The Expectancy Theory of Motivation
One of the most widely accepted theories of motivation is Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. “Expectancy theory argues that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual.” (Robbins & Judge, 2007, p.208) [i] In other words, employees will have the motivation to put forth a strong effort, if: They believe the effort will give them positive recognition. (This is called the “effort-performance” relationship.)
That positive recognition must then lead to some kind of desirable reward, such as more money or an increase in status or power. (This is called the “performance-reward” relationship.) That reward must also be something that fulfills a personal goal for the employee. (This is called the “rewards-personal goals” relationship.) All three components need to be present for an individual to exert the kind of effort needed to be considered an intense motivation for action and performance of a duty or task.
Let’s consider the following example:
A company that produces a high quality audio products has recently introduced a new production process in an effort to help the employees meet a goal of high production standards. Supervisor A’s team of employees are not doing well with the production process. Some do not strive to master the process, those that have mastered it are not putting forth effort to reach the goals, and even top-producers don’t seem interested in achieving the goals. After speaking to some of Supervisor A’s team, Supervisor B has discovered that the following concerns are expressed by the team: Some do not feel they can be successful because they believe lack the dexterity needed to implement the process.
Some feel that it is not worth the putting forth the extra effort to reach the goals because there is no difference in salary increase for those that meet the goals and those that do not. They believe that performance has to be very slow before it affects the rate of pay. They also say that when a bonus is given, after the withholdings are taken out, the bonus is so small that overtime actually is seen as better way to earn more money than trying to earn a bonus. This scenario lends itself to the perfect situation to implement the expectancy theory of motivation. The employees feel: That there is no recognition for achieving the goal.
That there is no reward for achieving the goal.
Since there is no recognition or reward, there is no opportunity for employees to evaluated their personal goals to see if reaching the performance goal will help to fulfill a personal goal. The company could implement the expectancy theory by enacting the following steps: Create a specific recognition for those that master process. For those that master the process bonuses can be implemented that exceed those monetary rewards that overtime would bring.
Personally interview each employee to discover what their employment goals are and create a personalized plan to reach those goals, make mastering the process one of those steps needed to reach the personal goal. This plan would address all three components of the expectancy theory. However the plan should not be created as one-time policy implementation. Rather it should be tested and evaluated to discover what rewards and recognitions created the most effective levels of motivation.
[ i ]. Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2007). Organization behavior. (12 ed., p. 208). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.