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The Challenges Of Motivation In Human Resources Business Essay

Human resources are the most valuable for any organization and to a large extent, the organisation’s success depends upon the employees getting the job done. Thus, it is necessary that employees remain continuously focused on their job with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm as when they started it. Motivation can be defined as “Forces coming from within a person that account for the willful direction, intensity and persistence of the persons efforts toward achieving specific goals, where achievement is not due solely to ability or environmental factors. (Hitt, Miller & Collela, 2009, p. 187).” Motivation is therefore an important concern for managers since they are responsible for the motivation and success of the employees. Managers need to make the environment as conducive as possible so that employees may continue to work with the same amount of vigour.

This essay discusses briefly two contemporary theories of organisational motivation i.e., Fredrick Herzberg’s ‘Two Factor Theory’ and John Stacey Adams’ ‘Equity Theory’ before going on to compare and contrast them. The second part of the essay outlines ways in which these theories maybe used by managers to motivate their staff.

Fredrick Herzberg was an American Psychologist. His most famous work is the Two Factor Theory (also called the Dual Factor Theory)(Herzberg, Mausner & Snydeman, 1959, Cited in Principles Of Organisational Behaviour, 2005, p. 199) in which he describes certain factors, namely Motivation and Hygiene factors, which affect job satisfaction and dissatisfaction of employees in an organization. Herzberg developed this theory by conducting interviews of approximately 200 engineers and accountants and after analysing these, found that there were two sets of factors, i.e. Motivation and Hygiene Factors that were responsible for whether an employee would be satisfied or dissatisfied in an organization. As a result of this study he considered motivation to be a dual structured phenomenon. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004)

Motivation factors are intrinsic to work and include factors such as achievement and recognition. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). When these factors were present there was an apparent feeling of satisfaction and motivation amongst employees. Their absence however, caused neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction. Hygiene Factors on the other hand, are extrinsic to the work itself and include factors such as pay and job security (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). These factors would include supervisors and working conditions and their existence would not necessarily result in feelings of satisfaction, but not dissatisfaction either. Their absence however, would lead to dissatisfaction amongst employees. In short, Motivators reflected self actualisation needs and Hygienes, the need to avoid ‘pain’. Thus, Herzberg regarded these needs as stemming from completely different sources (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005.

Adams’ Equity Theory is based on the relatively simple premise that people in organizations want to be treated fairly. (Adams, 1963). This theory is an example of social comparison i.e. where a person compares himself or herself to others. This comparison process is described in terms of an input-outcome ratio, whereby inputs define an employee’s contribution to the organization, for example, through loyalty, effort or experience whereas outcomes involve what the person receives in return for the inputs, for example, pay, recognition or social relationships. The employee then proceeds to compare him or herself with others in the organization in order to gauge equity. This comparison is partly based on objective data (such as the persons salary) and partly on the employee’s perception (such as the comparison-others level of recognition in the organization). (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004)

The gauging of equity is a four step process beginning with the employee evaluating how he or she is being treated by the firm. The second step is when he or she looks for a ‘comparison-other’ in the organization. The third step involves the employee comparing his or her own conditions with the comparison other who maybe an individual or even a ‘composite of several people scattered throughout the organization.’(Shah, 1998, p. 249-268). The last step depends upon the strength of the feeling of equity or inequity, following which the employee may choose to do something about it or not.

The description of the key points of both theories reveals certain differences and similarities between them. The fundamental difference between the two theories can be seen in their classification. The Dual Factor Theory is classified as a Need Based Theory of Motivation, i.e., it assumes that all individuals possess the same set of needs. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). According to this premise therefore, Herzberg did not take into account the individual differences during the formulation of his theory (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). This is, incidentally, also one of the criticisms of this theory. Need Based Theories (like the Dual Factor Theory) also tend to stress more upon how or what factors tend to motivate behaviour (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). For example, according to the Dual Factor Theory, a low salary would result in dissatisfaction in the employee.

The Equity Theory on the other hand is classified as a Process Based Theory, as it aims to explain how people behave in order to satisfy their needs. (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). For example, in a particular psychological study (Adams & Jacobsen, 1964), it was proved that students recruited to do a proof reading task at a rate higher than the market rate showed visible signs of improvement in their work since, according to the Equity Theory, the overpayment would result in a feeling of guilt thus motivating the students to work harder (and better) at the task.

Secondly, The Dual Factor Theory can be said to be more focused on the practical aspect of worker satisfaction and motivation in the workplace. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). This implies that factors such as responsibility, salary, professional relationships etc. all have more or less practical implications and thus cannot be said to be developed out of a person’s own cognitive process. The Equity Theory, on the other hand, can be said to have more to do with our cognitive process. (Fincham & Rhodes. 2005) and is perhaps more psychological in nature, that is to say, that it has more to do with ones thinking and how one perceives oneself in the organization. It is this perception which instigates motivation.

A third difference between the two theories can be seen in terms of their objectivity, or lack thereof. The Dual Factor Theory is more objective and clearly defines what Motivators and Hygienes are and their effects on the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of employees irrespective of the individual. It tends to clearly state, for example that salary is a hygiene factor and that this is standard for all individuals. However, as one such study has proved (Shipley & Kiely, 1986) certain factors may differ as being either hygiene or motivators or even both, i.e., for example a salesperson who is paid on a commission basis will consider pay as not merely a Hygiene, but a Motivator as well. The Equity Theory is more subjective in nature, that is, it depends more on the individuals’ perception of equity rather than a general perception of what can be deemed as inequitable. Thus it takes a more individualistic approach, since it varies from person to person. This point maybe proved by the idea of equity sensitivity (Huseman, Hatfield & Miles, 1987, Cited in Principles Of Organisational Behaviour, 2005, p. 204) which states that people may be divided into three separate categories depending on how much of inequity they are able to bare.

The two theories also display certain interesting similarities the most obvious and basic similarity being that both the Equity Theory and the Dual Factor Theory are aimed at trying to determine what causes motivation amongst employees. In case of the Dual Factor Theory (Herzberg et al., 1959), Fredrick Herzberg managed to identify Hygiene and Motivators as the factors which would give rise to motivation amongst employees. It is worth pointing out here that Herzberg also described a two step process that he thought was the best way to implement the Dual Factor Theory in the organization. John Stacey Adams, using the Equity Theory, was able to identify that the social comparison process was what led to positive or negative motivation amongst employees.

The two theories are also similar in that though the Equity Theory is more psychological as compared to the Dual Factor Theory which has more practical implications, it cannot be denied that both have certain psychological factors motivating them. While these are clearly brought out in case of the Equity Theory, in case of the Dual Factor Theory also, these are evident since most of the motivators (i.e. recognition, achievement etc.) tend to reflect needs of self actualization in the employees. (Fincham & Rhodes P, 2005).

Also, despite the numerous studies and the research undertaken in trying to prove/disprove both theories, they have stood the test of time and are still highly relevant in management theory and practice and are very popular amongst managers today. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005)

The above two theories of management are not straight solutions to problems of motivation in an organization, but can certainly serve as guidelines to managers in order to help them to keep their employees satisfied. Let us look at some ways in which these theories maybe used by managers in the organization. A business has a very dynamic environment which is constantly changing. As a result, the management has to stay ahead of the game and keep the morale and motivation of employees high.

In case of the Dual Factor Theory, Herzberg suggests two steps with which the managers could apply the theory and keep the morale of employees high (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004). In the first step, regarded by Herzberg as more fundamental of the two, a manager must try to get rid of the factors that cause dissatisfaction. For example the manager may choose to increase the salaries of workers in case they fall below the market rate. This improves the hygiene factors and thus reduces dissatisfaction. The second step entails improving motivation factors such as job recognition and responsibility. This two step process would, according to Herzberg, be sufficient to keep employees motivated. Thus, the Dual Factor Theory garnered a lot of interest among managers since it also provided guidelines for its suitable and effective use in the organization. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005)

Although the Equity Theory does not lay down any guidelines as to how the theory should be applied, it does stress that the most important aspect that managers need to address are the rewards and the reward system in the organization. There are three basic points that managers need to take into account for this (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004).

Firstly, all the employees in the organization need to understand the criteria for being rewarded say, for example, better the quality of work, higher is the salary received. These criterions would have to be effectively communicated to each of the workers so that they can then be responsible for their own work and pay and avoid feelings of inequity. Secondly, managers need to understand that each employee as an individual will have different ideas of equity and their ideas of the ‘ideal reward’. Finally, even if a manager thinks his or her subordinates are equal, the employees themselves may not feel this is the case. For example, two employees working under a manager maybe receiving the same pay, however each thinks the other is getting more compared to the work they do and thus they will experience inequity even though the manager, from his position, sees that the two employees are equal (Moorhead & Griffin, 2004).

It may also be worth mentioning that the Equity Theory is particularly true in cases of underpayment rather than overpayment. (Fincham & Rhodes, 2005). Therefore, when setting wage rates, managers need to be very careful and set a rate which will not leave the workers feeling dissatisfied. The Equity Theory is therefore of great use to managers since its predictions hold true as much in laboratory tests (e.g. Barber & Bretz, 2000, Cited in Principles Of Organisational Behaviour, 2005, p. 208), as in real life, say for determining an individuals’ starting salary(Highouse, Brooks-Laber, Lin & Spitzmueller, 2003, Cited in Principles Of Organisational Behaviour, 2005, p. 208).

In conclusion, it may be stated that managers and organisations are concerned with keeping employees motivated so that they remain focused on their work. The key issue before managers therefore is how to keep employees motivated. Motivation theories propound factors they see as being responsible for employees feeling satisfied or dissatisfied in the organisation. The Dual Factor Theory of Fredrick Herzberg and the Equity Theory of John Stacey Adams are two theories which attempt to examine and explain factors that motivate employees and accordingly lend to feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction which in turn, affects their performance at the workplace. Both theories share similarities (such as their respective attempts to find out the factors causing motivation or the fact that they are both psychological in nature) and differences (such as their basis for classifications or their objective and subjectivity). Both theories however, continue to serve as useful tools for managers in keeping their employees satisfied and their morale high.

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