Contemporary Views On Motivation And Theories

Human Resource Managers around the world rarely agree on the best way to motivate staff at work. The problems that arise when staff are de-motivated ensure this will continue to occupy a great deal of management time and attention. In both the Hospitality and Tourism sectors this is especially controversial with the major problems of seasonality and low pay contributing to the mix. For this assignment, I have been asked to examine contemporary views on motivation, identify a company addressing motivation problems at work and evaluate their efforts, and explore the relationship between the effective employment of appropriate recruitment and selection strategies and their impact on staff motivation. As a case study, I have chosen to discuss about British Airways and their motivation problems.

2. What is motivation?

Motivating is the management process influencing people’s behaviour based on the knowledge of what makes people “tick”. Motivating and motivation both deal with the range of conscious human behaviour somewhere between two extremes – reflex actions and learned actions.

3. Contemporary views on motivation

In this section five different contemporary views on motivation will be discussed. These motivation theories can help managers understand how to motivate their staff. Five categories of motivation theory and practice:

Need theory

Equity theory

Expectancy theory

Reinforcement theory

Goal setting theory

3.1 Need theory

Concentrates on what people need to live satisfied lives. According to the need theory, a person is motivated when he / she has not yet attained certain levels of satisfaction with his / her life. A satisfied need is not a motivator.

The need theory can be easily explained by referring to Maslow Hierarchy of Needs – Five needs ranging from the most basic physiological needs to the highest needs of self-actualisation. According to Maslow, individuals will be motivated to fulfill whichever need is pre-potent for them at the given time. Starting with the physical need which are most basic, each need must be satisfied before the individual desires to satisfy a need at the next higher level – wage, food, shelter. After all needs are met, the need for self-actualisation arise.

3.2 Equity theory

Equity theory is based on the assumption that a major factor in job motivation is the individual’s evaluation of the equity or fairness of the reward received.

This theory views of what satisfies and what dissatisfies people. The equity theory concentrates on money as the most significant incentive in the workplace. Workers compare what they are being paid for their efforts with what others in similar scenario. When they feel they have been unfairly paid, tension develops within them which they try to resolve by changing their behaviour.

It is suggested that there will be a limit to which an individual will tolerate a series of unfair events which will push the individual over the brink. Strong workers who believe that they have been unfairly treated can be disrupted; weak ones become withdrawn and resentful.

3.3 Expectancy theory

The expectancy theory says that people choose how to behave among alternative course of action based on their expectations of what there is to gain from each action.

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Simply put it, we are motivated by desirable things we expect we can achieve. Motivation is therefore a combination of:

Firstly, valence: the value of the perceived outcome.

Secondly, instrumentality: the belief that if I complete specific actions then I will achieve a certain outcome.

Lastly, expectancy: the belief that I am capable to complete the actions.

Companies should motivate people to do something by showing them something desirable, indicating how straightforward it is to get it, and then supporting their self-belief that they can get there.

3.4 Reinforcement theory

This theory speaks to how the consequence of past behaviour affects future actions in a cyclical learning process.

Reinforcements can be used in a number of different ways:

Firstly, a positive reinforcement strengthens desired behaviour by providing a reward eg. a worker going an extra mile to serve customers should be rewarded for his or her hard work which might get him or her motivated to work harder and take up more tasks.

Secondly, punishment is an undesired consequence that follows from undesirable behaviour eg. a worker who is rude to customers might get reprimanded or disciplined or given a warning, so that this behaviour might not occur again.

3.5 Goal setting theory

This theory suggests that the tendency of humans to set and strive for objectives is useful only if the person understands and accepts a particular objective.

Workers will not be motivated if they do not possess and know that they do not possess the skill needed to achieve the goal. Individuals are motivated when they behave in ways that move them to certain clear goals that they can accept and reasonably expect to attain.

When goals are specific and challenging, they function more effectively as motivating factors in both individual and group performances. Motivation and commitment are higher when workers participate in the setting of goals.

4. British Airways case study

Identifying British Airways (BA) current motivation problems at work and an evaluation of their effort. Strikes were triggered last year by BA’s plans to reduce crew numbers on long-haul flights, but it is now a dispute over the threats made by the airline to deny discretionary free flights and other benefits to those who participate in strikes. Talks between BA and the Union (representing BA’s cabin crew) had focused on a long-standing dispute over pay and conditions which erupted during the airline’s cost-cutting drive. Unions are particularly angered by disciplinary action taken by BA against striking staff and the removal of travel perks.

A cabin crew who works for BA tells her experiences on a website ( where she says, “My life as a British Airways stewardess: not sleeping for a week, depression, endless jet lag, stress, illness.” It states that she knows she’s a national hate figure. She and her colleagues have been spat at and given vile hand gestures by angry passengers during their industrial strike. She states she is willing to face people’s wrath to improve the serious working conditions that have driven stressed cabin crew to nervous breakdowns and suicides. One woman has already committed suicide in a hotel in Mauritius.

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“Staff are so tired and jet-lagged their immunity is dangerously low. They are getting flu, ME, depression, you name it. Some go a whole week without sleep because they are in and out of different time zones. The fatigue is horrendous,” she stated.

BA has reduced the number of crew on many long-haul flights and workers are now doing twice the amount of work for a lesser pay. She has stated that workers are so tired that it could put the passengers’ safety at risk.

A big sticking point in the dispute is BA’s decision to take away travel benefits for cabin crew who joined in strikes. BA has been accused that their management’s tactics are reaching new lows when it carried out its threat to reprimand and discipline those who take sick leave during strike days. The British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association, a part of Unite, which represents 12,000 cabin crew, says it was close to agreeing with BA on a deal that would have cut costs and allowed the airline to restructure. It complains, however, that the airline has taken disciplinary action against more than 50 members and is angry that BA withdrew travel privileges from striking crew.

It is of the utmost importance for every company to treat their staff appropriately because the company could not operate without them. BA is the national flag-carrier of Britain and it does care about its reputation; the continuous strikes are a major issue and it should be rectified as soon as possible because it is doing harm to their reputation. The strikes are an additional financial hardship for BA, which reported a record annual loss of 425 million pounds ($611 million) for the year ending March 31. The airline said the losses were results of higher costs, lower passenger numbers and cabin crew strikes. The results do not include the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud, which began in April and also issues such as the new airline taxes being considered by Britain’s new government, and from 2012 a European emissions-trading scheme is to replace national taxes. The airline has continually argued that cost-cutting measure have been a necessity, and in its financial statement the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Willie Walsh criticised the union for its stance. He said, “returning the business to profitability requires permanent change across the company and it’s disappointing that our cabin crew union fails to recognise that.” (

Unite is disputing BA over pay and work conditions but Mr. Walsh is standing firm. Mr. Walsh wants to save as much as 160 million pounds a year by hiring any new cabin crew on less generous wage deals.

Companies should focus on cost containment rather than focus on cutting costs. “Generally, cost cutting occurs because costs look greater than the budget, so you have to cut. Cost containment typically means that you don’t want the costs to exceed budget, so you find ways to keep them below the budget.” ( I don’t think reducing the workers’ incentives and not compensating is the right directive. My opinion would be anything that was removed must be compensated with something else. You don’t want workers to feel like that their rights / privileges were removed from them. Various solutions are available to help motivate their staff. British Airways says it has made an offer that it believes cabin crew would accept if the union would put it to a vote. The airline says it has offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew – they pay 10 percent of normal airline fares to commute to work – once all elements of its offer were implemented.

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5. Appropriate recruitment and selection strategies and their impacts on staff motivation

When recruiting staff, a job description should be written so that the selectors know what characteristics and abilities applicants must have – what attitudes and qualities are deemed desirable and what characteristics are deemed undesirable.

Organisation that does its own printed advertising is useful if it can attract talented and skilled workers. The organisation must take into consideration not to discriminate people either directly or indirectly.

Before letters of appointment are issued any doubts about medical fitness should be determined by requiring applicants to attend a medical check-up.

Interviews are preferably carried out by experts and can vary from a short chat to a process of sequential interviews conducted on several days. Possessing personal skills such as in judgment is important when selecting appropriate candidates.

Interviewing and appraising candidates is essential to good recruitment. Training interviewers on how to rate candidates is valuable. Rating often consists of evaluating candidates for experience, qualification, mentally, attitude, physical capabilities, communication skills, leadership abilities etc.

In the increasingly complex labour market, right recruitment and selection strategies will help companies win and retain talented staff. An increasingly mobile workforce coupled with the global opportunities is making employee retention difficult. Proper job analysis will lead to a good job description which can attract the right man for the job. Sourcing is also important and will depend on the nature and the volume of the vacancy. The selection tool used is also critical as the wrong tool can create wrong results. A soft approach to the work force is beneficial to the company as it creates emotional bonding which will act as a barrier when it comes to changing jobs.

6. Conclusion

Recruitment, selection strategies and motivation can be used as tools to assist in recognising potential workers who can efficiently get tasks done and reduce the turnovers of staff. The importance of motivation is clear. Motivation keeps us going when the going gets tough. Without motivation great things cannot be achieved.

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