largest electrical retailer



I propose to undertake a complete literature review for Curry's, which is a well established electrical retailer founded by Henry Curry in 1884. The company was put on a financial footing in 1897 when Henry formed partnership with his sons, calling the company H. Curry & Sons. From 1984 it has been part of the DSG International plc. Operating in the tertiary sector, Curry's has become the United Kingdom's largest electrical retailer, with more than 510 stores nationwide, employing 13,713 staff and earning up to £2,677 million in 2007/2008.

I will be focusing on the Curry's branch in Crawley, which has been running since the beginning of 2001. It currently employs 15 full-time and 13 part-time staffs. They are divided into teams working in the various areas of the shop floor including white goods (cooking, laundry and refrigeration), computing and small/medium domestic appliances, photographic technology and MP3 players and also the Media Gallery comprising of (televisions and DVD players).

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Each team has its own team leader, and his role is to keep focused with the rest of the management team to maintain high level of motivation throughout. The employees at the fore-front are one of the most important assets to the business. The most important aspects to a business like Curry's in gaining competitive advantage, in terms of profits and customer retention, in the market.

Recent feedback from internal questionnaires shows growing concerns of low morale within the workforce, reflected by the poor percentage results. I will be looking into motivation of employee's at Curry's to find out the reasons why morale in the workforce low has had a correlating link towards the underachievement of bonuses.

Bonuses can be earned each month when the bonus strike rate is 24% or above, then employees will get paid £1 for any whatever happens (insurance) and instant replacement, £2 for pay-as-you-go (insurance), and £5 for each Easiplan (finance) they provide to customers.

With the strike rate below 24% in recent months, since I have been working there for 6 months, together with negative feedback from internal questionnaires shows a problematic area to be examined within this literature review on motivation.

To consider the reasons behind these issues, I will draw attention to specific theoretical areas of motivation that supports the information and findings, from an interview with the regional manager and a questionnaire designed to understand the employee motivation of sales-colleagues which will follow, in relation to Currys.

Motivation cited by Mullins refers to Mitchell's definition as "the degree to which an individual wants and chooses to engage in certain specified behaviours." According to Bloisi et al, motivation was "a conscious decision to perform one or more activities with greater effort than other competing activities."

Workplace motivational theory can be sub-divided into 2 groups of induced thoughts; 'content' and 'process' theories. The former looks at what motivates an individual to behave in certain ways and the latter seeks to explain the process of these certain behaviours.

Content Theory

Companies largely in the public sector try to stimulate employees by offering financial rewards such as pay and bonuses. The scientific management theory by F.W Taylor attempted to find the best and most efficient way to work. He suggested that workers needed money as motivation to raise productivity. He believed that the most productive worker should get a higher financial reward.

Currys provided its employee's with a competitive basic wage along with a London weighting allowance. While bonuses can be remunerate according to the quantity they produced or in relation to tertiary sector jobs, the amount of sales, insurance and finance they sold once the 24% target as a store is surpassed.

Unfortunately, Huczynski and Buchanan showed the limitation of Taylor's study and expressed that workers were subject to increased monotonous work, which has excluded a range of extrinsic factors which motivate employees.

The working environment in most retail companies are sales driven. Douglas McGregor declared 2 sets of management assumptions either a theory X or theory Y notion. Under theory X; employees are perceived to be there due to monetary reasons, parallel to Taylor theory, leading to an authoritarian style of leadership ensuing constant supervision, lack of opportunities for responsibility and training. On the other hand, theory Y assumes that employees looking for job satisfaction through empowerment and allowing them to contribute to decision making.

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Mullins pointed out that employees are not just motivated by money alone. The expression of Mayo's 'Hawthorne Effect' was the experiment on the working conditions and the level of productivity, which saw varying outcomes from the different variables. It was concluded that workers wanted to be acknowledged as being part of the team. He argued that the groups at work were a greater influence to the behaviour and motivation of the individual than that of pay and working conditions. Buelens et al criticised Mayo for his over-reliance on social factors to motivate employees.

Although Mayo stressed the importance of belonging, Maslow put forward a model where individual needs were met by a bottom-to-top hierarchy behaviour; he suggested that basic needs must be satisfied before higher level needs were pursued.

Alderfer, influenced by Maslow's work, condensed the hierarchy into his ERG theory; Existence (Maslow's lower needs), Relatedness (belonging and esteem-needs), and Growth (self-esteem and self-actualisation needs), which can be pursued simultaneously. It was labelled the regression theory, because he believed that if individuals did not achieve the required goals they would put more effort into the need to achieve the higher rewards.

Whilst Mayo and Maslow placed working conditions at the bottom-end of the scale. A good environment should be sorted out first cited by Mullins refer to Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory that the 'hygiene' factors were similarly in place to avoid dissatisfaction, which included: salary, job security, working conditions, level and quality of supervision, company policy and administration, interpersonal relations. Whilst 'motivators' gave rise to superior performance and effort, nonetheless, if these were not met it did not cause dissatisfaction rather a lack of satisfaction, which included: sense of achievement, recognition, responsibility, nature of work, personal growth and advancement.

Cited by Wiley refer to Maidani's criticism of Herzberg's theory as a broad consideration of employee needs, as salary, recognition and responsibility have overlapped each other both as motivators and as hygiene factors. Wiley's review of employee motivation surveys also made it clear that money was a motivator rather than a hygiene factor.

However, Mullins claims that not gaining any motivating factors will reduce the level of motivation to progress because "Herzberg has emphasised the importance to the 'quality of work life'. He advocates the restructuring of jobs to give a greater emphasis to the motivating factors at work, to make jobs, more interesting and to satisfy higher level needs." Tietjen and Myers remarks that 'motivators cause positive job attitudes because they satisfy the worker's need for self actualisation'.

Cited by Buelens et al, refer to David McClelland's need for achievement (nAch) from challenging goals, responsibility, and success. Herzberg's motivators can be linked to achievement-motivated individuals who set goals (i.e. bonus targets) in a bid to get results of achievement to satisfy their needs. The need for accomplishments can enhance employees' self-esteem to work towards higher order needs of business.

The other acquired needs was the need for power (nPow) of desire to control and influence others; and the need for affiliation (nAff) through social relationships with others. Using the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to measure individual motivation.

Process Theory

Low morale can have a domino effect on the motivation and performance of a worker which can be viewed by using process theories. This can be divided into expectancy and equity theories.

The former, cited by Huczynski and Buchanan refer to Victor Vroom explanation that employee motivation depends on what the individual expects as the result of his contributions towards their needs. His theory is based on 3 notions:

  • Valence - the strength of the outcome
  • Instrumentality - the given level of performance can lead to certain outcomes/rewards
  • Expectancy - that high level of effort will only be exerted if the employee's expectations are fulfilled as a result.

Mullins stated that the theory is the "idea that people prefer certain outcomes from their behaviour over others. They anticipate feelings of satisfaction should be preferred outcome be achieved."

Vroom's theory can be useful to my studies because what you put into achieving bonuses is what you should expect as the outcome. Fr example, as an employee at Currys I would set myself the goal to achieve the bonuses that are available by selling as much products, insurance and finance to customers, where, I would expect high rewards for my extra efforts.

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Cited by Mullins refer to Porter and Lawler's expectancy model, which suggested further, that exerting more effort would not automatically increase productivity unless they had the necessary skills or awareness to lead to high performance. Buckingham argues that managers should use the strengths of their employees to promote high performance.

The latter, equity theory by Adams claims that employees scrutinise how fair they are treated amongst others, in their efforts and rewards, because perceived inequity is likely to result in low morale.

The view of equity or inequity indicates that employees make judgements on the merit or valence of a reward. Neck and Bedeian highlighted the 'Matthew Effect' where individuals contribute the most to an effort but do not receive the credit deserved. The individual or group will not find the outcome appealing, consequently, the reward or bonus will not be utilised.

Creelman surveyed 250 companies on pay, which showed that competence-based pay beats performance-related pay. Recently, Milne illustrated that companies should reward employees who have desired behaviour, as the employees with undesirable behaviour towards the aim of the company should not halt the rewards that are available to enthused employee since it can have a negative impact on employee motivation.

Atchison believed that rewarding employees specifically by individually rewarding performance to motivate rather than the burden of others not performing as well.

Primary Research

I undertook a structured interview with my regional manager at Currys and he had the following responses to my questions.

The interview with the manager revealed that intrinsically they attempt to motivate employees by praising and showing appreciation for good work; treating them with respect; recognition through an employee of the month award; the sense of being part of the team by organising team-building events; also, delegating responsibility when it is appropriate.

Extrinsically. He answered with common business tools such as pay and bonuses but also cost effective means through scratch cards and lottery tickets if anyone sold discontinued products or sold any insurance or finance.

Upon the question: "In the last 12 months, how many times has the team achieved bonuses?" Although he was adamant to reply because of the sensitivity of the answer, he did respond by stating that "Currys is at a stage of transition and are continually trying to improve employee motivation through various mediums" and have up coming appraisals to assess individual performance, which he indicated could result pay rises for excellent performers.

From the interview it seems Currys do attempt to motivate through intrinsic and extrinsic incentives. However, the results from the questionnaire appear to show a wider implication.

I designed a questionnaire to be answered by a representative sample of the 15 sales colleagues to uncover their motivation levels working at Currys.

Employees, although 60% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the companies procedure, were on average satisfied with their job security, the physical working environment and the hours worked each week, showing evidence that Herzberg's 'hygiene' factors were being met.

A method exploited by companies s pay, 60% were satisfied, contradictory, to the questions regarding bonuses which clearly shows 60% of very dissatisfied employees with the connection between bonuses and performance, which can be considered inequitable. Along with 80% of very dissatisfied employees with the recognition of work accomplished, which suggests that employees do not feel valued, thus, do not work harder because they feel their efforts or competence are not recognised.

These results suggest, from a process point of view, the employees' disengagement of reaching bonuses because of the imbalance of effort and reward. As staff are uninspired by the process of gaining bonuses, when they believe that their performance will not result in reward. Suggesting a perceived fairness or inequity with bonuses.

Although managers at Currys try to use bonuses as an incentive to increase productivity and motivation, it has actually caused the opposite. Instead, as Pfeffer mentioned that dependence on pay to motivate can come at the expense of greater motivators for motivation. Since, research shows that intrinsic factors are wanted by the employees.

Again Milne approach is valuable here, as she found a positive affect on motivation of reward and recognition in improving work performance and interests with goals of the company. Furthermore, she identified team-based incentives as problematic if designed ineffectively, apparently at Currys.

Currys has successfully assembled an excellent workforce who feels part of the team, as Mayo argued, with 66% feeling very satisfied with their relationships with co-workers.

However, the relationship(s) with the management team seems to suggest otherwise, reflecting s theory X assumption of management at Currys, resulting in employees unable to express their opinions to their superiors of work-related problems, since, needs can only be identified if employees can talk to their managers. Supported by Herzberg who argued that improving 'hygiene' factors only, cannot improve motivation unless 'motivators' are identified.

93% of the people I questioned believed they were unable to learn any new skills, along with 60% stating that Currys do not support them in utilising their abilities.

Although money and/or bonuses are an important factor when managing a company. My finding, however, show that these employees currently at Currys are not motivated which Herzberg clearly states in his 'motivators'.

However, Jerome and Kleiner declared that companies were becoming more people-orientated and not solely based on gaining profits, investing in people through training, which Currys clearly needs to implement.

Currys' work activities showed that 10 employees had mixed feelings as they were neither satisfied or dissatisfied with their workload but showed that intrinsic motivator's from their job was discouraging.

The opportunity to exercise responsibility can be a strong motivator, along with advancement and participation in decision making. However, employees do not feel that these chances are available which could be a factor causing low morale in the team as well.

It does seem that employees need to achieve as McClelland demonstrated, as results show that individuals want to advance and take on responsibility rather than the need for extrinsic benefits because they are at present not satisfied. Employees, also, feel that managers do indeed adopt a theory X approach with 87% of employees dissatisfied or worse with the degree of supervision during work.

My research at Currys suggests that employees need autonomy as it seems to be the case that repetitive tasks has led to reduced motivation with 14 employees responding either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Boots use "...self-development...recognition of good work and the sense of achievement that workers can enjoy in their jobs." Shanks argued that managers need to have a combination of factors to motivate employees, not just one type of extrinsic or intrinsic reward.

Herzberg implies that higher order needs along with good working conditions; supervision and other 'hygiene' factors can result in satisfaction and greater motivation to do work. Given that, Currys are in the tertiary industry, employees who are well motivated will provide a better level of customer service, leading to higher rates of employee retention, as well as retention of customers.

Responses from the first open-question show that Maslow's theory does not apply to employees at Currys' since more than one stage would need to be fulfilled by the company because they would expect at least the lower order needs to be met at the beginning of their employment such as social, safety and physiological needs.

Answers to question 2 showed that staff at Currys did not know how bonuses were achieved, because it will not be as effective if they do not understand how the bonus scheme work.

It shows that employees want more training, Sahinidis' and Bouris's approach is valuable if the employees perceive training to be important, since, it can have a positive impact on their motivation.

It shows from research that employees do not feel empowered as they feel that they are frequently supervised and the job is repetitive without any autonomy. From looking at the employees' reaction to the question on how Currys could motivate employees, the predominant answer of more diversity, training and job prospects. The need for responsibility and advancement can be met through empowerment as suggested by Kappelman and Richards. Scott-Ladd et al explained that employee value autonomy, evident at Currys, as a means for improving work effort, than the benefits it brings in terms of rewards.

Hopkins contributed usefully in resolving the situation as four out of five methods were needed at Currys, including employee recognition, continuing education, employee meetings and empowerment, with social gatherings were met.

The primary research has shown that these barriers identified in the previous theories have caused a negative reaction on employee morale as they underrate the benefits of bonus rewards. However, comparing the literature to the primary research gathered seemed to show that the effectiveness of current motivational practises, with the expectations of the managers and the employees, are not balanced, with results illustrate a high dissatisfaction rate within the workforce.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In conclusion, the importance of motivation to Currys is colossal. Motivating employees is difficult and comprehensive and can be supported with the concept covered within this literature review.

Given the data obtained, indicates that the main factors which affected the employee's motivation were a range of the higher order needs from the content theories, including the lack of recognition for their efforts, promotional prospects and variation in the job itself were important in motivating valuable human resources at Currys because it can have a much greater value to them than the financial reward itself. Since, it has inevitably deterred employees to achieve bonuses because of the inequity (Adams) and the need for intrinsic benefits (Herzberg) associated with their efforts as a sales-colleague, since there is evidence that pay (Taylor), Herzberg's 'hygiene' factors, and social work interaction (Mayo) are satisfactory.

However, it can be said Herzberg's theory sis the most relevant because his 'motivators' are what employees at Currys require and when intrinsic outcomes have been gained the extrinsic outcomes should lead to this Currys store to achieve its potential bonus target.

Improving the morale and competence of the employees overall could be done by management supporting opportunities for development of employee skills and abilities by simply training employees in the different areas of the store to provide diversity in their job-role, empowering employees through participation in decision-making and recognising employee performance.

This one-size-fits-all bonus scheme does not seem to reward performance which has demoralised staff. Tailoring a reward scheme which is individually based rather than subject to the whole team could, in this case, to improve employee motivation towards targets if employees know that their efforts will be recognised, to overcome needless frustrations, to find a balance between the employee's intrinsic-extrinsic interests and Currys' success in meeting its own aims and objectives. Therefore, Currys should do more to motivate people by producing different incentives.