Motivation of employees in an organisation



Motivation is the force that drives humans to work hard towards achieving either their personal or organizational goals; giving our best performance at work is not just a function of ability but experience , reward and most importantly motivation, characteristics that are required in order to achieve anything in life. To motivate means to inspire, instigate and encourage a person to do their best in an organization although Bruce and Pepitone (1998) maintain that motivation is inbuilt therefore people will only do that which is in their own interest and managers cannot influence their employees but can only influence what they are motivated to do. Gallager et al. (1997) also state that human beings are purposeful and continually select goals that are important to us and find ways to achieve them.

When an employee joins an organization, he/she comes with certain needs that vary from employee to employee and affect his/her performance. Some of these needs are physiological; others are related to psychological and social values. (Robins 2000:44) is of the opinion that “An unsatisfied need creates tension, which stimulates drives within the individual. These drives generate a search for particular goals that, if attained, will satisfy the need and lead to reduction of tension”. He further states that an employee will engage in activities according to the level of tension, the more tension an employee develops the more activities he will indulge in. So it then implies that an employee who is highly motivated will indulge in more work. For a manager or leader in an organization, it might be very difficult to learn effectively how to motivate each employee as the method used to motivate each employee must be specific to the individual. Motivated employees are of great importance within an organization; they propel the organization forward by positively influencing the work atmosphere and attitude, customer orientation and company attitude.

There are various reasons why employees need to be motivated or are motivated, it could possibly be just for self derived satisfaction that comes with no evident reward other than the activity itself or just to get rewarded or to avoid punishment in addition to attaining a certain level of achievement, Harrison 2007 suggest that some employees may seem spurred on by the need to “win” while others might be encouraged by the opportunity to learn something different or new. Certain individuals work harder than others resulting in individuals of lesser ability performing better than their gifted counterparts; this implies that an individual’s performance depends not only on ability but on motivation as well. Kressler (2003) believes that motivation is not only relative but depends heavily on individual circumstances as one goal might be too high for one employee another might see it as too low even though they are both capable of achieving it whereas Maddock and Fulton (1998) are of the opinion that motivation rarely or does not vary with individual differences or circumstances. Various theories have been developed over times that try to explain the diverse reasons for motivation; these theories have three basic groups (Naylor, 2004).

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The content theories explain the internal factors that drive a human being and what directs human behavior. The most famous of this category is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, affection, esteem and self-actualization. Maslow (1987) points out that human beings are wanting animals and rarely reach a state of complete satisfaction. Simons,Irwin and Drinnien(1987) say Maslow describes the five levels of basic needs of humans in hierarchical order and beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist although a person does not feel the need to satisfy the next one until the present demand has been met. Montana and Charnov (2000) feel that Maslow didn’t mean to imply that any of these basic needs would be satisfied totally and that a small level of satisfaction of any need is enough for the individual to move on to the next. Alderfer’s theory is a compressed version of Maslow’s five hierarchy of needs which suggests just three levels: existence needs which relate to physiological and security needs of Maslow, relatedness needs which is closely linked to Maslow’s social, self esteem and safety needs, and growth needs which relate to self esteem and self actualization, he further argues that the more that growth needs are satisfied , the more they might increase in intensity, in addition to that he says two needs can be activated at the same time. Gallagher et al. (1997)

And there is Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory that says there are two different factors that affect motivation at work: hygiene factors and motivator factors (Herzberg, Mausner and Snyderman 1959). Herzberg (1968) developed this theory with people at work as his main concern saying that the hygiene factors (adequate pay, comfortable office, clean and quiet working conditions) if not gotten right by managers will force people to complain thereby leading to demotivation and there will be no complain if they are gotten right.

Another content theory is that which was developed by McClelland (1973) who is of the opinion that drive and need are two terms for a motivational process and one cannot be preferred to the other. The McClelland’s Acquired Needs Theory identifies the fact that every human has a different list of priority when it comes to needs and individuals are not born with these needs but acquire them through experience, he associates each need with a distinct set of work preferences, and managers can help tailor the working environment to meet these needs.



Process theories link several factors that make up motivation and are much more complex than the content theories because of the diverse perspectives involved. There are four main approaches based on job characteristics, expectancy, equity and goal- setting.

The goal setting theory says that setting goals can be a major source of motivation to employees. Robbins (2000) adds that goals that are difficult to achieve bring about a higher level of result than goals that require little or no effort. Armstrong and Stephens (2005) suggest that feedback is a very important part of the process in order to maintain motivation and especially towards achieving even higher goals. The equity theory by Adams (1965) suggests that when people are treated equally, there will be more motivation to perform better in a workplace. This theory is mainly concerned with how people are treated in relation to other people.

The expectancy theory (Mitchell, 1982) is one of the few theories of work motivation that focus on values. The theory implies that people are more likely to choose a course of action that maximizes their utilities and is rather situation specific and not domain-specific (Erez and Earley, 1993).

The job characteristics model developed by Hackman and Oldham is built on earlier research between job characteristics and the response of individuals to their work, stating that this theory consists of five job characteristics which are skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback (Hollyforde & Whiddett, 2002). (Hackman, Lawler, & Porter, 1983) are of the opinion that these job characteristics create three critical psychological states which lead to a number of beneficial personal and work outcomes.


This is a theory based on the argument that behavior is influenced by the consequences of previous actions; it assumes that a person has been motivated to take a particular action and is only concerned with the response generated (Hollyforde & Whiddett, 2002).There are four types of reinforcement depending on the employee’s behavior: positive reinforcement resulting from satisfying consequences, this action can increase the probability that the behavior will be repeated; avoidance reinforcement which is the removal of undesirable consequences; punishment- where undesirable consequences can be taken away for example, the removal of privileges an employee has and finally, extinction which is the removal of rewards (Naylor, 2004).

Employee motivation techniques vary from organization to organization. However, they all have the same goal, getting employees to want to do their job better and more efficiently. Not every motivational technique, management practice or benefit works for every company as there are no particular set of rules and every employee has a different need from the other (Messmer, 2001). Through effective employee motivation techniques a company can get much better performance out of their employees. One technique to motivate employees that works really well is the employee of the month. This highlights a single individual who has shown outstanding drive, performance and effort for the given month. It is usually good to have an awards ceremony or to give out this award at management meeting. This simple technique will definitely motivate employees.

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Other effective employee motivation techniques include competitions between teams in order to get projects completed faster, awards for perfect attendance, and awards for jobs well done. It has been said by (Thomas, 2004) that a manager must have a clear picture of what motivates himself in order to understand what motivates others. (Armstrong & Stephens, 2005) Argue that there is no research evidence showing that there exists a strong and positive relationship between job satisfaction and performance, as a satisfied employee is not necessarily a high performer and a high performer is not necessarily a satisfied worker.


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