Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at Paycom, a leading provider of comprehensive, cloud-based human capital management software. Paycom’s newest innovation, BetiTM, was awarded 2021 Top HR Product by Human Resource Executive Magazine. Congratulations! And enjoy the read.)
HR professionals are often described as the “people who take care of the employees who take care of the customers”. Personally, I like the description. It shows a connection between HR and the customer as well as the connection to the bottom-line. We accomplish this goal by helping the organization hire, engage, and retain the best talent.
However, one of the challenges to the definition is that sometimes we can forget to take care of ourselves. It can be hard for us to be effective in taking care of others when we’re not feeling our best.
Over the past couple of years, HR professionals have been working to keep employees safe and healthy. They’ve been working with senior management to keep the operation staffed. And they’ve been planning, unplanning, and replanning remote and hybrid work environments. As a result, HR professionals could be experiencing stress, fatigue, and burnout.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Today’s post isn’t to tell HR pros that what you’ve been doing is wrong. Honestly, I would have done the same. But it’s to send a gentle reminder that it’s time to refocus. Because we do our best work when we take care of ourselves. And the organization needs us to do our best work.
Self-Actualization Allows Us To Do Our Best Work
When I think about doing my best work, one of the first things that comes to mind is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943, the hierarchy is used to discuss motivational needs using five levels: physiological, safety, belonging, social, and self-actualization.
Over time, Maslow’s Hierarchy has been used not only to describe our personal motivations but to explain our motivations from a work or career perspective. In fact, some of you might use Maslow’s Hierarchy in employee programs like new hire orientation and onboarding. The “goal” if you will of Maslow’s multilevel pyramid is to reach a level of self-actualization, which can be defined as reaching your full potential.
Using that self-actualization definition, individuals go up and down the levels throughout their lives and careers. An employee would start a new job at the bottom of the pyramid and as they learn and grow in the role, they move up. Then it’s possible that the employee gets a promotion or a transfer and starts all over again. That’s why understanding the entire pyramid, all its levels, and how to make the most of the journey is important.
I know that sometimes when I’m busy with employee projects, I can forget that the models – like Maslow’s Hierarchy – that we use to make our employees successful would also be great for ourselves. Luckily, our friends at Paycom have put together a version of Maslow’s Hierarchy for us as HR professionals. Here’s a brief overview of the model:
- BASIC NEEDS: HR is handling the basic administrative functions – benefits administration, payroll, time and attendance, and maybe even facilities.
- SAFETY AND SECURITY: At this stage, HR is providing compliance in the areas of employee handbooks, anti-harassment training, and some policies like performance reviews.
- BELONGING: HR is starting to drive initiatives within the organization like team building, employee surveys, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging activities (DEIB).
- SELF-CONFIDENCE: At this level, HR is beginning to develop proactive strategies like coaching and mentoring, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and digital transformation.
- SELF-ACTUALIZATION: HR plays a role in creating and communicating the organization’s talent strategies and employee value proposition (EVP).
As I was learning more about Paycom’s HR Hierarchy of Needs, one of the first questions I asked myself is “Where would I be on this pyramid? And if I’m not at self-actualization, how do I get there?”
Make a Plan Towards Self-Actualization
Self-actualization is going to look different for each of us. And that’s okay. Before we can start on the path to self-actualization, we should define what it means in our organization and culture.
To define my self-actualization, I like to ask myself the question, “What does my most productive self look like? What kind of work am I doing? How is my boss supporting me? Who am I working with?” And if it’s helpful, ask the opposite, “When was I my least productive? What kind of work was I doing? What was going on around me?”
These answers will give me the vision for my self-actualization. Then I can compare it with where I believe I am right now. We can ask ourselves, “When it comes to self-actualization, where am I as an HR professional right now? Where’s the HR team? And if we’re not where we want to be, how do we get there?”
The answers to these questions could help me create the plan I need for HR pros and the department to become it’s most productive. This is always the time of year when I’m planning, goal setting, and budgeting for the upcoming year. I can use this information to consider retraining, upskilling, reskilling, and development. I can also use this information to make sure we have the right technology and tools to get the job done.
Once we’ve asked all the questions, it could make some sense to put the answers into a SMART plan with goals to move toward self-actualization. This becomes our roadmap for success. It allows us to get focused, so we can do our best work – which is exactly what the organization wants and needs from us.
If you want to learn more about self-actualization and how it can benefit HR, visit Paycom’s Maslow landing page for more information. The site also has a quiz to help set your path to self-actualization.14