If you’ve ever had a young child of your own or have been around nieces or nephews, you’ve probably witnessed the overwhelming panic - and corresponding tantrum - associated with being separated from a favorite belonging. For many kids, it’s something plush like a stuffed animal or soft linen, and it has the superpower of making the most troubling situations seem okay. If you happen to misplace this beloved item, beware. The concept of a security blanket is introduced to us at a young age, but the need for security stays with us as our lives ebb and flow.
This need isn’t just a superficial one instilled by our caregivers early in life. In fact, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, once basic physiological needs such as food, water and rest are met, safety and security are the next needs we must satisfy on the journey to self-actualization, which is the pinnacle of self-growth and realization of one’s potentialities (or more simply put, being all that we can be). Maslow’s theory also argues that safety and security needs must be met before we can feel a sense of belonging and perform tasks with mastery, independence and a sense of accomplishment. In other words, remove the security blanket from a three-year-old, and it doesn’t matter how well-fed or rested she is, she will not perform any tasks, requests or commands until it is back in her possession.
If we take his angle on prioritizing the need for security and its implications on the fulfillment of other needs, it seems reasonable that Maslow would have been a proponent of the security dimension of Dr. Jack Wiley’s RESPECT. To link this human need to its role in the professional world, we must first understand what is meant by the term job security. In his whitepaper Suggested Actions for Human Resources to Create a Better Employee Experience, Dr. Jack Wiley says:
“Job security is defined as long-term employment, or guaranteed employment in exchange for good performance. Employees want to be reassured they are safe from threats of downsizing and that the company’s future and their role in it are secure. Being concerned about losing a job draws attention away from completing responsibilities for both employees and leaders… Employees who feel their organization provides them with a feeling of security will be more likely to reach their full potential, the optimal condition for both organizations and their employees.”
Here are some suggestions from Dr. Jack Wiley on how to ensure your employees’ security needs are fulfilled:1. Ensure person-organization fit in selection. Person-organization fit influences many work attitudes, such as job satisfaction and engagement. When hiring, Human Resources should not only ensure the individual has the knowledge, skills and abilities for the job, but will also fit well into the organizational culture.
2. Focus on employee strengths. Ensure you have the right individuals in the appropriate roles. Understand the talents of individuals and place them in a position that is the best fit. When individuals feel as though their roles highlight and use their strengths, they are more likely to feel secure in their roles.
3. Involve employees in long-term projects. If the organization is planning on implementing an initiative that is long-term, where possible involve employees from different departments to work together on projects not typically in their usual scope of responsibility. This will demonstrate that the organization is future-oriented and cares about employee development.
In addition to these three strategies, it’s also important to keep consistent, open lines of communication. This ranges from communicating roles and responsibilities clearly to transparently sharing the current state of the organization, whether it’s experiencing hardships and what the future looks like as a whole.
Once employees feel that they have established security in their roles within the organization, they’ll be motivated to accomplish other individual needs that will undoubtedly have a positive, lasting impact on your business objectives.
Note: This is part of a blog series based on Dr. Jack Wiley’s paper Suggested Actions for Human Resources to Create a Better Employee Experience. Be sure to check out part one, part two and part three.