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.



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Needs and Wants

What do you want?
Now, this is a question many organizations have asked workers! – Often in the form of surveys. And it is a question that many workers have struggled to respond to – unsure whether it is a test and the leaders are seeking a specific answer.

But when we consider what is required to build a healthy organizational culture, it is helpful to understand what workers want. And fortunately, various studies have explored this question. – The Human Capital research company, Mercer, conducted an in-depth exploration of this subject and released its findings in its 2018 Global Talent Trends report. The report includes perspectives from business executives, HR leaders, and employees across 21 industries in 44 countries.

And the findings revealed that employees’ top wants are permanent flexibility, commitment to health and well-being, and working with a purpose. -Ironically, this study occurred before the pandemic, but if you surveyed a random poll of employees today, I bet their answers would be the same.
Permanent flexibility? Check!
Commitment to health and well-being? Check!
Work with a purpose? Check!

Well, it looks like we have the answers we need! Or do we??

The Full Story

As we can see, the report aimed at answering the question: what do employees want? – And this is valuable because it tells us part of the story. – But to get the full story, we might benefit from also asking another question. – What do employees need? 

Asking employees what they need is a question we don’t often ask! And perhaps when you read this question, you clenched your teeth! – If you felt uneasy, that is normal. Because when we ask someone what they need, and they tell us, we often feel compelled to meet the need in some capacity. – And this is a vulnerable position! But knowing what workers need is critical! And it enables a leader to focus and invest in the right areas to build a healthy culture! 

How the story unfolds

To better understand this, let’s explore a familiar scenario – Employee resignations!

An employee says they want to quit.
And the manager says: Is it because you didn’t get the promotion?
The employee responds: I wasn’t happy that I didn’t get the promotion. As you know, growth and career opportunities are important to me!
The manager says: Ok, I’ll see what I can do. But you know, the budget is tight. So, I am not making any promises!

And mysteriously, a few weeks later, a promotion announcement for the employee is sent to the team.
Then, a few months later, the employee quits!
And the manager says: I don’t know what that guy wants! I did everything I could!

The Value of Knowing Needs and Wants

A lot of work situations can leave us puzzled! And to demystify workers’ actions, a leader needs to know what workers want and need. 

As in the case above, the employee had expressed a desire for a promotion. And while a job promotion may be what they asked for, it may not have satisfied their needs. So what could a manager do?

As we know, a manager interrogating an employee to prove that what they said they want is not what they need would likely not go over well. – Because it could be viewed as condescending and form a wedge between the manager and worker.
However, it is invaluable for a manager to know what their workers need!

In the situation above, the employee wants a promotion. But what do they need? – To develop specific skills? Or position themselves for a specific leadership position in the future? Or something else? – A good way for a manager to uncover this is to ask the employee and listen to understand. 

If the employee wants to have more influence in the organization, offering formal training on Influencing skills and providing opportunities for the employee to shadow leaders with astute influential abilities might satisfy the need.
And it might be more effective than promoting them to a job where they will be required to influence but lack the required skills.

Connecting Needs and Wants 

Knowing what employees need and striving to satisfy their needs within reason is beneficial! But connecting employees’ needs and wants is priceless! – And how do we do this?
We will explore this in an upcoming blog!

In the meantime, as mentioned above, listening to understand is a vital leadership skill! For more on cultivating the art of listening to understand, you may reference an earlier blog: Hear Beyond Words. Understand Meaning. – BLOG – Culture (akesatia.com) 

Have a great week! 

For you and to you,



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