Motivation factors of the Workplace in Thailand


This proposal paper will attempt to discuss the view and application of what effects motivation has in the low hierarchical or flat organization workplaces for the firms or companies doing business in Thailand; small organizations that have less than 50 staffs fit this description. What are the factors that motivate the employee to succeed, is it money, job promotions, perks? Once the findings have been reached, would they be able to apply to similar organizations?

With today's fragile economic situations along with fierce competitions in virtually all market places, small size companies need to be able to compete and respond to the ever changing environment in a much faster pace. To be able to compete effectively, companies need to cut through "Red Tapes" or bypassing unnecessary bureaucracy and adapt quickly to the ever changing surroundings in the business environment. In Thailand, there are no differences when it comes to compete and compete fiercely - they do. The aim of this proposal is to focus its findings especially on small multinational companies doing business in Thailand. The reason being that multinational companies who are conducting business in Thailand, similar to their subsidiaries in other countries, would like to see their returns on investment and realize their profits on a yearly basis and expecting growth every single year followings. Efficiency is one of the keys for multinational companies to compete effectively. This proposal will also address how motivation theories are being used to in these organizations where vertical promotions are virtual non-existence. No corporate ladders to climb for most employees. If this fact does not exist, then what motivate employees? The study will focus on the research theories based on Herzberg's Motivation Theory that he and his colleagues wrote about motivation 50 years ago. The study will attempt to design questionnaires to address the question on Hygiene factors as well as the others motivation factors which will be hypothesized on their actual application in the work place in Thailand. One of the hypotheses will focus on monetary compensation factor that it is or it is not the major influence in motivation for such a flat or low level hierarchy organizations [Prendergast, 2002].

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This study will based in Thailand small size multinational companies where there are approximately three levels of the hierarchy and there are less than 50 people working full time. For the purpose of the study, 5 multinational companies will be chosen. Main criteria are: the firm needs to be multinational company; they employ less than 50 staffs, and that they have no more than three functioning levels in hierarchy for five years. Moreover, 95% of the employees must be Thai nationals. To solidify the study, companies need to be operating in Thailand for no less than 5 years and that the organizational structure must fits the criteria of equal to or less than three levels.

Major objective

Productivity, profitability, efficiency are just some of the key drivers that companies are expecting from their oversea staffs and enforce them firmly in order to survive. To be productive and efficient for small size multinational organizations, flatter and less hierarchical levels have been adopted. It cuts down decisions times and increases more action time which suit the small multinational companies' profiles. However, this efficiency also has its drawbacks when it comes to job promotion or others traditional motivational factors. With flatter organization, there are fewer ladders for employees to climb. Which posts another question that job promotion is a major key to motivate people in any organization?

The findings based on this study will help answer some of the questions General Managers, Human Resources Managers or just plain manager/supervisors in many small size multinational companies in Thailand. With that benefit in mind, managers will be able to manage their personnel more effectively, properly and with something to reference with. The findings, however, may offer other benefits to other organizations that themselves are a part of a large organization that job promotion within the organization is limited or do not exist; they can apply the findings to their own environment. Further a large size companies whose hierarchical are quite limited and/or job promotion are scarce, the findings based on this proposed study could benefits the management in those organizations as well.

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Many managers are seeking the answers to the question of "How to keep people motivated in today organization where good effective people are hard to find and retain". To both apply the motivation at the same time seeking retention, are the one of the human resource organization goals. To get some of these answers, questionnaires based on the Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESS) will be used. This survey is being used by many firms. However, there are many version of ESS. The ESS was first documented by "The National Business Research Institute" or NBRI [NBRI, 1982]. It is used to gauge the satisfaction of the job of the employee has with the current company, compensation, recognition, relationship, environment, etc [Prendergast, 2002]. The questionnaires in this study will be designed to cover many areas in the organization as possible in an attempt to derive at the answers about what caused motivation and the effect it has to the organization. How would the managers in similar organizations benefit from the findings? The answer lies in the fact that there are many similar structure of organization although do not engaging in the same business as the firm chosen, however, with the background of the Thai people in this study, the author wish that it can be applied beginning with the people in Thailand.

Another objective for this study is to touch on the fact that organization needs people who are dedicated, intelligence, diligence and productive to grow the company. Is he or she possessing the right backgrounds, has the right educations, does he or she has the proper attitude toward the company, the workplace and the culture? Of course brief interview with any potential candidate for any job cannot determine the candidate is the right for the job. Job probation concept was designed to filter out the wrong choice employees. Although it is not in the scope of this proposed research, the fact remains that you need to motivate these people first and try to retain the ones the firms want to keep; hoping that might be able to somehow bring those qualities out of the potential candidates [Herzberg, 1987].


The study in this paper will be utilizing part of Frederick Herzberg the Hygiene Factor Theory of Motivation as part of the design of the questionnaire. The Survey questions (see sample in Appendix I) are specifically designed to fit the size of the organization and to reflect upon the needs to find out on whether or not the employees are satisfied with their jobs in general and will also use the results to derive what are the motivation factors the employees in the small, low hierarchical organizations have in common. This will also present an opportunity if the findings can also be applied to other similar in the requirements organizations. Further, based upon the Hygiene Factor of Herzberg motivational theory, the findings will also either to reinforce or challenge his theory? With the results obtained, although limited in size proposed at presence, it does not mean that the study cannot be extended to further the study in the future. The assumption is that mainly the Motivation is the Independent variable. With the right kind of motivation applied, productivities increase. The job itself or the results, the growth of the company becomes Dependent variable.

Limitations of the Research

This research proposal is focus on small size, multinational companies who has approximately three levels in the current organization that must be in functioning order for the last 5 years. The sample size is also the limitation in this study since the proposed study call for small size companies that has approximately 50 employees or less. This proposal is also limit to five companies. The total number of employees is 250 employees in approximation. Due to the fact that some of the nature of the companies chosen which contained field personnel who might not be available for the time of the questionnaires is being distributed, hard copies will be used in combination with emails to the individuals. The consolidation of the data will be collected after two weeks of distribution and will be using SPSS Regression method to help calculate the results in quantitative presentation.

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In order to get the individuals of these companies cooperate with the study, a formal letter will be written and addressed to the General Managers and/or Human Resources Managers of each firms asking permissions to conduct a survey for research study on what motivation has on their employees. The results of the findings will be made available for the management in the firms to conduct further studies if chosen.

Significant of the study

The study is design to study what motivation factors employees have in the low hierarchical organization taking into consideration that there are virtually a lesser amount of corporate ladders to climb, in the traditional sense, comparing to the organizations of old. There are numbers of similar size of these companies conducting their businesses in Thailand and more so in the neighboring countries that may benefits from this paper once the findings are presented. In addition to the lesser levels in the current organizations, there are other factors that companies need to prepare themselves in competing equally with others. Companies of this size pride themselves to be lean and effective organizations; also the nature of the multinational companies forces them to be extra efficient while conducting business in other countries. Returns on Investment (ROI) are always on the Senior Management minds, motivating people caused them to be productive, hence generate more profits. One of the requirements that 95% of the employees in each companies need to be Thai nationals, this will present clearer pictures of the motivation factors. One of the assumptions that one of more of the management of these firms is expatriates running the businesses in Thailand. However, due to the limitation of the study that the proposal called for five companies to be conducted, expatriates managers for these firms are not required. Even though this fact will help see the contrast when comparing to Thai nationals management team, this is not a major requirements in this study. Educational backgrounds of the individual employees are not the major factors since some of these firms possess field personnel. However, this is significant since the employees at this level have even less corporate ladders to climb, hence, job promotions with title and responsibilities may not be adequately suit their culture norms for Thai workers. The study will then attempt to focus also that the monetary rewards which will be part of the questionnaires used in the surveys. Once concluded, the findings will be made available to the firms that give permission to conduct the study so they may benefits from the findings. In most of the multinational companies should already have some sort of employee study surveys, however, the one directly related to what effect motivation has to the employees in the low hierarchical organizations may be scarce.

Literature Review

The paper used in this study was written by Nigel Bassett-Jones, Oxford Brookes Business School, Oxford, UK and Geoffrey C. Lloyd, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka. The paper was published in the Journal of Management Development in 2005. The paper seeks to examine the issue of Herzberg's two-factor motivation theory which will be used as reference theory in this paper.

The paper referred to the challenges in today organization factors such as downsizing led ways to focus on employee empowerment [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005]. Bassett-Jones's paper raised the question about the problem to motivate people to contribute ideas within the context of work-based suggestion schemes [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005]. With companies experiencing overwhelming changes after World War II, hence the introduction of globalization and technological development has prompted the innovation in technology and plethora of new ideas [Ilinitch et. al, 1996]. Parolini's work in 1999 has also been cited by Bassett-Jones [2005] that these ongoing progresses prompted workforces to continue to improve products, systems and processes to compete fairly.

To support Herzberg's view in financial rewards can be viewed negatively, citation by Hiltrop (1995) was used to stress that psychological contract by employers hinder employment continuity and opportunities for career progression [Bassett-Jones, et. al, 2005]. This finding by Hiltrop (1995) will be used as part of the study in this paper to determine whether or not monetary rewards are not the motivation factor in the low hierarchical organization in Thailand. This paper based on the survey results obtained, study the statement made in Bassett-Jones (2005) paper cited Hiltrop (1995) that based on their contentious proposition, money does not motivate [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005].

Bassett-Jones's [Bassett-Jones, et. al, 2005] also cited Taylorism in their paper that basically people are lazy and work-shy and stimulation to motivate them comes externally. The authors also cited Hawthorn findings that people are motivate to work well for its own sake, as well as for the social and monetary benefits they received, and this is internally stimulated [Bassett-Jones, et. al, 2005]. In this paper will also use these two findings as based to study further to conclude its findings. Many theorists had been cited by Bassett-Jones in her paper such as McClelland, Locke, Vroom, and Alderfer. Unfortunately, this paper will omit their findings due to the constrained of this paper and its scopes. This paper will use some of Peter and Waterman (1982) work on empowerment and team work as part of the proof of this paper. Bassett-Jones (2005) cited that expectancy theory as well as equity, goal setting and reinforcement resulted in the development of a simple model of motivation alignment [Locke, 1978]. Important suggestions that once identified and objectives are defined, rewards can be determined next to both serve the organization objectives and satisfied employees [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005]. On the other hand Herzberg axiom stated that inadequate financial reward can demotivate and money [Behling et. al, 1968] is yet another hygiene factor that could cause dissatisfaction [Herzberg et. al, 1959]. To stress this point further, Herzberg (1959) stated that an improvement in one or more of a range of factors including pay, supervision and prospects for promotion would result in a move towards increased satisfaction, whilst a deterioration would prompt a move in the opposite direction; dissatisfaction was a result of an absence of factors giving rise to satisfaction [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005]. Sense of achievement, recognition and work itself will be the key focus.

Bassett-Jones (2005) wrote that Herzberg suggested that motivation is like self-charging battery and that employees become motivated themselves. Energy or desire must come from within and that motivation, by Herzberg definition, is internally generated not externally stimulated by incentives [Prendergast, 2002]. Most importantly the statement suggested that individuals do not require incremental incentives to drive the internal engine [Prendergast, 2002]. Critical success factors came from and integration of training, appraisal system, promotion and redundancy policies [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005].

Bassett-Jones (2005) paper concluded that with Herzberg research result, whilst repetition produces frustration and alienation, it can also induce insight and understanding. These results from the research can used to curve the retention and skill dilution and use to improve morale and increase employee voice in the organization. The authors also cited the economy factors as well as socio-psychological perspective to human relations on cultural based and should be understood by management and unfortunately cannot be shared with the people at the bottom of the organization hierarchy [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005]. This paper also demonstrated that motivators associated with intrinsic drivers outweigh movers linked to financial inducement. Finally the question is raised that whether employee need for recognition has become a hygiene factor in the contemporary employment contest? [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005] Authors' answer is while some inducements can move some employees to contribute ideas; the numbers involved are significantly less than those who are motivated through a desire to overcome frustration and contribute to organizational success. The organization needs to aspire to generate high commitment culture is likely to prove elusive without Taylorist paradigm persistence. In addition, systems and processes that enable employees to work together to define problems and overcome frustrations will resulted in great organization [Bassett-Jones et. al, 2005].

Independent Variable

The independent in this study is Motivation. Motivation as described by Robbins and Judge (2009) is "The process that account for an individual's intensity, direction, and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal." To use this description in this study for small, multinational firms conducting businesses in Thailand where the organizational structures are quite flat, virtually no room for vertical promotion upward for employees. So to apply motivation by asking the employees to climb the corporate ladders is out of the equation entirely. The study will turn the focus upon an individual intensity of how focus the individual is about his or her career direction. The persistence to stay with the objectives to attain the set goal will also be part of the study to find the motivation factors [Locke, 1978].

Dependent variables

The work itself and the effectiveness of the workplace will be the dependent variables study toward the conclusion of this study based upon the theory related to the study, what motivation technique the author may suggest for management to use in their firms. The effectiveness of work itself can be further compare between the effectiveness within the group or individual (Robbins and Judge, 2009). What criteria used to define the level of the effectiveness in the workplace? Based upon effectiveness in a group, certain decision must be made. Obvious decision made would be group decision, the following question is that how could we gauge it accuracy in the decision made by the group. Would it lead to successfully completing the tasks on hand? To be effective, should the group be focus more on faster respond to any changes in the environment - would this in itself one of the motivation factors? Would an individual decision making in the small firm studied be widely used instead of group decision? Further, would group decision lead to creativity, perhaps yes since there are many others with ideas and if goals of organization are the ultimate goal [Locke, 1978]. With these dependents in mind, the study can draw a final framework based on the suggestions and nature of the findings based on the study. The main question that will be focus upon still be the question that 'what are the motivation factors of the people in the low hierarchical organization'? Any attempts made by the management to help motivate their people? The findings hopefully will benefits some of these questions. If they chose to implement them, are there other effective tools or methods to use, perhaps. Would similar structure type organization would benefits from this endeavor, may be.

Theory related to Independent Variable

There are many theories of Motivation; the author will focus using the Herzberg Motivation Theory and will also mention the Hygiene factors that may cause the dissatisfaction in the job itself, hence lead to employee dissatisfaction or de-motivation (Herzberg et. al, 1959) factors as the base theory to study this subject firm of a small retail market audit in Thailand.

Figure 1.

Based on Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESS), questionnaires will be designed based general on this with major focus to tailor to try to answer the question about motivation in such environment with requirement in these firms. Factors mentioned in Herzbergs's will be tailored to be the major part of the questionnaires; factors such as Company Policy, Supervision, work conditions [Stead, 1972], salary [Behling et. al, 1968], relationship with Boss [Brown, 1976] and peers alike are the key focus areas that the survey questionnaires were designed to focus on these factors. This by far represent only one side of the concepts by Herzberg, others such as Job Satisfactions, Recognition, Achievement, Advancement, Responsibility and job itself will also be tailored in the questionnaires. That raised yet another question, that for companies this size, would this be the motivation factors are used correctly or incorrectly used are they become the de-motivation factors?

Discussion of Dependent Variable

Other part of the questionnaires touch base on work conditions, salary of the employees in these firms, again are they motivation factors, purely, or could it become the opposite factors that drive down moral among the employees. From the results, are relationships with coworkers and the involvement of the manager or senior managers important? Do employees appreciated this [Brown, 1976]? The job itself is the motivation factors? The survey will be touched upon job stimulation and challenging in many areas. Are achievements and recognition for the job well done is the key motivators? Is job quality among the employees' frame of minds?

Relationship of the Independent variable to the Dependent variables

The relationships between the both the Hygiene factors and the Motivation factors can be summed up as correlated [Brenner et. al, 1971]. The hygiene factors such as work conditions [Stead, 1972], salary [Behling et. al, 1968] if not implemented carefully, and then these factors will become hinder to keep employees motivated. The relationship with the peers and the immediate supervisor are they in the acceptable range [Brown, 1976]? Would the educational backgrounds make them closer in the workplace, hence it is one of the factors?

Methods to use in this study

The questionnaires were designed to cover many areas such as job satisfaction, compensation, recognition, participation, management, relationship, working environment, the quality of work as the key indicators also on how engage the employees are with the organization. The questionnaires will be sending via emails to the individual employees once the permission letters have be approved by the firms. For those firms that contain field personnel which some time do not have access to computers or email accounts while on the roads, paper forms of questionnaires will be used in lieu of electronics email. The survey questions will base on the Likert system. In the questions about personal growth or invert looking of the employees, Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree and Strongly Disagree will be used to tally the results. Good, Average, Poor and Very Poor will be used in questions about environment. Questions pertaining to employee engagement will also be used. Do they think the company treating them right? Would they leave the organization the first chance they get? Engagement also referred to how the organization treats its employees. Does it care about basic conditions [Stead, 1972] of the organization; is it too hot or too cold. Do people get a chance to participated in the decision making process? This aims to measure the retention and the measure if some of the motivation factors are being applied.

As mentioned, the questionnaire will be distributed via email to all employees - providing that they have access to email. If not hard copies will be used. The employee has about two weeks to complete the questionnaires. The questionnaires are in Thai language as well as English language. Once the employees fill the questionnaires in which by the way was design based on the Likert system of scales. With the size of the organization, the study would expect 100% respond. When the tally is completed the results will be group into each category based on the responses. Approximately 250 responds will be expected and the Regression method of SPSS will be used to determine the results. Results will be representing in Microsoft Powerpoint format for ease of understanding. The presentation file then will be given to the senior manager in charge and actions to be taken discuss.

Results- summary of the data to be collected

100% respond is expected since there are small numbers of firms chose and at the same time small number of employees in each firm. However, the numbers expected in this study should not go below 200 responses to be conclusive to the findings. The data tallied will go through the process of regression analysis to conclude the findings and the final information prepare and present in Microsoft Powerpoint format.


H1 - Money is a key motivator

One of the assumption or Hypothesis is: for the low hierarchical or flat organizational structure the money [Behling et. al, 1968] would be the key motivator - H1.

Herzberg (1959) in his theory about the money alone does not motivate [Herzberg et. al, 1959]. Would this study prove otherwise?

H2 - Is Job itself a motivator

Job satisfaction in doing a good quality job itself is self fulfilling?

H3 - Advancement, personal achievement a key motivator

Career and Training requirement from the employees as well as Responsibility especially in the Authority for decision making, are these key motivation factors.


The working environment is also important. Per Herzberg's (1959) theory, if not implemented correctly, the working environmental would become an issue as a Hygiene factor, hence demotivate the employee or at least caused the level dissatisfaction to rise [Brenner et. al, 1971]. In the small group of people, the relationship in the work place ranked high. Is this due to fact that the majority of the employees are in the same age group and mostly male dominated workplace environment with similar educational background contribute to this fact? Support between divisions and strong working relationship are they have been established? Compensation and other benefits such as bonus have taken any part [Blakemore et. al, 1987]? Usually bonus for these firms is being given at the end of the year. The fact that most bonuses are profit based, the amount of bonus pool depends on the firm performance for the entire year. Would the motivation factors link to the end results at year end? Further to the amount given to the individual also based upon the results of the Performance Appraisal that is being done twice a year. Department goals and company vision take part in clarity for employees of not? This would indicate that the employers have fulfill their part in the company or division objectives and willing to ensure its success [Locke, 1978].

Conceptual Framework

The frame work or this study based it finding on the Employee Satisfaction Survey of a small size of multinational companies conducting businesses in Thailand where the number of employee is approximately 50 people each and 5 of these companies will be chosen. Approximately 250 responses are expected. Once the survey is done, data will be collected and tally for conclude the findings. The question asked will be at any given time what motivates people in a flat or low hierarchical organization structure in Thailand will be the focal point. The results from the survey will be shared to the management of the firms to help improve the firms. This study can also be used to further study on key factors that employees seek as motivation themselves. Also based on Herzberg's findings and also to view the survey results, this study will also view this from Taylorism point of view in an attempt to conclude its findings.

Figure 2.


To conclude what are the motivation factors in the low hierarchical organization in Thailand, the study need to establish that the firms meet the criteria. Criteria such as small size, no more than 50 employees, multinational organization conducting business in Thailand, three levels of hierarchy within the organization functioning for five years. These are some the requirements. Also the facts that firms chosen have fulfilled their own clarity requirement to their employees are essentials. Even though bonuses for each individual are substantial and should be taken in to consideration as part of the monetary compensation, these facts remain the unknown factors due to the nature of the monetary compensation cannot not be revealed by the firm's management [Prendergast, 2002]. Is it doing a good job that what motivate the employees? Does stimulation come from the job nature, this is the question posted. Is a chance to help make a decision a motivation factors? This motivation factor needs further consideration since the company is run by management and by its nature; it cannot afford to be democratic. The closeness in working relationship [Brown, 1976], is it also a factor? The findings in this study hopefully will answer these questions. Aforementioned, if the findings will help the management in the selected firms' benefits from its findings, the study will be proven most successful. Further, if the findings can somehow finds its way to help other similar organization, this would be the ultimate achievement.


Bassett-Jones, Nigel and Lloyd, Geoffrey C., 'Does Herzberg's motivation theory have staying power?', Journal of Management Development, 2005, Vol. 24, No. 10, pp. 929-943

Behling, Orlando, Lobovitz, George, Kosmo, Richard 'The Herzberg Controversy: A Critical Reappraisal', The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Mar., 1968), pp. 99-108

Blakemore, E., Low, Stuart A. Ormiston, Michael B., 'Employment Bonuses and Labor Turnover', Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 5, No. 4, Part 2: The New Economics of Personnel (Oct., 1987), pp. S124-S135

Brenner, Vincent C., Carmack, Claude W., Weinstein, Mark G.,'An Empirical Test of the Motivation-Hygiene Theory', Journal of Accounting Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 359-366

Brown, Matha A., 'Values - A Necessary but Neglected Ingredient of Motivation on the Job', The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Oct., 1976), pp. 15-23

Herzberg, F.I. 1987, 'One more time: How do you motivate employees?', Harvard Business Review, Sep/Oct87, Vol. 65 Issue 5, p109-120

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B. and Snyderman, B. (1959) 'The Motivation to Work', New York: John Wiley and Sons,

Locke, Edwin A.,' The Ubiquity of the Technique of Goal Setting in Theories of and Approaches to Employee Motivation', The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jul., 1978), pp. 594-601

Prendergast, Canice, 'Uncertainty and Incentives', Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 20, No. 2, Part 2: Compensation Strategy and Design (Apr., 2002), pp. S115-S137

Stead, Bette A., 'Berlo's Communication Process Model as Applied to the Behavioral Theories of Maslow, Herzberg, and McGregor', The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 389-394

July 11, 2009