How the biannual meeting of Retail Payments and Cards ended up satisfying (and maximizing) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
In the last week of February 2017, my unit at Tieto Riga, Retail Payments and Cards, had its first biannual meeting of the year. There’s usually one conference in spring and one in autumn. Since I joined Tieto in autumn 2013, I’ve participated in eight such meetings, taking a different role in each.
For my first five meetings I was a member of the audience, eagerly listening and learning. After changing my job position internally in 2016, I was asked to moderate a meeting in spring. February 2017 was the second meeting that I organized, and the third time that I’ve acted as a moderator.
Communicating key messages
The meetings are usually short and sweet - around four hours, with plenty of coffee breaks to keep energy levels up. The audience is very diverse and drawn from nearly every area of Tieto’s expertise - from development and testing specialists, up to business analysts, sales and top management. This equates to around 150–250 employees (depending on their availability). With such a varied crowd, it’s impossible to delve into highly detailed specifications that cover each particular issue. A subject that might be deeply interesting to one segment of the audience could prove to be obscure and mystifying to another. Therefore, the aim, during this short time, is to communicate the key messages that can enhance and enliven the daily work of employees, regardless of their specific field. Innovative ideas, strategies, plans, exciting new projects, etc. – these are vital topics that concern us all.
But this blog article is not about the content of the meetings. It’s about how I utilized Maslow's hierarchy of needs in these meetings. In a nutshell, Maslow’s theory is a motivation theory that suggests basic human needs have five interdependent levels, ranging from survival and social acceptance, through to the highest levels, self-fulfillment and achievement. So, how was this theory put into practice?
During our last four meetings we used feedback tools - a special device with which employees can ask questions of the speakers, as well as rate their mood at a particular moment, their thoughts about the meeting, what to improve, what worked, etc.
When I took over the organizing of these events, this information proved invaluable to me; I could see the things that needed to be improved. Above all, I knew that achieving equilibrium was the cornerstone to a successful meeting. And, you know, that’s not an easy task at all! Why? Imagine an audience composed of 250 people from at least five different fields (testing specialists, developers, salespeople, etc.), their different experiences, expectations, and needs. While one part of the audience is engrossed by speeches concerning management, others are waiting to hear about the latest developments in codes and programming. Some people want active energizers throughout a presentation, others just want to sit there quietly. How could I make sure that the meetings catered to everyone’s needs?
Experiencing both sides of these meetings, first as an audience member and then as an organizer, has given me the unique possibility to see and even to impact the evolution of the events. And my conclusion is this - all roads lead to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It’s nothing new or revolutionary. Its fundamental lesson is very simple – each and every person has a unique set of needs that must be met for them to achieve self-fulfillment. All too often this is forgotten. In the rush to impart as much vital information as possible, employees’ needs can be overlooked. The very knowledge that we’re so eager for employees to gain is in danger of being lost. This is exactly the point at which information from previous meetings becomes crucial. It lets me step back, view the bigger picture, and ensure that everybody is getting the maximum they can from the meeting.
And, as long as Maslow’s hierarchy is adhered to, it’s surprisingly straightforward!
Simple steps, huge rewards
Firstly, basic (physiological and safety) needs must be satisfied - give them enough food and beverages, keep the auditorium at a comfortable temperature, have enough breaks during the session, and keep presentations at the optimum length for learning.
Secondly, satisfy the audience’s psychological (belongingness, love and esteem) needs. And here’s a wonderful fact about our meetings - our colleagues from other offices (Moscow, Minsk) join us in Riga, making these events an exciting place that brings everyone together. Not only to talk about plans and strategies, but also to finally meet those whom you may be working with daily, but only know through emails, Lync meetings, or phone calls.
Only once these needs are met can employees reach the highest level - that of self-actualization. At this stage they are able to perceive and interpret all the information that is given to them, ask relevant questions, and participate in discussions.
Let’s not forget that we are only humans and we each have basic needs that must be satisfied in order to live comfortably and achieve our full potential. The steps to meeting these needs are simple but the rewards are great; for the employee, for the employer – well, for everyone, actually!