Employee motivation

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Employee motivation is the "psychological forces that determine the direction of a person's behavior in an organization, a person's level of effort and a person's level of persistence".[1]

Motivational techniques[edit]

Job design[edit]

The design of an employee’s job can have a significant impact on their job motivation. Job design includes designing jobs that create both a challenging and interesting task for the employee and is effective and efficient for getting the job done.[2] Four approaches to job design are:

  1. Job Simplification: The goal of this job design approach is to standardize and specialize tasks.[3] Unfortunately this approach does not always lead to increased motivation as the jobs can become mundane.
  2. Job Enlargement: The goal of this job design approach is to combine tasks to give the employee a greater variety of work.[3]
  3. Job Rotation: The goal of this job design approach is to move workers to different tasks periodically.[3]
  4. Job Enrichment: The key to job design employee motivation, this approach aims to enhance the actual job by building up the employee through motivational factors.[3]

Several studies validate the effectiveness of using job design techniques as an employee motivation technique. A study conducted by Campion and Thayer [4] used a job design questionnaire to determine how job designs fostering motivation affected employees. Campion and Thayer [4] found that jobs with more motivational features have lower effort requirements, a better well-being, and fewer health complaints. The study also found that jobs scoring high on the motivational subscale of the questionnaire contained employees who were more satisfied and motivated, had a higher rating pertaining to job performance, and had fewer absences.[4] Hackman.[5] conducted a study pertaining to work redesign and how redesigning work could improve productivity and motivation through job enlargement or enrichment. The study’s results found that redesigning a job can improve the quality of the product or service that is provided, increase the quantity of work, and can increase work satisfaction and motivation.[5] The last study on job design was conducted by Dunham [6] who wanted to determine if there was a relationship between job design characteristics and job ability and compensation requirements. Dunham [6] believed organizations were overlooking job ability requirements and compensation when they enlarged or enriched employee’s jobs. The study found that organizations were not taking into account the increased job ability requirements that job enrichments or enlargements entail nor were the organizations increasing compensation for employees who were given extra tasks and/or more complex tasks [6]


Using rewards as motivators divides employee motivation into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic rewards are internal, psychological rewards such as a sense of accomplishment or doing something because it makes one feel good.[7] Extrinsic rewards are rewards that other people give to you such as a money, compliments, bonuses, or trophies.[7]

Many studies have been conducted concerning how motivation is affected by rewards resulting in conflicting and inconsistent outcomes. Pierce, Cameron, Banko, and So [8] conducted a study to examine how extrinsic rewards affect people’s intrinsic motivation when the rewards are based on increasingly higher performance criteria. Pierce et. al.[8] found that rewarding people for meeting a graded level of performance, which got increasingly more difficult, spent more time on the study’s activities and experienced an increase in intrinsic motivation. Participants who were not rewarded at all or only rewarded for maintaining a constant level of performance experienced less intrinsic motivation.[8] Another study that examined the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation was conducted by Wiersma.[9] Wiersma [9] conducted a meta-analysis to summarize the inconsistent results of past studies. The meta-analysis by Wiersma [9] concluded that when extrinsic rewards are given by chance, they reduce intrinsic motivation. This result is supported when task behavior is measured during a free-time period.[9] However, it is not supported when task performance is measured when the extrinsic reward is in effect.[9] Wiersma [9] also found that these results cannot be generalized to all situations. A study conducted by Earn [10] also examined the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Earn [10] wanted to know if extrinsic rewards had an impact on a person’s intrinsic motivation based on the subject’s locus of control. Earn [10] found that pay increases decreased intrinsic motivation for subjects with an external locus of control whereas pay increases increased intrinsic motivation for subjects with an internal locus of control. The study also found that when the controlling aspect of the extrinsic reward was made pertinent by making pay dependent on a certain amount of performance, higher pay undermined the intrinsic motivation of subjects and their locus of control was not relevant [10]

Intrinsic rewards: Job Characteristics Model[edit]

The Job Characteristics Model (JCM), as designed by Hackman and Oldham attempts to use job design to improve employee intrinsic motivation. They show that any job can be described in terms of five key job characteristics:[11][12]

  1. Skill Variety - the degree to which the job requires the use of different skills and talents
  2. Task Identity - the degree to which the job has contributed to a clearly identifiable larger project
  3. Task Significance - the degree to which the job has an impact on the lives or work of other people
  4. Autonomy - the degree to which the employee has independence, freedom and discretion in carrying out the job
  5. Task Feedback - the degree to which the employee is provided with clear, specific, detailed, actionable information about the effectiveness of his or her job performance

The JCM links the core job dimensions listed above to critical psychological states which results in increased employee intrinsic motivation. This forms the basis of this 'employee growth-need strength." The core dimensions listed above can be combined into a single predictive index, called the Motivating Potential Score.

Employee participation[edit]

1. Increase employee participation by implementing quality control circles. Quality control circles involve a group of five to ten problem solving employees that come together to solve work-related problems such as reducing costs, solving quality problems, and improving production methods.[13] Other benefits from quality control circles include an improved employee-management relationship, increased individual commitment, and more opportunities for employee expression and self-development.[13]

A study by Marks et al.[13] focused on assessing the impact quality circles had on participating employees and found that the attitudes of employees who participated in quality circles were influenced in the areas concerning participation, decision making, and group communication. Although group communication was influenced, communication through the organization as a whole was not and neither was employee’s personal responsibility for their work. The results of this study suggest that quality circles can provide employees with informational and social support that can help increase their motivation.

2. Increase motivation through employee participation by using open book management. Open-book management is when a company shares important financial data with employees.[14] Sharing the information empowers employees by putting trust into them.[14] Employees become personally and meaningfully involved with the organization beyond just doing their assigned tasks, which increases their motivation and production [14] Open book management is a four step process.[14] The first step involves employers sharing financial data with their employees. Employees need to know how the company, as a whole, is doing financially. Next, employers must teach their employees how to read and interpret the financial data Employees can look at all the data a company gives them. However, to understand the data, they must know how to interpret the numbers. Third, employees have to be empowered to make necessary changes and decisions for the success of the organization. Employers should treat their employees like partners. The last step involves employers paying their employees a fair share of profits through bonuses and incentives. Bonus numbers must be attached to numbers that employees see regularly and can have an impact on in the financial data.[14] With these steps in mind, the friction between employees and between employee/management can be drastically reduced.

Four factors must exist for any employee participation program to be successful:[15] 1) Have a profit-sharing or gain-sharing plan where both the employer and employee benefit 2) Implement a long-term employment relationship to instill job security 3) Make a concerted effort to build and maintain group cohesiveness 4) Provide protection of the individual employee’s rights

Quality-of-work-life programs[edit]

Work-life balance is an employee’s perception of how a proper balance between personal time, family care, and work are maintained with minimal conflict.[16] Employers can use work-life balance as a motivational technique by implementing quality-of-work-life programs. Examples of such programs include flextime, workplace wellness, and family support. Flexible work schedules can allow an employee to work whenever they can as long as a certain amount of hours are worked each week and some employers allow their employees to work from home.[17] Sometimes employers utilize flextime schedules that allow employees to arrive to work when they choose within specified limits.[18] A wellness program can involve having an exercise facility, offering counseling, or even having programs set up to help employees lose weight or stop smoking cigarettes.[17] Family support programs involve help with parenting, childcare, and some programs allow employees to leave for family purposes.[17]

One study found that men often identify themselves with their career and work roles while women often identified themselves with the roles of mother, wife, friend, and daughter.[16] The Sloan Foundation found that even though women enjoy working as much as men, women prefer to work nights and weekends if time needs to be made up instead of cutting their hours.[19] A study conducted by the Alliance for Work-Life Progress surveyed employees to find out the type of workplace flexibility employees say they would like to use in the following year.[20] Burrus et. al.[20] found that 71 percent of people want an occasional opportunity to adjust their schedule, 57 percent want to work from a location other than their office, 73 percent want to make their work-life flexibility arrangement official, and 12 percent want to work less hours.

Motivational theories[edit]

Maslow's hierarchy of needs[edit]

Abraham Maslow viewed motivation as being based off a hierarchy of needs, of which a person cannot move to the next level of needs without satisfying the previous level. Maslow’s hierarchy starts at the lowest level of needs, basic physiological needs.[21] Basic physiological needs include air, water, and food. Employers who pay at least a minimal living wage will meet these basic employee needs [22] The next level of needs is referred to as safety and security needs.[21] This level includes needs such as having a place to live and knowing one is safe. Employers can meet these needs by ensuring employees are safe from physical, verbal or emotional hazards and have a sense of job security.[22] The third level of needs is social affiliation and belonging.[21] This is the need to be social, have friends, and feel like one belongs and is loved. Implementing employee participation programs can help fulfill the need to belong.[22] Rewards such as acknowledging an employee’s contributions can also satisfy these social and love needs.[22] The fourth level on the hierarchy is esteem needs.[21] This level is described as feeling good about one’s self and knowing that their life is meaningful, valuable, and has a purpose. Employers should use the job design technique to create jobs that are important to and cherished by the employee.[22] The last level Maslow described is called self-actualization.[21] This level refers to people reaching their potential states of well-being. An employer who ensures that an employee is in the right job and has all other needs met will help the employee realize this highest need [22]

Herzberg's two-factor theory[edit]

Frederick Herzberg developed the two-factor theory of motivation based on satisfiers and dissatisfiers. Satisfiers are motivators associated with job satisfaction while dissatisfiers are motivators associated with hygiene or maintenance.[21] Satisfiers include achievement, responsibility, advancement, and recognition. Satisfiers are all intrinsic motivators that are directly related to rewards attainable from work performance and even the nature of the work itself.[21] Dissatisfiers are extrinsic motivators based on the work environment, and include a company’s policies and administration such as supervision, peers, working conditions, and salary.[21] Herzberg believed providing for hygiene and maintenance needs could prevent dissatisfaction but not contribute to satisfaction.[21] Herzberg also believed that satisfiers hold the greatest potential for increased work performance.[21] Work-life programs are a form of satisfier that recognizes the employee’s life outside of work which, in turn, helps motivate the employee.

Vroom's expectancy theory[edit]

The expectancy theory of motivation was established by Victor Vroom with the belief that motivation is based on the expectation of desired outcomes.[21] The theory is based on three concepts: valence, expectancy, and force.[21] Valence is the attractiveness of potential rewards, outcomes, or incentives. Expectancy is a person’s belief that they will or will not be able to reach the desired outcome. Force is a person’s motivation to perform.[21] “In general, people will work hard when they think that it is likely to lead to desired organizational rewards”.[23]

Locke's goal theory[edit]

Edwin A. Locke’s goal theory describes setting more specific goals to elicit higher performance and setting more difficult goals to increase effort.[21] He also believed that, through employee participation in goal setting the employees would be more likely to accept the goals and have a greater job satisfaction.[21] The goal theory’s underlying assumption is that employees who participate in goal setting will set more difficult goals for themselves and yield superior performance.[21] The theory is logical because employees are going to set more difficult goals but the goals will be attainable with increased effort. Sometimes organizations set goals that their employees will rarely, if ever, be able to meet. If the goals are always unattainable, there is no motivation to try accomplishing them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Gareth R., George, Jennifer M. (2008). Contemporary Management. 
  2. ^ Erven, Bernie. "Designing Jobs that Motivate and Challenge Employees". Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d [higheredbcs.wiley.com/legacy/college/schermerhorn/.../ch06.ppt|publisher=Wiley]
  4. ^ a b c Campion, M.A., Thayer, P.W. (1985). "Development and field evaluation of an interdisciplinary measure of job design". Journal of Applied Psychology. pp. 29–43. 
  5. ^ a b Hackman, J.R. (1980). "Word redesign and motivation". Professional Psychology. pp. 445–455. 
  6. ^ a b c Dunham, R.B. (1977). "Relationships of perceived job design characteristics to job ability requirements and job value". Journal of Applied Psychology. pp. 760–763. 
  7. ^ a b Fair III, E.M., Silvestri, L. (1992). "Effects of rewards, competition and outcome on intrinsic motivation". Journal of Instructional Psychology. pp. 3–9. 
  8. ^ a b c Pierce,W.D., Cameron,J., Banko,K.M., So,S. (2003). "Positive effects of rewards and performance standards on intrinsic motivation". The Psychology Record. pp. 561–579. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Wiersma,U.J. (1992). "The effects of extrinsic rewards in intrinsic motivation: A meta-analysis". Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. pp. 101–114. 
  10. ^ a b c d Earn,B. (1982). "Intrinsic motivation as a function of extrinsic financial rewards and subjects' locus of control". Journal of Personality. pp. 360–373. 
  11. ^ J.R. Hackman and G.R. Oldham. Work Redesign. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, Inc, 1980; pp 78-80.
  12. ^ Katz, Ralph. Motivating Technical Professionals Today. IEEE Engineering Management Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, March 2013, pp. 28-38
  13. ^ a b c Marks, Mitchell L.; Marks, M.L., Hackett, E.J., Mirvis, P.H., & Grady, Jr., J.F. (1986). "Employee participation in a quality circle program: Impact on quality of work life, productivity, and absenteeism". Journal of Applied Psychology 71 (1): 61–69. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.71.1.61. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Aggarwal, Raj; Aggarwal, R. & Simskins, B.J. (2001). "Open-boon management - Optimizing human capital". Business Horizons 44 (5): 5–13. doi:10.1016/S0007-6813(01)80055-0. 
  15. ^ Levine, D.I. (1990). "Participation, productivity, and the firm's environment". California Management Review 32 (4): 86–100. 
  16. ^ a b Soo Jung Jang,R.P. (2010). "The interaction effects of scheduling control and work-life balance programs on job satisfaction and mental health". International Journal of Social Welfare. pp. 135–143. 
  17. ^ a b c "Work/Life". Opm.gov. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  18. ^ Stroh,K.S. (2007). "Flexible schedules make powerful perks". Flextime: Myth or Reality?. pp. 12–14. 
  19. ^ Seitel,S. (2006). "Work family: Trend report". The Work-Life Clearinghouse. pp. 1–2. 
  20. ^ a b Burrus,D., Burud,S., Klun,S., Lingle,K., Roundtree,L., Yost,C.W. (2009). "Flexible rightsizing as a cost-effective alternative to layoff: A cost/benefit analysis tool and guide for human resources, organizational and business leader". Allience for Work-Life Progress. pp. 1–9. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Skemp-Arlt,K.M, Toupence,R. (2007). "The administrator's role in employee motivation". Coach & Athletic Director. pp. 28–34. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f Silberstein, Shula Asher. "The hierarchy of needs for employees". Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  23. ^ Skemp-Arlt,K.M, Toupence,R. (2007). "The administrator's role in employee motivation". Coach & Athletic Director. p. 30.