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Theories: Ways to motivate employees

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 2142 words Published: 18th May 2017

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Ways of motivating employees

Motivation of employees is one of the most important processes that managers should develop. An organization is highly dependent on people; therefore, their motivation for higher productivity is crucial for the whole company. Thus, the success of any organization depends on the ability of managers to provide a motivating environment for its employees. Motivated employees are more productive, happier, and stay with the organization longer. One of the primary tasks a manager faces is to find out how to motivate their employees. Different ways of motivating employees are described by academics and business people. The motivation of employees also depends a lot in the culture where the employees reside. Some of the organizations reward their employees according to performance while some others provide only static income and measure the performance according to that. The purpose of this assessment is to describe the common theories of employee motivation and also practical ways of motivating employees in an organization regardless of the culture.

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One of the basic theories of employee motivation is the scientific management whose basis is considering employees as an input to the production of goods and services. The approach stresses on scientific selection, training and development of workers instead of allowing them to choose their own tasks and training methods and its objective is to carry out work in accordance with scientifically devised procedures. One of the pioneers and inventor of scientific approach to management was Frederick Taylor. Frederic Taylor, (1856-1915) was the first to analyze human behavior scientifically with his machine model by making individuals into the equivalent of machine parts. He broke down the tasks to its smallest unit to figure out the best approach. After careful analysis of the job, workers were trained to do only those motions essential to the task. Taylor attempted to make a science for each element of work and restrict behavioral alternatives facing worker and looked at interaction of human characteristics, social environment, task, and physical environment, capacity, speed, durability and cost. The overall goal was to remove human variability (Terpstra, 2005). Taylor's machine model was a success and did increase production and profitability because rational rules replaced trial and error and management became more formalized which eventually led to increased efficiency. But Taylor's treatment of human beings like machines faced resistance from managers and workers who considered this way of working as dehumanization of work. This method also faced stiff group resistance because no one likes to be so close monitored for each little part of the work he/she does. Despite its criticisms, Taylor's methods had a great impact on work because he invented a new, efficient and more productive way to work that changed the complete nature of the industry. Before scientific management, departments such as work study, personnel, maintenance and quality control did not exist (Buford, 2000). The core elements of scientific management remain popular and have only been modified and updated to suit the current times we live.

The second most common and widely know theory of employee motivation is the behavioral approach. Unlike scientific approach behavior approach places emphasis on what motivates people and seeks to identify and account for the specific influences that motivate people. Maslow (1943) put forward the 'hierarchy of needs theory' which saw human needs in the form of a hierarchy, ascending from lowest to the highest. He argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need and once one set of needs is satisfied, this kind of need ceases to be a motivator.

According to Maslow (1943), the five needs are:

  • Physiological needs
  • Safety or Security needs
  • Social Needs
  • Esteem
  • Self actualization

Looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs triangle, as each needs are substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. (eg. esteem needs become dominant after social needs are satisfied).Also, when a need gets substantially satisfied, it stops to be motivating. The core of Maslow's theory is to focus on finding out the level of hierarchy the person is in and focusing on satisfying his/her needs and the needs above it. Maslow's theory of needs has been wider recognized and is being practiced by managers across the globe. The theory's ease of understanding and intuitive logic makes it easy to implement, but there is no empirical evidence to validate the theory and there is no metric to measure the success of the theory after being implemented.

In addition to the theories of employee motivation, there are a number of practical ways for managers to motivate their employees. One of the main ways to motivate your employees is make their tasks and activities as fun. Frederick Herzberg's (1959) famous quote says "If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do." Some workers really want to enjoy the work they do. Many who enjoy the activities they participate in at work look forward to the day each morning. The opposite also can be true when workers don't enjoy the tasks they perform at work, but they may like their social activities after work (football, shows, movies, going out with friends, community events). These are the individuals that get excited at the end of the day - knowing that the fun can now begin. Leaders should take notice of these signs. If your workers are more excited at the end of the day (to leave) than they are at the beginning of the day (to arrive), then there is probably a lack of motivation taking place in the area of intrinsic process - or fun. Managers should look for tasks which are each of employee's favorites, find ways to assign more of the tasks they enjoy and fewer of the ones they don't like to do and also create a good climate in the whole organization. Finally, it is important in this regard to plan social events for your employees, organize a company ball (softball, baseball, basketball, volleyball, football) game, sponsor a company barbecue, take your employees out to dinner or invite them to your house for dinner, and Have company-wide events that are intended to let everyone have fun.

Secondly, a motivation factors which is valued a lot especially in the Western culture, is the rewards according to performance. The basic idea is that "performance is the responsible factor that leads to intrinsic as well as extrinsic rewards and these rewards, along with the equity of individual leads to satisfaction. Hence, satisfaction of the individual depends upon the fairness of the reward" (Bowen 1991). Many workers need to know their work will be rewarded to be motivated to perform. Per hour pay is what keeps people coming to work, but this isn't what will motivate them to excel in their work. People motivated by rewards will look beyond whether they are getting something tangible for their work. They will also consider what others are getting for their work and often will compare their output with others. For example, if a worker notices that he or she consistently outperforms coworkers, but knows that those coworkers earn a higher salary, this will not sit well with a person motivated by rewards. In fact, it will make a worker want to work less hard if colleagues earn more without being more productive. The opposite also works against motivating an instrumentally motivated worker. If a worker earns more than a colleague, but is less productive than the other worker, this won't cause this person to work harder. It will not cause this person to change their effort level at all. The reason for this is that if a worker motivated by rewards doesn't think that his or her pay really depends on how well they perform, then they won't be motivated to work harder. Extra effort and hard work will come from these individuals only when it is clearly rewarded and when it will affect their rewards.

In addition to rewards and fun, many employees need the respect and upgrade of their reputation. People motivated by reputation have a strong need to enhance their image or esteem with others. There are a lot of people out there who want others to think highly of them. Many people are just plain hungry, starving in fact, for some attention and accolades. Individuals striving for popularity or fame characterize the self-concept - external motivation. Many workers will not work hard unless they believe their efforts will be noticed and recognized. Workers often say that their managers don't care for their contribution. Other workers will work hard for a short while until they realize that their boss doesn't verbalize any appreciation for their efforts. When this happens, motivation disappears. People motivated by this source will go to great lengths to save face in the public eye. These are the individuals who take great pride in their appearance, in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the neighborhood they live, and other outward things. These people are seeking approval from others. Thus, managers, in order to motivate employees through reputation, should give workers lots of feedback about the way they are performing, give praise in front of other people, criticize these individuals only in private and never in front of others and give unsolicited compliments and positive reinforcement to workers for jobs with which you are satisfied

The last among most common ways of motivating employees, is the purpose. Individuals who are motivated by purpose look beyond themselves. They really aren't concerned with their own self-interests or with who may notice what they've done or whether they are being pushed and challenged. What matters to a person motivated by a strong sense of purpose is that they must believe in what the organization is doing. If they agree with what the company stands for and what the company is trying to do, then they will join in and give their fullest efforts to achieve the organization goals. However, if these individuals don't feel called by the vision or purpose, they will seem rather lethargic or uninterested in what's going on. Instead their best efforts will be reserved for other causes in their lives more deserving of their heart and soul effort. These are the individuals who commonly will work very hard on community-based problems or charity. Goals are important for purpose-driven persons; therefore, an organizations that has clear mission and vision and also clear goals in implementing their strategies, would help those people and motivate them for further work.

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To conclude, employee motivation is very important for an organization and for its productivity. There are a number of theories on the employee motivation. The scientific method claims that motivation is the scientific management whose basis is considering employees as an input to the production of goods and services. Unlike scientific approach behavior approach places emphasis on what motivates people and seeks to identify and account for the specific influences that motivate people. In addition to the theories, among the practical methods of employee motivation is that employees should always like what they do in order to achieve optimal productivity. In addition, employees should be rewarded according to their performance, their reputation should be respected and also they should be given a purpose in line with their interests. Following this ways of employee motivation, managers will manage to motivate them and increase their productivity, fruitfulness and create a good climate in their organizations.

  • Works cited:

    Bowen, B. E., & Radhakrishna, R. B. (1991). Job satisfaction of agricultural education faculty: A constant phenomena. Journal of Agricultural Education, 32 (2). 16-22.

    Buford, J. A., Jr. (2000). Extension management in the information age. Journal of Extension, 28 (1).

    Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959). The motivation to work. New York: John Wiley & Sons..

    Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, July 1943. 370-396.

    Terpstra, D. E. (2005). Theories of motivation: borrowing the best. Personnel Journal, 58. 376.


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