Employee Motivation Concepts and Theories Term Paper

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Employee Motivation / Concepts & Theories

Employee Motivation: Theories and Concepts

The issue of employee motivation is one that has become a central concern of management and leadership in modern business. There has been an increased realization in theory and praxis that employees are motivated by much more than salary and that in order to get the most from an employee there are many theories and practical motivational aspects that need to be considered. These range from psychological theories, which view motivation in terms of variables such as self - esteem and self - understanding, to more sociological and organizational theories about motivation

Motivational theory in an employment context is a relatively new field of inquiry and research. The importance of motivational aspects in terms of improving productivity and work atmosphere is a comparatively recent factor in leadership and management concerns. Prior to this situation the view was prevalent that the employee should simply follow the rules and that their primary motivation was the payment that they received. This refers to the old fashioned "carrot and stick" approach to motivation.

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This view had a rather negative understanding of human behaviour and the employee and assumed that, "...people are lazy; they hate work to the extent that they avoid it; they have no ambition, take no initiative and avoid taking any responsibility; all they want is security, and to get them to do any work, they must be rewarded, coerced, intimidated and punished. "(Motivation Theorists and Their Theories)

TOPIC: Term Paper on Employee Motivation Concepts and Theories Assignment

This view if of course not generally accepted by most experts and contemporary managers and business leaders have realized that in order to get the best from their employees, it is imperative to create the working environment and the personal incentives which encourages individuals to work. Conversely, managers also realise that research into motivation and motivation theory is important to do away with or reduce those factors or elements that can negatively impact on the desire to work for the company or business. For example, theorists like McGregor believe that, "... people want to learn and that work is their natural activity to the extent that they develop self-discipline and self-development." (Motivation Theorists and Their Theories)

1.1. The importance of motivational theories and concepts.

Although this aspect has been briefly referred to above, it is important to establish why an understanding of motivation and motivational strategies are of such importance in the modern business environment. As a study from the Harvard Business School states;

Motivated employees are crucial to a company's success -- this has never been truer than today, when margins are thin (or nonexistent) and economic recovery remains elusive. These hard bottom-line realities may also mean that managers can't rely as much as they might have in the past on using financial incentives to drive employee engagement.

Getting a Handle on Employee Motivation)

In other words, in the very competitive and intense commercial world of today, the manager or the business owner has to rely on his or her staff to be fully motivated to carry out their tasks. The uses of motivational theories that can be put into practise have assumed a very high significance in the modern entrepreneurial and corporate world.

There is a clear consensus in the modern entrepreneurial environment that "Success in any undertaking requires more than ability and resources; it also depends on motivation." (Jeffords, Scheidt, and Thibadoux) More significantly, in term of the theories of motivation in the workplace, "...managers must understand that annual raises and promotion opportunities aren't always enough. Managing the changing needs of professional staff requires individualized attention, specialized incentive programs and compensation plans more closely tied to individual achievement and performance. " (Jeffords, Scheidt, and Thibadoux)

2. Theories of employee motivation

2.1. Overview.

The significance of motivation theory and its application in specific environments can be gleaned from this very succinct but apt definition of human motivation.

Psychologists define motivation as 'that which gives impetus to our behavior by arousing, sustaining, and directing it toward the attainment of goals' "(Creech)

There are numerous theoretical perspectives relating to the subject of employee motivation. As mentioned, the issue of motivation in the workplace is at the center of modern leadership and managerial strategies. The different theories of motivation are based on psychological and sociological research and rely heavily on contemporary behavioral psychology.

Each theory and theorist attempts to discern and isolate those aspects that are seen to be of critical importance in understanding the facets and factors that create a structure that is conducive to personal motivation.

Motivation theory in general refers to the ubiquitous motivational aspects that are discerned in human nature.

However, it must be noted at the outset that the subject of employee motivation refers mainly to the motivation factors that can be inculcated within a certain environment or, more specifically, within the work place. Therefore there are other factors that must be taken into account in terms of theory. These include the social and cultural aspects that may affect and impact on employee motivation. Motivation theory attempts to answer questions such as: to what extent are the environment and managerial policies a motivating or de-motivating factor in the work place?

Questions like these must also include research and inquiries into the individual and personal psychological elements that motivate the employee.

A central aspect therefore in understanding motivation theory is the wide array and variety of variables that have to be taken into account. The manager or employer therefore has to be aware of the way that various factors in the workplace interact and relate to one another in the process of employee motivation. "... The manager should be able to motivate employees. But that's easier said than done! Motivation practice and theory are difficult subjects, touching on several disciplines." (Employee Motivation; Theory and practice)

This central trajectory in motivation theory leads to the issue of praxis. Theory has to be implemented. The following overview of some of the central theories and concepts in motivational theory will also provide insight into this important aspect. What should always be borne in mind is that when one speaks about motivation one is dealing with complex psychological and sociological issues in human nature. As one study reminds us; "To understand motivation one must understand human nature itself. And there lies the problem!" (Employee Motivation; Theory and practice)

The following sections will attempt to deal with some of the central and most important contemporary motivational theories. However, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the theories but is intended rather as a discursive overview.

2.2. Theories of human and employee motivators.

Those in managerial and leadership positions are aware that motivation requires more than just the payment of a salary. The CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, once stated that employees have to be rewarded both financially and with sustenance for "....the soul." (Neff)

In other words, Welch was referring to the view that, "...Companies must also empower their employees and provide incentives for them to perform at high levels. Motivating employees and understanding the psychology behind employee motivation are essential to any successful organization..." (Neff) This refers to the most basic understanding of motivation in that employees, if they feel that their needs on different levels are being met, will usually be better and more productive workers.

In general the majority of theories on motivation follows central and common threads or tends. One of these is that that mental and intellectual enrichment should also form part of any understanding of employee motivation. "An employee who is able to learn from the daily interaction with work will know that he is receiving a benefit above that of simple pay, and will be willing to put much more effort into a process that is making him a more interesting and educated person..." (Creech)

Another aspect that features in the various theories is the issue of employee achievement and sense of purpose. "Achievement comes from the sense of accomplishment felt when an employee meets either long-term or short-term goals." (Creech) a further aspect that fosters a motivational environment is employee recognition. These and many other aspects will be discussed in the overview of some of the most significant theories and concepts on motivation.

Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs

It is obvious that when one speaks about employee motivation one is in reality talking about human motivation in a certain context.

Therefore the basic factors seen as central driving factors in general human motivation also apply to the workplace and working environment. One of the most important and influential theories which deals the central human motivational factors is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This is also one of the most established and well-known of the foundational motivational theories.

Abraham Maslow was in essence a humanist theorist and as such was of the opinion that there was a close and essential links between human motivation and human meaning.

In other words, the human individual is best motivated when the work that he or she is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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