Motivate Employees During Difficult Times Commerce Essay

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Motivation is an intrinsic part to a companys success, as keeping employees focused and productive is invaluable in maintaining efficiency and productivity. This concept seems to be fairly straight forward and intuitive. The science and theories related to motivation however are not so intuitive, and in fact are rather surprising. General concepts of motivation seem to be based off of reward initiatives where an employer offers rewards - examples could include monetary benefits, promotional advances, etc. - and the assumption is that results will necessarily follow. Unfortunately for these types of employers, not all people are so easily categorized and predicted. Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg, and David McClelland were people who chose to challenge the conventional norms and offer rebuttals in an attempt to change how employers and organizations approach motivating their employees. Motivation is more than just 'carrot on a stick' rewards, and companies that are looking to stay relevant and retain employees are going to need to make changes to their current way of thinking on how they attempt to keep their employees motivated.

In order to criticize and evaluate how a company approaches the way it motivates its employees, one must first be familiar with the theories proposed by Maslow, Herzberg, and McClelland. According to Matteson (1996), the hierarchy of needs which was proposed by Maslow describes a system of needs that is arranged from lowest level needs to highest level needs. Low level needs are described as physiological needs, while the highest level needs pertain to sel-actualization. According to Maslow, an individual will have to climb up through this system and they must do it in order, starting based on which hierarchy they are currently in. Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire the secondary or higher level needs. For example, a homeless person would not be motivated by his or her social status, but rather by their ability to find food and shelter. It is unlikely that they would be more concerned about the higher tiers of the Maslow's Hierarchy such as morality, self-esteem, when compared to the desire to eat and find shelter. In essence, the concept proposed is that an individuals' behavior is going to be determined by their needs, and that these needs are going to be composed of different degrees of needs within the different levels that Maslow has proposed. Matteson (1996) describes an example of an application of Maslow's theory by offering a scenario in which an employee is demoralized because they are not able to take time off of work to spend with their family. This would mean that the need for social security is not being met, and would result in that employee not being fully motivated, and not working to their potential. Physiological needs are the literal requirements for human survival. Physiological needs are the most important of all the other needs and serve as the base of the hierarchy. Once a person's physical needs are relatively satisfied, safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third tier of human needs is interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. People need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, and in the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression. This need for belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure. People have a need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect. They need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. Most people have a need for a stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher one is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom where people are motivated to do well simply because it will fulfill their specific needs it makes them happy to do so. Maslow describes self-actualization as the desire to actualize a personal concept or idealism of what a person is by nature; to become everything that one is capable of becoming (Matteson 1996).

Herzberg's theory takes a somewhat different approach to the ideas behind motivation. Herzberg developed a content theory known as the two-factor theory of motivation. This theory describes two types of factors which affect motivation and satisfaction, and that different factors within an organization affect both of these concepts. The factors affecting motivation are similar in a sense to Maslow's higher tier factors. Herzberg makes the distinction that individuals need more than just having their lower tier needs met, and that they in fact look for gratification in the work they do. This gratification may come as a result of responsibility and control over an individuals' own work and recognition and praise for showing results. Autonomy plays a large part in this sense, as giving an individual more autonomy in a working environment promotes a more positive attitude to that work (Matteson 1996). Herzberg describes these higher tier incentives as 'motivators'. Herzberg also discusses what he calls 'hygiene factors'. These factors are those that cause an individual dissatisfaction within a company, and are similar to Maslow's lower tier needs. These hygiene factors may include salary, work conditions and environments, as well as having non-hostile personal relationships. Motivators and hygiene factors are said to work independent of each other; that is to say that motivators can only act to motivate an employee and hygiene factors can only work to alter an employees' sense of dissatisfaction.

McClellend's theory of motivation is described by Matteson (1996) as one that is determined by culture and learning concepts. McClellend's theory is made up of three main concepts. The first concept is that achievement is going to be an intrinsic part to someone seeking success. The second is that relationships are important to a company, and that they will be pursued by individuals looking for a personal connection. The third concept deals with a person's need for power, and how this need will alter someone's behaviour. To paraphrase Matteson (1996), he summarizes that McClelland's theory ultimately breaks down to the notion that different people will have different needs, and that this will require different types of motivation to accommodate them.

Molson Coors Canada is one of the oldest and most successful breweries across Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The company generates annual revenue of $2,070 million, and employs 2,898 full-time employees in Canada and 5,361worldwide. Contemplating how best to attribute the company's success can be made much easier when one considers the concepts related to motivation. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, an employee is more likely to focus and be motivated as their physiological, psychological, and personal needs are met. Molson certainly does its part to try and fulfill as many employee needs as possible. For instance, employees at Molson's head office are given access to "several onsite amenities including a fully-equipped fitness facility, lounge with pool and foosball tables and cafeteria, with healthy menus and subsidized meals." (Leung, 2012) Molson also offers a significant amount of benefits and rewards to their employees. This list includes things such as financial rewards, signing bonuses as well as support for new parents with maternity and parental leave top-up payments. These measures act to lessen the stress of employees from role conflicts to be parents or to be dissonant in work arrangement.

Atlassian is an Australian software company that makes business enterprise software targeted at software developers. Daniel (2011) first mentioned this company in his book by introducing a new way of motivation called " Day". Autonomy is an attribute of the work environment that is stressed by the company, and is one that is considered to be responsible for a great deal of the Atlassian's success. Throughout the year, engineers are allowed to work on any project they please -- so long as it's not part of their regular job - and then present them to the rest of the design staff at the end of a 24 hour period in a fun, party-esque meeting. That one day of intense autonomy has produced a whole array of software fixes and developments that might never have existed. And it's worked so well that Atlassian has taken it to the next level with 20 Percent Time --done, famously, at Google -- where engineers can spend 20 percent of their time working on anything they want. The reason why creative people want to work in Atlassian and why Altassian could create such an amazing working environment could again be explained by's need hierarchy Most of its benefits are focus on satisfying their employees' love and belonging needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs, which are on the top of Maslow's need hierarchy. Every year you can get 5 days off with pay to do charity work. And the company will send you on vacation before you start the job. Moreover, makes a very strong effort to be transparent with their employees and customers, and promote a sense of mutual respect and value to anyone the company deals with.

All companies have different reasons for the benefits they provide their employees.  Some companies have very specific expected result as a response to the benefits they provide.  The two companies described earlier are examples of two different approaches to motivating their workforces.  If we look at Molson-Coors (Molson`s) company and Atlassian utilizing Hertzberg`s two factor theory and Mazlows Hierarchy of needs we can see the differences in their approaches to motivation.  Molson`s focuses very strongly on controlling the dissatisfaction within their organization.   Like a lot of companies Molson`s provides a decent wage, good health benefits and retirement plan as well as the basic benefits required by the Employment Standards Act (ESA).  They then dedicate much of their benefit resources on exceeding general standards on these hygiene factors.   They top up maternity and parental leave benefits to exceed ESA, provide scholarships for employee's children, flexible hours, bonuses, state of the art lounge and fitness facilities, social outlets and much more.  Molson's spends considerable resources to make sure that life at work is comfortable and conducive to productivity as well as making sure that employee's physiological needs, safety needs and social needs will never be a point of contention.  By meeting these needs so enthusiastically they know employees will feel valued which will create the sense of loyalty and commitment that will motivate employees to focus on the company's business goals.  You see this type of benefit more and more as employee spend more and more time at work,  "one of the outcomes of employees spending an increasing number of hours at work is that they are demanding a better environment". (Pla, R. L., 2005)

In contrast, Atlassian takes a different approach to motivating it`s employees.  They definitely take care of their employees hygiene needs; physiological, safety and social and they also meet and then exceed them.  With phenomenal referral bonuses and vacation allowances, team building focuses, an ergonomic work friendly office environment, competitive wages and more but as an organization they focus their resources more in supporting employee's motivational needs such as self-actualization and esteem.  A quick visit to Atlassian`s careers page (Atlassian, Careers in Software Development) lists the reasons they believe a potential employee would want to work for them. The top four reasons support their motivational focus.  Number one is their openness with employees and customers, number two is their desire for new ideas which are not only welcomed but expected, number three is to expand your mind by being challenged daily and number four is "Ship It days" which are a quarterly twenty four hour period to work on any project that supports the company and present it to the group.  By focusing on these benefits to employee it fosters intellectual growth, supports the employee's value to the organization as innovators and partners and creates security within their workforce. 

The differences in these organizations can be explained by their employment sectors and the education level of their workforces.  Molson-Coors is a brewery which is in the manufacturing sector whereas Altlassian is in information technology, two very different businesses which employ very different types of employees.  One group is not smarter than the other nor do they differ in their hygiene needs, they all have basic human needs but the sectors required different motivational methods to keep their employees engaged.  Atlassians employees, as a group, are well educated and expected to keep up with changing technologies and ideas so after making sure that their employees can take care of their physical needs Atlassian needs to make sure that their employees are stimulated mentally and know that they are valued their ability to be innovative.  This ability will keep the company competitive and successful in a market that changes daily.  In the same way, Molson's is also required to keep up with new technologies and industry practices but the need is not a major mandate for the majority of their employees.  Molson's does support their employee's motivational needs with training opportunities, apprenticeship programs, and an extensive performance review program.  Their program is focused on providing opportunities for employees to grow in skills both technical and managerial to support them in their daily work and self esteem so that they feel valued by their employer and compelled to keep up with manufacturing targets and company goals.  While both companies are required to keep up with their industries, the information technology sector must focus resources to motivate their employees to create whereas manufacturing must keep up with changes in technology but must motivate their employee to produce, accept change and keep up with company targets and their motivational approaches through their benefits support this difference. The other difference that supports both company' motivational choices is the education level of the majority of the employees.  Atlassian's employees will require a post-secondary education obtaining either a college diploma or university degree whereas a significant portion of Molson's employee populations will only have a high school education or technical college training as well as any training provided by their employer.  Educated employees are motivated by interesting jobs that stretch their abilities and allows them to show initiative and growth whereas less educated workers tend to be more motivated by hygiene or extrinsic factors such as good pay, flexible hours and extra time off.

It is easy to look at a company performing well and praise them for their efforts, however it does become more problematic to address existing issues and make an appropriate change. Given what is known about each company, and the motivational factors attributed to their success, it is possible to postulate how best to make company changes in a scenario where neither company is particularly successful. It has been shown that Atlassian is providing fantastic motivation and benefits to the employees but this could potentially change quite quickly in the future. A potential worry for the company over the next half-decade and beyond, could be Atlassian losing much of its Australian heritage and essentially becoming a carbon copy of the standard software company model. Atlassian has shown tremendous profitable growth in the last eight years, "with growth rates above 30% in 2010, Atlassian is on track to exceed sales of US$100 million in 2010-2011" (Hammond, 2012) It is logical to think that Atlassian will continue its growth in the future and will be on a US-based stock exchange on a respectable position like NASDAQ. Interest in the company could set the stage for a potential takeover. A change in ownership could be thought to come with a change in structure and policy, which at its core is what makes Atlassian so good at motivating its employees. The emphasis that Atlassian has on motivating factors that help to fill higher tier needs, and allow for self-actualization is what can be attributed as the main driving force that motivates the company's employees. In terms of a financial crisis for the company, it should be able to handle motivation related issues relatively well, as the majority of motivational factors are not directly supported by monetary gains. As long as the company were to maintain its employees lower tier needs - or rather hygiene factors - then the company should be able to maintain a high level of employee motivation and productivity.

In contrast, Molsen's would have a difficult time in retaining its employees if the company was suffering financially. Molsen's main motivating factors are more focused on reducing hygiene factors, rather than increasing or creating any intrinsic motivating factors. As a result it wouldd be hard to maintain employee motivation and productivity if monetary issues caused a reduction in the company's ability to manage hygiene factors. The vast majority of employee benefits from Molsen's are ones which have a strong financial backing from Molsen's itself, and if push comes to shove and costs need to be cut in order to maintain sustainability, the employee benefits and amenities are going to be some of the first things to go. This could potentially create a vicious cycle in which costs get cut, resulting in an increase in employee dissatisfaction - this would reduce motivation as a whole - which would then translate into lower output and productivity, resulting in more cost cuts, etc. Molsen's is going to need to find a way to increase autonomy and self actualization for its employees to offer something more sustainable than financially based amenities in order to separate itself from other companies.

In conclusion it is shown that factors affecting motivation are varied and must be tailored to apply to the different types of employees within a company if said company wishes to maintain a motivated work force. Classical notions related to motivating took an approach which more closely resembled one which was interested in reducing what Herzberg would call 'dissatisfying factors' and offering reward based initiatives to promote employee motivation. In a difficult time for companies, this type of approach is going to be difficult to sustain simply from a monetary perspective, and companies are going to need to adopt a 'higher tier' - as Maslow would call it - method to be not only more economical, but more beneficial in the long run. Offering employees more control over their work and the way they handle themselves will lead to employees who are more motivated to work simply because they will gain some intrinsic sense of satisfaction or reward from the work itself. As stated previously, companies that are looking to stay relevant and retain employees are going to need to make changes to their current way of thinking on how they attempt to keep their employees motivated.