Employee Engagement

Everything that You Need to Know About Employee Motivation

January 17, 2020
by
Rani Joseph

Studying employee motivation from the purview of organisational behaviour sciences help Human Resource practitioners closer to achieving motivation at their workplaces. Occupational research breaks it down to help us understand the antecedents of employee motivation in isolation.

A better understanding gives way to better achievements.

Let us look at what the researchers have to tell about employee motivation.

Defining Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is defined as the psychological process that creates purposive behaviours that help employees to accomplish personal and organizational goals. 


Maslow's need hierarchy  theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory are a few theories that help us understand motivation better.


Maslow's need hierarchy  theory states that employees have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. The lower levels of needs (physiological being the lowest) have to be first satisfied before the next level of needs.

Herzberg's two- factor theory states that there are two factors that affect motivation: motivators and hygienes. He tells that motivators or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction, wherein, hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, if absent, produce job dissatisfaction.

Vroom's theory states that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards. These rewards, if positive -  will lead to motivation and if negative, will lead to demotivation.

Adams' theory states that employees are motivated if there is equity between themselves and other workers. An employee perceives this equity to be present when his and his colleagues' ratios of work outcomes to work inputs are equal.

Skinner's theory states that the employees' behaviors that create positive outcomes, will be repeated with the help of positive reinforcements and behaviors that create negative outcomes will not be repeated with the help of negative reinforcements.


How to Motivate Employees?

Innumerous studies have been conducted to understand what motivates employees and following are the most important factors that decide the employee’s motivation.:

1. A feeling of being involved


Employee involvement or Employee participation is said to have the maximum on the employee’s motivation. Employee involvement can be created in an organisation by creating an environment where employees can influence the decisions and actions that affect their jobs.  This is more of a management and leadership philosophy than a strategy and it enables people to continuously contribute to the success of the organisation.


Methods to improve Employee Involvement:

Following are a few ways employee participation can be improved:

  1. Feedback and suggestion systems
  2. Continuous improvement and Brainstorming meetings 
  3. Cross-functional  committees and improvement projects
  4. Periodic discussions with the supervisor.
  5. Training the supervisors on methods to empowerment and drive participation in their teams.
  6. Training the team members in team effectiveness,  communication and problem-solving
  7. Developing robust reward and recognition systems

2. Job security


A guarantee of regular income is the primary motivation for employment and job security is the measure of this assurance. Job security refers to the  probability of losing or keeping one’s job and a great influence on the motivation levels of an employee. 

There are several factors that affect the perceived job security of the employee and the following are the most important of them:

  1. Trust : The amount of trust the employees have on the organisation and their manager affect the amount of perceived Job security because trust is defined as the expectancy of banking upon something. This trust can either be relational - based on the personal connection the manager and the subordinate has - or it can be calculated - based on the abilities of the manager or the subordinate.
  2. Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the way an employee judges hi/her own performance at their job roles. This perceived performability of  the employee in his/her role plays an important role in job security because the probability of retaining somebody on a job increases with their performance. 
  3. Task-oriented leadership: Task-oriented  leadership or goal-focused management refers to when a leader encourages task completion, increases goal clarity, constantly improves communication efficiencies and regulates unproductive behaviours of the employees. When employees have precise instructions on tasks and know exactly what to do, it will lead to tasks getting completed. Task-oriented leaders are thus perceived to provide better job security because this increased probability of task completion leads to safer employment.
  4. Organizational Identification: Organizational identification happens when the employees identify  with the organisation, owning up the organisation’s successes and failures is  their own. Employees with higher organisational identification tend to feel better job security because they tend  to take the responsibility of instilling job security as their own.
  1. Supervisor’s help with personal problems: The ability of the supervisor to empathise and help in solving the employee’s personal problems affect employee motivation. An external determinant of  employee motivation and productivity loss is their personal problems. When the supervisor genuinely tries to connect with the employees, in an attempt to attend to and accommodate these problems, employees are partially relieved of the tension of their out-of-work issues. This reduction in stress and anxiety will lead to reinstating the employee’s motivation.
  2. Good Wages: Nominal wages for work is a physiological need for an employee. It is with these wages that all his/her basic necessities can be fulfilled. Wages can also be classified as a hygiene factor, a lack of which can cause extreme dissatisfaction. The most interesting observation around wages is that  the employee motivation is not directly proportional to the wage increase. In fact, there were studies that showed similar employee motivation scores across wage brackets.


  1. Interesting work: Job enrichment is a way to make work interesting and challenging, which  will lead to improving skill sets and motivation levels. This can be achieved through:
  • Ensuring that an individual's goals and how these fit into the overall corporate mission of the company is thoroughly understood by the employees.
  • Providing resources such as IT, communication tools and training for each employee to perform well. 
  • Creating peer support networks and supportive management - so as to ensure an environment of conduciveness.
  • Creating transparency and free flow of information across the organisation.
  • Providing autonomy and rewarding employee initiatives
  • Providing adequate rewards and recognition.
  • Providing opportunities for skill improvement, like fully paid training sess and admission to conferences.
  • Provide job variety through job sharing and job rotation programmes.

6. Tactful discipline: To tactfully discipline employees is an important factor  of  motivation. This can be done by:

  • Providing clear guidelines for  work
  • Planning and projecting key result areas with utmost accuracy.
  • Keeping conversations open and aim at finding the root causes of the problem.
  • Being careful of giving negative feedback - be extremely conscious of not making the process personal in any way.
  • Always giving negative feedback in private
  • Maintaining complete confidentiality regarding the issue and work with the employee to resolve it
  • Constantly reassure confidence in the employee
  • Providing multiple rounds of instructions and constructive feedback, until the issue is resolved


  1. Promotion or career development: The opportunities for promotion and career development highly affects the motivation levels of the employees. These career advancement opportunities can be an increase in salary or widening of the scope of authority, job duties and responsibilities. It can even be a change in  location or territory. These changes can be made based on proficiency, work experience or training. 


  1. Good working conditions: Working conditions of an organisation can affect the health and safety, security and working hours of an employee.

Employers have a general duty to ensure that the working conditions are as per statutory mandates. This includes managing the maintenance, ventilation, temperature, ambiance , workstations, facilities and interiors of the office so as to ensure a congenial working environment. This also includes proper communication and training of safety precautions and usage of work tools.


  1. Management/Supervisor loyalty to employees: A major characteristic of a loyal employee-manager relationship is the trust that they mutually have. Employees trust their managers to provide them with adequate guidance and managers trust their employees to achieve their deliverables. When this trust is ardent between the employee and the manager, the employees tend to be better motivated.


  1.  Gratitude and Public Celebration for a job well done: The nature of thankfulness in an organisational culture is an effective motivator for the employees. If this thankfulness is expressed verbally, the motivation levels of employees have seen to be highly affected. Additionally, if these appreciation are further publicly addressed, the impact instantly multiplies. This increased impact is generally because of the very aspect of presenting the achievement in front of many others and them  in turn, appreciating the employee.


  1.  Monetary Incentives for a job well done: In addition to the verbal appreciation, if the employer can attach a monetary incentive to these jobs well done, the motivation levels further increase. Such means of monetary compensation is seemingly more efficient in motivating employees, than the same amount of increase in fixed compensation.


What are the implications of employee motivation?


Employee motivation has wide-reaching  implications and these can be broadly classified under two major organisational metrics:

  1. Employee Productivity
  2. Employee Satisfaction
  3. Employee Organisational Citizenship Behaviour


Employee Productivity


Several studies have proven the strong correlation between employee motivation and performance. Not only are the actual quantitative and qualitative outcomes of their tasks significantly better, the employees themselves perceive their performances as good. This positive perception and conviction allow  them to increasingly improve their performances further.


Employee Satisfaction


Motivated employees tend to believe that their organizations allow them to grow as an individual and enable them to effectively contribute to the organisation - thus driving the effectiveness of employee initiatives. They also tend to positively perceive the organization’s  environment to be cooperative, fair and trustworthy. They feel that the organisation is genuinely interested in their wellbeing and  resultantly score high on employee satisfaction scores and promoter scores.


Employee Organisational Citizenship Behaviour


The increased employee satisfaction enables the employees to empathise with the organisational goals, ethics, and moral values. This results in employees exhibiting behaviors that account for  organizational citizenship behaviour. These are characterised as actions and behaviors that go beyond their normal job responsibilities but benefit the team and organisational functioning and efficiency.


Want to know more about how to improve employee motivation? Do let us know.


Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

January 17, 2020

Everything that You Need to Know About Employee Motivation

Studying employee motivation from the purview of organisational behaviour sciences help Human Resource practitioners closer to achieving motivation at their workplaces. Occupational research breaks it down to help us understand the antecedents of employee motivation in isolation.

A better understanding gives way to better achievements.

Let us look at what the researchers have to tell about employee motivation.

Defining Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is defined as the psychological process that creates purposive behaviours that help employees to accomplish personal and organizational goals. 


Maslow's need hierarchy  theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory are a few theories that help us understand motivation better.


Maslow's need hierarchy  theory states that employees have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. The lower levels of needs (physiological being the lowest) have to be first satisfied before the next level of needs.

Herzberg's two- factor theory states that there are two factors that affect motivation: motivators and hygienes. He tells that motivators or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction, wherein, hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, if absent, produce job dissatisfaction.

Vroom's theory states that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards. These rewards, if positive -  will lead to motivation and if negative, will lead to demotivation.

Adams' theory states that employees are motivated if there is equity between themselves and other workers. An employee perceives this equity to be present when his and his colleagues' ratios of work outcomes to work inputs are equal.

Skinner's theory states that the employees' behaviors that create positive outcomes, will be repeated with the help of positive reinforcements and behaviors that create negative outcomes will not be repeated with the help of negative reinforcements.


How to Motivate Employees?

Innumerous studies have been conducted to understand what motivates employees and following are the most important factors that decide the employee’s motivation.:

1. A feeling of being involved


Employee involvement or Employee participation is said to have the maximum on the employee’s motivation. Employee involvement can be created in an organisation by creating an environment where employees can influence the decisions and actions that affect their jobs.  This is more of a management and leadership philosophy than a strategy and it enables people to continuously contribute to the success of the organisation.


Methods to improve Employee Involvement:

Following are a few ways employee participation can be improved:

  1. Feedback and suggestion systems
  2. Continuous improvement and Brainstorming meetings 
  3. Cross-functional  committees and improvement projects
  4. Periodic discussions with the supervisor.
  5. Training the supervisors on methods to empowerment and drive participation in their teams.
  6. Training the team members in team effectiveness,  communication and problem-solving
  7. Developing robust reward and recognition systems

2. Job security


A guarantee of regular income is the primary motivation for employment and job security is the measure of this assurance. Job security refers to the  probability of losing or keeping one’s job and a great influence on the motivation levels of an employee. 

There are several factors that affect the perceived job security of the employee and the following are the most important of them:

  1. Trust : The amount of trust the employees have on the organisation and their manager affect the amount of perceived Job security because trust is defined as the expectancy of banking upon something. This trust can either be relational - based on the personal connection the manager and the subordinate has - or it can be calculated - based on the abilities of the manager or the subordinate.
  2. Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the way an employee judges hi/her own performance at their job roles. This perceived performability of  the employee in his/her role plays an important role in job security because the probability of retaining somebody on a job increases with their performance. 
  3. Task-oriented leadership: Task-oriented  leadership or goal-focused management refers to when a leader encourages task completion, increases goal clarity, constantly improves communication efficiencies and regulates unproductive behaviours of the employees. When employees have precise instructions on tasks and know exactly what to do, it will lead to tasks getting completed. Task-oriented leaders are thus perceived to provide better job security because this increased probability of task completion leads to safer employment.
  4. Organizational Identification: Organizational identification happens when the employees identify  with the organisation, owning up the organisation’s successes and failures is  their own. Employees with higher organisational identification tend to feel better job security because they tend  to take the responsibility of instilling job security as their own.
  1. Supervisor’s help with personal problems: The ability of the supervisor to empathise and help in solving the employee’s personal problems affect employee motivation. An external determinant of  employee motivation and productivity loss is their personal problems. When the supervisor genuinely tries to connect with the employees, in an attempt to attend to and accommodate these problems, employees are partially relieved of the tension of their out-of-work issues. This reduction in stress and anxiety will lead to reinstating the employee’s motivation.
  2. Good Wages: Nominal wages for work is a physiological need for an employee. It is with these wages that all his/her basic necessities can be fulfilled. Wages can also be classified as a hygiene factor, a lack of which can cause extreme dissatisfaction. The most interesting observation around wages is that  the employee motivation is not directly proportional to the wage increase. In fact, there were studies that showed similar employee motivation scores across wage brackets.


  1. Interesting work: Job enrichment is a way to make work interesting and challenging, which  will lead to improving skill sets and motivation levels. This can be achieved through:
  • Ensuring that an individual's goals and how these fit into the overall corporate mission of the company is thoroughly understood by the employees.
  • Providing resources such as IT, communication tools and training for each employee to perform well. 
  • Creating peer support networks and supportive management - so as to ensure an environment of conduciveness.
  • Creating transparency and free flow of information across the organisation.
  • Providing autonomy and rewarding employee initiatives
  • Providing adequate rewards and recognition.
  • Providing opportunities for skill improvement, like fully paid training sess and admission to conferences.
  • Provide job variety through job sharing and job rotation programmes.

6. Tactful discipline: To tactfully discipline employees is an important factor  of  motivation. This can be done by:

  • Providing clear guidelines for  work
  • Planning and projecting key result areas with utmost accuracy.
  • Keeping conversations open and aim at finding the root causes of the problem.
  • Being careful of giving negative feedback - be extremely conscious of not making the process personal in any way.
  • Always giving negative feedback in private
  • Maintaining complete confidentiality regarding the issue and work with the employee to resolve it
  • Constantly reassure confidence in the employee
  • Providing multiple rounds of instructions and constructive feedback, until the issue is resolved


  1. Promotion or career development: The opportunities for promotion and career development highly affects the motivation levels of the employees. These career advancement opportunities can be an increase in salary or widening of the scope of authority, job duties and responsibilities. It can even be a change in  location or territory. These changes can be made based on proficiency, work experience or training. 


  1. Good working conditions: Working conditions of an organisation can affect the health and safety, security and working hours of an employee.

Employers have a general duty to ensure that the working conditions are as per statutory mandates. This includes managing the maintenance, ventilation, temperature, ambiance , workstations, facilities and interiors of the office so as to ensure a congenial working environment. This also includes proper communication and training of safety precautions and usage of work tools.


  1. Management/Supervisor loyalty to employees: A major characteristic of a loyal employee-manager relationship is the trust that they mutually have. Employees trust their managers to provide them with adequate guidance and managers trust their employees to achieve their deliverables. When this trust is ardent between the employee and the manager, the employees tend to be better motivated.


  1.  Gratitude and Public Celebration for a job well done: The nature of thankfulness in an organisational culture is an effective motivator for the employees. If this thankfulness is expressed verbally, the motivation levels of employees have seen to be highly affected. Additionally, if these appreciation are further publicly addressed, the impact instantly multiplies. This increased impact is generally because of the very aspect of presenting the achievement in front of many others and them  in turn, appreciating the employee.


  1.  Monetary Incentives for a job well done: In addition to the verbal appreciation, if the employer can attach a monetary incentive to these jobs well done, the motivation levels further increase. Such means of monetary compensation is seemingly more efficient in motivating employees, than the same amount of increase in fixed compensation.


What are the implications of employee motivation?


Employee motivation has wide-reaching  implications and these can be broadly classified under two major organisational metrics:

  1. Employee Productivity
  2. Employee Satisfaction
  3. Employee Organisational Citizenship Behaviour


Employee Productivity


Several studies have proven the strong correlation between employee motivation and performance. Not only are the actual quantitative and qualitative outcomes of their tasks significantly better, the employees themselves perceive their performances as good. This positive perception and conviction allow  them to increasingly improve their performances further.


Employee Satisfaction


Motivated employees tend to believe that their organizations allow them to grow as an individual and enable them to effectively contribute to the organisation - thus driving the effectiveness of employee initiatives. They also tend to positively perceive the organization’s  environment to be cooperative, fair and trustworthy. They feel that the organisation is genuinely interested in their wellbeing and  resultantly score high on employee satisfaction scores and promoter scores.


Employee Organisational Citizenship Behaviour


The increased employee satisfaction enables the employees to empathise with the organisational goals, ethics, and moral values. This results in employees exhibiting behaviors that account for  organizational citizenship behaviour. These are characterised as actions and behaviors that go beyond their normal job responsibilities but benefit the team and organisational functioning and efficiency.


Want to know more about how to improve employee motivation? Do let us know.


Rani Joseph

Senior Manager - Marketing at Xoxoday. Apart from writing blogs and articles, she loves researching and reading.