Why Employee Motivation Is Important And How To Improve It

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Motivation is the driving force within an individual that affects their attitudes and persistence towards a certain behavior (Bratton, 2007). Motivation in relation to a work setting is the attitude and persistence towards a work-related task. The well-known saying of ‘money motivates’ suggests that workers are motivated by monetary rewards such as pay, bonuses, and other incentives offered by a company. (Curtis and Upchurch, 2009) believed that hourly workers weren’t motivated by programs designed to increase enthusiasm and loyalty but were motivated by being paid what they are worth. However, in this case, the company offers a good compensation package, yet workers’ productivity levels are declining instead of increasing. This could be due to the company having extrinsic motivators in place but lacking intrinsic motivators and social relationships between workers. We can use the content theories by Maslow and Herzberg to explore what motivates individuals aside from monetary rewards and what actions the company can take to increase motivational levels within the organization. I will also be using examples of organizations such as Apple who have implemented these motivation theories within their company and exploring whether the motivational levels within staff increased and any problems the company may have faced when implementing these theories within their organization.

Abraham Maslow developed a content theory that helps us understand what motivates individuals. His theory is known as ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is a pyramid-like structure that has basic needs such as pay and safety etc.; at the bottom of the pyramid and more advanced needs such as self-actualization at the top of the pyramid. Maslow explains that needs at the bottom of the pyramid need to be fulfilled first and that companies should work their way to the top of the pyramid to gain maximum motivation from employees (Gawel, 1996). The motivation levels of employees within this company may be low due to the needs at the bottom of the pyramid being fulfilled but other needs such as esteem need higher up in the hierarchy not being fulfilled. Although pay may motivate the employees slightly it does not allow maximum motivation which is the desired motivation levels of staff by their employers. To achieve increased motivation, the company needs to focus on the next level in Maslow’s hierarchy which is safety needs. This includes aspects such as security and safety needs which focus on the importance of employees feeling safe and secure within their workplace and within their job. Based on this, the company can increase motivation levels by adjusting the contracts of staff members on temporary and zero-hour contracts to more permanent positions. This will allow employees to feel happier and more productive at work as they have the assurance that their job is secure which may lead them to become more committed and loyal to the company. This will therefore lead to increased motivation which will overall benefit the company and lead to more profit. To increase motivation further the company can then begin to work on fulfilling the next level in the hierarchy which is social needs. This focuses on an individual’s relationships between both colleagues and management (McLeod, 2020). Social relationships at work are important as having negativity/tension between staff members can have a negative impact on all staff within the workplace. Having a good working relationship with both colleagues and managers can encourage individuals to work harder as they feel happier within their workplace and therefore feel more motivated to be productive (McFarlin, 2019).

The company could help develop these social relationships by holding frequent meetings where staff members can communicate with each other and discuss work-related opportunities and ideas to encourage each other. The company can also ensure that the social needs level in Maslow’s hierarchy is fulfilled by ensuring managers have a good working relationship with staff. This can be achieved by managers having effective and frequent communication with staff to discuss any problems they may be stressed about and deal with the problem before productivity levels are affected. This will lead to increased motivational/productivity levels as employees are able to share any work-related problems, they may be having with each other and potentially come to a solution once having discussed with other staff members who may be facing the same problem. This allows effective communication between staff and may even take some burden off managers as a staff is communicating with each other to deal with small problems they may be facing during their day-day work. Maslow’s theory has proved to be effective as the multi-billion-pound company ‘Apple’ applies Maslow’s hierarchy within their company. Based on Maslow’s theory, Apple has ensured that all employees have job security (Mollah,2015) which is a contributing factor to Apple’s success as this allows staff to feel more secure within their job and therefore happier at work. This has led to increased motivation as a staff is more determined to be productive for a company, they know they have a permanent position in. Although there are many positives to Maslow’s theory there are a few factors that may affect the effectiveness of Maslow’s theory once applied to the company. For example, the hierarchy of needs was created by Abraham Maslow who was a middle-aged white man during the 19th century (Cherry, 2020). This may mean the hierarchy is culture-specific and therefore cannot be applied to every member of staff within an organization as it lacks validity across different cultures and assumptions of the hierarchy may be restricted to Western cultures (Gorman,2010) This is a problem when applying within large organizations as many employees are black, Asian and minority ethnic meaning the findings of Maslow’s theory may not apply to them. However, the findings of Maslow’s theory are quite general/broad, so they may be applicable to any member of staff within an organization as workers are usually motivated by the same factors, and motivational factors are not seen as culture-specific.

Another criticism of Maslow’s theory is that the levels within the hierarchy imply that the staff needs are to be fulfilled in order from the bottom to the top in order to achieve maximum motivation. However, this order may not represent the priority of needs for every staff member. For example, one member of staff may find their esteem needs more important than their social needs however another member of staff may feel the hierarchy accurately represents their priorities. This means that if a company does decide to implement Maslow’s theory within their structure then it may not be applicable in motivating all staff members. However, the organization can overcome this by ensuring they move through fulfilling the levels within Maslow’s hierarchy at a good pace. For example, once they have met the physiological needs of staff by ensuring pay, breaks and hours are sufficient they should move on fulfilling the safety needs of staff as soon as possible without assuming that because the physiological needs are met, all staff will become instantly motivated. This means they are constantly in the process of motivating staff and prioritizing the needs of their workforce.

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Another example of a content theory is Herzberg’s 2-factor theory. This theory is based on the idea that there are two factors required for motivation to be achieved. Hygiene factors and motivational factors. A hygiene factor is the minimum requirement employees expect from their organization. This includes basic factors a company should already have in place e.g.: company policies, job security for employees, etc. Hygiene factors themself are not seen as motivational as employees expect their organization to already have these in place and do not see them as motivating (Aburumman and Mohd Arif, 2017). However, if hygiene factors are not present it can lead to a decrease in motivational levels of staff. Motivational factors include aspects such as achievement, recognition, and promotion. Herzberg believes that motivational factors in combination with hygiene factors can lead to increased motivation of staff. However, motivational factors only work if hygiene factors are also present as employees will not be motivated by recognition if their pay is not satisfactory (Young,2017). Herzberg’s model implies that monetary rewards are not motivating as they fall under the category of hygiene factors suggesting they are basic requirements and therefore do not motivate staff. This could explain why the motivational levels within the company are low despite their good compensation package.

Although the company offers high salary levels, this is not motivating their workforce as pay is seen as a hygiene factor and therefore by itself it does not motivate staff as such. The company can achieve motivation within their staff by implementing motivational factors within the company. In line with Herzberg’s theory, achievement is seen as a motivational factor for the workforce meaning if the company focuses on recognizing and praising good work it could lead to increased motivation levels. The company could focus on recognizing their staff’s achievements by putting in place appraisal schemes such as employee of the month. This will allow the achievements of staff to be recognized and appreciated by both colleagues and managers and lead to a boost in the confidence of staff members due to their hard work being appreciated and recognized. This will push employees to work harder in order to get this recognition from peers and therefore will lead to increased motivation and productivity levels. An organizational example of recognition schemes being used within a workplace is McDonald’s. McDonald’s has used reward programs to successfully boost the performance and productivity of its employees. Their employee of the month scheme has been proven to improve employee retention, help build employee loyalty and promote the company’s values and culture (Crawford,2015). This shows that Herzberg’s 2-factor theory can be useful in increasing motivation once applied within an organization. So, in order to increase motivation levels, the company needs to focus on motivational factors to put in place alongside their hygiene factors to increase the motivation and productivity of their workforce. Although Herzberg’s 2-factor theory is proven to be successful within organizations, there are some limitations to his theory.

For example, there are individual differences between employees within a workforce meaning pay may be a motivator for some individuals but not others. This is difficult once applied to Herzberg’s theory as his theory implies that pay by itself is not a motivator, meaning this may relate to some individuals but not others. However, the company mentions that half the workforce is already engaged with the compensation package and high salary levels, which proves the point that individuals are motivated by different factors. However, half the workforce is still disengaged meaning productivity levels of these employees are low which is a negative implication for the company as it means they are not achieving the maximum level of profit. This means Herzberg’s theory is still useful to apply within this company as it will increase the motivation of the disengaged staff and may even increase the motivation of the already engaged staff even further.

In conclusion, half of the company’s workforce may be disengaged due to them not being motivated by monetary rewards alone. If the company implements Maslow’s hierarchy of needs within their organization, then they need to start by focusing on the needs at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy (physiological needs) and working their way to meeting needs at the top of the pyramid (self-actualization). As we have seen with the organizational example of Apple, which has acted on the findings from Maslow’s theory, using the hierarchy of needs to motivate employees can be successful. The company needs to focus on recognizing the achievements of staff in order to give them the confidence boost and assure them that their hard work is not going unnoticed. This will overall lead to the employees being happier within their work environment and will encourage them to work harder in order to gain recognition from their peers. Although we established that Maslow’s theory may not be applicable to all cultures, I do not think this will be an issue once implemented within the company as there is no clear evidence that there is a difference in what motivates individuals from different cultures. The company could also choose to implement Herzberg’s 2-factor theory within their organization in order to increase motivation levels. According to Herzberg’s theory, motivation levels within the company are low due to hygiene factors being in place (good compensation package and high salaries) but motivational factors (achievement and recognition) not being present. Based on this the company can include an appraisal system within their organization in order to give hard-working employees the recognition they deserve, which is proven to be successful as we have seen with the example of McDonald’s.

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Why Employee Motivation Is Important And How To Improve It. (2021, July 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-employee-motivation-is-important-and-how-to-improve-it/
“Why Employee Motivation Is Important And How To Improve It.” Edubirdie, 28 Jul. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/why-employee-motivation-is-important-and-how-to-improve-it/
Why Employee Motivation Is Important And How To Improve It. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-employee-motivation-is-important-and-how-to-improve-it/> [Accessed 20 May 2022].
Why Employee Motivation Is Important And How To Improve It [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Jul 28 [cited 2022 May 20]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/why-employee-motivation-is-important-and-how-to-improve-it/
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