What is the impact of motivation to Primark?


1. Introduction

1.1. Organisational background

Primark started in Ireland in 1969 (Primark c2011). The company opened its first store in UK in 1973. As of April 14, 2011 the store has a total of 219 branches in various countries, 151 of which are located in UK. The store offers buyers quality products at very affordable prices. Primark credits this to the company's zero expense for advertising. They attract customers mainly from client referrals for their products.

Previous studies stress the role of front-line staff in enhancing a company's image. According to Coelho, Augusto and Lages (2011:32), the quality of service provided by client-facing employees has direct effect on consumers' experience, satisfaction, loyalty and perception of the company which in turn affects the its performance. To attract more clients, companies need to ensure that their front-line people provide utmost service. However, studies show that only 21% of employees are totally committed to their job (Haefner 2011: 17). This suggests that company's human assets remain underutilized. To improve performance and maximize revenue, companies need to motivate their employees to be more engaged. Saleem, Mahmood and Mahmood (2010:214) asserted that the best way to motivate employees is to keep them satisfied. Thus, for an organization that capitalizes on customer loyalty and referrals like Primark, optimizing their employee satisfaction is important to ensure customer satisfaction and improve company performance.

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This study contributes to the literature on employee satisfaction and performance. Specifically, it focuses on Primark, a company whose performance solely depends on the ability of client-facing staffs to attract and retain customers. This study enables the researcher to evaluate the motivation practices of the organization (Primark) where he is affiliated with. It also provides him an opportunity to apply knowledge and theoretical concepts learned in the university to a relevant and real-life situation. For Primark, the result of the present study could present information about the impact of the company's motivation strategy from the perspective of the employees. It will offer information about the employees' perceptions about the company's practices and their motivation needs. The company could use result of the study to identify and address gaps between actual practices and their employees' needs. This could help them implement appropriate strategies that would improve both the staff and the company's performance.

1.2. Aims, objectives and research questions

This study aims to evaluate the impact of motivation to the service quality of client-facing staffs of Primark and to the company's performance. The research questions to be addressed by the study are:

1. What is the impact of motivation to Primark in the UK?

2. How important is staff motivation to the strategic success of Primark in the UK?

3. How motivated are the client-facing staffs of Primark in the UK relative to other retailers?

The objectives of the study are:

1. To assess the how motivated Primark's client-facing staffs are.

2. To identify gaps between current motivation practices and employee needs.

3. To identify how motivation is associated with job performance.

4. To identify how motivation is associated with employee job commitment and involvement.

5. To evaluate motivation of client-facing staffs at Primark relative to the staffs of its competitors.

6. To evaluate what else Primark can learn from other company in terms of motivation.

1.3. Definition

For the purpose of this study, client-facing staffs and front-line employees are interchangeably used to refer to workers who deal directly to the customers.

2. Review of Literature

This paper focuses on the impact of motivation not only on the performance of front-line employees but to the organization as a whole. To investigate the topic, this review includes a discussion of motivation and its impact on employee and company performances, motivation theories relevant to the study and the implications of an appropriate motivation strategy to Primark.

2.1. Motivation and performance

Grant (2010:95) defines motivation as "the amount of effort one exerts to accomplish the job." This suggests that a highly motivated individual would exert more effort than someone who is less motivated. Armstrong (2008:34) associated it with leadership in the sense that it involves influencing people to achieve a certain goal. According to Armstrong, organizations provide various kinds of incentives to motivate workers. He identified two kinds of motivators: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivators refer to the factors that are inherent to the job and the working environment such as employee responsibility, autonomy and opportunity while extrinsic motivators are those that are enforced to influence employees such as pay, promotion and disciplinary actions.

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Various studies (Coelho, et al. 2011; Paswan, Pelton, & True 2005) have confirmed the significant role played by client-facing employees in enhancing company performance and profitability. Front-line staff deal directly with customers and the quality of their service influences the client's satisfaction and loyalty. Client-facing staffs are the "face and the voice" of the company to the clients (Jackson & Sirianni 2009:280). DeConinck (2011:21) observed that some clients trust a company simply because they trust the person they are dealing with. Cadwallader, et al. (2010:219) on the other hand found that client-facing staffs not only contribute to the retention and growth of customer base but also in the promotion of new services. All these observations highlight the significant role of front-line employees.

According to Saleem, et al. (2010:213), job satisfaction is influenced by motivation. Thus, companies should invest in knowing their employees as much as they do their target clients (Dewhurst, Guthridge and Mohr 2010). Career enhancing programs such as organizational socialization; career workshops; counselling; mentoring; coaching; training; and others (Jackson & Sirianni 2009) make employees more satisfied with their job, stay with the company and deliver better service to clients which in turn results to more satisfied and loyal customers (Arndt, Arnold and Landry 2006).

2.2. Motivation theories

Two theories that are relevant to this study are goal theory and expectancy theory. Goal theory by Latham and Locke (1979) proposed that people who set specific goals are more motivated and perform better (Armstrong 2008:39). Haefner (2011:18) related a story about a production line where one shift outperforms the others. Using the productivity of the best performing shift as standard, the shift engineer for the low-performing shift get the workers involved in setting a goal which is to maximize production. Having a specific goal motivated the employees to work together and they were able to accomplish it in just over two weeks. This example exemplifies the goal theory.

The expectancy theory proposed by Porter and Lawler (1968) claims that individuals are motivated if they know how their effort contributes to their desired outcome (Armstrong 2008:39). This theory allows individuals to determine whether the reward is worth the effort or not. Armstrong argued that this theory explains why intrinsic motivation is often more effective than extrinsic motivation. Outcomes of intrinsic motivators are experience-based and individuals need to deliver the required performance or attitude to fully obtain the reward. Outcomes of extrinsic motivators on the other hand are more specific and individuals could easily gauge whether it is worth the effort or not. A survey conducted by Dewhurst, et al. (2010) found that non-monetary incentives could be more effective motivators than cash rewards. This concept is confirmed by Laszlo Bock, Google's vice president of people operations, who observed that Google employees do not stay with the company for the free "lunch" but for the company's goals, work environment and opportunity for personal growth (Davenport, Harris & Shapiro 2010:57). This implies that employees consider these rewards worth the time and effort required to obtain them.

These two theories contradict each other in the sense that goal theory proposes that the higher the effort needed to achieve a goal the lower the expectation to succeed while expectancy theory claims that the higher the effort, the higher the probability to succeed (Latham 2007:64). However, Latham argued that this contradiction does not apply when dealing with a single work group with similar goals. Since the present study deals with a single performance group which is the client-facing staffs and one goal that is to optimize individual performance to improve company productivity, using both theories side by side is applicable.

2.3. Implications of the current study

This review has demonstrated that employee motivation has a significant impact on employee satisfaction and quality of performance which directly influences customers' experience, perception, and loyalty to the company. Companies who want to optimize their human assets keep them motivated using various strategies such as implementing specific goals (goal theory) and offering rewards (expectancy theory). Despite these findings, not all companies have conducted exhaustive studies about their organizations. Primark relies on client satisfaction and loyalty to market its business. Based on the previous literature, this is highly correlated with the motivation and satisfaction of client-facing staffs. This study hypothesizes that:

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H1: Client-facing employees at Primark UK are highly motivated.

H2: Client-facing employees at Primark UK are satisfied with their job.

Companies like Google, Best Buy and Sysco recognize the importance of understanding employees, what makes them productive, motivated and loyal to the company and using this information to increase their "competitive advantage" (Davenport, et al. 2010:54). For example, at Best Buy, study found that improving staff service by 0.1% for each outlet could increase the company's revenue by $100,000. Sysco, a company with around 100 outlets, 51,000 employees, and 400,000 customers, conducted a study in its various outlets and found that stores with higher employee satisfaction have higher profitability, lower expenses, and higher staff and client retention. This knowledge enabled the company to identify factors that affect the employees' drive to perform. The company claimed that by improving their employee satisfaction, they were able to retain employees and save the $50 million previously spent on the recruitment and training of new employees (Davenport, et al. 2010:55).

These experiences suggest that Primark could further enhance its performance by understanding its client-facing personnel and address gaps between what the company currently offers in terms of motivation and what they need to feel more motivated and perform better. The next hypothesis states that:

H3: Improving the company's motivation strategy could improve job performance of client-facing staff.

H4: Improving the company's motivation strategy could improve job commitment and involvement of client-facing staff.

The fact that Primark is able to perform well despite the lack of advertisements attests to the quality of service provided by the company's front-line staffs. To further evaluate their competitive advantage, Primark could use the performance and motivation strategies employed by other businesses from the industry as benchmark. This paper hypothesizes that:

H5: Primark's motivation strategy is more effective than those implemented by its competitors.

3. Methodology

This section presents the methodology that will be employed in conducting this research. It includes methodological approach, research strategy and data collection methods, access and resource implications, and action plan.

3.1. Methodological approach

This study will employ both qualitative and quantitative methods. According to Walliman and Walliman (2001:73), research involving people usually involve the collection of qualitative and quantitative information. Combining the two methods enables the cross-checking of data (McNeill & Chapman 2005:24). Quantitative research will be employed to determine the profile and characteristics of the respondents and their perception about the motivation practices in Primark and its competitor. This approach is applicable because it enables the collection of data that will not only represent the respondents but could also be summarized, analyzed and inferred to the bigger population (Kothari, 2008:5). Because of its convenience, this approach would also enable the inclusion of more respondents.

Qualitative research on the other hand is an appropriate approach as it will help in identifying respondent's views and perceptions about motivation practices in Primark. It could be used to clarify findings from the quantitative approach (McNeill & Chapman 2005:24). It provides the researcher an opportunity to go deeper and find answers that could not be obtained using a questionnaire.

3.2. Research strategy and data collection

3.2.1. Instrument

Questionnaires will be used to gather information from the respondents. This method was chosen because of its convenience, timeliness and ease to conduct. Questionnaires will be printed out and distributed to respondents (personally or through mail), conducted through phone or sent electronically. Interviews on the other hand will be conducted individually through face-to-face meeting or by phone. Data collected will be synthesized and analyzed. Sample questionnaire and sample interview schedule are provided in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 respectively.

3.2.2. Sample

Participants for the study are staffs of Primark in Manchester Branch and (another store to compare Primark with). Non-probability sampling, particularly accidental or convenience sampling will be used to limit the population of the study. This method is chosen because it is easier and less expensive to conduct (Walliman and Walliman, 2001:167). It enables the collection of data from any potential respondent which is conducive given the time constraint and schedule of the study. At least 50 respondents for each store will be recruited to participate in order to obtain a more diverse representation of the populations.

3.2.3. Reliability, validity and generalisability

Validity, reliability and generalisability will be ensured to maintain the integrity of the research. Validity will be ensured by using various factors and measures that represents employee motivation and their perception of the company's motivation practices. Reliability will be ensured by using structured and semi-structured questionnaires, bigger and more diverse sample. These will ensure that the sample accurately represents the population in a way that replicating it would yield similar results (McNeill & Chapman 2005:9). Aside from making the study reliable, using bigger and more diverse sample also contributes in guaranteeing generalisability of the research. Statistical results obtained from the study could be inferred to the bigger population which increases the generalisability of the study further.

3.3. Access and resource implications

Resources needed for the research could be obtained from the university library. Aside from the information about Primark which is obtained from the company website, online references are not included to ensure the integrity of information. Written references to used for the study are limited to books and journal articles published from 2005 to the present to ensure the relevance and timeliness of information. The researcher's education, knowledge, skills and access to information and professional guidance makes him qualified to conduct the present study. Furthermore, the researcher's connection with the organization considered for the study provides him access to qualified respondents.

To ensure that ethical standards will be followed in conducting the study, consent forms will be obtained from the university, company and other concerned parties. Since the research involves people, ethical rules established by British sociologists for sociological research will be observed (McNeill & Chapman 2005:12-4). The rule provides that participants should be informed about the nature and purpose of the research, they have the right to ask questions and refuse to participate. Only willing participants will be considered. Lastly, the privacy of the respondents will be ensured. Participants and their responses will not be disclosed for any purpose to ensure anonymity and confidentiality.

3.4. Action plan













Jan 1



Possible topic

Review theories and concepts

Preliminary methodology

Proposal submitted

Revise literature review & methodology

Finalise literature review & methodology

Data collected

Data analysed

First draft