Volume 62: Advancement

This is it. We’ve finally reached the top and final section of the Oberg Hierarchy of Needs.

Hierarchy of Needs

For those that are new, the Oberg Hierarchy of Needs illustrates the top things we hear from industry contacts about what they are looking for in an employer. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it starts at the bottom, with basic things that every person needs to live in modern society, and works up to the top.

If a person is compensated fairly, has a safe work environment, clear expectations, and a leadership team that communicates and implements a strong culture effectively, then that leaves just one last thing that people want from a job: opportunities for advancement.

And this is one of the main differences between today’s industry, and the way it was when I started recruiting 30 years ago. Back then, even though most companies were much smaller, there were also more opportunities to move up, and companies were eager to reward young, aspiring talent with opportunities.

Today, every big company talks about making your time with them a “career instead of a job”, but many don’t act that out.


To be fair, this isn’t all on the companies and managers, though. When I talk to someone, and they tell me they haven’t been given the chance to move upwards, the first thing I ask is whether or not they’ve spoken to their managers about their desire to move up.

The answer is almost always no.

So for any employees out there that feel like their efforts are unappreciated and want to grow and move up, this is my advice: talk to your managers about your goals.

Even the best managers aren’t mind readers, and while they may know something isn’t right, they can’t help you reach your goals if you don’t share those goals with them.


As a manager, though, while you’re not psychic, there are signs that your employee feels they are underemployed or stale in their current role, even if they don’t bring it up themselves. Frustrations mount over little things, and you might see little things start to slip as their focus wanes.

Now, a common thing I hear from managers on this topic is that they’d love to promote someone, but they can’t afford to. There’s just not someone else that can come in and do their job as well as they are doing it.

When a manager takes this approach, the result is pretty consistent: the employee calls me, and asks for help finding somewhere that will use them to their full potential.

Sometimes, though, there’s also the problem that there isn’t a promotion to be had.

This is where the sheer size of some of today’s companies can be an advantage. If you have an employee that is very talented, but isn’t being challenged in their current role and is getting restless (which usually means their performance is suffering), you can always recommend them for internal openings. Maybe there’s a facility somewhere nearby that needs an employee just like the one you’re (hopefully unintentionally) holding back.

If there’s not an opening, or a reasonable transfer that makes sense, I always recommend training them on something new. If it’s a corrugator supervisor that wants to move up, train him some in converting, or let him learn some shipping processes.

Help the employee grow and learn something new. If you do, that feeling of stale-ness will subside for a time and be replaced with the knowledge that the company and facility are invested in their success. The added bonus here is that they also become more immediately ready to step into a bigger role when there is an opening for a promotion.


The thought of cross-training an employee that thinks his job has gotten stale always reminds me of the story of a VP of HR and President of a big company talking:

The VP of HR is asking the President for more funding for training, because their people aren’t all equipped to do their jobs as well as they could be.

The President asks, “What happens if we invest in our people to train them, and then they leave?”

To which the VP of HR answers, “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

Invest in your people. Take the time, and capital, to train them to be the best, and then give them room to grow to their full potential, and your facilities and companies will thrive as a result.

Otherwise, they’ll just call me.

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