Motivation among Construction workers in Cyprus

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This assignment serves as a proposal for the dissertation requirements and the associated research to be carried out. The dissertation paper will focus on individual development in terms of motivation. More specifically, it will investigate the levels of motivation of the employees in the Construction industry of Cyprus, using Maslow's Needs Hierarchy as its theoretical base. The main research question to be addressed is "What is the degree of satisfaction at each level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs among the Construction Industry workers in Cyprus?"

The particular industry, throughout the world and in Cyprus, faces a series of problems (Yankov & Kleiner, 2001). Some of the problems include communication and coordination problems. Also, productivity is observed to be relatively low when compared with other sectors, and this has a direct effect on inflating costs and organisational inefficiency. Parkin et al. (2009) states that motivation is an important factor influencing productivity and that various forms of rewards can stimulate motivation. The particular research aims to determine the degree of satisfaction and the importance of each level of Maslow's Hierarchy for workers. This will contribute to the better understanding of employee motivation by managers and thus help in the designing of appropriate reward systems that will have a significant impact on increasing employee motivation.

The inspiration for conducting such research came from the author's personal interest on the specific industry and topic, after working as a construction site manager for some time and studying various motivation theories through the current course. Additionally, no research has been conducted on the specific industry on the island until now. All these make the proposed research interesting and important since it will introduce some understanding on the motivation levels of the workers and it will help the rapidly developing construction industry of Cyprus to become more cost effective through adopting more suitable management practises.

The following sections introduce the key literature on the topic and the proposed methodology to be used. Also, some details are given on the problems to be addressed, the context of the study, the planned timeframe and the anticipated contributions of this research to theory, knowledge and practise.

Review of Key Literature

Motivation and Content Theories

Motivation can be defined as "the cognitive, decision-making process through which goal-directed behaviour is initiated, energized, and directed and maintained" (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004, p.244). Content Theories of motivation focus on the goals to which humans aim to achieve (Mullins, 2007, p.256). One of the earliest content theories is the needs hierarchy by Abraham Maslow (1943). Other content theories followed Maslow's work, such as Alderfer's ERG model and Herzberg's Two Factor theory, but the Hierarchy of Needs is the cornerstone theory on individual development and motivation.

Since motivation is a determinant of behaviour and performance, content theories such as the work of Maslow aim to provide the contextual framework for understanding the various motives, and thus using the information to influence performance (Parkin, et al, 2009). The main criticism of such theories is that they lack robust empirical support, especially Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Roberts, 1982). Additionally, there is a fundamental problem in applying them in organisational settings since most of the above theories concentrate on the individual and so downgrade social interaction, culture and learning (Trigg, 2004). Nevertheless, content theories are extensively used by managers as a framework for dealing with their employees.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in brief

Dr. Maslow started his study on the hierarchy of human needs when he became interested to find out why two of his professors were so different from the rest (Maslow, 1975). Unlike previous researchers, he synthesised a wide body of research and adopted a holistic approach on studying human motivation (Francis & Kritsonis, 2006). So he proposed the hierarchy of needs, consisting of five parameters, with the top level being Self-Actualisation. The top level is discussed in further detail in the next section. The pyramid below illustrates the five needs in the order of their priority.

Source: Shoura & Singh, 1998

Maslow (1943) briefly describes the five parameters as follows:

Physiological Needs: these are the starting point for motivation and they are also called physiological needs. They include survival needs such as food, water and sleep.

Safety Needs: after fulfilling the survival needs, one needs to secure his body and his job. Also, there is the need to protect his property and family.

Belonging Needs: the need to belong to a social group, to love and being loved and fellowship with others.

Esteem Needs: the need for recognition, achievement and independence. The need for high self-evaluation based on capability and the respect of others.

Self-Actualization Needs: the advancement of the individual and humanity through elevating spirituality, true perception and growth.

Lingard and Rowlinson (2005) explain that individuals progress up the pyramid in a systematic manner. In other words, once the lower need has been satisfied, it is no longer a motivator and the next parameter becomes the primary motivator. This is known as the concept of satisfaction-progression process. Moreover, Mullins (2007) adds that there exists a decreasing degree of satisfaction at each level. So as lower needs become more satisfied, higher level needs start to emerge. Finally, Maslow (1943) explains that there are exceptions, where the hierarchy is not necessarily in the proposed order for them. Examples of such exceptions include people in chronic unemployment who may lose interest in higher level needs because they seek satisfaction from low level needs.

Empirical Studies and Criticism of the Hierarchy

Maslow's theory served as the theoretical basis for numerous research projects (Shoura & Singh, 1998). Some studies found Maslow's theory to be valid when empirically tested, while others criticised it for not applying to non-western cultures and other classes than the middle class. Some of the studies that confirmed the theory include the study measuring motivation levels in Venezuela by Socorro and Ramirez (1986) and in USA by Hankins and Clark (1989). In addition, a study on personality-factor tendencies in Israel by Megen (1985) found that the tendencies were highly consistent with Maslow's Self-actualization characteristics. Finally, Lester et al (1983) found that the levels of satisfaction of the parameters were related to measures of neuroticism, therefore making Maslow's theory credible.

Recent studies by Parkin et al (2009) and Kazaz and Ulubeyli (2007) found that the decreasing degree of satisfaction of the parameters was not valid for construction workers in Turkey. They claim that higher needs appeared more accomplished than lower level needs, and that extrinsic rewards (monetary) were the main motivators. Moreover, some theoretical criticism suggests that Maslow's methodology was not scientifically appropriate and that the sample he used was extremely exclusive (Trigg, 2004). Also, various authors, including Alderfer, challenged the satisfaction-progression hypothesis, saying that any one deficiency can exist along another one. Finally, Buchanan and Huczynski (2004) and Maher (2002) state that the definition of Self-actualization is too vague and leads to empirical problems, and that the hierarchy cannot fully interpret behaviour as it lacks aspects of evolution, learning, culture and social interaction.

Self-Development Potential

Total Self-Development, or Self-actualization, drives humans to "expand awareness, beyond common materialistic knowledge, into higher consciousness levels of existence" (Shoura & Singh, 1998). This parameter can be linked with Total Quality Management practises in the sense that if a person is on its pursuit it means that he will extend his potential, become more operational and effective. Furthermore, the pursuit of self-actualization is responsible for the expansion of the mind, which can be very useful for organisations. This is because such employees strive to acquire understanding beyond common, available knowledge, and this can translate into human capital (Singh, 1996).

Maslow (1943) states that self-actualizing people develop Being Values. These are the ultimate values that "cannot be reduced to anything more ultimate" (Maslow, 1975). Despite the fact that they develop during the final parameter, they still behave like needs- that's why they are called metaneeds (Goble, 2004). Failure to fulfil such metaneeds leads to the "sickness of the soul", also known as metapathology. On the other hand, if such needs are fulfilled, then the individual enjoys life the most, with vivid experiences and is able to see symbolism in various aspects. Of course, this parameter is also an on-going process, where the individual goes back and forth from the previous parameter (Maslow, 1975).

Motivation, Productivity and Work

Many authors stress that motivation levels can affect productivity to a great extend (Parkin et al, 2009; Mullins, 2007). Yankov and Kleiner (2001) add that by applying motivation theories on organisational context can help managers understand the levels of motivation for employees and design systems for the optimization of human resources in the production. Such systems can include both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, depending on the employees' indicated deficiencies.

The research proposed by this essay will attempt to define the motivation parameters fulfilment using Maslow's Hierarchy of need. This will give insights to managers in the specific industry on the deficiencies of the workforce. Therefore this data will assist in the development of suitable reward systems that will cover the suggested deficiencies and increase productivity through increased motivation.

Why use Maslow and not any other Content theory?

The proposed research will utilize Maslow's theory because it is the most incorporated theory in the Business world (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004). Management fashions such as TQM, BPR and job enrichment integrate Maslow's ideas for motivation since it has a broad coverage. Moreover, it is the only theory with such depth and close ties with psychology, which is one of the researcher's personal interests.

Proposed Methodology

Research Questions

What methodology must be developed for suitably assessing the motivation parameters of employees in the Construction Industry of Cyprus?

What is the degree of satisfaction at each parameter of Maslow's Needs Hierarchy among workers in the Construction Industry of Cyprus?

How can managers use the findings to increase motivation levels, and thus productivity?

Methodology related Questions

What is a sufficient sample?

How errors will be limited and reliability will be ensured?

Approach, Target Group and Sample Sufficiency

The target group for the specific research are the low ranking workers on the construction sites to be visited. These include builders, plumbers, electricians and any other technician that does not hold a managerial position. By including all the type of employees working in the Construction Industry, a holistic approach of motivation parameters will be retrieved for the whole industry. The collection of data will be obtained through personal survey by the researcher, with the uses of a quantitative questionnaire.

Since the actual meaning of a dissertation is a small scale research, a sample of 50 to 70 responders should be sufficient, provided that the majority of those asked will take part in the research. As section 4 explains, responders will be randomly selected, provided that they hold a low ranking position, and the sites to be visited will be both random and specific.

The questionnaire intends to include questions that cover the 5 motivational parameters, in order to be able to develop a quantitative assessment for each responder at each parameter. Each parameter will be covered by more than one question. The response to questions will be measured using a Likert Scale from 1 to 7, with 1 representing total disagreement and 7 total agreement. Additionally, the responder will be asked to respond to the same questions in terms of personal importance.

Triangulation of Data

The Triangulation theory enables researchers to assess and complete hypotheses (Denzin, 1978). Based on this, the questionnaire will include multiple questions studying the same variable, and also questions will be randomized to check whether responses to similar questions are matched.

Evaluation Methods

For data evaluation, some terminology and formulas are adopted from Shoura and Singh (1998). This also helps in cross reference compatibility.

Firstly, all the questions will be grouped according to the parameter they test, and the mean value of each responder for all questions will be calculated (Quality Index numerical parameter). Then, all the QIs will be averaged to find the group QI. QI is helpful to see the instant perception of questions by responders. The same procedure will be done for the responses of the same questions for personal importance. This will be named Relevance Factor (RF).

Moreover, QI will be divided by RF, and with using a "convenience factor" multiplication (k), it will produce a value between 1 and 100 (Scaled QI). This will serve as an additional numerical parameter for assessment. To illustrate the use of SQI, let's say that RF is high. This produces a low SQI that shows that attention must be placed on the specific parameter. Finally, regarding the central tendency theorem, the standard deviation of QI, RF and SQI will be calculated to see question responses fluctuated around the average. Where central tendency is observed, it is important to analyse the data since important conclusions can be drawn. The appendix contains the statistical formulas.

Effectiveness of Proposed Methodology and Alternative methods availability

The proposed methodology is expected to be effective since it appears to be rational and triangulated. In addition, the work of Shoura and Singh (1998) helped in the final formulation. A similar version was tested in Honolulu and the results were credible. This methodology can be made more effective by relating the results with demographics, where especially age is very important in the analysis of Self-Actualization. Unfortunately, integrating such an analysis will exceed the length of such a small research project.

Alternative methods of assessing motivation parameters include recorded interviews with employees or with managers that lay down their views about their staff. However, this takes a qualitative data form which requires a more complex analysis. So a quantitative data collection is preferred, where responses are homogeneous and easier to analyse. Some other researchers chose to send their questionnaires through email or by post. The specific researcher prefers to be involved personally in the data collection to make sure that there is complete understanding and everything goes as planned.

Ethical Considerations and Practical Considerations

It is important to state once again that this research is intended to be of a small scale; therefore no generalizations can be made using its findings. Nonetheless, it can be used as a reference on future research. Moreover, subjects will be fully explained of the requirements and be assured that the research will remain anonymous and will not affect their job. This information will be printed on the questionnaire and further stressed by the researcher. Further considerations on ethics include the fact that participation is voluntary and that the completed questionnaires will not be shown to anyone. Finally, the supervisor will sign a statement confirming the purpose of the research and the results will be shown to managers whose employees participated.

For the timeframe and the feasibility issues of the research see Section 4.

Context, Timeframe and feasibility

Context of Study

The researcher plans to distribute the questionnaires in construction sites in the 4 main provinces in Cyprus - Larnaca, Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos. Each province consists of one major city and a number of small villages around it. The sites to be visited include some specific and random. The specific sites are those known through acquaintances made during working experience. The criteria for selecting the random sites will be their convenient location and the number of workers on the site. The questionnaire will be distributed randomly to low ranking employees that are willing to participate in the research.

In regards to the construction industry of Cyprus, it is a rapidly developing industry producing around 20% of the Republic's GDP (CYSTAT, 2010). The particular industry also serves as a significant foreign currency earner, since properties are "exported" mainly to residents from the UK and Russia. The workers on the sites can be described as low skilled labour with low educational qualifications, mainly of eastern European nationalities. The specific research will only target these technicians and will exclude any qualified engineers and high ranking staff since most of them occupy a managerial position. Finally, it is observed that most firms in the industry do not have an HRM department. So any reward schemes are designed by CEO's who are not specialized in the field, especially in terms of motivation.


The time-line of the research is designed in advance. All tasks are given generous time and the plan aims to finish the whole project 2 weeks before the deadline. These actions allow for any unexpected events that may occur and disturb some tasks. The calendar in the Appendix shows the timeline in detail. Briefly, the first literature review will start on the 21 of March and last for 3 weeks. Then the questionnaire will be designed using one week and in the next two weeks, data will be collected by visiting the various sites and handing out the questionnaires. On the 1st of June, a deeper literature review will take place for 3 weeks and then the data will be recorded and analysed. After analysing the data, one week will be dedicated to studying literature and relating to results. The final task is to write the dissertation, and this will take 4 weeks.


The weeks that data will be collected are appropriate since they do not involve any holidays and workers are expected to be on the site. Also, it is a good time for the researcher since the weeks do not collide with exams or any other obligations. Finally, a friend acting as a translator is available at that specific time.

Furthermore, some of the site managers were informed about the research on their staff, and are happy to collaborate. Some other conditions that need to be met to ensure the smooth running of the research include:

A translator will accompany the researcher to ensure that the subjects fully understand the questions and the requirements (the translator is a friend of the researcher, speaking Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish, that has confirmed that he will participate)

The researcher will be present to provide clarifications and instructions

The questions have to be designed so that the most illiterate person can understand them

Identification of the Problems to be addressed

The suggested research will address the problem between employees' motivation and productivity, by examining the motivation parameter fulfilment on Maslow's Needs Hierarchy. Through this, other problems will also be addressed. These include the lack of empirical data on the motivation levels of the workers in the specific industry that can be used by managers in order to design policies that stimulate motivation. Finally, the results can be used to find out whether contemporary reward schemes address the needs of workers or they are irrelevant and ineffective.

Research Contributions

Similar studies on motivation claim that they contributed both in theory and practice. Kazaz and Ulubeyli (2007) suggest that their study contributed to the enhancement of the validity of Maslow's Theory but also indicated that some concepts are not completely valid. Furthermore, Parkin et al, (2009) and Shoura and Singh (1998) suggest that they provided vital insights to managers in the specific industries that will contribute to the fine-tuning of Human Resources.

The specific study will also contribute to theory, in the sense that it will try to test the validity of Maslow's theory in a small island society and on a lower societal class than the middle class. Additionally, it aims to add to the knowledge on the motivation levels of employees in the Construction Industry of Cyprus, which may act as an inspiration for future research. Finally, it aims to help management practice in an industry where HR expertise is limited and reward schemes are designed randomly, based on instinct and experience.