My friends in the US are always amazed by the European holiday seasons – for example, Scandinavia is said to be closed for business in July. Let’s forget labour laws for a moment and just agree that holidays do wonders. Period.

This summer, I spent a lot of my time off thinking about how HR and leaders could support their colleagues’ motivations better. Do you know, what makes your colleagues tick? What are the achievements at work that they are proud of? If you don’t, find out. Now.

Globally, one of the key challenges in HR is talent management. Again and again, massive efforts are placed on recruitment, a process which incorporates plenty of people, administration and communication with no expenses spared. Finding great talent can be costly. Losing the talent you’ve been able to recruit is far more expensive.

Unfortunately, companies typically succeed in recruiting a lot better than they do in talent management and retaining talent. And it’s not the result of a lack of interest, determination or imagination in HR (think of different bonus programs, benefits and rewards). What is often missing is LOVE. Yes, you read it right. Love, passion, the sensations that make the world and great companies go round.

How can you as HR or as a leader spread love and passion in your organisation and work? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (from 1943) is one of the most used models in psychology and can also be used in leadership and HR to help answer this question.


The basic idea derived from Maslow is that once the essential hygiene factors (such as job security, a reasonable paycheck, right tools, etc.) are in place, people start focusing on fulfilling needs from higher levels. Needs that are met in the heart, the head and the mind.

  1. HEART: Who am I? What are my personal values, and how are they in line with the company values? This is where love enters the scene.
  2. HEAD: Where are we heading? What is my part in the Big Business Plan (BBP)? Which daily actions take me closer to the BBP and which take me further away from it?
  3. MIND: What is my impact? How can I best use my skills and commitment? What is my engagement to my work, colleagues and company?

The mind needs to be engaged regularly – this is best done by making sure every day is meaningful and rewarding to the individual. The Head needs clear goals and a sense of you, as an individual, contributing towards achieving those goals. And finally, the Heart needs less tangible things – a feeling of your work being in line with who you are as a person. The heart needs to be able to lovingly sign off the company’s values, goals and ways of working.

Those employees who love your company are more likely to be highly motivated. While there’s no universal measurement for love, data will tell you that your Most Valuable Employees are those that are not only highly skilled but also highly motivated. With the right HR software, you can detect and evaluate the skills in your organisation as well as measure the motivation of your employees. Mapping together skills and motivation give you an overall productivity rating.

Finally, I’d like to share a short personal story from the mid 90’s when I was spending my exchange student year in Stratford, Canada. At the beginning of the year, I joined the cross country running team. It was a team of 15–20 girls with diverse backgrounds. A few of the girls were hoping to run fast enough to be rewarded with university scholarships, a few joined the team just because their friends liked running. I did not have a history in cross country running, but since I’d always been interested in sports, I thought why not join?

At the end of the competition season, one of the girls did get a scholarship to a top university. More importantly, everyone made great friends, and on top of it all, I was nominated as the MVP (Most Valuable Player). The decisive criteria for the nomination were that I was motivated, did what was asked of me (or more) and perhaps most importantly, I supported others. Our coach used Maslow´s hierarchy in a brilliant way. She got my mind, head, and most importantly my heart working towards a common goal.

Instead of placing her bets on recruiting the best talent, our coach focused on how to get the best out of every athlete. She was able to paint a wonderful, compelling vision for the team, inspire and support during rainy autumn days and failed races. In short, she made sure that we were motivated.