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Employee Motivation Essay


Employee motivation is the psychological feature that arouses an employee to behave in a certain manner for accomplishing certain organizational goals. Individuals differ in motivation along three parameters viz. self-esteem, need for achievement, and intrinsic motivation. There has been a growing emphasis on employee’s needs rather than just organizational needs, and recognition of the strategic value of employees being developed to their best potential. Organizations have become increasingly aware that the effective development of their employees’ skills and knowledge has benefits for the whole organization. Performance appraisal can be a crucial factor in the setting of career goals and the perception of job satisfaction leading to increased motivation and productivity. The paper examines employee motivation at the workplace.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is based on emotions. It is the search for positive emotional experiences and the avoidance of negative emotional experiences. Motivation is involved in the performance of all learned responses. It is a behavior that will not occur unless it is triggered. In general, psychologists question whether motivation is a primary or secondary influence on behavior. For example, is the behavior stemmed from personality, emotion perception, and memory or if motivation stems from concepts that are unique.

Each year, billions of dollars are spent on motivation courses by large companies. The course involves training in motivation, meetings to boost motivation, incentives to strengthen motivation, meetings to analyze problems in the workplace motivation, tools to measure motivation mission statements, etc. These training sessions also include how to cope with problems in recruitment, productivity and retention, problems of commitment to teams and corporate agendas. Motivation is extremely important to success and to reach personal and business goals that one has set.


Employees must learn to work together towards common goals. Employees must have an understanding of the organization as a whole and how they fit into the organization. They will most likely need training to acquire the knowledge needed for organizational understanding. Once an understanding of the organization and their role in it has been established, the employee with act on the goals set forth. Management must show the employee the need for their being there and for their output and input. The top to bottom role should be fair and there must be a clear code of corporate ethics. There must be communication between all levels, top to bottom, bottom to top. No employee should be left out. Management should ensure that their employees feel secure and they can be trusted and are equals among their peers. Performance should be viewed as a learning experience, not a horrific experience.


The annual performance review is one of the most feared and fearful processes that leaves employees angry and depressed as opposed to motivated to perform better. Companies have started to look at the appraisal as a more developmental approach to performance evaluation, instead of making the employee feel more insecure about their job performance. By using this technique, it would emphasize on giving employees the skills they need to perform effectively. The goal of a plan such as this would be to achieve goals that have been set by the company and be appraised on how many of those goals they have reached. Goals should be clear and sufficient to motivate employees into action.

Business performance will improve by using an effective appraisal system. By defining clear objectives, the employees will be able to focus on the specified task and company goals. Appraisals help the employees feel that their good work is recognized and that they are valued. It also provides an opportunity to discuss concerns and weaknesses that the employee may have and suggestions may be made to find a solution to the problem.

Motivation Techniques

In order to motivate employees, they must know what is expected of them. Employees must have a clear understanding of challenges and realistic goals that they must meet. Employees that are encouraged to healthy competition ensure that the criteria for successes are clear and do not encourage resentment or low morale. Tough approaches, like firing staff that are not working to their full potential, can motivate other employees to do work better and strive for those goals that have been set.

There is no perfect way to motivate staff. Some psychologists hold that financial bonuses or perks will be enough to motivate employees to give their best effort. Competition between employees is also commonly used as a motivation strategy at times. However, the keys to effective employees are motivation strategies that provide a range of incentives that appeal to the different personalities of the employees. While one individual may be driven by money, another may find job satisfaction or creative opportunities more powerful factors.

Some company employee motivation techniques suggest that most employees respond to the same incentives. Money is most commonly used to improve motivation, staff retention and ambition. Everyone is different and has their own view about what is important to their life. For this reason, there are steps that can be used to motivate employees by doing things that they value and mean doing the right thing. They are as follows:

Find the right job for the right person

Empower Employees

Co-operation vs. Competition

Involve employees in company development

When staff feel secure and nurtured in their work environment they perform better. These steps help employees feel secure in their environment:

Praise and recognition of the employee’s successes as much as you constructively criticize them.

Let employees be aware of their job security.

Be a Leader to staff.

Create a comfortable working environment.

Treat employees fairly.

Mangers are responsible for overseeing employees who are engaged in work or learning tasks. Managers must be aware that some employees participate more out of interest in the task than others are. Others gain their satisfaction principally out the way in which their performance on the task leads to rewards like pay or status. But typically there is a mixture of motives for which a range of different incentives is relevant. Most employees will find at least some satisfaction in simply doing the work. The balance of these intrinsic and extrinsic sources of satisfaction varies from one person to another and between different situations. Some people indeed are highly motivated by both intrinsic interest and extrinsic rewards.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

Most employees understand intrinsic satisfaction or intrinsic motivation, when an activity is satisfying or pleasurable in and of itself. These activities are things employees like and want to do. For most people, intrinsically enjoyable activities are things like eating, resting, laughing, playing games, winning, creating, seeing and hearing beautiful things and people, and so on. To do these things people do not need to be paid, applauded, cheered, thanked, respected, or anything. They do them for the good feelings that are automatically and naturally received from the activity. Intrinsic rewards also involve pleasurable internal feelings or thoughts, like feeling proud or having a sense of mastery following studying hard and succeeding in a class.

Many, maybe most, activities are not intrinsically satisfying enough to get most of people to do them consistently, so extrinsic motivation needs to be applied in the form of rewards, incentives, or as a way to avoid some unpleasant condition.

There are many activities that are intrinsically satisfying to some people but not to other people. This diversity suggests that past experiences can have a powerful influence on determining what is intrinsically satisfying to an individual. In many activities, intrinsically satisfying aspects combine with extrinsic pay offs. For example, employees and people in general, intrinsically enjoy conversing and, at the same time, they get attention, praise, support and useful information. In this case where intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are mixed, one might suppose that over a period of time the accompanying extrinsic reinforcements gradually increase our intrinsic enjoyment of the activity and perhaps vice versa.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic Motivation comes from without, such as money, titles, honors, trophies or a date. Extrinsic motivation has been found to destroy intrinsic motivation. Presently there is a movement to eliminate extrinsic motivation from schools, hospitals, and government. Extrinsic Motivation can be based on the phrase, “Do this, and get this.” Methods of Extrinsic Motivation are sometimes controversial. Some argue that employees view their work as a form of punishment and the paycheck is their reward. Extrinsic rewards tend to focus attention more narrowly and to shorten time perspectives, which may result in more efficient production of predefined or standardized products. Job satisfaction and long term commitment to a task may also be affected.

Management first thinks about rewarding employees with money as an effective reward. Unfortunately, money will not always motivate employees to perform better or stay with the company longer. Not everyone thinks money makes the world go round.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the satisfaction in which the rewards come from carrying out an activity rather from a result of the activity. Employees that are intrinsically motivated tend to be more aware of a wide range of phenomena, while giving careful attention to complexities, inconsistencies, novel events and unexpected possibilities. They need time and freedom to make choices, to gather and process information, and have an appreciation of well finished and integrated products, all of which may lead to a greater depth of learning and more creative output.

Intrinsic Motivation is the outcome of a work situation that employees enjoy. It comes from inside of the employee. Employees feel that they are in charge and that they have the opportunity to acquire new skills and abilities to match a different challenge. Employees also feel that they are a part of a successful team. When rewards, such as praise, are based on performance standards that imply one is doing well and performing competently, then the intrinsic interest increases. People like to be told they are doing well. Intrinsic Motivation is an emotional preference that gives pleasure and enjoyment. It stems from a strong emotional interest in an activity. It can be classified as a sense of freedom.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow is considered as the father of Humanistic Psychology. Humanistic Psychology incorporates both Behavioral and Psychoanalytical Psychology. Maslow, although he studied both types of Psychology, he rejected the idea that human behavior is controlled by only internal and external factor. Maslow, instead, based his Motivation Theory on the basis that “man’s behavior is controlled by both internal and external factors.” (pp. ) He also emphasized that humans have the ability to make choices and exercise free will.

Maslow collected data for his theories by studying individuals with an outstanding presence. His studies led him to believe that certain people have needs which are unchanging and genetic. Some needs are more basic than others are and others are more powerful than others are. As these needs are satisfied, new needs are created and other needs emerge.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is as follows:

Basic Needs:

Physiological; The need for sleep and rest, food, drink, shelter, sex, and oxygen.

Safety; The need to be safe from harm. The need for a predictable world with consistency. The need for fairness, routine, and a sense of stability and security.

Growth Needs

Love and Belonging: The need for love and affectionate relationships, belonging to a group, and caring.

Esteem (two components):

Self-respect: The desire for confidence, competence, adequacy, achievement, and mastery.

Respect of others: The desire for acceptance, recognition, reputation, appreciation, status, and prestige.

Understanding and Knowledge: The needs to satisfy curiosity, explore, discover, find solutions, look for relationships and meaning, and seek intellectual challenges.

Aesthetics: The need for beauty in surroundings.

Self-actualization: The need for growth, development and utilization of potential, becoming all that one can be; self-fulfillment.

McGregor’s X and Y Theories

Two theories of human behavior at work were developed by Douglas McGregor. Theory X and Theory Y. McGregor did not indicate that workers would be type X or type Y. He saw the two types as extremes, with various possible behaviors in between.

Theory X workers would be described an individuals who dislike work and avoid work when possible. They also lack ambition and do not like responsibility and prefer to be followers instead of leaders. These individuals also have a desire for feeling secure.

Theory Y workers are individuals that could be characterized as individuals who did not dislike work and are considered responsible. These workers consider work as play or a rest time.

For Theory Y workers, management would need to challenge the individual and create a working environment where they can show and develop their creativity. With Theory X, receiving rewards motivates the individuals.

Keller’s ARCS Theory of Motivation

John M. Keller designed four conditions for an employee to be motivated. Attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction (ARCS) are these conditions that when an employee uses them, they will become more motivated to do their tasks and reach goals set by themselves or others. Keller suggests that ARCS must happen in sequence. By following the ARCS order, it will keep the employee interested in the topic. If it were to lose its sequential order, then interest will be lost and motivation would not take place.

This motivation theory argues that events that fulfill personal needs or goals will enhance performance and effort put forth by the employee. Each of Keller’s conditions build upon the next condition. The management should keep these conditions in mind when designing goals and assigning tasks.

The Conditions set by Keller are as follows:

Attention: The first and single most important aspect of the ARCS model. It is gaining and keeping the employees attention. Keller’s strategies for attention include sensory stimuli, question provocation, and variability.

Relevance: Attention and motivation will not be maintained unless the employee believes the training is relevant. The training program should answer the critical question, “What’s in it for me?” Benefits should be clearly stated. For a sales training program, the benefit might be to help representatives increase their sales and personal commissions. For a safety-training program, the benefit might be to reduce the number of workers getting hurt. For a software-training program, the benefit to users could be to make them more productive or reduce their frustration with an application.

Confidence: The confidence aspect is required so that the employee feels that they should put a good faith effort into the organization. If they think they are incapable of achieving the objectives or that it will take too much time or effort, their motivation will decrease. In technology-based training programs, employees should be given estimates of the time required to complete the task or a measure of their progress through the program.

Satisfaction: The last is Satisfaction. The employee must obtain some type of satisfaction or reward for achieving the goal or finishing a task. This can be in the form of praise from a supervisor, a raise, or a promotion.

If managers are to use this Theory of Motivation, they must address adequate examples and/or choices for their employees to be available to complete the task or reach a goal. Some employees may be active learners and enjoy experimentation. Some employees may be reflective learners and are more in tune with observing and lectures. These styles must be taken into consideration in order for the employee to feel motivated and be able to help the organization.

There are currently thousands of articles on employee motivation research that has evolved from the early work of Maslow, Keller and McGregor. The application of these theories into new communication situations, like the Internet, will be an important contribution for generations to come.

Benefits of Motivation Employees

It is important that employees are motivated to work hard and increase productivity. Yet some workers are not reaching their full potential. Managers need to be proactive and start or improve existing motivation programs. Employees are aware of what their employers are or aren’t doing to recognize their efforts.

The time it takes to set up a program is minimal, program administration is easy and efficient with automated program tracking and reporting. The end result is a program tailored specifically to the needs of the company. To develop a successful motivation program that benefits a company the following suggestions may be helpful:

Specific goals that provide a strong sense of motivation and are expected to be obtained.

Equity for all participants. Employees perceiving inequity may lower productivity.

High perceived value so the participant becomes emotionally involved in obtaining the goal.

Employee involvement during the development of the program and timely feedback to employees continuing throughout the program.

Employee motivation is the responsibility of the company and its managers. The company must create a workplace that is full of culture and high achievers in order for the business to improve.

Recognition, appreciation and rewards are crucial to employee motivation. A pat on the back or a mention of thanks can literally move mountains. Productivity rises for employees that are rewarded for the work they do. A company’s reputation and productivity increases with employees that feel appreciated.

Recognition keeps communication open. It is important to keep communication alive with staff. By opening the lines of communication and staying in touch with the employees it will keep you in touch with their needs and desires. Create an atmosphere of cooperation, and give credit where credit is due. In return, the company will have employees that will go the extra hundred miles, and the returns will be tenfold. When an employee is passionate about their involvement and contributions, there will be no limit to the success that can be achieved.


Pandy, Wayne. (2001) Safety Incentives & Recognition. Creating an Achievement Based Safety Culture. Retrieved September 18, 2004 from http://siri.uvm.edu/ppt/csseincentive/sld030.htm

Captain Webb, Bob. (2001) Developing productive skills through self-discovery.

Retrieved September 18, 2004 from http://www.motivation-tools.com/

Accel Team. (2004) Motivation. Retrieved from http://www.accel- team.com/motivation/index.html

Accel Team. (2004) Theorists and their Theories. Retrieved from http://www.accel- team.com/motivation/theory_01.html

Carnegie, Dale. (1981). How to Win Friends & Influence People; Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment (pp. 205-243). New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Faculty of Information Studies. (1995) Motivation Theories. University of Toronto Retrieved from http://choo.fis.utoronto.ca/FIS/Courses/LIS1230/LIS1230sharma/motive1.htm

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