All individuals work for a reason. These reasons could vary from person to person. Some of them could apply to all workers, such as the need to earn money. However, some reasons have more importance to certain individuals as compared to others. Employees have needs; needs that have to be satisfied by the employer in order to get the maximum effort out of his workers. If their needs are not satisfied, then they will not be “motivated” to work. Motivation refers to the willingness of an individual to work.
In the short run, lack of motivation can lead to lack of commitment and reduced efforts on behalf of the employees. Several theories have been presented by logicians addressing the factors that affect the motivation levels of different individuals. We will be evaluating the effectiveness of these theories below. Frederick W. Taylor set out a theory of scientific management. He believed workers were being inefficient by adopting their own methods of working and that the employers were not aware of what motivated their employees. He attempted to bridge the gap between the managers and the employees with his theory.
He carried out several experiments in which he observed workers and timed their method of operation. He then isolated the one that took the least time and was most efficient. Employees were then trained to follow that method alone and all the employers had to do was supervise them to make sure they were doing the tasks in the set time period and were abiding by the method that they had been trained for. Taylor claimed that this would increase the productivity of the firm, which it did; but another thing that was mainly the basis of his theory was that employees are motivated only by financial rewards.
If you pay them more, they will be motivated to work better and more efficiently thus increasing the firm’s productivity. For this purpose, he encouraged employers to implement the piece rate system which pays workers according to their individual level of production. This instigated workers to produce more in order to earn more. So basically, according to Taylor, people are only motivated if they are paid a higher wage. The problems with his theory are self-apparent. Firstly, not all employees can adapt to the method that he might try training them in and secondly, earning high salaries is not the only motivator.
A survey was carried out and people were asked if they would continue to work if they were not financially required to do so and over 70 percent of men and 65 percent of women said they would. This clearly shows that there are other motivators apart from money. These needs of workers were then addressed to by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow came up with the hierarchy for needs.
He classified the needs of employees into a pyramid starting with the basic needs and moving up each level to the highest ones. These levels (in ascending order) consist of: -> Physiological needs: the need to earn enough to pay your bills and live decently with an adequate amount of food and shelter. –> Safety needs: these can include physical safety in the form of good working conditions as well as well as job security. –> Social needs: the need to get along with people and have a sense of belonging while at work. –> Esteem needs: the need to feel respected by peers and get recognition for a job well done. –> Self-Actualization: the need to reach one’s full potential by being promoted and taking on more responsibility
Maslow claims that once each level of needs is met, the worker becomes increasingly motivated until he reaches the peak of the pyramid where he is ready to explore his potential. The needs at each and every level must be satisfied for the employee to move on to the next level. As each need is met, its importance continues to diminish. Everyone is capable of reaching the highest level of this pyramid i. e. self actualization but practically speaking, very few do. This is because it is very much possible to retreat to a previous level of needs as well. This can be better illustrated through an example.
One of my friends works in the UAE. He has made considerable progress during the tenure of his job; it could be said that he was on the ‘esteem needs’ in terms of Maslow’s theory. However, he was suddenly faced with the possibility that he might lose his job. He was then concerned about how he was going to earn and pay for different amenities. Therefore, we can see that he moved back two levels and was back to square one in an instant i. e. physiological need. This is one of the problems of his theory. The second problem is that not every entity can be classified into exclusively one category.
For example, money; it is a physiological need as it aids the individual in purchasing the necessities of life. However, it can also be an esteem need as having money is a status symbol as well. Therefore, this theory of motivation might not be as effective. Taylor’s theory had seemed quite feasible to most industries at the first glance and thus came the introduction of the Hawthorne studies. Elton Mayo initially started conducting experiments on the basis of Taylor’s theory of scientific management – workers’ productivity is affected by financial motivators.
However, he discovered that changing the working conditions in whichever way and even bringing those back to the original ones had the same effect on productivity. This was known as the Hawthorne Effect. Elton Mayo then concluded that changes in financial factors as well as working conditions had little or no effect on employee motivation. It was the cohesion and communication amongst the employees and their peers as well as the interest shown by the employers’ in their work that motivated them to work together and hence increase productivity.
This is why Elton Mayo supported the human relations theory where he stated that in order for employees to be motivated and to work effectively, it is essential that they gain ‘personal satisfaction’. On the employer’s behalf, this can be achieved by communicating with informal work groups and making sure that the employees’ objectives coincide with their own. Generally, people tend to be highly motivated to perform a certain task when they have had a certain say in the decision-making process as well.
A good example of this would be Honda’s plant in Swindon where ‘team working’ is emphasized – there are no directors or workers, only ‘associates’. This resulted in high motivation levels within the firm. Like all other theories, Elton Mayo’s Human Relations theory has its drawbacks too. Firstly, the effort to establish improved communication links between the management and workers may be considered a manipulative tactic by the employees. They may think that the management is trying to reduce trade union power and in turn increase productivity by reaching out to them.
Secondly, the goals of the firm and the workers may not necessarily match. This could then create problems. Apart from that, when workers develop a good relationship with the management, they will find out about directors’ salaries and redundancies etc. Therefore, the effort that was originally meant to break down the barriers between the workers and the directors may actually end up building more of them and in some cases may even lead to further resentment between both parties. Therefore, this theory of motivation could use some revision as well.
The next theory was presented by Douglas McGregor who attempted to apply the implications of previous theories. He gave different reasons why people work and divided them into two main categories. In order to describe these he named them theory X and theory Y. The workers in theory X are motivated only by financial rewards. They generally dislike work and are lazy. Furthermore, they are not ambitious and need to be controlled and directed by the supervisors. On the other hand, theory Y workers have non-financial needs that motivate them.
They enjoy work and are willing to take on responsibility in order to come up with innovative techniques and apply their job knowledge. This theory is similar in some ways to the human relations theory. Most managers follow the theory X approach especially at places like assembly plants where the low level workers have pretty much no say in the working practices and hence dislike work and are poorly motivated. Frederick Herzberg presented another theory regarding motivation levels known as the two factor theory.
He questioned a certain group of professionals as to what satisfied or dissatisfied them at work and then divided these into two categories, namely: Motivators and Hygiene Factors. Motivators are the factors which give workers job satisfaction e. g. recognition for their effort. Increasing these motivators increases the level of job satisfaction. This makes workers more productive. However this is not guaranteed, as other factors can affect productivity levels as well. Hygiene Factors are those that lead to workers being dissatisfied such as pay or conditions.
Improving the hygiene factors should remove dissatisfaction. Improving the hygiene factors will not necessarily result in an increase in productivity but if they are not met, there could be a fall in productivity. There is some similarity between Herzberg’s and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to Herzberg, the top levels of the hierarchy must be achieved in order to effectively motivate the employees. His ideas are linked with the concept of job enrichment. This is where workers have their jobs ‘expanded’ so that they can experience a higher level of responsibility.
This can include promotions etc. Two other concepts concerned with motivation levels are those of job rotation and job enlargement. Job rotation occurs when workers are multi-skilled and they are encouraged to switch tasks once in a while to add variety to their work. Performing the same task repeatedly can be monotonous; therefore job rotation helps in keeping employees interested in their jobs. For example, my uncle works in a bottle manufacturing plant. He is responsible for packing them but once in a while, whenever one of the employees is absent, he takes over for them.
This keeps him motivated. On the other hand, job enlargement involves giving an employee more work to do of a similar nature. For example, one of my friends works at a bicycle industry. Instead of just putting the wheels on the bicycles, which is what he usually does, he is allowed to put the entire product together. Apart from financial benefits, workers can be motivated through fringe benefits as well. These are payments other than wages or salaries. They can include private medical insurance, expense accounts, company cars, bonus schemes etc. Providing fringe benefits s actually cheaper at times to employers.
Even employees might prefer to receive benefits rather than pay. Despite their benefits, they can even cause status problems. Overall, there are plenty of motivation theories given by different logicians. All of them provide their own form of evidence to support their claims. Therefore, keeping everything in view, we can safely state that non-financial motivators have a higher level of success as compared to financial motivators. They have their own place and may remove negative motivation but they might not encourage workers to increase productivity.
On the other hand non-financial motivators play a bigger role in employee motivation. They help employees to adjust to working conditions and produce the optimum output by reaching their full potential. All the motivation theories have certain limitations which have been stated in their evaluation. Therefore, employers need to understand that motivation is a key factor to satisfied employees and increased productivity and thus they must concentrate their efforts greatly on the motivation levels of their workforce.