to the article on employee remuneration to learn how to build an appropriate compensation system.

Safety needs

One of the top priorities for employees is the assurance of safety and health from the company. What they expect at this level of need is the clarity of labor contracts as well as healthcare benefits and insurance, etc.

Accordingly, managers should build a safe working environment, and reasonable overtime regulations and must not let employees overload, ensure a stable workload and fair treatment among employees, etc.

Social needs

Meeting social needs in human resource management is demonstrated by building a teamwork culture, expanding exchanges among departments, and encouraging all employees to contribute ideas towards the development of the whole company.

Besides, businesses should also have bonding activities, entertainment, sports, etc to strengthen relationships and create bonds.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Viindoo Discuss - a business social networking tool to connect and exchange information to build a teamwork culture and effective internal communication

Esteem needs

At this level of need, recognition, and promotion become the top concern for employees because they always want their efforts to be recognized.

When encouraged and rewarded for their achievements, employees will be motivated to work more effectively. Therefore, managers should have policies to honor the success and commend the achievements of employees in a worthy way.

Self-actualization needs​

When the above needs are met, employees do not work for salary or benefits only. This is the period when they dedicate themselves passionately and maximize their enthusiasm for their work.

At this level of Maslow's Hierarchy Of Need, in addition to satisfying the four needs mentioned above, businesses should also set clear goals and career development, and encourage employees to develop themselves.

Businesses can refer to some employee training types, company internal training programs, etc. to develop comprehensive training processes for personnel.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Viindoo Skills Framework helps businesses build a skills framework, creating a basis for employees to set clear promotion goals.

Applying Maslow's Hierarchy Of Need in human resource management is the optimal solution to help businesses establish, explore and use human resources effectively. Only when managers build a successful HR strategy could they clearly grasp employee insight as well as their complex changes of needs

Questions about Maslow's hierarchy of need

Thus, the above content basically answered the question "What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Need?". Refer to the following content to better understand other aspects of this doctrine.

Pros and cons of Maslow's pyramid

Currently, Maslow's hierarchy of need is considered a guideline in many different fields. However, like other theories, this theory also has advantages and disadvantages as shown in the table below:

  • Express human needs, behavior, and psychology systematically and applied in many fields.
  • Help businesses accurately locate target customers.
  • Help managers understand, and accurately capture consumer insights, thereby coming up with appropriate strategies.
  • Orient the development and study of modern professions.
  • Is relative and bears differences in different countries, environments, cultures, etc.
  • Impossible to accurately measure how well one’s need is satisfied in order to move on to the next need.
  • Impossible to determine the priority order of behaviors and needs to be satisfied at each level.
  • Cannot explain the problem that a product can satisfy many different types of needs.

There is no fixed Maslow's pyramid

In fact, human needs may not develop in a certain order. Therefore, the hierarchy of needs may not appear in order but overlap. This means that people can switch to another need before the current need is completely satisfied.

However, Maslow could not verify this conclusion through actual experiments. Therefore, later, the argument that "needs can exist in parallel" was put forward by scientists. This group also asserts that external factors, events, and life events can influence the existence and priority of these needs.

For example:

  • The soldier is willing to sacrifice his life to protect others, to protect honor, and the nation. This means that the person is trading the first need for the fourth need in the Maslow model.
  • Many people do not care to eat and lose motivation when facing bankruptcy, debt, divorce, etc. Meanwhile, some sick people do not have healthy bodies (unmet needs of physiological) but still have a need for wisdom and beauty.

Dr. Pamela Rutledge explained the above cases with a "rearrangement" of this idea. The proposed new model is circular and shows the interrelationship of needs. In this model, the core human motivation - the driving force of connection, is the center of the circle. This goes along with the conclusion that humans are social creatures with correspondence.

The order in which needs are met may change

Usually, people will want needs to be met in order from lowest to highest. However, life events will disrupt this sequence. Disruption also creates a tendency to re-sequencing needs instead of an incremental phenomenon.

5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

The order of needs does not necessarily progress in a certain order

Expanded Maslow's hierarchy of need

The Expanded Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was developed in 1970 when the "father" of the original theory was updated with new layers of needs: cognitive, aesthetic, and spiritual needs. Compared to the old theory, Maslow also moved the needs of level 5 to level 7 and replaced them with cognitive needs. From that, Maslow's hierarchy of needs appears with the following levels:

  • Level 1: Physiological needs.
  • Level 2: Safety needs.
  • Level 3: Social needs.
  • Level 4: Esteem needs.
  • Level 5: Cognitive needs.
  • Level 6: Aesthetic needs.
  • Level 7: Self-actualization needs.
  • Level 8: Spiritual needs.
5 levels in Maslow's hierarchy of needs​

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs model extends to 8 levels

Basically, the old needs reflect the exact same content as in the old 5 Maslow's hierarchy of needs model, including needs at the seventh level. In addition, Maslow also detailed the newly added needs as follows:

  • Level 5: Cognitive needs

In the extension theory, the need for self-actualization in the old model was replaced and supplemented by Maslow's need for cognition. According to the new model, at the 5th level, people will tend to look for things to satisfy their curiosity and enhance open experiences to expand knowledge and consciousness.

  • Level 6: Aesthetic needs

According to the expanded Maslow's hierarchy of needs, when entering the 6th level of needs, people will actively seek beauty in the surrounding world and immerse themselves in it. This beauty can be found in nature or through music or art.

  • Level 8: Spiritual need

In the previous levels of needs, people have been fully satisfied with their "own needs" - personal desires. Therefore, when entering the 8th level of need, this person will pay more attention to those around him and be ready to help and bring positive value to others.

After satisfying the needs at this level, people will perceive and want to pursue intangible aspects and higher spiritual values. In other words, the person will seek to build deep spiritual connections. At this time, people will tend to be close, connect with nature, and seek mystical experiences.

Here is all the information about Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the meaning of the doctrine. This model reflects human psychology and behavior in many different aspects, so managers can apply Maslow's hierarchy of needs in tourism, business, etc. Don’t miss the related content that Viindoo will update in the coming time.


In the context of human resource management, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can guide organizations in creating a work environment that fulfills employees' needs. 

By addressing physiological needs through fair compensation and benefits, ensuring safety and security, promoting social connections, recognizing achievements, and providing opportunities for personal growth, companies can enhance employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

While Maslow's theory is widely known and applied, it does have some limitations. One limitation is that it assumes a universal progression of needs, which may not always be the case for individuals or across cultures. 

Additionally, it can be challenging to measure and objectively determine the fulfillment of each need level. The theory also doesn't account for the complex interplay of different needs or the influence of external factors on their prioritization.

Applying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in corporate management involves addressing employees' basic needs (physiological, safety) and higher-level needs (social, esteem, self-actualization). This creates a supportive workplace, enhances motivation, and improves job satisfaction, leading to increased productivity and engagement.

What are the pros and cons of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Pros of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs include its intuitive appeal, focus on holistic development, and emphasis on personal growth. However, critics argue that it oversimplifies human behavior, lacks empirical evidence, and may not be universally applicable, as individuals' needs can vary. Its rigid structure also overlooks cultural and individual differences.

            What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? ​
            Viindoo Technology Joint Stock Company, Vũ Thùy Dương May 11, 2022

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