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Motivation represents the most interesting and challenging part in understanding human behavior. It had been widely studied in the last century and scientists elaborated several theories in their attempt to understand what motivates people.
In the first part of the assignment, the author propose a literature review for selected motivational theories. The second part, focuses on how this theories can be used in practice to increase employee motivation in service industry, in a transportation and logistics services provider company.
Peoples are an indispensable part of any organization. In order to achieve its goals, any organization requires qualified, skilled and motivated workforce. If it is relatively easy to acquire skills and to qualify people, to motivate them it is quite challenging.
Motivation has been defined in several ways by different authors over the time.
Kreitner, 1995 defines motivation as a psychological process which gives direction and purpose to a behavior. Griffin and Moorhead, 2012 considers motivation "the set of forces that causes people to engage in one behavior rather than some alternative behavior" (p.90), while Rogers, 1996 sees motivation as "an internal process which directs any one to behave in a particular way". Bedeian (1993) defines it simply as a will to achieve. Higgins (1994) describes motivation as an internal drive for satisfying specific unsatisfied needs.
Starting from this definitions, several theories were formulated.
1. Frederick W. Taylor's scientific management
The first author who analyzed and wrote about motivation was Frederick W. Taylor. "Non-incentive wage system encourages low productivity" (Taylor, 1911 cited in Yudhir and Sunita, 2012, p. 57) he said, considering that wages and salaries are the most important motivators. In his opinion, if people receive the same salary, independent of their individual contribution to the results, they will work less. However, if the payment is good enough, people will perform any kind of job.
Taylor's approach has obviously a lot of limitations, as it considers monetary compensations as the only motivator factor and it fails to recognize other motivators. (Griffin and Moorhead, 2012)
2. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
The American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow managed to conceptualize motivation in an excellent way, based on the human needs. In 1942 we presented the five-tier hierarchy of needs to a psychoanalytic society and published it later in his book Motivation and Personality (New York, Harper and Row, 1954). Maslow's theory according to Rajiv and Vandana (2012) "lays down a concept regarding a person's progressive mind set and discusses how a person can be motivated through different level of progression" (p.178). Mostly through clinical observation, Maslow managed to develop a universal theory which explains the driving forces behind a willful human behavior (Bibi et al., 2011). As per him, humans, described as "wanting animals" have an inborn desire to satisfy certain needs. This needs, can be arranged based on their importance in a hierarchy. The most basic needs are emerging first, thus they are positioned on the base of the pyramid, while the most sophisticated needs are emerging last, being positioned on the top, as the bellow figure shows.
Maslow identified five categories of needs:
physiological needs, required for survival or to sustain life, such as food, water, clothing
security needs, required for physical and emotional security, such as shelter and protection from predators
belongingness needs, or social relationship needs such as love, affection or belonging desire
esteem needs, or urge for respect, recognition, accomplishment and worth
self-actualization needs or the desires to grow and develop up to ones fullest potential.
In the corporate world, the psychological needs could be translated as:
physiological needs - adequate wages or base salary
security needs - job security, health insurance, pension plan
belongingness needs - relationship in the work environment and in the informal work organization (including social networks - family and friends)
esteem needs - job titles, choice offices, rewards
self-actualization needs can be achieved through challenging job.
The most important finding of Maslow's theory is that a satisfied need is no longer a motivator. It will lose its strength, and the next level of needs will be enabled. Thus any satisfied need will lose its motivator role, while the most powerful motivator for an employee is represented by a need which has not been satisfied (Rounok and Parvin, 2011).
Maslow's theory has two major limitations. Firstly, motivation stages are subjective in nature and are varying from individual to individual. Secondly, it is not mandatory that all individuals are going through all five stages of motivation. (Rajiv and Vandana, 2012)
3. Alderfer's ERG Theory
Yale psychologists Clayton P. Alderfer expanded Maslow's basic needs and further refined them in three categories, laying down the ERG theory. As per Alderfer, the human needs can be divided in three categories:
existence needs - which concerns the basic survival needs, similar to Maslow's physiological and safety needs
relatedness needs - which covers the needs for relating to others, for maintaining interpersonal relationships; similar to Maslow's belongingness needs
growth needs - covering the desires for self development, creativity and competence, similar to Maslow's self -esteem and self-actualization needs.
Alderfer's ERG theory is based on the result of empirical studies, while Maslow could not establish empirical evidence - and his study was not validated by empirical studies. (Yang C. et al, 2011).
There are three major differences between the ERG and Maslow's approach:
It is not necessary that needs operate in a strict hierarchical fashion (Alderfer, 1969) according to the ERG theory.
In the same time, individuals may be motivated by several needs, from different levels (Rounok and Parvin, 2011) in contrast with Maslow's theory.
ERG includes two important components: the satisfaction-progression component and the frustration-regression component. In case of the first component, both theories have similar approach, e.g. they suggest that after fulfilling a need, an individual will progress to the next level. But, the frustration-regression component, not existent in case of Maslow, suggest that an individual who is frustrated by trying to fulfill a higher level of need finally will regress, and will address lower/precedent level of needs.
4. Herzberg's motivation-hygiene or dual-structure theory
The first job-based motivation theory was developed by Frederick-Herzberg in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in a period when organizations were under the influence of the Scientific Management. The starting point in Herzber's theory is that the content of the job is the main/primary source of motivation (Bibi et al., 2011). He noticed in his research that the subjects are not considering job satisfaction in a single construct, rather they perceive it as having two different dimensions ranging from satisfaction to no-satisfaction and from dissatisfaction to no-dissatisfaction (Griffin and Moorhead, 2012).
Based on this structure, Herzberg defined two categories of factors:
Hygiene/extrinsic factors - such as: pay, job security, working conditions, which if present don't create motivation, but if absent they create dissatisfaction
Motivation/intrinsic factors - such as recognition, achievement, interesting work, which if present are highly motivating, but don't create dissatisfaction if absent.
According to Yudhir and Sunita (2012), Herzberg identifies four basic states which might incur:
High Motivation/High Hygiene - desired/ideal state, when employees are highly motivated
High Motivation/Low Hygiene - motivated employees but with many complains
Low Motivation/High Hygiene - not motivated/bored employees with no complains, working for the paycheck
Low Motivation/Low Hygiene - worst scenario - demotivated and unhappy employees
Herzberg's dual-structure theory enjoys a big popularity among practicing managers and it is widely accepted.
5. The Equity Theory of Motivation
The equity theory of motivation formulated in 1965 by Adams J.S. is derived from the social comparison processes. "Peoples in organizations wants to be treated fairly" (Griffin and Moorhead, 2012, p.100) and fairness at work will motivate them, is the assumption made by Adams on which the theory was built off.
People are providing their input to the organization: time, skills, experience, effort and in return they expect an outcome: wage, job security, status symbols, recognition. They compare the ratio between their own outcome/input with a comparison one and form the impression of equity or inequity. If the ratio is equal, they perceive equity and motivation is kept at the same level. However, when there is inequity, e.g. the ratio is higher or lower, they will act to reduce the inequity by changing the input or output, altering the perception or changing the comparison other.
The main limitation (strength or weakness???) of the theory is that it compares objective data with perceptions, perceptions which can change, thus the result can be highly subjective.
6. Goal-setting Theory
Organizational psychologist Edwin Locke laid down in 1968 the goal setting theory.
A goal can be defined as meaningful objective from motivational point of view. It has three motivational values (Bibi et al., 2011):
Attracts attention and channels the efforts in a specific direction.
Helps people to keep task persistence.
Facilitates construction of task strategies.
It has two main characteristics: goal difficulty and goal specificity, closely associated with the performance.
Goals have a powerful influence over people behavior and challenging, clearly defined goals can highly motivate people.
7. The Four Drives of Motivation
Modern science, through cross-disciplinary research in areas like biology, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology allowed scientist to better understand how the human brain works and to formulate new theories about the main factors which influence motivation.
Paul R. Lawrence and Nithin Noria identified in their book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices (2002) four basic emotional needs or drives which are guiding the human behavior: the drive to acquire, the drive to bond, the drive to comprehend and the drive to defend.
The drive to acquire. All people are driven by the urge to acquire scarce goods, independent on their nature: physical goods - food, housing, money or intangible goods - such as vacations or events which improve social status. People experience delight when the drive is accomplished and are dissatisfied or disappointed when it is thwarted. This drive has two major characteristics: tends to be relative, as people always compare themselves with others; and it is insatiable, as people always want more.
The drive to bond. All people like to establish relationship with other people or larger collectives/organizations. It generates strong, positive emotions (like love) when is fulfilled and negative ones (like loneliness/anomie) in case they are not fulfilled. When people are proud to be part of their organization, the drive to bond generates a huge boost in motivation.
The drive to comprehend. All people like to understand, to give a sense to world around them, to be challenged. Inside organizations, the drive to comprehend generates a strong desire to outperform. Peoples are motivated by jobs where they can accumulate, learn and grow, and which challenges them continuously.
The drive to defend. All people naturally defend themselves, their family, friends, properties, accomplishments and their values, ideas and beliefs. Feelings of security and confidence are generated when this drive is fulfilled, while fear and anxiety are resulting when it is not met.
This four drives identified by Noria et al., (2008) during their research are independent; they cannot be substituted one by another and cannot be ordered hierarchically. Research showed that an organization's ability to met the four drives can explain, in average up to 60% on employee's variance of motivational indicators.
Findings of literature review
The above reviewed motivational theories can explain from several perspectives - from needs, process or interdisciplinary point of view the main factors/elements which are generating motivation or by contra are leading to demotivation inside an organization.
Over the time researchers conducted a lot of studies to find out what really motivates employees. Wiley C. (1997) reviews the top five motivators, indicated by employees in the last 40 years, and namely:
full appreciation for work done
promotion and growth in the organization
He underlines two conclusions of the study:
the potency of the motivational factors varies according to: gender, age, income level and job type (Kovach, 1987 cited in Willey C., 1997)
over the time, the job related factors which are motivating the employees are changing.
Thus, for management the big challenge is to apply this theories in practice and to increase employee motivation.
Application of motivational theories in transport-logistics field
The company to which the author make reference in this paper is part of a mid size multinational company, activating in the service industry, providing transportation and logistics services. The company has a holding structure, composed from highly independent local (country) branches, organized as individual profit centers. The local branch, to which the author refers generates Euro 10 million turnover with 40 employees, divided in one administrative and four operational departments specialized on air, sea, road transportation and project (multimodal) activities. Its workforce is highly skilled and it is constantly trained to meet the day to day challenges. The company services are not highly differentiated from the competition, transportation being a common/widespread and usually outsourced service (and customers are not willing usually to pay for differentiated services). In order to achieve its objectives, assumed through the yearly budget, the local management is highly dependent on the workforce.
In this context, where the increase of employee motivation is crucial for the company, the author proposes usage of following motivational theories:
a, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory and Alderfer's ERG theory to identify and correctly assess employee needs.
b, Herzberg's dual-structure theory to clearly differentiate hygiene and motivator factors.
c, Goal-setting theory to link the required results by the organization to the motivator factors.
d, Equity theory, to show employees that their individual goals are fair.
e, The complex interdisciplinary four drives model should be used to boost employee motivation at the desired level based on the findings from points a, b and c.
a, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory and Alderfer's ERG theory
For the management, the starting point must be the identification and proper categorizing of the employee needs. Personality-based motivational theories like ERG or Maslow's should be used to provide a basic understanding of what motivate the individual employees as they don't predict a motivation or a behavior (Wiley C., 1997).
As employees might not be able to properly express/exteriorize their needs, professional assistance (consultancy from specialized psychologists) would be required. Raw data should be collected through a questionnaire and should be detailed/analyzed during employee's development talks.
After the concrete needs of the individual employees were identified, management can use the unfulfilled needs as motivators to increase the individual performance.
b, Herzberg's dual-structure theory
The differentiation between hygiene and motivator factors at individual level it is crucial step in properly motivating employees in our case. As the ideal state high motivation/high hygiene it is almost impossible to maintain in practice, the company needs to focus on maintaining a high motivation level, e.g. to identify the intrinsic factors which are desired most by the employees, while it keeps at an acceptable level the extrinsic factors.
Needs for salary, recognition and responsibility must be very carefully analyzed, as according to Maidani (1991) cited in Wiley (1997) they could operate both as motivator or as hygiene factor. Different employees will perceive salary as intrinsic or extrinsic factor and a special attention must be paid to keep the salary's (money) motivator role!
According to Herzberg "the most successful method to motivating people is to build challenge and opportunity for achievement into the job itself" (Willey, 1997, p.277), thus a special focus should be given for the job design, since service industry is very generous in this regard.
c, Goal-setting theory
Goal-setting although it is in general short term oriented, it generates high performance.
The goal system at company level should be derived from the company's approved budget. Firstly, goals should be defined at department level and then in second stage they should be broken down at individual employee level. Analyzes should be performed by the management to make sure that the goals are meeting the difficulty and specificity criteria's. Special attention should be given when the individual goals are communicated to employees to obtain acceptance of the goals. Through the properly designed reward system, management should obtain the goal commitment, matching empoyee's requirements (Rounok and Parvin, 2011). According to Locke and Latham (2002) cited in Latham and Pinder (2005) "feedback is a moderator of goal-setting effects" (p.499). Thus, care must be given to transmit proper feedback to employees as high performers are looking for active feedback (Ashord and Black, 1996 cited in Latham and Pinder, 2005).
d, Equity theory
A key fact which must guide management is that employees make subjective judgment if the reward system (e.g. the outcome) is fair (Rounok and Parvin, 2011). Even if the reward system delivers fair outcome, linked to the individual input, employee's perceptions about the outcome of the comparison others may bias it, and generate a false sensation of unfairness. Since perceptions are highly subjective - and can be changed, management must monitor them and take proper actions.
According with the equity sensitivity construct, described by Huseman et al. (1987), employees can be divided in three categories:
benevolents, who prefer to have a lower outcome/input ratio than the comparison others
equity sensitives - who prefer to have equal ratio with the comparison others; and
entitleds - who prefer to exceed the ratio of the comparison others.
Management should categorize the employees according to Huseman's proposal and through communication should correct/alter if case their individual perceptions about the comparison others in order to experience/feel the relative fairness inside the organization.
e, The complex interdisciplinary four drives model
In the study of Noria et al., (2008), they used four workplace indicators: engagement, satisfaction, commitment and intention to quit in order to define the overall motivation of employees. They discovered that certain drives influence some motivational indicators more than others. Thus, if the drive to bond is fulfilled it will boost employees commitment. On the other hand, the drive to comprehend will have a strong impact over the employees engagement.
The study showed that the actions taken to improve different drives seems to reinforce one another, e.g. the overall result will be bigger than the sum of individual actions.
Thus, for maximum effect, the management should use a complex approach and try to simultaneously work-on/activate all four drives.
Different organizational levers should be used to fulfill different drives.
The company's reward system should be properly tuned to fulfill the drive to acquire. Reward should be linked with the employee's performance and difference between poor and good performers should be introduced. Transparent, fair incentive schemes should be introduced to recompense the performers if goals are met. Beside the financial rewards, recognition in front of colleagues, public appreciations must be used to activate the emotional/social status component of the drive.
Through the company culture the drive to bond should be enhanced. As the activity of the company requires mostly individual performance, the challenge for the management is to build a team spirit, to which everybody wants to belong. In this direction social gathering and team building should be encouraged. The most experienced staff should be encouraged to share their knowledge/experience with the newer employees.
Job design should have a primary role in fulfilling the drive to comprehend. Focus should be on building challenge in the job, and to give employee's the opportunity to learn, develop or growth constantly. The activity of the company - international transportation - where it's staff must interaction daily with peoples from different countries/cultures provides huge opportunities for the management to activate this drive. Mentoring and coaching should be used extensively, activating the drive to bond also.
The performance-management and resource allocation process should strengthen the drive to defend. The transparency of the goal-setting process, of the reward system and of the other evaluation criteria's used by the management should activate the urge to defend this value in employees.
In addition, periodical update from management about the environment and what the most important competitors are doing should activate beside the drive to defend also the drive to bond and to challenge/comprehend.
A crucial role in boosting motivation has also the direct manager, in our case the department managers.
With the development of social sciences, researchers managed to understand better the human nature. Thus, motivational theories evolved in time, and understanding of what motivates humans was covered from the needs perspective, from process orientation and recently via interdisciplinary research. A key finding of the theories is that in time the needs/drives which are motivation peoples are changing, thus inside organizations motivation must be a continuous process. Depending on the external context - social, cultural, political, economical and internal factors within an organization, different motivational theories may provide a better understanding of what really motivates people. The big challenge for the management is to identify them and properly put them in practice to boost employee motivation at the desired level.