Motivation in the Workplace

Last Updated
July 21, 2010


Many business managers today are not aware of the effects that motivation can (and does) have on their business, and it is therefore important they learn and understand the factors that determine positive motivation in the workplace. The size of your business is irrelevant: whether you are trying to get the best out of fifty of your staff or just one, everyone needs some form of motivation. Motivation is something that is approached differently by different businesses and the responsibility of its integration lies with all immediate supervisors of staff. However, it is the business owner who must initiate motivation as a strategy to attain corporate goals.

The aim of this article is to help you (as a manager) to understand the importance and effects of motivation by identifying key factors that determine the rate of motivation in your employees. These factors are linked directly to their individual needs, behaviour and attitudes as you will find out from the following content.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is the force that makes us do things: this is a result of our individual needs being satisfied (or met) so that we have inspiration to complete the task. These needs vary from person to person as everybody has their individual needs to motivate themselves. Depending on how motivated we are, it may further determine the effort we put into our work and therefore increase the standard of the output.

When we suggest factors (or needs) that determine the motivation of employees in the workplace, almost everyone would immediately think of a high salary. This answer is correct for the reason that some employees will be motivated by money, but mostly wrong for the reason that it does not satisfy others (to a lasting degree). This supports the statement that human motivation is a personal characteristic, and not a one fits all option.

The Importance of Motivation

Motivation can have an effect on the output of your business and concerns both quantity and quality. See it this way: your business relies heavily on the efficiency of your production staff to make sure that products are manufactured in numbers that meet demand for the week. If these employees lack the motivation to produce completed products to meet the demand, then you face a problem leading to disastrous consequences. The number of scenarios is extreme but you get the general picture. Your employees are your greatest asset and no matter how efficient your technology and equipment may be, it is no match for the effectiveness and efficiency of your staff.

Motivational Theory: Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Motivation has been studied for many years stretching beyond the 19th century. As a result, a number of theorists have compiled their own conclusions and consequently a wide variety of motivational theory has been produced. Without going into the fine details and depth of all the motivational theory, we will use Fredrick Herzberg’s (1966) research to outline the main issues concerning motivation. In 1966, Herzberg interviewed a number of people in different professions at different levels to find out two things:

  • Those factors that motivated them in the workplace

These were identified as factors that gave employees an incentive to work resulting in job satisfaction. They are also referred to as ‘motivators’. These motivators increased the job satisfaction of the employee and further increased their efficiency.

  • Those factors that prevented job dissatisfaction

These were identified as factors that prevented job dissatisfaction. These did not make the employees happy (or have job satisfaction): it just removed the unhappiness out of working. They are also referred to as ‘hygiene’ factors. Such hygiene factors, if not satisfied, had an effect of reduced employee efficiency.

Herzberg believed that all factors fell into one of these categories and therefore had separate consequences. His research concluded that some factors fell into both categories although they held a stronger position in one of them. See the diagram below for examples of the factors that he determined for each category. By looking at the diagram, it shows that a sense for achievement, recognition of their effort, the nature of the work itself, and the desire for responsibility are all strong factors for motivation. At the bottom of the diagram, the way the business is run, how they are supervised, the work conditions and their pay, are all factors that can lead to job dissatisfaction if not met to the standards of the employee.
The size (or width) of the bars that represent each factor compensate for the level at which it is a concern. For example, from the diagram, the way the business is run is a higher dissatisfaction cause (if it is run badly) then the concern of bad working conditions. You may look at ‘pay’ and think that this bar should be a lot wider on the job dissatisfaction side, but most people would not take the job in the first place if they considered the pay as ‘totally unacceptable’. Take another example: the employee does not see the lack of personal responsibility as a major job dissatisfaction, but when people do seek responsibility, it is a huge motivational factor for them: hence the long extension of the bar more on the motivation side of the diagram. You will further notice that those factors encouraging motivation (job satisfaction) have little connection with money and are more associated with personal development and achievement. Hygiene factors concern more the employees personal attitudes towards the context of their job and involve money in most cases to provide a solution to the issue. You may also have noticed that two bars on the diagram (achievement and pay) are shaped differently. This is to illustrate that, for Achievement, it is something that is only acquired for a short term and is therefore an ongoing need that is searched for over and over again. In other words: one week you may achieve, say, a good personal sales figure, and the following week your standard drops to a disappointing level in which you seek to achieve this figure yet again. The Pay factor (salary) also has a similar concern: you may increase an employee’s salary that removes job dissatisfaction at first, but in time (can be as low as days) the employee will increase their personal spending to what they are earning and will eventually, again, become dissatisfied. In such a case, it may be for your benefit that you offer an additional incentive to keep the employee further satisfied to prevent this on-going cycle from occurring.

Article Index

  1. Motivation in the Workplace
  2. How Can You Increase Employee Motivation
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