Motivation, which plays a significant role at work, has been a controversial topic. As the definition in business dictionary states, motivation is: “Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested in and committed to a job, role, or subject, and to exert persistent effort in attaining a goal”.( Business Dictionary.com) At work, employees are the foundation of a company and drive the company at a high speed. Therefore, to make the company more competitive, the most vital thing to managers is motivating their employees to achieve an effective performance. Undoubtedly, money is one of the most effective motivating factors which stimulate employees to work hard and produce a better performance at their work. However, if the money is the only factor which can motivate workers to improve their performance? In this essay, the writer will firstly analyse the strengths and the weaknesses of financial gain. Secondly, other contributions which improve employees’ performance will be discussed and evaluated.
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It is self-evident that money plays an essential role in motivation at work. Indeed, it is also the most common way to enhance employees’ activities at work. Money, as the basic requirement of the world, can make employees devote themselves at work. An earlier writer Taylor (1911) argues that workers would be motivated by acquiring more money producing high performances and good results. In some competitive working places, the principle higher performance, the higher pay can push employees to achieve their goal at work. However, Kusin (2005) claims that work is about making employees know they are significant, that they are giving a good performance at work, and work hard. This awareness is sometimes more significant than money. According to the survey of 1200 volunteers in the U.S., working in different types and sizes of companies, about 54% of workers assert that direct financial gain is “very important” or “extremely important” to motivation. (O’Dell and McAdams, 1987, in Mae Lon Ding) In addition, other research demonstrate that in a vote by 2500 employee, 91% of them believe that if they know their companies will share their success when the strategy is achieved, helping the company become successful is what motivation them. (Perrin, 1997, in Mae Lon Ding)
Besides money, there are a number of factors which influence the motivation of employees. The most famous theory is Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs model. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model depends on what people want more of and what they can have. He suggests that this should be arranged in logical levels, a hierarchy of importance. Maslow classified motivation in five levels, from the lowest level to the highest level they are: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualisation.
Figure1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model
Cherry (2012) asserts that physiological needs are factors which are vital for an individual’s survival. These include homeostasis, such as food, water, sleep, sex and activities. Before people achieve higher requirements, physiological needs should be met. When a worker is hungry, he will not be interested in other things; thus, food is the most effective motivation. If employees still worry about these basic needs at work, they cannot focus on the job. What a manager should do is fulfil their physiological needs with wages and welfare. Therefore, besides encouraging employees with financial gains, welfare and more rest time are the most basic means to motivate employees to achieve higher goals.
Safety is the second level in the Maslow’s need hierarchy model. When physiological needs are met, employees tend to require more complex needs, which are safety and security. This factor includes safety, security, stability and protection. To most employees, wages are the only income; therefore, job security becomes a very significant need in an employee’s mind. Once employees feel they will lose their job, they cannot concentrate on the work. On the other hand, safety, avoidance of accidents and injury are also important. Only working in safe surroundings, can employees fulfil their potential and participate fully at work. In contrast, if working at a dangerous place, such as a construction site, workers will feel anxiety and unsafe; this may cause low productivity. To solve this problem, managers should focus on safe working conditions, company benefits and job security. Unemployment insurance, injury insurance and retirement fund are basic aspects which should be provided for employees by managers.
The next level is social requirement. In this hierarchy, emotion drives people’s performance, such as love, affection, and belongingness. In order to avoid isolation, depression and sadness, a harmonious interpersonal relationship should be established. Group activities such as teamwork and sports teams can play a significant role in achieving a good personal relationship with friends, lovers and family members. Thus, building a harmonious atmosphere between work mates is a very important way to enhance working efficiency.
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Esteem is another advanced factor in Maslow’s hierarchy model. Once the bottom three aspects have been achieved, appreciation and respect begin to appear in motivating behaviour. To meet the demand for accomplishment and prestige, “esteem needs” include self-esteem, self-respect, prestige and status. Employees want to be recognized for their value and feel they are making a contribution to companies, even to the world. Confidence, which is established by achieving self-respect and acknowledgment by other people, is a key point in this level. In contrast, those who lack self-respect and prestige will tend to feel inferior. Therefore, employers should focus on social recognition, job titles, high status jobs and feedback from the job itself. For example, in many countries toilet cleaner is a high salary job, which few people want to do. This is because though its wages can meet employees’ needs, it is not a decent job with social respect. Achievement, social status and prestige play an important role in a high status employee mind’s, which makes them feel confidence in their work process.
The highest level in Maslow’s model is self-actualization. Maslow asserts this as “What humans can be, they must be” or “becoming everything that one is capable of becoming”. It is about how people evaluate themselves and measured by the extent of success and challenge at work. In this section, people pursue growth, advancement and creativity. Unlike lower levels, self-actualisation is never satisfied; there are always new opportunities and challenges to face. Managers should concentrate on challenging jobs, opportunities for creativity, achievement in work and advancement in the organisation.
Base on Maslow’s (1943) theory, Hinton and Ruscoe (2012) suggest different factors which influence individual development and motivation. Though their theories raise many criticisms and doubts over their limitations, they constitute a world renowned theory of motivation at work, and have had a great impact on management approaches to motivation and the control of an organisation to achieve personal needs. It is easy to recognize the different needs and wants which people have, where they are included in this model, and the different motivators that might be suited for different people at work, for example provide a safe surrounding to an engineer or provide a high social status to an expert.
To conclude, many other factors which can motivate employees other than money exist in management. In a complex business process, motivations which encourage employees cannot be limited by just fulfilling one aspect. There should be an integration of different factors to deal with different categories of motivation so that employees’ performance and the productivity of company can be maximized. In addition, methods which a company uses to motivate their employees are the key point in improving their performance; thus, managers should think about means to find out what their employees want from them, and how they achieve their workers’ needs.
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