Employee Motivation

free essayMajority of employers today would like to have motivated employees who are ready to work, but they do not know what motivates them. Companies would be more productive and efficient if the employees harbored an interest in the future of the company. Every employee has various essential needs that have to be met for the him/her to succeed in the workplace. The first one is motivating them to work towards achieving the goals of the company and the second is motivating them towards attaining their personal goals (Buckingham, 2014). This is often a hard task for the managers to achieve especially because of the wide range of employees working in any organization. Apart from increasing efficiency, motivation also results in employee being dedicated towards a given organization. For employees to succeed in their daily work they need to be committed to the organization. This commitment acts as an incentive that energizes the employees to excel in their tasks (Herzberg, 2011). When employees leave an organization, the organization suffers financial losses; it also loses the knowledge and experience gained by the employees, which are considered valuable assets.

Broussard & Garrison (2011) define motivation as the force that moves a person to do or not to do a certain task or activity. Webster dictionary defines the term motive as the desire that makes someone act. Motivating therefore would mean giving someone the desire to act. In many cases, employer motivate by fulfilling a certain need. Motivation has two forms, such as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is derived from an individual’s pleasure, interest or enjoyment. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is derived from rewards received from other people, for instance, bonuses (Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2014). Employee motivation can also be categorized into financial or nonfinancial motivation. Rewards may be used as incentives but the real drive to act comes from inside an individual. While managers may exert a considerable amount of influence on employees, they cannot force an individual to act. Managers may bestow different types of incentives on their employees with the aim to influence them, but at the end of the day, it is the employee’s decision to act or not to act. Managers assume that their employees will always respond positively or be motivated by their inducements. While this assumption may be rational and logical from a manager’s perspective, it is not always the case. Some people may be motivated by rewards and incentives while others are motivated by other factors such as hobbies, family members or their interests (Herzberg, 2011).

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Theories of Motivation

Psychologists have studied the topic of human motivation for over a century and they have been able to derive a number of theories on what motivates people. Their findings can be related to a workplace. The theories that have been ascertained and accepted are discussed below:

Theories of Motivation Based on Needs

The theories discussed below approach the needs of employees from different perspectives. They help us understand what motivates people based on their needs.

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow (2012) in 1943 suggested a theory called a hierarchy of needs. The needs advance from the lowest or physiological to the highest or self-actualization level. The theory postulates that once a need has been fulfilled, a person will be motivated by, or endeavor to fulfill the next level of needs. The theory is presented in a triangular design. Maslow deduced that everyone starts at the lowest point of the triangle and moves upwards once the needs of each level are met. The five levels of this hierarchy are:

  • Physiological needs- These are the needs a person should to meet in order to survive. They include food, shelter, water and clothing.
  • Security- This level includes an environment that is not threatening to an individual or his family. It also includes financial security and access to healthcare. Employers can fulfill this need by assuring employees of their job security and providing benefits such as health insurance and pension.
  • Affiliation- Includes the desire of employees to feel a sense of belonging to a group at their workplace. It is the desire of feeling loved and having a sense of belonging.
  • Esteem- This need includes the feeling of self-worth. It can be achieved by recognizing employees’ achievements.
  • Self-actualization- This includes the desire for personal development and growth. It can be fulfilled through regular promotions.
  1. Alderfer’s ERG Theory

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Alderfer drew upon Maslow’s theory and minimized the number of needs from five to three. He added a frustration principle, which suggests that individuals are likely to move in and out of levels. They include:

  • Existence- This level combines the first two needs from Maslow’s theory, such as physiological and security needs.
  • Relatedness- Includes affiliation needs
  • Growth- Pertains to self-esteem and self-actualization.
  1. Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Herzberg (2011) further altered Maslow’s theory into two categories of motivators.

  • Hygiene factors- Includes factors such as supervision, salary, working conditions and relationships, security and administration.
  • Motivators- Pertains to factors such as recognition after achievement, growth and advancement in careers
  1. McClelland’s Acquired Needs Theory

McClelland suggests that needs are acquired throughout a person’s life. He focuses on three needs.

  • Need for Achievement- This relates to the desire to achieve goals.
  • Need for Affiliation- Desire for affiliations and relationships with others
  • Need for power- Desire for authority

Extrinsic Theories of Motivation

These theories pertain the external factors that have a role in employee motivation.

  1. Reinforcement theory

B.F Skinner postulated this theory. He suggests that individuals are motivated when their actions are reinforced. He suggests reinforcements to be used both with desirable and undesirable behaviors.

  • Positive reinforcement- involves rewarding positive behavior
  • Avoidance learning- involves rewarding behavior that avoids negative behavior.
  • Punishment- focuses on creating negative consequences for negative behavior
  • Extinction- pertains removing rewards after undesirable behavior.

Intrinsic Theories of Motivation

These theories include endogenous factors that influence motivation. These theories address certain aspects of motivation; however, they should not be addressed in isolation (Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2014). They are highlighted below:

  1. Adam’s Equity theory- This theory postulates that people get motivated when they believe that they are treated equally in comparison to other colleagues.
  2. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory- This theory hypothesizes that individuals are motivated by performance.
  3. Locke’s Goal Setting Theory- This theory suggests that setting of goals motivates employees to achieve them.

Some of the intrinsic rewards that can be offered include healthy relationships in the workplace, meaningful work, encouragement to advance skills, involvement in decision-making process and celebration of employee’s achievements.

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Management Motivation Theories

Different aspects of management such as productivity and human resource offer the following approaches. They include:

  1. Scientific Management theory- This was Fredrick Taylor’s idea. The theory presumes that employees are motivated and they should be paid depending on their output.
  2. McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y- McGregor draws from Herzberg’s theory. Theory X assumes that employees are mainly bothered by the security need. Theory Y assumes the employees are concerned with achieving the higher levels of motivation.
  3. Ouchi’s Theory Z- This theory focuses on employee commitment. It suggests that employees who are devoted to an organization will be motivated to work harder and reach company’s goals.

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Misconceptions about Motivation of Employees

Many managers are not informed about what motivates their employees. One of the widespread mistakes is the bias towards extrinsic rewards, which mainly include money and related benefits. Managers assume that every employee is motivated by extrinsic rewards. Another misconception is that motivation amounts to manipulation. This is false because motivation benefits both the employee and the organization. Another misconception is that there can be a one-size-fits-all reward. This is also false because different things motivate different people.

Strategies to Motivate Employees

Expecting the Best

Employees tend to live up to the expectations that their managers and other people have of them. Therefore expecting the best from your employees will motivate them to do better.

Rewarding Desired Behavior

Different types of rewards should be given for different outcomes. This will enhance performance and motivate employees.

Tailored rewards

Organizations should get creative with the methods they use to motivate their employees. They should steer away from ordinary rewards.

Revitalizing Employees

When employees engage in their habitual work activities repeatedly, productivity declines and their motivation is likely to diminish. Therefore, the management should encourage them to take vacations, exercise and eat right.

Focus on Employee’s Strengths, Promoting High Performance and Encouraging Employees to Learn

Knowing the employee’s strengths and weaknesses helps to discover what each specific employee needs to perform well. It also helps to capitalize on the employee’s strengths.

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For managers, motivating employees can be a difficult task. Psychologists have tried to establish what motivates people, however, every individual is different and no single theory can represent everyone. Therefore, a manager needs to understand the individual needs of each employee and motivate them accordingly. Motivated employees can be extremely useful in the growth of an organization. Managers can improve their success in motivating employees by combing extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.

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