• Compare and contrast the Content and Process Theories of Motivation.  Are they equally relevant in the 21st. century?  Why?  Why not?

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Motivation is factors that fuel the desire on people and influences them to be more interested, committed, and strive to achieve a goal. It is caused or influenced by emotional, biological, financial, and social factors. These trigger the behavior significantly. Motivation often results from the correlation of conscious and unconscious aspects. For instance, the amount of desire and need, the value of the incentive or reward and the expectations of an individual or of his peers may influence behavior and desire.

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Managers that understand the importance of motivation in the workplace know how to improve their employees’ morale. This increases the chances of success of the company from the highly energized and motivated workers. Organizations need employees who are committed to performing their best at work. Highly motivated, ambitious, dedicated employees give their utmost effort at the work place and companies gain the most from their work.

 On the other hand, lacking motivation in employees can be detrimental to companies. Low morale, lack of energy, and high staff turnover may be because of low motivation in the company.

F.W Taylor

Motivation may be influenced by financial gain. According to Taylor (1856-1917), workers are motivated primarily by pay. His model of scientific management put forward the argument that, workers do not always enjoy work and hence need close observation and control. Managers should thus divide production into a number of small chores. The workers ought to be given relevant training and tools to enable them work efficiently on their assigned tasks. The workers had to follow a set procedure in order to ensure productivity. Taylor stated that workers ought to be paid in line with the quantity of items they produce after a specific period of time-piece-rate compensation. Consequently, this encouraged workers to work harder and produce more.

Taylor’s methods were widely accepted and helped businesses enjoy an increase in productivity levels, and reduced unit costs. For example, Henry Ford used this theory in designing the first production line, manufacturing Ford cars. It was the beginning of an era of bulk production.

Taylor’s ideas are quite similar to the theory of a tyrannical management style where managers make all decisions and simply give instructions to their employees on how to implement them.

With time, workers came to dislike Taylor’s methodology due to the monotonous, repetitive tasks that were being done and being treated no better than mere human machines. Companies were also able to lay off workers since productivity levels increased.

  1. Mayo

Elton Mayo (1880-1949) was of the belief that workers could also be driven by having their social desires and needs met while at work, which was ignored by Taylor. He brought about a Human Relation perspective to organizations. This method concentrated on managers taking an interest in their workers lives, treating them as human beings who have useful opinions and realizing that employees like interacting with each other.

Mayo carried out a number of experiments and numerous investigation on employees at the Hawthorne factory in Chicago. To gain knowledge on the impact on workers in different working environments Mayo separated two groups of women employees and assessed the effect of varying aspects, lighting and the working environment on their productivity levels. He thought the productivity levels would decrease as lighting and the working environment gradually worsened. However, he was surprised to see that whatsoever the change in the working conditions or lighting, the workers’ productivity levels improved or remained relatively unchanged.

From his study, Mayo realized that workers are mostly motivated by:

  • More manager participation in staffs working lives. Hawthorne factory employees seemed to appreciate and responded positively to the more attention they were receiving.
  • Enhanced communication between the workers and management. Hawthorne factory workers had the opportunity to give responses from the consultations about the experiment and on their workplace conditions and desires.
  • Working in teams. Hawthorne employees did not work in teams previously but responded positively to being grouped together to perform certain tasks.

Therefore, businesses should encourage more use of teamwork and create personnel departments thus have more manager involvement in taking care of employees’ wants and needs.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is something that individuals offer themselves for achieving a goal. It is inspired by personal interest or satisfaction achieved when doing the job. Intrinsic motivation can be that feeling of accomplishment one gets after overcoming a challenge or completing a task that required quite some effort. Intrinsic rewards include personal achievement, growth in skills, a feeling of pleasure and accomplishment.

Extrinsic motivation is centered on tangible rewards. It is external to the individual and is often offered by management who determine when to offer the rewards and in what quantity. Extrinsic rewards are at most times financial such as salary raises, bonuses, or paid time off. Sometimes they can also be non-monetary for example getting the better working station or office, recognition through awards, praise, promotions, and extra responsibility. These extrinsic rewards motivate employees, as they are important to most of them.

Content Theories of Motivation

The content theories are mostly the earliest philosophies of motivation or newer modifications of the early theories. They are also referred to as needs theories as try to determine what people’s needs are and link motivation to fulfilling the needs. In other words, the content theories identify the particular factors that motivate individuals.

All people have needs they would want satisfied. The needs may be classified into two: primary and secondary needs. Primary needs are those needs that involve the physical aspects of people’s behavior. They include food, water, and sleep. They are considered as un-acquired needs. They are mainly biological and more or less stable. They have an obvious impact on behavior and are thus easily identifiable.

Secondary needs are psychological. They are acquired as one grows older and after going through certain experiences. They may be different with different cultures, lifestyles, and individuals. Secondary needs are mainly internal statuses, for example the desire to be loved, have power, and achievement. They are quite complex as they are shown in a number of ways and recognizing and interpreting them is difficult. They highly influence the rewards a person wants in an organization and are responsible for conduct that a supervisor may be looking for.

Various philosophers for example Abraham Maslow, Clayton Alderfer, Frederick Herzberg, and David McClelland, came up with theories that aim to explain how needs are a source of motivation.



Abraham Maslow’s theory

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) defined need as a psychological shortage that an individual feels the urge to satisfy. It can result in pressure that will affect a person’s behavior and attitude towards something.  

Maslow stated that there existed a hierarchy of needs made up of five levels in the hierarchy. His theory claimed that only when a lower level of need has been satisfied, would an employee be motivated by the chance of having the next higher need in the hierarchy being satisfied (Dubrin 2008 p.375). For instance, an employee would first be motivated to earn a wage in order to buy food before thinking about having a secure job.

Managers should thus offer a variety of rewards to employees in a bid to help them satisfy each need in line and progress up the hierarchy. Different employees are motivated differently and are at a different level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Businesses should therefore offer different sets of incentives for different workers.

Clayton Alderfer built the Existence Relatedness Growth (ERG) theory upon Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. In his theory Alderfer breakdowns Maslow’s five levels of needs into three broad categories.

  • The Existence needs which are wants for material well-being. In Maslow’s theory, these needs are physiological and safety needs.
  • Relatedness needs. Alderfer stated these are needs for fulfilling interpersonal relationships. In Maslow’s theory, relatedness is similar to social needs.
  • Growth needs, which are wants for continuous psychological progress and development. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs model, growth needs consist of esteem and self-actualization needs.

Both theories claim, “As lower level needs are fulfilled they become less important”. The desire to achieve higher-level needs that have not been satisfied influences behavior and they become more significant as they are met. If the higher level needs are not satisfied, an individual may go down the hierarchy, something Alderfer referred to as the Frustration regression principle. This means that a previously fulfilled lower level need can become restarted and affect behavior when the higher level need has not be met. Consequently, management should offer opportunities to workers to make the most out of higher-level needs.


McClelland’s acquired needs model

David McClelland’s acquired needs theory is aware of people’s different priorities of needs. McClelland believes that individuals learn these needs as they go through various life experiences (Schermerhorn, 2010 p.365). He identifies three particular needs: the need for achievement, which is the determination to succeed, the need for power i.e. the aspiration of wanting to make other people to behave in a certain way, and the need for affiliation, which is the need for welcoming, friendly interactive relationships, and avoiding conflict.

McClelland affiliates each need with a different set of work inclinations. Therefore, managers can use his theory to alter environment to fulfill the needs. An individual with a great need of power may often wish to follow a certain path of continuous promotion over time. This individual will show behaviors such as wanting to influence other people, enjoy being at the helm, prefer competitive and rank oriented positions.




Herzberg’s two-factor model

Frederick Herzberg recognized two sets of features that affect motivation in the workplace:

  • Motivators: These include achievement, feeling of recognition, responsibility, and development opportunities (Schermerhorn, 2010 p.408). They are significant in work satisfaction and motivation. For instance, managers can evaluate what people actually do in their jobs and add improvements hence increase job contentment and performance.
  • Hygiene factors. They consist of job security, good working conditions, organization policies, salary, and quality of supervision. These qualities may not motivate employees but cause discontent if they are not present (Schermerhorn, 2010 p.408). For example, adding music to the workplace can make people less discontent with the working environment.


Process Theories of Motivation

Process theories explain how employees manipulate their behavior to satisfy their needs and make choices on whether to work hard or not considering their preferences, available rewards, and potential results.

Vroom’s Expectancy theory

The Expectancy theory is about mental courses that are involved in making choices. Vroom was of the idea that people decide to behave in a specific way because of the anticipated results of the particular behavior. For instance, a person can choose to work harder because they think it will earn them a reward that will make the extra effort worthwhile.

Therefore, the motivation for selecting certain behavior is influenced by the individual’s assessment of the reward. The theory also mainly highlight’s the mental process of how a person evaluates the various motivational elements. Proper processing is done before the individual chooses behavior. This means the reward is not the only determinant in influencing the decision to be made of how to behave as the individual has to foresee whether they will earn the reward or not.

Vroom defined motivation as a procedure, where an individual analyzed the expected result of certain behavior and the value of the result in relation to the input while reviewing other forms of activities. The Expectancy theory describes the behavioral process of why workers may choose a behavioral preference over another. It explains how they make decisions to accomplish the result they want. Vroom presents three factors within his theory:

  • Valence: this is the emotional alignments people have with respect to potential outcomes. Managers should therefore identify what employees value.
  • Expectancy: this is the different expectations employees have and the degree of confidence about the tasks they are capable of handling. Management must therefore ensure their employees have adequate training and supervision to accomplish various tasks.
  • Instrumentality: this is the view employees have as to whether they are going to receive what they desire even if management has promised it. This means managers have to ensure they fulfill rewards they promised and employees know they will receive the rewards.

Vroom stated that employee’s perception about Expectancy, Instrumentality, and valence correlate psychologically to bring a motivational power making them act in specific ways.

Locke’s goal setting principle

In the 1960s, Locke found out that goals were a major source of motivation for employees. From his research he realized that the challenging and precise a goal is, the harder people worked to accomplish it. In his studies, he found out that most of the time approximately ninety percent of the time specific and demanding goals led to improved performance than the easy or “try your best” goals (Werner, & Desimone, 2009 p.49).

According to Locke, the following five goal placing principles can increase chances of success:

  • Clarity
  • Challenge
  • Commitment
  • Feedback
  • Task complexity

Like Vroom in his expectancy theory, Locke’s goal setting theory has a focus on the end achievements or reward. However, Locke’s goal setting theory is more about making the employee feel accomplished and not want material benefits such as monetary rewards but feel as having overcome a challenge and attained a specific goal.


Equity Theory

John Stacey Adams was of the idea that equity and fairness were important aspects of a motivated individual (Werner, & Desimone, 2009 p.47). In his theory, he stated that individuals are motivated by fairness, and if they note imbalances in the input, output ratios between them and individuals they relate to, they may get dissatisfied, and adjust their contribution to the level they perceive equity.

Reinforcement theory

BF Skinner’s reinforcement theory of motivation states that individuals will most often demonstrate certain behavior if it precedes something pleasurable. According to this theory, positive results will motivate certain behavior but negative consequences will discourage individuals’ behavior (Werner, & Desimone, 2011 p.55).

According to BF Skinner, there may be three types of responses:

Neutral- this is where there are no reinforcements. It may imply decreasing the probability of unwanted behavior by withdrawing reward for the behavior.

Reinforces- this means giving a positive reaction when a person demonstrates positive behavior. For example, rewarding employees for outstanding performance is a reinforcer. It encourages repetition of the outstanding performance.

Punishers- This is removing positive results so as to lower the chance of repeating unwanted behavior in the future (Flora, 2004 p.67). That is, punishment means imposing undesirable consequence for showing unwanted performance. For example, dismissing or suspending a worker for breaking the organizations rules.

From the above theories, I think managers should adopt McClelland’s acquired needs theory. Pay is not the only source of motivation for employees. They also want their acquired needs fulfilled in the work place. They learn these needs as they go through various life experiences. The three particular needs include, the need for achievement, the need for power, and the need for affiliation. The other theorists in their models but McClelland considered them all have highlighted these three needs. 

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