Understanding Employee Motivation
Written by Dave Gannaway
In the past, understanding employee motivation involved giving them some extra money and upping their workload. Happily the days of the whip have given way to the carrot. As is so often said ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. We understand now that all motivation is self motivation. The employer’s motivation to create profit for his company is no different to the employee’s motivation to bring home the profit of his work/labor to feed his family.
Ask psychologists for an understanding of employee motivation and they will list the major theories upon which their knowledge is based. The major motivational theories are:
Maslow’s Theory of Motivation - The basis of Maslow’s Theory is a hierarchy of human needs. He believed that every person has a strong innate desire to achieve their full potential, but would resist those loftier goals until the lack in the more basic levels of life were satisfied.
Herzberg’s Motivation Theory - Herzberg argues that, in a working situation, the cause of job satisfaction has nothing to do with job dissatisfaction. It is clearly not the opposite side of the same coin. Herzberg’s Hygiene Theory is often called the ‘two-factor theory’.
Vroom's Expectancy Theory of Motivation - This states that ‘if I work hard, my job performance will improve. - That if I do a better job my boss may increase my pay and/or benefits and that if all that happens I will be considered a valued employee.’
There are of course many other theories, each valid in its own way. Theories are in fact just that,‘theories’, but reality kicks in where the ‘rubber meets the road’…on the shop floor the office or the work place. Dealing with real people has a very different reality to the psychologist’s research program. While the theory is useful it is only the principle and idea upon which a practical solution can be based. The reality is that a win-win situation where everyone achieves their aims must be created to satisfy both parties. This invariably also creates a harmonious and more pleasant environment in which to work.
When a wise employer places the goals of his workforce into the framework of his objectives, great success can be achieved. In my experience, employers who truly care and have good rapport with the workforce are familiar with achieving their goals. They also enjoy the loyalty and conscientiousness that is a natural product of truly understanding employee motivation.
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