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Review Of Literature - Employee Motivation

This is the related literature for a research on employee motivation. This paper discusses the definition, theories and forms of motivation. The manager’s role, and strategies that the manager can adapt are also included. This paper also discusses the benefits and effects of motivation, employee retention and satisfaction, & commitment of employees for the survival of the organization.


In the current competitive climate, the organization must have an intense interest in maximizing the resources at hand. Leadership must be alert to the ways in which fluctuating outside conditions and internal changes can dramatically impact the group's dynamics required for peak performance. This will best be accomplished by motivating everyone to work together.

Motivation is the art of creating conditions that allows everyone to get their work done at their own peak level of efficiency (Gellerman, 1992).  It helps people to focus their minds and energies on doing their work as effectively as possible. It is the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals (Lindner, 1998). Through motivation, skilled leaders can bring out hidden or untapped capabilities of their people. At the same time, this will give each person involved a greater degree of job satisfaction and make them more successful as individuals. 

Employees have the need to be motivated for survival. Motivated employees are needed in the rapidly changing workplaces. Motivated employees are more productive, and they help organizations survive.   To be effective, managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform. Employees, on the other hand, must be willing to let managers know what motivates them, and managers must be willing to design reward systems that motivate employees.

Identifying the factors that affect the quality and quantity of employees' job performance is an important issue in the study of work and the workplace.  Managers routinely make assumptions about the characteristics that enhance or detract from performance. It is generally assumed, for example, that greater organizational commitment contributes to better performance as more committed employees should be more motivated to work hard on their organization’s behalf.   Performance is also assumed to be affected by structural and task characteristics such as whether employees are able to exercise autonomy and discretion in their work, the extent to which their tasks are clearly defined, and whether they are rewarded for hard work (Cheng, et al, 1996).

Of all the functions a manager performs, motivating employees is arguably the most complex. This is due, in part, to the fact that what motivates employees changes constantly.  A manager should be conscious of what motivates employees, what energizes, what makes them feel more optimistic, and what type of rewards encourage them.  These are the important things that make employees reach their full potential. Once high performance has been demonstrated, rewards can become important as inducements to continue. Internal, self-administered rewards that can occur following high performance include a sense of achievement based on attaining a certain level of excellence, pride in accomplishment, and feelings of success and efficacy (Kleinbeck, 1990).  

 Organizations use different motivation theories for motivating employees. In Hertzberg's theory, management should begin by focusing on hygiene factors such as pay and job security, before focusing on motivator factors which include interesting work and full appreciation of work done. On the other hand, in Adams' equity theory, management should begin by focusing on areas where there may be perceived inequities, such as pay and full appreciation of work done, before focusing on interesting work and job security. Another theory by Vroom's suggests that management should begin by focusing on rewarding, employee effort in achieving organizational goals and objectives.

According to Motivation in the Real World by Gellerman (1992), the most effective motivation systems in successful American companies are: selectivity in hiring, generous pay and benefit programs, and encouragement of long-term employment. Other strategies include flexible implementation of policies, rather than rigid rules, cooperative unions, or no unions at all, and a conscious policy of putting employee motivation above all other priorities.

On the other hand, a research by Lindner (1998) on Understanding Employee Motivation, determined the ranked order of motivating factors. The top answers were interesting work, good wages, and full appreciation of work done. These factors are followed by job security, good working conditions, promotions and growth in the organization.  Feeling of being in on things, personal loyalty to employees, tactful discipline, and sympathetic help with personal problems ranked low on the results.

Other methods of increasing employee motivation include job enlargement, job enrichment, promotions, internal and external stipends, monetary, and non-monetary compensations. Job enlargement can be used to make work more interesting for employees by increasing the number and variety of activities performed. Managers can also use job enrichment to make work more interesting and increase pay by adding higher level responsibilities to a job and providing monetary compensation (raise or stipend) to employees for accepting this responsibility. 

To effectively motivate employees, the leader has to learn how to communicate effectively with the employees. The leader should first spell out what he/she wants them to do, reassure them that if they're willing to try, they really can do what the leader has asked them to do, and finally, convince them that it's very much in their best interests to try (Gellerman, 1992). The leader should also learn the skill of how to listen to what the employees have to say. Employees are motivated when they are given the opportunities to take part in achieving the objectives of the organization, and made to feel that what they say and do have worth.

Acknowledging efforts is also essential for a motivated and satisfied work force (Denton, 1992). It stimulates new ideas and encourages better performance and team spirit. In consensus decision making, employees are given the opportunity to contribute their ideas and take part in creating decisions.  It does not mean that everyone has to agree, only that people believe that the right facts and right reasons are used to make the right decision. The real benefit of this process is not getting an answer but going through the process to get the answer. Good employees keep pushing and keep digging for facts until everyone agrees on a decision. Consensus decision-making makes the employees think about the decision, and the leader gets commitment and motivation from the process. 

Restructuring jobs can improve workplace, and motivate both managers and employees. This broadening and restructuring jobs can be a partial answer to motivating today's work force (Denton, 1992). One way to do this restructuring of work involves broadening job responsibilities. For instance, a process of reducing the number of managerial layers within its organization can be implemented.  To improve motivation and allow more lateral movement within the organization, there can be reduced pay grades so managers in different disciplines could move easily across the organization. It also broadens the responsibilities of many of the managerial positions, believing that broader responsibilities would increase the challenge and satisfaction within the organizations.

Giving employees diversity of experience is also a form of motivation. When it is considered that it is not uncommon for companies to do nearly half their sales in foreign markets, it is easy to see why companies see foreign service as a real plus. Working overseas is not the only foreign experience that companies are finding to be both motivational as well as beneficial to the company.  Many are sending their most promising managers and employees back to business schools and training programs. Employees are trained to do several tasks so they can handle more jobs, work faster, and make fewer mistakes. They are also trained to increase their knowledge and skills to achieve corporate goals. Other types of training include product/process specific training and special management training. In this way, both the employees and the organization benefit from the training. The employees are motivated to improve their performance at work. The organization, on the other hand, will achieve its objectives through its highly skilled personnel. Another motivational tool is using lateral moves. While pay, managerial level, and, in some cases, even titles remain the same, the challenge of each new job keeps employees motivated (Denton, 1992).

Once the organization finds good employees, it is essential to find ways to keep them (Denton, 1992). Career advancement and awards program as incentives increase the odds of being able to retain people.  These incentives are designed to reinforce desired behavior, such as quality work and a focus on the customer.  They help employees to deliver high-quality service and keep them motivated.

The leader has to know the important distinction between actions that are retainers and those that are motivators. The primary purpose of a retainer is to keep a person on the job. The purpose of motivation is to increase performance. To increase performance, management needs to set goals and then to link the accomplishment of those goals with rewards of value. Money is a reward of value for many employees. There are as many employees who also have personal goals that have something to do with job performance and career development. Good supervision and motivation seek out personal goals and align them with the goals of the organization.

Morale building is related to motivation and recognition, but there are times when it needs a special emphasis. Downsizing often leads to lay offs. Lay offs are negatives for those left behind. In the aftermath of a merger or downsizing, managers must involve their employees in the next steps, whatever they may be. Regular communication about what is going on becomes link strengtheners. 

Job security is also very important for employees. They reach an age and a stage when they realize that they are no longer building a career, but are in a career and need to perform at top levels. These workers frequently place less emphasis on salary, assuming it is adequate, and more on certain intangibles, particularly those that give them some assurance they will be around for a few more years. Mature employees want opportunity for learning, growth, responsibility. For these employees, consider continuing education, secure pension plans, a sense of greater belonging, symbols of seniority such as an extra day off after three years or an extra week after ten. They also want independence, autonomy, and flexibility. It is interesting that employees who have a sense of ownership about their work not only reach higher levels of performance, but also look for constructive criticism. They want to do a good job and they want the leader to know it. Employees retain their work when they are comfortable in their workplace environment.

If internal and external rewards provide the individual with what he or she wants or values or considers appropriate or beneficial, the individual experiences satisfaction with the job. Job satisfaction can be viewed as the result of a positive appraisal of the job against one's value standards. Job satisfaction is not a result of the person alone nor of the job alone but of the person in relation to the job--that is, the job as appraised by the person. Thus, if the job is appraised as a fulfilling or facilitating the attainment of one's values, satisfaction is experienced; if the job is appraised as blocking or negating one's values, dissatisfaction is experienced.

More important values have a greater impact on affective reactions than less important values. The work itself is usually a more important aspect of the job for professional and skilled people than for others. Thus as a category, the work itself is usually the job aspect most strongly related to overall job satisfaction for people at the higher job levels.  Having challenging and meaningful work leads to high work satisfaction and, if rewarded by the organization, to high satisfaction with rewards as well. 

In previous studies, it was found that job satisfaction affected organizational commitment that in turn affected the intent to stay. Researchers found that work experiences that lead to satisfaction (job scope or challenge, considerate supervision, compatible work groups) were associated with commitment (Kleinbeck, et al, 1990). Commitment is defined as the acceptance of the goals and values of the organization; the willingness to exert effort on behalf of the organization; and a desire to stay with the organization.

Assuming that positive job experiences conducive to satisfaction are a crucial factor in bringing commitment about, and that commitment is a key factor in getting people to stay with the organization and cooperate with its members, then presumably committed employees will be prone to accept organizational demands (Kleinbeck, et al, 1990). Employees who are motivated, satisfied with and committed to the organization, are more likely to stay, and thus, increase the survival and success rate of the organization.




Denton, D. Keith (1992). Recruitment, Retention, and Employee Relations: Field-Tested Strategies for the '90s. Quorum Books: Westport, CT.


Gellerman, Saul W. (1992). Motivation in the Real World: The Art of Getting Extra Effort from Everyone-Including Yourself. Dutton: New York. 


Kleinbeck, U., Quast, H., Thierry, H., Häcker, H. & Forschungsgemeinschaft, D.,eds (1990). Work Motivation.   Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale, NJ. 


Rethlingshafer, Dorothy (1963). Motivation as Related to Personality. McGraw-Hill: New York.



Cheng, Yuan & Kalleberg, Arne (1996). Employee job performance in Britain and the United States in  Sociology, Vol. 30, Issue 1, pp. 115+. British Sociological Association Publication Ltd.


Lindner, James R. (1998). Understanding Employee Motivation. Extension Journal, Volume 36, Number 3. Also available at:


Kreps, David M. (1997). Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives. American Economic Review, Vol. 87, Issue 2.


Shah, A., Sterrett, C., Chesser, J., & Wilmore, J. (2001). Meeting the Need for Employee Development in the 21st Century. SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 66, Issue 2,  Page 22. Gale Group: New York.  




Dougan, Cheryl. Employee Motivation is Important! Available at:

Accessed 14/5/03.


Lee, David (2002). PRIVATEHow to Maximize Employee Performance While Minimizing Employee Stress. Available at Accessed 14/05/03.









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