In a previous post I discussed how to keep knowledge workers motivated. There is a flipside to keeping them motivated because being motivated is only enough the keep the knowledge worker working well, but it might not prevent him or her from leaving. It’s not guaranteed that the employee is loyal.

File:Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.svgTo keep someone naturally loyal again we look at the Maslow hierarchy of needs.

This time however we are going to assume that the employee is working on the self-actualization part of the hierarchy. If he or she isn’t then this might be a motivation problem and could be solved by finding out what’s wrong at the other level.

What would cause an employee to quit if even though that employee is self-actualizing within the company?

When an employee wants to quit its often due one or two things either its motivation based, things are bad at the workplace, want to work with something else etc. See my previous post. Or that employee has been offered “the dream job”. You might ask your self, why isn’t the current work place the “dream job”.

I think for a workplace to be the “dream job”. That workplace has to give something to the employee at each level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. An employee is loyal to the company if he or she has parts of the needs for each level tied up within a company.

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This is interesting because then we have to look at what does the company give to the employee? What’s in it for the employee?

An employee would be loyal if his or her Self-actualization is achieved to a large extent at the company. If the Esteem level comes from respect from colleagues and achievement at the workplace.

If the is a good social network of friends at the workplace. If the workplace feels safe. If the workplace gives security to the employees family through salary, vacation time and insurance.

If you consider how much investment or payoff an employee has at each level then you are considering how loyal that employee is. Helping an employee out in a rough spot causes loyalty, but also makes that person feel Safety at the workplace. It helps with belonging, and might help with Esteem.

My theory is then, that to keep knowledge workers loyal you have to constantly work to establish connections in the company to each level of the Maslow hierarchy and to the employees. This is hard and for most levels probably individual per employee work.