How applying Maslow’s Hierarchy improves contact center performance

More than half a century ago, Abraham Maslow proposed people can reach their full potential by addressing a hierarchy of five needs and motivations, in order:

  1. Physical and Health
  2. Safety and Security
  3. Love and Belonging
  4. Self-Esteem
  5. Self-Actualization

At VXI, Maslow’s hierarchy is one of several organizational frameworks we share with leaders to help them better understand what motivates their teams. The corporate citizenship work we’re doing in Jamaica offers excellent examples of how we put the hierarchy of needs to good use inside and outside our contact centers. Reevaluating your role as an employer within Maslow’s framework can help you improve performance, culture and recruiting, too!

Physical and Health Needs

As mentioned in a previous blog post, Jamaica is the largest island in the English-speaking Caribbean, and the most populated with nearly 3 million people. But poverty, inequality and access to education are high outside its tourism centers, and many Jamaicans have real health needs.

VXI sees great potential in Jamaica and Jamaicans and employs 1,000 people in the capital, Kingston. In addition to providing health/life insurance and lunch allowances, VXI provides an onsite wellness center for employees, organizes counselling when needed and holds an annual health fair. The health fair provides expert advice on family planning and mental health and actually provides vaccinations, medical consultations, laboratory testing and fitness and wellness activities.

In Jamaica, VXI can play a crucial role in supporting our community’s most basic needs and we feel compelled to do so. Only when these fundamental needs are met can communities and employees make progress and have the motivation to help VXI reach its goals.

Safety and Security Needs

Simon Sinek, an inspiring ethnographer and management consultant, believes that leadership is a conscious choice that involves looking after the people around you. At VXI, we foster this notion, too.

If people do not feel safe in their work environment – if they do not feel personally, emotionally and financially secure – they put their energies into surviving instead of thriving. Creativity and innovation take a back seat.

Jamaica’s unrest and developing infrastructure outside of the main tourist areas means that it can be sometimes difficult for employees to get to and from work safely. To address this issue, VXI Jamaica makes night and emergency transportation available and we engage a local police patrol to keep our people safe – especially on payday.

Love and Belonging Needs

Maslow’s theory indicates that, for people to reach their full potential, they need love, positive social interaction and friendship at home and at work.

At VXI Jamaica, every program leader is responsible for ensuring each employee feels part of a larger team. Leaders arrange theme days, shared meals, contests, parties, onsite sports events and summits.

Approximately 80% of VXI Jamaica employees are single parents.  Childcare is a real concern. VXI has negotiated substantial employee discounts with a nearby daycare provider and offers onsite emergency daycare. VXI encourages employment applications from people with physical disabilities and recognizes that employees cannot come to work when they or their family members are ill, so we offer employees the option to take personal leave well ahead of the Jamaican legal standard – they do not need to work a full year to take a day off.

Self-Esteem Needs

Once physiological, safety and social belonging needs are met, people become concerned with earning recognition, attention and respect from others. Contact-center providers have long recognized this, and VXI is no exception.

Working towards and earning promotions, completing training programs, achieving targets, award ceremonies, leadership summits and loyalty programs all relate to this need. VXI Jamaica recognizes employees in real time, at team events and bi-annual general assemblies to cultivate self-esteem and loyalty and drive growth.

Self-Actualization Needs

VXI strives to fill its contact centers with self-actualizing employees who are confident, innovative, learning, succeeding and living their best lives, and we provide support to enable them to operate at this level.

Leaders and employees alike give generously with their time to local groups involved in poverty alleviation (e.g., Sisters of Mercy), children’s health (Sagicor run) and educational causes (Avasant). These events support growth of employees and communities.

In Jamaica, contact-center leadership roles are difficult to fill. A lack of basic algebra skills appears to be preventing people from earning promotions, so we started offering math tutoring. We conduct root-cause analysis to remove obstacles to self-actualization, even if that means providing support above and beyond what a “typical” employer might do.

At VXI, our motto is “Passion for People,” and helping people address Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is ingrained in our contact center delivery. When we establish a new office, we are absolutely cognizant of the impact we have and role we play in that community, and we really strive to be good corporate citizens. Our commitment to people – clients, their customers, investors, employees and the cities in which we operate – runs deep and long-term. Building communities and meeting people’s needs, essentially, is the lifeblood of our business – our true raison d’être.