Maslow’s New Model? Career, Community and Cause

By Kristen Harris

I’ve always been interested in psychology and human nature–in another life I might have been a shrink. So a Harvard Business Review article about a recent Facebook study caught my eye. 

Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? It lays out five levels of human needs, making the case that each level must be met before you’ll care about the next level. The folks at Facebook didn’t feel the model fit today’s information age workforce, and wondered what a modern version might look like.

Facebook has data…a LOT of data. So they went to work analyzing recent internal workforce surveys and discovered three key buckets of motivation: career, community, and cause. 

Rather than a pyramid, I think of it as a three-legged stool. We need all three to feel stable and supported. 


1. Career is more than just having a job. It means having to work with autonomy, the ability to utilize strengths, and the opportunity for learning and development.

2. Community is about having a connection with people. It’s feeling respected, cared about, and recognized by others.

3. Cause means having a purpose greater than yourself. It’s identifying with the mission, believing you’re doing good in the world and having an impact. 

While Maslow’s Hierarchy may have worked for the manufacturing economy, today we’re in the information age. Companies who understand these three key motivations are able to better meet the needs of their people. 

A few examples of how we help fulfill these needs at Portfolio Creative:

  • Career: We help creative people find new opportunities, utilize their skills and talents, learn through their work, and develop their career. Creative work is outcome-based so there may be autonomy in how, when and where it is done. Technology makes it easier to work anywhere, anytime, and to learn anything you can imagine.

  • Community: We’re all for autonomy, but we also value human connection. We meet our clients and talent, and connect in-person, online or via phone to keep building a real relationship. We listen and truly care about everyone we work with. Technology lets us build community online and in-person, locally and with people across the globe.

  • Cause: We believe that what we do and how we do it really matters. Our work helps people, companies, the local economy and our creative community succeed. We love seeing the impact we’re making and our mission gets us going every single day.

What would Maslow think about our new hierarchy? I think he’d like it. When the basic needs of food, water, shelter, and safety are covered, we can focus on the higher needs of love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. We just keep moving up the pyramid.