Aké Satia is the Chief Vision Officer at Aké Satia, a Human Capital firm in the DC area focused on strengthening organizations by bolstering the intersection of people strategy and business strategy.



206 919 6440


Knowing What Workers Need and Want!

Last week, we examined a critical question many organizations have attempted to answer: What do workers want?  Also, we raised a less explored yet pivotal question: What do workers need? You may check out the blog here: Needs and Wants – Culture – BLOG – Aké Satia (akesatia.com)
And while the responses to both questions seem simple, getting the answers is far from easy. Because most people do not walk around with a sign that reads: I need X, or I want Y!
And it often falls to leaders to find out what their workers need and want to drive employee satisfaction and high performance.
Therefore, it is fitting for us to explore the path of knowing what workers need and want!

And to start, it might be beneficial to level-set on the meaning of the words: need and want! – The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a need as a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organismNeed Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster
And want is defined as having a strong desireWant Definition & Meaning – Merriam-Webster

Evolving Needs 

To bring this closer to home, let us examine a scenario many of us have experienced. – Giving gifts to others!
Like many of us, I enjoy giving gifts to loved ones! Especially to my teenage niece and nephew. And before their birthdays and Christmas, I always ask them for a wish list of what they want. Because I am constantly campaigning for the Best Aunty position, and I want to ensure I get what they like. 😉

Admittedly, I silently mourned when they grew past the toddler stage. Because when they were toddlers, getting gifts for them was a thrill! – I could go into any cute kids’ clothing store and purchase what I found adorable. And I knew my sister would put it on them and they would be happy. But those days are long gone! And now I no longer buy clothes for them without asking them to choose. Because unlike when they were toddlers, now they know what they want!

Thinking about this in light of workers and organizational culture offers some insight. Because when an employee is a new hire in a company, new to an organization, or in a new role, they need more handholding as they get their bearing and learn to navigate the environment. But after an employee has been in a role for nine months or more, they are generally expected to need less guidance. Also, they often want less prescriptive guidance. – Just as toddlers’ needs evolve when they become teenagers, workers’ needs change over time. And as their needs change, it is valuable to treat them accordingly.

But how can one know what others need?

Ask The Right Question!

To know and meet the needs of others, we often need to ask the right question.

Last November, I asked my niece to tell me what she wanted for Christmas. And she gave me a list of several items, including a record player and a hammock chair swing. I was very intrigued by her interest in a record player. And I was even more curious about her request for a hammock chair swing – specifically for her room!

And I asked her to give me some context. – As we discussed, I realized that her list was a laundry list of what she wanted, not what she needed. And she gave me a list of desired items because that is what I asked! So I decided to change strategy and ask her what she also needed. And I received different answers, such as educational materials for STEM. 

Indeed, the type of questions we ask often determines the response we get.

Questions that enable us to know what workers need and want!

And the same holds for discussions with employees. Consider this familiar scenario! – Improving dining benefits for employees in a company!
If an office building has a cafeteria and we tell a group of employees: We would like to improve our dining benefits. What do you want?
They might say: The salad bar and sandwich station are nice. But we would like the cafeteria to offer a selection of Italian food, Mexican food, and a Sushi bar. Also, we would like more outdoor seating in the summer.
And this is helpful information!

However, if we ask employees: We are thinking of improving our dining benefits. And we would like to hear from you about how it currently meets your needs and your thoughts on what changes could be beneficial.
Employees might say things like: The food in the cafeteria is OK. But the sandwich station opens too late. And it would also be great to have more variety – specifically, Italian, Mexican, and Sushi. Also, I need a lengthier lunch break because I need to check in on my kids at the daycare center across the street. And grab a quick bite!
Or they might say: My co-workers and I like to grab lunch at the new restaurant on 5th street. – It is refreshing to step out of the building to get some fresh air! And the restaurant serves delicious Tandoori chicken, which reminds us of home.

In the latter question, employees’ responses would likely provide a broader array of needs and desires because that is what the question asks. – And this approach is vital for knowing what workers need and want.


In today’s fast-paced world, we might find ourselves putting the cart before the horse. – Specifically, taking action to implement a change without fully understanding the purpose of the change. Fortunately, avoiding this mistake requires a simple step. – ASK!

Consider this… Are you struggling to find the solution to a problem in your organization? Perhaps retain your employees? Or promote cross-functional collaboration and teamwork?
Do you know the reason for the problem? If not, consider asking workers for their opinions. And if you know what the problem is, consider validating your belief with workers.
These additional steps might seem like a bootless errand at face value. But the knowledge you gain could be invaluable.

Undeniably, in healthy organizational cultures, knowing what workers need and want is a focus. And when we seek workers’ opinions, informing them of follow-up actions is imperative.
Because this enables employees to believe their opinions are truly wanted. In addition, it helps dispel the common belief that employee surveys are like black holes – once someone dumps into them, nothing ever comes out.

May we all develop healthy organizational cultures!

For you and to you,



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *