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Strategies to Motivate Employees


Motivation of employees in the workplace is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a manager, in order to achieve high levels of productivity, to satisfy the ever changing customer needs, and to withstand the increasing global competition. Management motivates the organizational members to make the most of the scarce resources by distributing awards to outstanding employees and perhaps punishing those showing unacceptable performance.

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Steers (1987) stated that “A comprehensive theory of motivation at work must address itself to at least three important sets of variables which constitute the work situation, i.e. the characteristics of the individual, the characteristics of the job and the characteristics of the work environment”. (Blue…)

Motivation is a tool, often used by the managers to catalyze the avidness of the employees to work without pressure. Various motivational theories have been used since decades to stimulate the workforce in achieving extraordinary results in all fields of work. To motivate the employees, the managers should understand that different people have different set of needs and understanding, and therefore, should be able to use the right mix of motivational theories depending on different individuals, different societies, and different organizational levels. Use of analogous motivation methods may lead to frustration, resentment and a perception of inequity for employees from a diverse culture. (cited from CULTURAL VALUES IN RELATION TO EQUITY SENSTIVITY WITHIN AND ACROSS CULTURES, KENNETH G. WHEELER) Taking this into consideration the managers should apply their knowledge of the various motivational theories to improve the workplace performance.

It would depend on different societies, different individuals, and different organizational or job levels. There is not probably a universal motivator for all mankind, nor is there a single motivating force for any one individual. It is a problem of what mixture of needs for what kind of
people in what kind of society. In Hong Kong, for example, there is no doubt that money is a predominant motivator with regard to both the lower level need satisfaction and the fulfilment of status and achievement goals.

Employee motivation or motivation of organizational members is one of the critical functions of a manager, because there is a persistently increasing pressure for increased productivity in order to meet competition, to best utilize the scarce resources, and to provide goods and services to more and more people at less and less cost
Organizations motivate their workforce to perform effectively by offering them rewards for satisfactory performance and perhaps punishing them for unsatisfactory performance.

Motivation is the catalyst that spurns employees’ eagerness to work without pressure. To motivate is to provide employees with a motive to do some tasks. It is to cause or provoke somebody to act either positively or negatively.

Motivation has been used by effective managers to prompt ordinary people to achieve uncommon results in all fields of endeavours People work because they have goals to achieve which surpass financial gains from their employment. Maslow (1943) said that people work to survive and live through financial compensation, to make new friends, to have job security, for a sense of achievement and to feel important in the society, to have a sense of identity, and most especially to have job satisfaction. All employees that have job satisfaction are high performers in their respective workplaces.

Theories of Motivation

Motivational theories are broadly segregated based on two grounds. The one dealing with the scientific approach such as Equity and Expectancy theory are called process theories and those showcasing the inner drive of an employee that motivates them to work such as Maslow’s (1954) hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s (1959) two factor theory are called content theories. The below mentioned section will highlight more about these theories.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow (1954) presented the hierarchy of needs and divided them into two groups; deficiency and incremental needs. The deficiency needs includes the biological, safety, belongingness and social needs whereas the incremental needs comprises of the esteem and self actualization needs (Citation: Huitt, W. (2004). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State
University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html.
Return to:). Maslow proposed that as an individual develops they work towards achieving these needs, arranged in a certain hierarchy and unless the deficiency needs are satisfied the growth needs will have less or no relevance (http://home.ubalt.edu/tmitch/642/Articles%20syllabus/steers%20et%20al%20future%20of%20wk%20mot%20Ac%20Mgt%20rev%202004.pdf). According to Maslow’s “Needs Hierarchy Theory”, “as the person satisfies a lower-level need, the next higher need in the hierarchy becomes the primary motivator and remains so even if never satisfied” (McShane and Travaglione, 2007, p. 140). An urge to satisfy these needs motivates an employee to bring out the best performance in all endeavor of work.

Although Maslow theory of Motivation received a lot of attention , however most of Maslow’s work has been criticized by people who applied the theory practically for work motivation( hall and nougaim 1968, cited in The Individual In The Economy: A Text Book Of Economic psychology by S.E.G. Lea, Roger M. Tarpy, Paul Webley). Also there is lack of evidence that the level of hierarchy precedes each other and will increase the importance of the next one if the latter is satisfied (wabha and Bridwell , 1974 cited in The Individual In The Economy: A Text Book Of Economic psychology by S.E.G. Lea, Roger M. Tarpy, Paul Webley). Finally there is an increasing evidence that Maslow’s “Hierarchy” of “ Needs” are quiet unique and they cannot be applied universally because an individual’s need will vary with location, values and beliefs (Haslam, Powell, and Turner, 2000, p. 319 – 339, Locke, 2000, p. 408-429 cited in McShane and Travaglione, 2007, p. 141). Davis and Filly comment, “…the exact order of priority may vary somewhat between persons….” (Davis and Filly, 1963, cited in Dye, Mills, and Weatherbee, 2005, p. 1377).an example is required

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Adams (1963, 1965) developed a motivation model based on to the comparison of oneself with others in context to the output – input ratio at work. Equity is achieved when the input and output ratio is the same for different individuals. The employees of a firm try to compare their own ratio with that of others (Adams, 1963, p. 422-436, cited in McShane and Travaglione, 2007, p. 154). Thus get either get motivated if they think that the results are rational or else they get de motivated if they think that there is a lack of fairness in the work outcome. The major challenge lies with the managers to allocate a right mix of input and output considering a diverse global workforce so as to maintain equity in the organization. For instance, Dutch researchers found that pay inequity leads to negative behavior and frustration (Van Dierendonck et al, 1994; Van Y Peren et al, 1992) whereas Australian studies show that the situation results in lower job satisfaction (Carr et al., 1996).


Expectancy theory suggests that an individual acts through self interest and adopts a pathway of actions which he perceives will maximize the chances of desirable results for themselves (Isaac, Wilfred, and Pitt, 2001, p. 212). The theory is based on three components; valence, expectancy and instrumentality. Vroom (1964, p. 15) defined valence as an “affective orientations toward particular outcomes”. Expectancy refers to a momentary belief of an individual that a stated level of performance will follow a particular outcome. Finally, instrumentality is related to an individual’s expectations that “if she or he behaves in a certain way, he or she will get certain things” (Nadler and Lawler, 1997, p. 218). Expectancy theory is thus grounded on the fact that the work performance is directed towards individual behaviors’ that people perceive, will lead them to the desired outcomes (McShane and Travaglione, 2007, p. 146).


Herzberg ‘s (1959) Motivation- Hygiene or two – factor theory suggest that the intrinsic and the extrinsic aspects of a job are different from each other. The theory breaks job satisfaction into two factors: Motivation and Hygiene factors. Motivators relates to the intrinsic factors such as responsibility, recognition, achievement and the work profile. On the other hand hygiene factors are associated with the extrinsic factors such as remuneration, working environment, policies of the organization and position ((Manolopoulos, 2008, p. 66). Herzberg(1959) suggest that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are two different independent variables. According to the theory job dissatisfaction is an outcome followed by lack of hygiene factors. However, even their presence dosent motivates or satisfies the work force. On the other hand motivation factors acted as elements to enrich an individual’s job. Motivation factors had long term positive effects on the workforce performance whereas hygiene factors had a short term impact on the attitude and performance of the employees (Gawel Joseph E. (1997). Herzberg’s theory of motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 5(11). Retrieved August 18, 2009 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=5&n=11 . This paper has been viewed 290,800 times since 11/13/1999..)eg is required.

However, questions have been raised about the application of Herzberg’s theory on diverse workforce. A few of the motivation factors may lead to dissatisfaction and a few of hygiene factor may result in satisfaction (Gardner, 1977, p. 197). It is totally based on individuals or groups requirement.

Implementation of Motivational Theories

It is an important aspect of a manager’s job profile to keep the employees motivated towards the organizational goals. A manager should understand the needs of both the organization and the employees and should try to align them so as to get favorable results. Despite having a lot of Motivation theories , managers still face a lot of problem in motivating their employees and one major factor behind this is the global workforce having altogether different values and beliefs



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