Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Influence of Maslow's Humanistic Views on an Employee's Motivation to Learn

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship

The Influence of Maslow's Humanistic Views on an Employee's Motivation to Learn

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Continual employee training and learning is critical to the ability of organizations to adapt to an ever changing national and international business environment. What motivates employees to learn? Abraham Maslow has had a significant impact on motivation theory, humanistic psychology, and subsequently, adult learning in the workplace. This paper will discuss the development of Maslow's humanistic views and trace their impact on past trends in business training as well as the implications for current challenges that managers face in motivating employee learning in the workplace.


Continual learning has always been essential to the ongoing success of organizations. Managers and employees must acquire new knowledge and skills to adapt to a changing national and international business environment. The pressure for the acquisition of new knowledge comes from many sources including changing technology, changing job requirements, competitive pressure for new product development, and international competition to increase effectiveness and efficiency (Benson & Dundis, 2003; Halpepota, 2005; Ulrich & Smallwood, 2003). Kinicki and Kreitner (2006) consider the capacity of an organization to leam as a key strategic weapon.

Motivating employees to be receptive and open to acquire new knowledge and skills remains a challenge. Even though continuous learning is essential for organizations, employees often resist this emphasis on training and upgrading skills (Cummings & Worley, 2005). Theories and techniques explaining adult motivation to learn have been a topic of much discussion (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998; Vroom, 1995; Wlodowski, 1985). Less has been written about the early theories that influenced the development of current theories and techniques used to motivate people to learn. One individual who has had, and continues to have, an important influence on motivation and learning is Abraham Maslow, one of the founding fathers of the human relations movement (Linstead, 2000).

Abraham Maslow is well-known for his writings, theories, and views on humanistic psychology, education, and motivation. Many of his educational views have had direct and indirect implications for the motivation to learn and, more specifically, employee learning in the workplace. What can contemporary managers learn from Maslow that can be applied to the problem of employee motivation to learn? To begin, a short history of Maslow and his influence on the schools of psychology will be presented. Second, an introduction to some basic humanistic principles and theories will be given along with a discussion of the roles of motivation and learning in humanistic thought. Finally, the paper will examine the influence of Maslow's humanistic views on past trends in business training and current challenges to motivate employees to learn.

Abraham Maslow and Humanism

Abraham Maslow, who is considered the father of humanistic psychology, was born in 1908 and passed away in 1970. He was first introduced to psychology in 1927 when he read Sumner's Folkways and in 1928 when he was introduced to John B. Watson's behaviorism theory (Lowry, 1973a). He received his B.A. in 1930, his M.A. in 1931, and his Ph.D. in 1934 all in psychology and all from the University of Wisconsin. During this time he came in contact with a number of European intellectuals including Alfred Adler, Erik Fromm, and Karen Horney, as well as Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and other Gestalt and Freudian psychologists who were immigrating to the United States. In 1935 Maslow went to Columbia University to do research with Edward L. Thorndike, a behaviorist who had been known within American psychology for many years. Maslow credited two anthropologists, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead, as having influenced some of his writings and humanistic views.

In the 1940's Maslow met Kurt Goldstein who introduced him to the idea of selfactualization. …

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