Employment in call centres has grown significantly in the past 15 years. Call centres are work environments typically made up of a set of personnel, computers and telecommunication equipment which allows for the delivery of services by use of a telephone (Batt & Moynihan, 2002). They have recently become one of the most interesting contexts for research because of the numerous findings revealing negative connotations to call centres and their impact on employees (Metcalf & Fernie, 1998).
Nowadays, in developing nations or disadvantaged regions in the developed world, call-centres have known an exponential growth as they are seen as a valuable source of jobs that often pays better than other alternatives. Call centres are workplaces which consist of dedicated phone-agent positions where employees integrate telephonic and computer technologies whilst interacting directly with customers. Call centres thrive in hundreds of industries, mostly in financial services, telecommunications, and travel industry and information technology.
In order to gain a competitive edge over the rival firms, there is a need to motivate the employees so as to achieve efficiency as well as effectiveness. Moreover, motivation helps employees to experience a high motivating potential at work, more organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB), higher job satisfaction and less turnover intentions. Furthermore managers make use of numerous motivational tools so as to reduce the level of de-motivation.
Just as a coin has two sides, while offering benefits, call-centres have also been labelled as “electronic sweatshops”, “electronic panopticans” and the “dark satanic mills of the twenty-first century” (Fernie and Metcalf, 1998; Garson, 1988; IDS, 1997). These gloomy pronouncements were often based on the perception that customer service work in call centres was boring, monotonous, demanding and stressful. There are also some aspects of call-centre work that are stressful because they disqualify the use of available skills and resources.
One of the major factors which can lead to the success of a company is to have a proper human resource management. The main role of the latter is to ensure that the workforce is working in the best possible way so as to reduce wastages. Hence, in order to do so, there is a need that the manpower is motivated. In other words, the human resource managers are responsible to develop motivational policies and strategies so as to optimise the use of their human resource with a view to attain organisational objectives through a motivated workforce.
Long ago, employees were considered merely as another input in the process of production. However, the Hawthorne Studies conducted by Elton Mayo from 1927 to 1932 (Dickson, 1973), demonstrated that the way of thinking about employees have vastly changed. In essence, this study summarised that the workers are more productive when they know that they are being studied. In fact, the psychological stimulus of being singled out makes the workers to feel important. Nowadays, the needs and motivation of the manpower is becoming the primary focus of almost all managers (Bedeian, 1993).
Managers are considered to be those persons who should understand their staff and provide appropriate incentives to meet their needs and demand. For instance, they should know why some personnel are performing well and are committed to their jobs while others are more prone to absenteeism, lateness and laziness at work. The top management of any company must know about the type of rewards and incentives which can be provided to the individuals, where possible, so as to encourage them to work harder. Thus, the management needs to provide motivation for the people for whom it is responsible.
Whether the workers feel motivated or de-motivated to work largely depends on the job itself. Each and every job has specific demands; therefore, the workers will need different types of skills and abilities to meet the expected level of performance. Even if an employee has the intelligence, knowledge, study skills and time management skills, but he or she does not have motivation then the latter will not get far. As a result, the internal motivation is of great importance for a worker to perform efficiently.
Today, even if there is massive competition around the world, there are certain managers who still do not know the impact that motivation can have on their company and how strongly the employees’ level of productivity can be affected. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to learn and understand the factors that influence motivation positively in the workplace. In fact the main aim of having a motivated workplace is for survival (Smith 1994). In other words, if the workers are willing to put in more efforts in their work, this will help the organisation to thrive and survive in the dominant market. Everyone within an organisation needs some form of motivation, and it is something which is approached differently by different businesses.
The term ‘motivation’ can really be a simple subject at times and yet it can be the most complex issue to a manager at others. It is simple because it explains much of what we see happening in the everyday life via the human behaviour. It is complex on the other hand since it poses certain contradiction such as motivation is not same for all; it varies from individual to individual.
Motivation can simply be defined as the willingness to put higher level of effort in the work and to achieve specific goals. This type of willingness activates behaviour, gives direction to it, and underlies the tendency to persist. Given that, motivation is an internal force, it is practically impossible to measure the level of motivation of a person. Motivation is a sort of force, which boosts the workforce’s effort intensity because the latter’s needs are being satisfied. These needs vary from individual to individual and ultimately, it can be found that different types of needs should be satisfied for different workers so as to motivate them. When the topic of motivating an employee arises, the instant notion that comes to most people’s mind is that a higher salary will be more appropriate. However, this is not always the case.
The term “motivation” was originally derived from the Latin word “movere” which means “to move” (Steers, Porter and Bigley, 1996) or “to move to action” as stated by Watkins (1999). Over the years, there have been many authors who have tried their best to give an apt definition to “motivation” and below are brief selections of some popular definitions indicating how the term has been used.
Megginson (1992) defined motivation as the mechanism of encouraging a person or a group of people, each with discrete needs and personality, to achieve the organisation’s objectives while also working to achieve his or her personal objectives.
In contrast, a ‘working definition’ of motivation was offered by Cole (1993). He was of the view that motivation is the term used to explain those processes, both natural and rational, by which individuals seek to satisfy the vital drives, professed needs and personal goals which elicit human behaviour.
Robbins and Coulter (1999) on their part stated that motivation is “the willingness to exert high level of effort to reach organisational goals as conditioned by that effort’s ability to satisfy some individual needs which is reflected in the attitudes and behaviour of staff.” Motivated staff will perform better because they put in a higher level of effort and enthusiasm in conducting their work when compared to others. Hence, satisfying the need of the man power reduces the felt tension within an organisation (Philip Kotler, 1990). In other words, this will prevent the employees to work in a zigzagging manner as their goals and objectives have been set with the accomplishment of their needs in an orderly manner.
There are other current authors who have defined the concept of motivation. According to Kreitner (1995), motivation is the subconscious process that gives behaviour purpose and direction; a preference to behave in a purposive manner to achieve specific needs (Buford, Bedeian and Lindner, 1995); an inner drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need (Higgins, 1994); and the desire to achieve (Bedeian, 1993). Besides, Nelson and Quick (1997) are of the view that motivation is the process of challenging and sustaining goal directed behaviour.
Theories of Motivation
During the 19th century, motivation was studied by several authors. Therefore, this resulted into a situation whereby different theorists gave different conclusions. Ultimately a wide variety of motivation theories have been produced till now. Most of the researchers, after the publication of the Hawthorne Study (Terpstra, 1979), wanted to know what motivates employees within an organisation and also, how they are motivated.
Motivation theories fall into two main categories, namely:
This particular theory explains the flow of employee needs. For instance, it is about why different workers have different types of needs at different period of time. Therefore, it can be deduced that when a worker’s needs are known, we are able to know what motivates the person.
Such particular theory, on the other hand, describes the process through which the needs are explicated into behaviour. Thus, process theory demonstrates why some workers with a specific need are engaged in a particular direction and deriving from them a particular intensity of effort so as to reduce the need tension.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory
The need hierarchy of workers was projected by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper ‘A theory of human motivation’ which equally includes his observation of humans’ innate curiosity. According to him, there were five basic categories of human needs and he placed them in a hierarchy that he named the hierarchy of needs. At the bottom of the pyramid, there are the physiological needs. Next are the safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and finally the self-actualisation need in the same chronological order, as shown below:
According to this pyramid, it can be seen that there are five categories of needs and therefore it will be important to know where the workers are situated in this hierarchy of needs. For example, if a worker’s physiological desires have already been satisfied, then the necessary will have to be done in order for the latter to satisfy his next need and thus motivating him or her. Following the hierarchical order, next in the pyramid are the safety needs. In contrast, if the worker’s social needs are already satisfied then the need after, which is the esteem need will have to be taken care of by for example boosting the employee’s level of confidence and increasing his sense of achievement. By showing the worker with the necessary level of esteem he or she needs, such a much anticipated promotion, the latter’s degree of organisational commitment will increase hugely (Lincoln and Kalleberg, 1990).
Taylor (1856-1917) – The theory of scientific management
Frederick Taylor on the contrary, was of the view that workers are only motivated by pay. Hence, his theory of Scientific Management argued that employees need close supervision and tight control so that they produce more and receive more as pay. He was of the opinion that managers should break down the production process into a series of small tasks. According to him, by training the workers to do a specific part of the production process, they will do their work more efficiently. Furthermore, Taylor believed that workers should be paid according to number of units produced. That is they should be paid using the piece rate system. However, the opposite of what was expected happened and workers soon came to dislike his approach because they were given uninteresting and repetitive tasks to carry out and were treated like human machines. This has led to an increase in strikes and other forms of industrial actions by dissatisfied workers.
Douglas – Theory X and theory Y
Theory X and theory Y are theories of human motivation which were developed by Douglas Mc Gregor in the 1960’s. He believed that workers are either a kind of the theory X or theory Y. He also believed that the best way to connect self-actualisation with work is determined by the managerial trust of subordinators.
According to him, workers falling in the theory X category are those who are inherently lazy and avoid work as well as responsibility. There is a need by employers to closely supervise these workers and to have a narrow span of control at all level of the organisation. Michael J. Papa was of the view that, if the company objective is not met, the theory X type of manager relies massively on threat and coercion to gain the employee’s compliance (Organisational Communication: Perspective and trends by Papa M.J, Daniels, T.D & Spiker, B.K, 2008). Normally, this will lead to mistrust and a punitive atmosphere. In addition, the organisational culture is also characterised as difficult to change (Mc Murray, 2003; Wilson, 2001; Schein 1990; Hofstede, 1991) because there may be some kinds of resistance to change from the part of the employees.
Theory Y kind of workers, on the other hand, are those who are ambitious and self-motivated and exercise control. In simpler terms, these employees enjoy their mental and physical work duties and are more prone to creative problem solving. The theory Y managers believe that delegation can be effected as the people will want to do well at work. Hence, these kinds of people are not really affected by a higher pay, but they prefer higher responsibility, achievement, problem solving and creativity.
Herzberg- Motivator Hygiene theory
During the year 1966, Herzberg had interviewed a number of persons who were from different professions, at different level to find out two things:
the factors that motivate them at the workplace and;
the factors that prevent Job satisfaction.
According to the data collected, firstly such theorists were of the view in a two-factor theory. As explained above, he argued that there are some factors that when the employers introduce will directly motivate the workers to work harder (motivators). In contrast, there were also other factors which would de-motivate the employees if they are not present, but would not in themselves actually be reasons of motivation to employees to work harder (hygiene factor).
The motivators are normally concerned with the job itself. For example, it consists of how interesting the job is and about the opportunity to take extra responsibility, promotion as well as recognition. On the contrary, the hygiene factors are those factors which surround the job rather than being the job itself. For instance, it consists of providing a reasonable pay and safe working condition to an employee. The latter will not make the workers to work harder.
Herzberg attach weight to the fact that businesses should motivate employees by way of adopting a democratic/egalitarian approach, such as involvement in decision making which will improve and enhance the nature as well as the content of the actual job. In other words, so as to have a motivated workforce, it is better to have job enlargement, job enrichment and empowerment within an organisation.
Human beings are motivated by requirements that fulfil their needs. These depend on many factors and vary by the individual requirements and necessary situation. Besides basic needs that range from food, clothing, medicine and shelters, there is workplace that needs to be extended for acceptance and self-esteem. The researcher has indicated that each individual experience these factors in different level. Therefore, managers should figure out the basic theories of motivation, how to better (Cheng, 1995). ~ ” Happy bees make more honey”. ~
Cite This Work
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: