The way a company manages its human resources is of a great importance. A majority of human resource professionals agree that human resource management practices are positively associated with superior organization performance and even claim that a properly designed and implemented HR strategy can contribute to a better financial performance of the firm (Becker and Huselid, 2006).
Employees' motivation is one of the most controversial and problematic issues in the formulation of the HR strategy and managers inevitably face the question 'How do I get an employee to work towards the achievement of the business objectives?' Motivation at work has been the focus of numerous studies and various theories have been tested both in experimental and work settings. Not, surprisingly one of the results is that individuals are different and what motivates one person might be discouraging for another (Lazenby, 2008).
Another limitation of the motivation theories is that they tend to be influenced by variables such as the culture, nationality and personality of the individuals and if a certain theory is applicable and helps managers generate the desired results in one company it might be completely irrelevant in another (Robbins, 1998).
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Furthermore, employees' motivation is a key factor for the success of any business because it is directly related to other important aspects such as the quality of service provided, retention of employees, productivity and employee performance. For example, in his article "A Review of Employee Motivation Theories and their Implications for Employee Retention within Organizations", Ramlall shows how effective employee retention practices as well as the improved organizational performance can be explained through motivation theories while at the same time outlines the costs for a company that result from employees who leave the organization.
From the studies, the research conducted and the motivation theories two main conclusions can be derived:
First, motivation is a tremendously complex process because people are different and are encouraged to work towards the achievement of the organization's objectives by different factors. This represents a substantial problem for managers because they have found out that a one-size-fits-all approach to motivation is not effective (Lazenby, 2008).
Second, understanding what motivates employees and designing strategies to enhance the level of motivation is crucial for the success of any business because motivation is not a standalone in a company but is rather interconnected and has great influence on other vital areas of the business (Ramlall, 2004).
Therefore, understanding employees' motivation will be very beneficial for the management of the International University College.
The complexity of explaining why people behave in a certain way has been recognized by researchers and mangers years ago and as Vroom and Deci (1970) put it: 'The question of what motivates workers to perform effectively is not an easy one to answer.' Cole (2004) adds that research on motivation becomes even more difficult due to the fact that there is always an element of subjectivity in any judgements made about motivation.
However, even though understanding which are the factors that motivate employees to work towards the achievement of the organization's objectives is a real challenge, attempts have been made for more than 35 years mainly because, as said by Cole (2004) : ' The link between motivation theory and the practice of management is crucial to management success'. He also draws attention to the fact that while people are the greatest asset of an organization, they are the only asset that can actively work against the goals of the business.
Striving to understand the process of motivation scientists have developed various motivation theories. They can be divided into two main categories: theories that focus on what causes motivation are referred to as content theories while those which are concerned with behaviour are called process theories. Content and process theories are useful for managers as they help them to more fully understand how to motivate employees. While content theories show the importance of fulfilling higher and lower-order needs, process theories remind managers that they have to take into account the individual differences between employees (Pinnington and Edwards, 2000). As some of the leading motivation theories will serve as the basis for the proposed research a brief review will be provided.
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Maslow developed a hierarchy of five basic needs: physiological, safety, social belonging, esteem and self-actualization. He argued that the first two-physiological and safety needs are deficiency needs and the social belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs are growth needs. Maslow's main idea was that people start by satisfying their lower-level needs first and they move on to fulfil their higher-level needs (Maslow, 1954).
This theory was revolutionary because it viewed human potential as vastly underestimated territory (Stephens, 2000). One implication of the theory was that managers started to develop practices that aimed at satisfying emerging or unmet needs (Ramlall,2004) and another was that they started to take the time to investigate what are the employees' needs (Kreitner, 1998).
The Motivator-Hygiene Theory developed by Herzberg (1966) also divides needs into two sets. The first he calls hygiene factors, which are extrinsic to the work an employee does and the second set is named motivating factors. Motivating factors were argued to be those that lead to job satisfaction while hygiene factors were those which if not present lead to dissatisfaction (Pinnington and Edwards, 2000). Herzberg (1966) argued that in order an employee to be fully motivated, managers should provide more than good working conditions. Herzberg's theory brought about the redesign of jobs as a management tool to enhance motivation through making jobs more enriched thus providing employees with opportunities for advancement and recognition.
Another motivation model that is concerned with the nature of the job itself is the Job Characteristic Model developed by Hackman and Oldham (1980), which outlines three specific core factors that make jobs meaningful for employees. Those are reported to be skill variety, task identity and task significance. The authors argued that jobs that require multiple skills, include various tasks and provide employees with the chance to see how their work fits in with that of other employees has a positive influence on intrinsic motivation. As Pinder (1984) noticed this theory has a link to the concept of growth need satisfaction as well as to the motivators described by Herzberg.
For the purpose of the proposed research three more motivational theories deserve attention. Those are as follows: The McClelland's Need Theory, The Equity Theory and The Goal-directed Theory.
McClelland's Need Theory (McClelland, 1961) explained the motivation process using three main needs: achievement, power and affiliation. Achievement theories state that motivation and performance are influenced by the strength of the need for accomplishing something difficult (Kreitner, 1998). This theory recognizes three types of personalities depending on which one of the three needs is predominant thus helping managers to better understand employee behaviour and decide on the best practices to motivate them. For example, if a person has high need for affiliation he is likely to enjoy social activities and working in groups. It is the job of the manager to provide him with the most suitable working environment.
The Equity Theory is very-well summarized by Cole (2004): '...it suggests that people at work compare themselves with others doing similar work in similar circumstances and judge whether they are being fairly treated by comparison'. If employees perceive that they are not being treated fairly this might influence employee motivation in various ways. As outlined by Champagne (1989) people tend to reduce their input through putting less effort in their everyday work or even to withdraw entirely, which means for the employee to quit the job.
The Goal-directed theory postulates that employees who are given specific, measurable and challenging goals tend to be better performers than employees working towards vague and unclear objectives (Latham and Locke, 1979). According to this theory, managers should ensure that they are able to provide a supportive approach in order for the employees to be committed to the objectives set.
The above mentioned theories view motivation from different angles thus providing a more complete understanding of the process. In order for the research to be effective, factors outlined by the literature to have influence on employees' motivation will be taken into consideration when designing the questionnaires.
The aim of this research is to explore which are the main factors that have an influence on employees' motivation and to examine the overall relevance of various motivation theories to the specific case of the International University College. Moreover, the study of employees' motivation will aim at discovering any potential relationship between social representation variables such as income, education, age, civil status, etc. and the level of motivation at the workplace.
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The objective of the research is to critically review the relevant literature concerning employee's motivation at work and based on the results from the research to advice on which of the motivation theories are likely to be most beneficial and to have positive influence on the level of motivation among the employees of the International University College as well as on the most suitable motivation practices to be adopted by the management.
The researcher has chosen this topic mainly because the nature of the problem is very complex and her experience in the hospitality industry has proved that the ability to understand the factors that motivate people and to manage successfully employees is a crucial skill for every Human Resource Director that requires a lot of effort to be improved. As the researcher is interested in a future career in this sphere, she finds such a study to be very beneficial for her personal development as a professional. Moreover, while in the developed countries managers have recognized the importance of human resources and employees' motivation it is still an aspect highly neglected by Bulgarian managers that requires further development.
In order for the researcher to be able to identify the factors which have an influence on the level of motivation of employees at work and to provide useful advice on possible techniques aimed at enhancing motivation the main research question will be broken down in the following sub-questions:
Is there a relationship between social representation variables such as age, civil status, income, etc and the level of motivation employees show at work?
Which of the motivation theories outlined by the literature are consistent with the answers of the participants in the survey?
Which practices and policies (reward system, performance appraisal system, leadership style, training, etc.) participants outline to have direct influence on their level of motivation?
What practices the management should adopt in order to maintain and enhance employees' motivation?
Is there a relationship between the level of motivation of employees and their commitment to the organization?
Is there a relationship between motivation and employees' performance and productivity?
Scope of the research
The scope of this research will be restricted to investigating the factors that directly affect employees' motivation at the International University College, Bulgaria as well as to the identification of the motivation techniques that seem to be applicable in this particular case because the validity of the various motivation theories is reported to be altered by different factors such as the culture of the company (Pinnington and Edwards, 2000). Approximately 180 employees work at the International University College and a representative sample will be selected for the purpose of the survey as it will not be possible to reach all of the staff members.
Population and sample size
The population of the research is around 180 employees of the International University College. Because the time frame of the research limits the possibility all employees to participate in the survey, a representative sample of approximately 60 employees will be selected. The sampling technique used will be stratified random sampling mainly because it will enable the researcher to obtain the necessary variety of information for the purpose of the survey. Moreover, this technique contributes to more efficient statistical estimates when data is analysed. The selection of subjects will be done in such a way so that to ensure that there are representative employees from the various department of the organization.
According to the research process 'onion' outlined by Mark Saunders (2000), the researcher should decide on the research philosophy, research approaches, research strategies, time horizons and data collection methods prior to the beginning of his work. Therefore, these issues are addressed in the following sections.
The philosophy of the proposed research will be that of phenomenology because of several reasons. First, it is believed to be applicable in business and management research and second, the researcher agrees that, as stated by Mark Saunders (2000): 'Not only are business situations complex, they are unique. They are a function of a particular set of circumstances and individuals.'
Due to the fact that motivation is a very complex process in its nature, and the validity of the various motivation theories alters from one organization to another, the researcher views the International University College and its employees as an unique case and aims at understanding the factors that influence motivation in order to be able to advice on strategies to enhance it.
In order for the research questions to be answered a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be used thus the multi-method approach will be adopted. The combination of both qualitative and quantitative approaches in a single study results in methodologic triangulation (Cobb, 2000; Lincoln and Guba, 2000). As stated by Thurmond (2001): 'Methodologic triangulation has the potential of exposing unique differences or meaningful information that may have remained undiscovered with the use of only one approach or data collection technique in the study'. Hammond (2005) also stresses on the advantages of the use of a triangulation approach arguing that combining different methods allows the researcher to view a problem from different perspectives. Moreover, Hammond (2005) draws attention to the fact that each method has limitations and imperfections and blending various methods help overcome those as they complement one another in the way data is collected, understood and interpreted. This is the reason why the researcher plans on using both Semi-Structured Interviews and Self-Administered Questionnaires as research instrumentation.
It is believed to be beneficial the various strategies and approaches to a research not to be isolated completely from each other but on the contrary, to be mixed and matched because the different methods can serve for different purposes in one and the same study ( Mark Saunders, 2000). This is the reason why, the researcher has decided to use a combination of two research strategies: the case study and the survey.
The survey method will be applied in order for the researcher to be able to have more direct control over the research process and to manage to gather larger amount of primary data in an economical way (Mark Saunders, 2000). The questionnaires will also provide quantitative data that will be easily transferable into numerical values, which will allow the use of statistics in the analyses of the data. This method will provide the researcher with the ability to compare the attitudes and level of motivation of the respondents while controlling for variables such as age, occupation, income, etc.
The data collected by the survey, however, is highly likely to be insufficient for the purposes of the study because of the complex nature of the problem being explored. While the survey will provide answers to the 'how?' and 'what?' questions, it is the case study that will generate the answer to the 'why?' question (Mark Saunders, 2000). As the researcher is interested in finding what are the factors that affect employees' motivation at work and how they affect it, in order to investigate the real reasons behind the level of motivation of people working at the International University College she will need to develop in-depth knowledge and understanding of this particular case.
The research will be carried out as a part of the MBA course of the student and therefore, will be time-constrained. This is the reason why, it will be a cross-sectional study and will examine employees' motivation at a particular time.
Primary data collection methods
Self -Administered Questionnaires
The questionnaires will be structured and the participants will be asked mainly to assess different statements and factors concerning motivation on Likert-type scales. This instrument for data collection was selected by the researcher because it has several advantages. As outlined by Mitchell and Jolley (2007), Self-Administered Questionnaires are time and cost-saving, and are suitable if the researcher aims at obtaining honest answers from the participants as they allow the respondents to remain anonymous. In order to avoid the main risk associated with this type of research method: the low response rate (Mitchell and Jolley, 2007) the questionnaires will be personally handed and collected by the researcher. The questionnaires will provide the quantitative data needed for the purposes of the research.
Personal interviews in the form of semi-structured interviews will be carried out with a limited number of participants in order for the researcher to be able to encourage the respondents to contribute additional information to the research topic, which was not captured by the questionnaires, while still controlling for the possibility one interview to be easily compared to another (Kothari, 2004). This type of data collection methods will generate the needed qualitative data that will contribute to more full understanding of the problem.
Secondary data collection
Secondary data needed by the researcher will be derived from:
Academic books and journal articles on motivation theories
Newspaper and magazine articles
Relevant electronic sources
Validity and reliability
The validity of quantitative data is reported to be influenced to a great extent by the structure of the questions included in the questionnaire and the relevance of those to the nature of the research topic (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Therefore, in order for the validity and reliability of the questionnaire to be examined, a pilot test will be carried out prior to the research. A sample of ten employees, who have experience or substantial knowledge relevant to the research area, will be asked to fill in the questionnaire and report any uncomfortable wording of the questions or discrepancies between the aim of the survey and the questions asked. Their comments and criticism will be afterwards taken into consideration by the researcher and the questionnaire will be revised and improved.
Qualitative data analyses
In order for the qualitative data obtained via the semi-structured interviews to be analysed and conclusions to be reached the researcher has chosen to use narrative analyses. This method argues that the researcher should try to maintain the coherence of the data gathered and complete sets of notes produced during the interview should be analysed rather than aiming to fragment the data into different categories (Mark Saunders, 2000).
This type of qualitative data analyses is reported to be consistent with the chosen philosophy of the research - phenomenology. Moreover, narratives will aim at providing meaning to the facts that will be generated by the questionnaires thus enabling an in-depth understanding of the problem. The narrative analyses are useful in finding relationships and providing explanations. While the researcher expects to find out which are the factors that affect motivation at work via questionnaires, she will aim to explain why these factors are more important than others for the respondents via narrative analyses of the results from the semi-structured interviews.
Quantitative data analyses
The quantitative data will be generated by the use of a 5-point Likert-type scales and closed questions within the questionnaires. The data will be analysed using SPSS because the researcher finds this type of software to be adequate for the purposes of the study. The data from the questionnaires will be entered in the form of a data matrix, where each column will represent a single variable and each row the answers of each respondent (Mark Saunders, 2000). After the data is entered it then will be checked for any potential errors.
For the initial stage of the data analyses the exploratory data analyses approach will be adopted. It argues that using diagrams can help the researcher understand the data gathered and often reveals relationships that were not planned to be explored when initially designing the research instruments (Mark Saunders, 2000). With this approach the researcher expects to be able to show highest and lowest values and to find out which of the factors outlined in the questionnaire are likely to influence to a great extent employee's motivation.
The data will be further described using appropriate statistical methods. The normal theory class of statistics is believed to be most appropriate when analysing ordinal and interval scales (Newsom, 2009). Therefore, the researcher is planning to use the following methods in the data analyses:
Correlation - in order to be able to assess the strength of the relationship between the level of motivation and the various factors affecting it.
T-test - in order to be able to test whether two groups are significantly different (men and women)
ANOVA - in order to be able to outline any significant differences in the responses among people grouped on the basis of the departments they are working in.
As the researcher is a student at the International University College and participates in the MBA programme she is highly likely to be allowed to conduct the proposed survey and receive assistance and any information required.
The research should be completed in three months and is likely to start on June 2010 until September 2010. As changes in the dates might occur, the researcher is ready to adapt her schedule. However, the Gantt chart attached shows a proposed time framework and distribution of tasks.
To sum up, although the literature review outlines various studies and theories concerning employee motivation at work and how managers can enhance it by using different techniques, in the context of Bulgaria human resources still remain an area that does not receive the necessary amount of attention by managers and needs to further develop.
Therefore, the researcher believes that the proposed study of the factors that have an influence on the level of motivation of employees working at the International University College will contribute to a better management of human resources and to the overall success of the organization in the future.