Motivation Theories – The Foundation to Employee Motivation

In the past, employees were not given much of a thought, not more than just another input in to the production of goods or services. Employee motivation was not the main concern of the managers.

However, as the time passed by the -Hawthorne Experiment’ a research conducted by Elton Mayo in 1924 – 1932, basically changed the way of thinking about the employees. The study of Elton Mayo pointed out the fact that money does not motivate employees to use their full potential, but instead it is the employee attitudes that keeps them going and linked with behaviour. As a result, this gave rise to what is known as the Human relations approach to management which lead managers to focus mainly on the needs of employees and thus finding ways to motivate them.

Even though the managers began to concentrate on motivating employees thereafter, this was not an easy task for the managers to do, as understanding the employees and motivating them needed careful consideration. If not so ever, then the time and money spent on motivating employees may be of no use to the organization or the employee, if the employees were motivated the wrong way. As a result, to understand the whole concept of motivation and help managers carry out the strategy, it is important to look in to the theories of motivation which developed soon after the study of the Hawthorne Experiment.

The motivation theories developed, as a result of the researches carried out by the theorists focusing on understanding what motivated employees and how they were motivated. Hence so, let us have a closer look at four of the good motivational theories that will explain what motivates employees, in order to understand and do the best possible way to motivate the employees effectively.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory is one of the important theories that provide an insight to understand what basically motivates employees and how it should be done if the employees are to be motivated. Maslow identified five levels of needs ( Maslow, 1943) which are,

Self Actualization ( level 5- highest level) Esteem ( level 4 ) Social belonging & love needs ( level 3 ) Safety ( level 2 ) Physiology ( level 1 – lowest level ) These five levels of needs have to be satisfied if the employees are to be motivated. In other words, it is said that motivation is thus driven by the existence of these unsatisfied needs Maslow pointed out the fact in order to motivate the employees, first the lower level of needs have to be satisfied before the next higher level of needs. He further went on to say that only once the lower level of needs have been met the worker would be motivated by the next level of needs. For example, an employee who is at the lowest level of the hierarchy will only be motivated by a good pay well enough to afford his basic needs rather than safety of his work area and stability of his job etc. As a result, the hierarchy of needs theory do provide the managers with the information that the needs of the employees do differ form each other, and if they are to be motivated it is thus vital to look into their needs first and provide motivation techniques effectively.

Hertzberg’s Two Factor Theory

The Hertzberg’s two factor theory is another vital theory that provides the managers with a clear understanding of how the employees could be motivated. He also pointed out the fact that motivating employees are not just possible without the presence of intrinsic factors.

According to Hertzberg, he basically identified two separate groups of factors that had a strong impact on motivation. His first group of factors were the hygiene factors which consisted of factors such as the working conditions, quality of supervision, salary, status, safety, company policies and administration. He tends to believe that the hygiene factors strongly influenced feelings of dissatisfaction among employees thus paving way to affect the job performance. However, he also went into point out that the presence of these factors will not basically motivate the employees as such, but rather they are necessary to have them right in the first place, if the organization intends to motivate the employees. The second group of factors identified by Hertzberg were the motivating factors. These included factors such as recognition, achievement, responsibility, interesting job and advancement to higher level tasks and growth etc. Accordingly, he went in to say that these factors do bring job satisfaction among employees which will eventually lead to employee motivation.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

Another theory that explained what basically motivated the employees was the Expectancy theory of Victor Vroom in 1964. Actually Vroom believed that employee effort will pave way for job performance and thus job performance will lead to rewards. In other words, he highlight the fact that employees tend to believe that, by putting their effort it will lead to a good performance and likewise because of the good performance they will be rewarded. It is these rewards that motivate the employees. If the rewards are positive and welcoming then obviously the employees will be motivated, or else if they turn out to be negative or not attractive the chances of employees being de-motivated are indeed very high.

Adams Equity Theory

Adam’s equity theory is a motivation theory that points out the fact that, the managers should seek a fair balance between the employees’ inputs (effort, loyalty, hard work, sacrifice, and adaptability etc) and their outputs (recognition, status, responsibility, salary and benefits etc). in order to motivate employees (Adams, 1965). He also stated that it is very vital to make the employee feel that he is treated fairly if the managers are to achieve positive outcomes and motivate the employees effectively. However, if the employees tend to feel that they have been treated unfairly meaning to say that their inputs are greater than their out puts, and then they will be de-motivated. And this will eventually reduce their inputs such as effort and hard work etc.

To conclude, the task of the mangers to motivate the employees are indeed not that easy. This is because each and every employee has got their very own needs that tend to motivate them. As a result, the managers need to have some sort of a knowledge that will help them understand the employees and think of better way of motivating them. This is where the motivational theories come into consideration. It is these theories that basically provide an explanation of how to motivate them. The Hierarchy of Needs theory and Hertzberg’s two factory theory deals with explaining, how to motivate the employees by way of fulfilling their needs. And on the other hand, Adams theory also helps the managers to understand fair balance between outputs and inputs of the employees are important. The Expectancy theory too shows that rewards tend to motivate the employees. Overall, all motivation theories do state that rewarding and recognising employees are important thus paving way for the foundation to motivate employees