Monday, January 7, 2013

The Leading Theories of Employee Motivation

Job motivation spawns from a variety of employee interests and desires. Motivation comes from the personal desires of the individual but is fostered through organizational pathways. There are many different ways of defining motivation but often motivation includes all reasons why a person chooses to act in a certain manner (Adair, 2006). The most common theories offer some level of insight into motivational factors that lead to higher levels of performance.

It is often beneficial to view these various common motivational theories to see a wider picture of the running vantage points and approaches to understanding employees behavior. Each motivational theory has their own particular approach that ranges from group dynamics to fulfillment of lifelong needs. Some are psychological by nature while others look at the organization and its environment as factors.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs: Through this theory the needs of individuals progress through different stages based upon their development. People move through physiological needs, security and safety, social needs, self-esteem and self-actualization. As each person accomplishes some need the next one takes precedence.

Frederick Herzberg's Two Factors Theory: In this theory there are primarily two factors of satisfied and dissatisfied. Satisfaction often came through the context of work functions while dissatisfaction was often a result of the organizational dynamics. Motivation came through the execution of work tasks while the organizational factors were seen as context.

Theory X and Theory Y: In such a theory the X employee has a low level of motivation and the Y is engaged in the work task. The X employee does not feel as though the should make particular demands on them while the Y employee feels that such demands are a normal part of work life. X employee must often be coerced while Y employees have a more natural tendency to engage the work tasks.

The Expectancy Theory: Developed by Vroom (1964) and Porter & Lawler (1968) as a way of understanding individual motivations within the workplace. According to the theory each employee has expectancies of their work environment. When the expectancies are in match with work performance and clear rewards from the environment the employee will create motivation.

The Goal Setting Theory: The theory helps explain that setting goals and having appropriate feedback creates higher levels of motivation (Latham and Locke, 1979). Organizations can partner with individuals to help them set goals that are acceptable to the company and continue to give them accurate performance feedback throughout employees fulfillment of these desires.

Equity Theory: The equity theory indicates that motivation is a result of how people are treated when compared to others. In this theory people are more motivated when there is a perception of fairness and just treatment of everyone.

The Group Culture Theory: It is important to consider the factors that motivate an entire group that may have needs which are distinctly different from those of the individual. Under this theory the personality of a group and their needs should be considered as a motivational factor (Adair, 2006).

Adair, J. (2006). Leadership and motivation. The fifty-fifty rule and the eight key principles of motivating others. Kogan Page, London and Philadelphia.

Latham, G. P., & Locke, E.A.  (1979), Goal-setting:  A motivational technique that works. Organizational Dynamics, 8 (2):  68-80.

Porter, L. & Lawler, E. (1968). Managerial Attitudes and Performance. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin, Inc.

Vroom, V. (1964) Work and Motivation. New York: McGraw Hill.

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