IF YOU WANT TO MOTIVATE employees today, forget Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and consider Bob Nelson's Hierarchy of Wants. Managers should provide Level 1 in their jobs from Day 1; as they perform well and demonstrate ongoing commitment to their work, you can move to the highest levels of motivation (4-7).

LEVEL 1: PURPOSE & MEANING — Employees need to feel that the jobs they are doing are important and have purpose and meaning. They need to know the “big picture” — how their work ties into the company's objectives. Only then can they be proud of their jobs and of being a member of the organization as a whole.

LEVEL 2: TRUST & RESPECT — Employees need to be treated with professional courtesy, trust, and respect at all times, regardless of their level, position, or tenure with the company. This is a given right, not an earned one. Employees should also be supported when they make mistakes.

LEVEL 3: COMMUNICATION & INFORMATION — Employees should be encouraged to ask questions with the expectation that those questions will be answered. They are entitled to know what is going on in their department and the company. Regardless of their role, they should have access to whomever in the organization can provide them with the information they need.

LEVEL 4: PRAISE & RECOGNITION — Employees should be appreciated for the effort they bring to their jobs and be thanked and recognized whenever they do a good job. This recognition should occur in a timely, sincere way, both informally and formally, both one-on-one and in public. Employees should be allowed to celebrate both individual and collective successes.

LEVEL 5: AUTONOMY & FLEXIBILITY — As they demonstrate their competence, employees should be given the chance to determine how best to do their jobs, as well as increased authority in the handling of company resources. Flexibility — in working hours and location (e.g., the ability to work from home) — should be an earned right based on proven performance.

LEVEL 6: INVOLVEMENT & ENCOURAGEMENT — Employees should be asked their opinions, encouraged in their work, and involved in decisions — especially as those decisions affect their work. They should be allowed to bring up ideas or make suggestions without being ridiculed or dismissed. Where possible, they should be encouraged to pursue their ideas for improvements.

LEVEL 7: LEARNING, OPPORTUNITY & GROWTH — Employees should be given the chance to learn and grow. They should be able to enjoy their work and the people with whom they work. They should regularly be offered increasing responsibility and new challenges.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc., San Diego; best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (now in a revised edition); and a frequent presenter to management groups and conferences. www.nelson-motivation.com