Alderfers hierarchical ERC model: a theory of motivation
The ERC theory of motivation offers an explanation of human needs.
Maslow's famous pyramid, in which several levels are hierarchically placed, each representing a series of needs from most to least basic, is well known to all.
Despite its popularity, this theory has not been free of controversy and has been reformulated several times, one of the most famous new proposals being that of the Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model, based on empirical evidence.based on empirical evidence.
In this article we are going to know more in depth what is new in this model with respect to Maslow's pyramid, we will see the three levels that are proposed as a counterproposal to the five of the classic model and what use it has in the labor world.
Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model
Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model, also called ERC motivation theory is a reformulation of the classic pyramid of needs theory originally proposed by Abraham Maslow.
This proposal was put forward by the American psychologist Clayton Paul Alderfer during the 1960s.. This model is based on empirical research carried out by this psychologist in a factory located in Easton, Pennsylvania, USA.
Although famous, Maslow's pyramid has never been free of controversy, as it is considered not very demonstrable at a scientific level and is based more on a theoretical than an empirical vision. Since it was proposed, revisions to this theory have been made, with Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model probably being the most scientific proposal to the original model.
One of the differences between this model and Maslow's is that it condenses the original five levels into only three, referring to Existence, Relationship and Growth needs, which is why this theory has been called the ERC model. However, as does Maslow's pyramid, in Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model, these levels represent needs with a degree of satisfaction. these levels represent needs with a varying degree of priority..
Categories of this theory of motivation
The three levels or categories that make up Alderfer's hierarchical ERC model are described in greater depth below.
Existence needs correspond to what Maslow called "existence needs correspond to what Maslow originally referred to as physiological needs and security needs..
This level encompasses all the needs of the human body which, if satisfied, guarantee its correct organic functioning and do not endanger its physical integrity.
This level is the highest priority of the three, given that if it is not If it is not satisfied, it can lead to the death of the individual.. People need food, sleep, shelter and clothing in order to continue living.
It must be said that, although most of these needs can be easily satisfied materially, the need to feel protected implies a whole series of factors to be taken into account which, for political reasons, may be difficult to guarantee.
Economic stability and health are also considered existential needs.
2. Relationship needs
The level of relatedness needs corresponds to that of affiliation in Maslow's model. People need to relate to other individualsThey need to have friendships, family and intimate relationships.
It is a need considered universal, although it is true that there are people with rather introverted personality traits who prefer to keep their distance and do not affiliate much with others.
3. Growth needs
Finally, there are the growth needs, which would be related to the person's desire to grow in the company of others. related to the person's desire to prosper as an individual, improving his or her self-esteem and self-confidence.This level corresponds to the last two levels.
This level corresponds to the last two levels of Maslow's pyramid, namely recognition and self-actualization.
How does it differ from Maslow's pyramid?
As has been suggested throughout this article, the differences between Alderfer's ERC hierarchical model and Maslow's pyramid are not limited only to the fact that one has three levels while the other has five.
In the case of Maslow's pyramid, it is argued that it is not possible to satisfy a higher level without first having adequately satisfied a lower level. For example, according to this theory, if the third level, which corresponds to affiliation, is not satisfied, it would not be possible to move on to the next level, which is recognition.
This is not entirely true in the case of Alderfer's proposal. Although it is suggested that existential needs would come first, followed by relational needs and, finally, growth needs, the model posits the possibility of satisfying several aspects of various levels simultaneously.. There is not so much rigidity compared to Maslow's classic pyramid.
In addition, another aspect of Alderfer's model is that, although these three levels are universal, individuals may prioritize certain needs very differently, individuals may prioritize certain needs very differently.. That is to say, this model allows for individual differences, with, for example, some people choosing to prioritize their personal growth and others choosing to give greater attention to their interpersonal relationships.
Last but not least, it is worth noting that Alderfer's proposal proposes something new with respect to Maslow's pyramid, and that is the principle of frustration-regression. According to this, if a higher need is not satisfied, the person becomes frustrated and chooses to satisfy needs lower in the hierarchy.
Application of the model in the field of organizations
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, this model is based on empirical data is based on empirical data obtained by means of research in the work environment, with its origins in a study on how workers in a factory in Pennsylvania worked and were motivated.The origins of this model can be found in a study on how workers in a factory in Pennsylvania worked and how motivated they were.
This model, which should be taken into account in organizations, can increase employee motivation, especially if the hierarchical order of needs proposed by Alderfer is taken into account. As we have already mentioned, people do not necessarily have to prioritize the same things; however, it is true that not having lower needs properly satisfied affects the achievement of higher needs..
For example, an employee who does not have such basic needs satisfied, such as having access to decent housing, being able to eat properly or not feeling safe, will have a negative effect on his motivation and, as a collateral effect, will perform poorly at work.
Also, moving to the level of relational needs, if the employee does not have a good relationship with his colleagues, subordinates and bosses, he will not feel at ease in the workplace either, negatively affecting his performance. If, in the worst case, there are hostilities with other employees, the whole structure of the company can be jeopardized, the entire structure and productivity of the organization can be jeopardized..
In the case of development needs, and presenting it in a more positive light, the employee's motivation will increase if he sees that his efforts in the workplace have paid off, either in the form of recognition by his bosses or in the form of an increase in his salary. Also, if by working he has acquired new knowledge that allows him to enrich his resume and his life in general, the person will be grateful for everything he has learned while at the company and will talk pleasantly about it.
Nowadays, most companies try to take these aspects into account, since none of them is interested in havingNo company is interested in having unmotivated employees who do not perform their work satisfactorily. If employees are not encouraged to expand their knowledge, are not comfortable working in the company, or are simply in poor health because of the organization, the company is doomed to failure.
- Alderfer, C. P. (1969). An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Needs; Organizational Behaviour and Human Performance, 4(2), 142-175.
- Alderfer, C. P. (1972) Existence, Relatedness, and Growth; Human Needs in Organizational Settings, New York: Free Press.