Theories of Motivation
What is motivation?
‘Motivation’ is derived from the Latin term ‘movere’ that means ‘to move’. Thus, motivation is a process that starts with a physiological or psychological deficiency or need that activates a behaviour or a drive that is aimed at a goal or incentive (Luthans). Broadly speaking, motivation is willingness to exert high levels of efforts towards organizational goals, conditioned by the efforts’ ability to satisfy some individual needs (Robbins). Need means some internal state that make certain outcomes appear attractive. An unsatisfied need creates tension that stimulates drives within the individual. These drives generate a search behaviour to find particular goals, that if attained, will satisfy the need and lead to the reduction in tension. In other words, needs create motives for a particular action (behaviour).Primary motives are hunger, thirst, maternal concerns, avoidance of pain, etc. These motives are involuntary. Then there are secondary motives which play an important role in employee motivation. Examples of secondary motives are: need for achievement, need for power, need for affiliation, need for security, and need for status.
Theories of Motivation
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Abraham Maslow suggested that needs of human being can be arranged in a hierarchical order. He maintained that the moment a particular need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivator. Given below is the hierarchy of needs (with company strategies to meet those needs in brackets)
(opportunities for personal growth, realization of potentials)
Esteem Needs: self-respect, autonomy, achievement, recognition
(titles, status, symbols, promotion)
Social Needs: affection, belogingness, acceptance
(formal and informal work groups)
Safety Needs: security and protection from any contingencies(seniority plans, health insurance, social security measures)
Physiological Needs: Basic Needs(
Salary and Wages)
Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory
Fredrick Herzberg proposed Motivation-Hygiene theory of motivation. According to Herzberg, the factors leading to job satisfaction are distinctly different from those that lead to job-dissatisfaction. Therefore, the managers who seek to eliminate factors that create job-dissatisfaction can bring about peace at the workplace but cannot motivate the employees. These factors are termed as hygiene factors comprising administration, supervision, working conditions, salary and wages etc. While absence of hygiene factors will lead to dissatisfaction, mere presence of these factors will not satisfy (i.e. motivate) the employees. In order to motivate the employees, managers must resort to ‘motivators’ (those factors that motivate the employees towards better performance) such as recognition, challenging assignment, responsibility, opportunities for growth and self-fulfillment etc.
Clayton Alderfer proposed the ERG theory of motivation. According to Alderfer, there are three groups of core needs:
Existence (basic material existence, safety needs);
Relatedness (social and self-esteem needs); and
Growth: an intrinsic desire to grow and self-fulfillment.
Contrary to Maslow’s theory, he proposed that more than one need may be operative at the same time and if the gratification of higher level need is stifled, the desire to satisfy lower level need would increase. For example, inability to satisfy the need for socialization may lead an individual to concentrate on making more money.
Mclelland’s Theory of Needs
David Mclelland and his associates developed a theory of needs that provides a practical framework for motivational programmes at workplaces across the globe.The theory focuses on three needs:
Need for Achievement: Drive to excel and become champions
Need for Power: Urge to control actions/ behaviour of others
Need for Affiliation: Desire for intense socialization
Some reflections on the Theory of Needs
A high achievement need does not necessarily mean that the person would be a good manager, especially in large organizations. People with high achivement needs are interested in how well they do personally and not in influencing others to do well. A salesperson with high achievement need would not necessarily make a good sales manager, and a good general manager in a large organization may have low achievement need.
A person with high affiliation need may be a good team-worker. However, a manager with high affiliation need may face a lot of problems. The best managers have high need of power and low need of affiliation.
Edwin Lock proposed the Goal Setting theory in 1960s. He observed that intention to work toward a goal is a major source of motivation. A goal tells the employees what is to be done and what should be the intensity of efforts. Specific goals have invariably resulted in higher performance. If factors like ability and acceptance of the goals are held constant, difficult goals are likely to produce better results. Feedback plays an important role in Goal-setting theory. Feedback reinforces high performance behaviour. Lack of feedback may jeopardize goal accomplishment.Besides feedback, success of Goal-setting theory also depends on goal commitment, self-efficacy and culture.
Goal commitment: employee is committed to goal i.e. he is determined not to lower or abandon the goal.
Self-efficacy: employee’s belief in his/her ability to accomplish the goal
Culture: shared values and meanings are crucial. Due to cultural influence, Japanese tend to have higher goal commitments and self-efficacy.
Expectancy Theory of Motivation
Victor Vroom proposed the Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Vroom observed that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual. For example, an employee will be motivated to exert a high level of effort when he or she believes that efforts will lead to good performance appraisal which in turn will result in salary hike, incentive, bonus, promotion that will satisfy personal goals of the employee.The theory is based on the following three relationships:
Effort-Performance Relationship: The probability perceived by the individual that exerting a given amount of effort will lead to performance
Performance-Reward Relationship: The degree to which the individual believes that performing at a particular level will lead to the attainment of a desired outcome.Reward-Personal Goal Relationship: The degree to which organizational rewards satisfy an individual’s personal goals and attractiveness of those potential rewards for the individual.
Linking Motivational Theories with HR Practices at the Workplace
Management by Objective (MBO)MBO is linked to goal-setting theory. Peter Drucker proposed this concept. Broadly speaking, MBO is a process of agreeing upon objectives within an organization. MBO is often accomplished by using set targets. Objectives should be SMART i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-specific. Reliance Industries Limited in India has successfully implemented MBO programme. Any MBO initiative must be implemented along side suitable adjustment in rewards and feedback system.
Employee Recognition Programmes Employee recognition programmes cater to the social needs and self-esteem needs of the employees. These include awards, newsletter announcements regarding accomplishments of an individual or a group, appreciation letter, certificate of merit, employee of the month/year programme, annual felicitation programmes to honour outstanding performers etc.Employee Involvement Programmes This is aimed at augmenting the commitment of the employees towards organization by providing them a role in decision making, autonomy, empowerment and stock ownership. Thus, employee involvement strategies link the destines of the employees with the of the company/organization. For example, by granting the employees a role in decision-making, Ford Motors has benefited in terms of improved product design, cost reduction, quality improvement and overall productivity.
In number of organizations, workers participation in management is ensured by works council, works committees, quality circles etc. Besides many companies are now offering Employee Stock Ownership Plans in a big way to ensure employee involvement.
Reward System A number of companies are resorting to performance-linked rewards in order to motivate employees. Examples are Variable Pay, Profit Sharing, Gain Sharing, Skill-based pay, flexible benefits, etc.