Employee Motivation: Motivational Theories

Employee motivation originates is all about some rewards to employees in order to encourage them to work hard for the growth of firms. It is derived from a Latin word movere translated to move. Motivation is simply the self-drive that determines the behavior and character displayed by a person that guides him/her towards a set objective. With this in mind, we can see that the various motivation theories developed by a number of scholars concentrate on the processes involved in developing personal behavior and how it can be manipulated towards a common good. Motivational theories are divided into two large groups; Process theories and content theories there. Nevertheless, it is important to note that there is no single motivation theory of even group that is universally accepted and applicable to every situation and workplace. As such, it is the role of the organization to decide upon which motivation theory best suits and matches their interests. (Liff, 2007).

The content theory is also called the need theory is directly concerned with investigating the needs of an individual and identifying what would under the given circumstances interest him. These needs have been recognized as being responsible for strengthening and directing human behavior. Work on motivation began long ago and has some of the common theories named after the scholars behind them. The most common ones under the content theory group are listed by Liff (2007) Alderfer’s ERG theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McClelland’s learned needs, and Herzberg’s dual factors theory.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is one of the most outstanding and widely used theories under the group of content theory. In this theory, Maslow grouped ordinary human needs in a hierarchal from the basic to the most “irrelevant” need and organize them into five levels. Liff (2007) identifies the levels as physiological needs, emotional needs, needs for self-actualization, and safety and security needs. Alderfer’s ERG theory in which three perspectives exist also shares this perspective; the three perspectives are growth needs, existence and relatedness. Hertzberg’s dual factors theory follows another route by hypothesizing on possible factors that if availed in the workplace, then there is job satisfaction among the employees. McClellan’s three-need is based on Thematic Aptitude Test (TAT). Responses of employees to their achievements, power, and affiliation guide in identifying what would be customarily offered motivation to an employee. This is from the aspect that people with power take actions that impact the behavior of other workers (Liff, 2007).

Moreover, the process theory motivates people by seeking to understand their requirements and processes resulting in the influence of their behaviors. Some common theories that lie in this group are Vroom’s expectancy theory, Adam’s equity theory, reinforcement theory, and goal-setting theory. The main points in Vroom’s expectancy theory are valence, instrumentality, and expectancy. The goal-setting theory argues that setting goals and objectives in the workplace in terms of targets, deadlines and ultimatums serve as motivating factors (Liff, 2007). Reinforcement theory approaches the problem of motivation from the other end by seeking to manipulate the end results and consequences.

Target, a company that provides services and products for carpet cleaning, is one that has displayed successful employee motivation through the use of one or a number of the above theories. It has many employees with different cognitive requirements that require different approaches to motivate them. Utilization of Maslow’s motivational theory will ensure that the most basic requirements of motivation such as good working conditions, good working incentives, and appreciation of their accomplishments go a long way in ensuring that the workers are motivated. However, understanding their basic requirements and specific motivational factors will ensure that the company defines specific strategies to satisfy each of the workers. This is because some workers could appreciate rewards, free offs, and promotion while others would prefer other forms of motivation. Thus, it is paramount for the company to ensure that the management and the rest of the workers appreciate their different contributions towards the achievement of the company’s vision and mission.


Liff, S. (2007). Managing Government Employees: How to Motivate Your People, Deal with Difficult Issues, and Achieve Tangible Results, New York: AMACOM.

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