Employee Experience

Need Want Satisfaction Chain

4 Mins read

If you are looking for an in-depth analysis of the need want satisfaction chain, how and why companies should think about it and how can it help them improve employee experience then read on. I will try to cover the main points it is difficult to provide a complete coverage of this topic. For that I would need to write an entire book, something along the lines of 20,000 words.

This concept can be used in all sorts of situations, whether it is buying a product or getting along with somebody. It can be applied to anything and everything we want, need or desire. It also applies to how we deal with our own self-esteem issues. Understanding the need want satisfaction chain (and recognizing your own behavior) is key knowledge for any type of success. 

Need Want Satisfaction Chain Theory

needs and wants

The need want satisfaction chain goes like this:
Needs give rise to Wants, which cause tension, that gives rise to action which results in Satisfaction.

The need want satisfaction chain theory is simple in its approach and it’s easy to understand. It basically states that if you give people what they want (Need) they will be satisfied (Satisfaction). It works the other way around as well, if you take away what people need, they will become dissatisfied. The thing about this theory is that it explains how frustration can lead to unbalance and unproductivity within an organization or between employees and companies and vice versa.

Others like to refer to it as Maslow’s hierarchy and state that people cannot reach self-actualization without the satisfaction of their physiological needs. The need want satisfaction chain theory is more flexible than that though, because certain organizations may require employees who care about ethical values and social responsibility (self-actualization). Every company has their own goals and expectations which leads them to design a specific set of needs for its employees.

Need Want Satisfaction Chain Examples

In order to understand the theory better, let’s have a look at some examples from companies with different needs and resulting needs for their employees.

In theory, working in a financial institution means that your main need should be of financial nature, but if you work at a charity organization your main need might be helping others or making a difference in society. Depending on what kind of business you are running the satisfaction level will differ as well. All this makes it difficult to measure but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it and not try to figure out what needs people have and how we can meet those needs. 

The main reason why this theory is so valuable for companies is that they can use it to motivate their employees. If you think about Supercell or Valve, both companies are known for having happy and satisfied employees who like to work there. As a game developer, one of your needs might be creativity, so if your company can support that need you will be (more) satisfied. In case the company doesn’t provide enough room for creative thinking this could result in an unsatisfied employee which means problems within the organization because this person would not be able to do his/her job properly anymore.

Need Want And Desire

Needs are related to our physical and mental requirements. They are basic requirements in order for us to have a healthy life, grow, prosper and reproduce. They are not all equal though. Some needs are more important than others in the sense that if one is deprived, they would suffer more, but if some other need was deprived, they might not even notice it. This makes them different when they come into play in the need want satisfaction chain that exists between employees and organizations/companies 

We all have needs that we need to satisfy in order to be happy. There are different levels at which we will want those things, for example:

  • We need food to survive
  • We might want a small house or a big one, but our real motive is to have shelter and somewhere safe for family members
  • We want wealth which will allow us to acquire the things we need and also allows us the freedom to do the things that we really enjoy doing 
  • We need safety, security and freedom from fear

Maslow’s Higher Order Needs

need want satisfaction chain

There are some needs that don’t really belong in the lower levels, these are called higher-order needs. They are known as self-actualization, esteem and friendship/love. Your company might also have goals that go beyond the satisfaction of their employees’ basic needs. When this is the case you can use Maslow’s hierarchy to motivate people within your organization to reach for goals they might not even know yet they wanted to achieve when you help them identify their own goals and why reaching them would be beneficial for both parties.

The more a person’s needs are satisfied, the more they will move on to wanting more complicated things.

For example:

  • Having shelter and food satisfies some of our basic needs which then makes us want safety from natural disasters or violence as well as freedom from war or oppression.
  • Satisfying these two needs means that we might desire a lot of money so that we can have more security, buy things and invest.
  • Having a high level of financial security lets us want other complicated things such as being famous and maybe even craving power and influence which is why people say that “money cannot buy happiness” because sometimes the higher up Maslow’s Hierarchy you go, the more complicated things become and the more you realize that money cannot solve all of your problems.
  • Satisfying needs at a high level, such as having a lot of power lets us want respect from other people or even just to be free from criticism.
  • Finally, fulfilling these two last wishes lets some people have what they need which is freedom from the need to want anything. They are happy with what they already have and can stand back and reflect on their lives.

When you actually look at Maslow’s Hierarchy, you realize that there are some basic needs that people cannot live without such as food, water, shelter etc. whereas other things like influence or respect cannot be seen as needs because you can live without them, but would feel even happier with them.

Instead of a Conclusion

Need want satisfaction chain is a simple way to a present complicated situation. Some needs are universal for all, but each person is very complex individual with a mix of needs that can often be conflicting or complex.

An organization is able to do a lot to increase the employee motivation by creating a suitable environment and trying to learn more about the needs of its people and do as much as possible to answer them. That’s where employee experience design comes into play, but that’s a discussion for another article.

Further Reading

How To Get HR Certificate
Top 5 Employee Engagement Books
Behavioral Observation Scale
Job Satisfaction Models
Employee Engagement Committee

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Editor-in-Chief at Employee Experience Magazine.
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