Theories of Motivation for Increased Productivity

Every aspect of life needs some form of motivation. Motivation theory uncovers the factors that drive an individual towards a certain goal. The world of entrepreneurship, for instance, cannot operate without these theories. Every business wants to hire employees who are motivated for more productivity and profitability. People who are confident that their abilities will lead them to success are mostly driven by intrinsic motivation. Those who focus more on the outcome and not the capacity of their abilities tend to be driven by extrinsic motivation. You may want to read more here.

What is Motivation Theory?

Motivation is defined in different ways. Wikipedia defines it as the activation of goal-oriented behavior. Other sites define it as the inner power that propels an individual towards performing a certain action(s). It gives one the ambition to persist and reach the set goal. With vision and a clear mental image of what is to be achieved, an individual gets the needed strength to materialize it. In other words, motivation is the force that pushes a person to initiate a behavior.

The forces can be negative or positive. For instance, positive motivation would mean getting up early to go to work because you love what you do, while negative is when you have to be up early to get to the office before your boss.  The theories of motivation are many and different. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, for instance, frequently cites the escape-seeking dichotomy model, cognitive dissonance theory, and the drive-reduction theory. Here, find a summary of the different types of achievement theories there are.

1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This theory was coined by Abraham Maslow in 1943. According to the psychologist, the most basic needs of the individual must be met to experience motivation. This theory contains 5 levels including

  • Safety: Financial, personal, well-being, and health
  • Psychological: Water, food, and shelter
  • Esteem: The need for respect from others
  • Self-actualization: The desire to achieve
  • Love/belonging:  The need for relationships

This theory expects individuals to be healthy with confidence, positive relationships, and secure to reach a certain goal.

2. Hertzberg’s Theory

This is a two-factor theory coined by Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s. It is one of the most compelling theories about workplace motivation. He conducted extensive research in many companies and found out that most of them used what he referred to as ‘kick in the ass’ (KITA). The companies, according to the psychologist, often do this to motivate their employees.

Notice this is a wrong way of instilling behavior. He identified negative and positive KITAs. The negative ones may have helped the employees move up the ladder of business success, but it’s not something they would have loved to go through. It entails emotional manipulation to make the workers perform. It is an act many managers love to do, something that gives them an ego boost.

He also identified positive KITA where companies use incentives and promotions to push employees to perform. Herzberg’s theory phrases this as seduction. The psychologist says that a company doesn’t have to kick the employee. They should kick themselves because the charged battery may run flat once the source of motivation is gone. Here’s a motivation to begin something new.

3. Adams Equity Theory

Suggested by Adams in 1965, the equity theory implies that motivation comes when people receive fair treatment. At the workplace, employees put their inputs into their experience and effort, expecting to get some outcome in form of salary, promotions, and rewards in equal amounts. This theory also applies to school. For instance, the student who gets the least marks may feel demotivated to learn. If the person who got better marks studied less, the individual who studied more and got lower marks may lose their motivation to work hard at school.

4. Locke’s Goal Setting theory

Coined in 1990, the goal setting theory states that setting certain goals and committing to them is the key determinant of motivation. It emphasizes the need to have a specific goal rather than what can be considered general. For instance, someone who wants to work in the US will want to put extra effort to pass in their language exam. An individual must set a challenging yet attainable goal.

5. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory

The expectancy theory focuses on the mental process in terms of choice. It helps organizations to relate rewards to performance, ensuring that the people rewarded, deserved it. Vroom found out that the performance of an employee is based on factors such as skills, experience, and personality. The motivation here is determined by 3 factors, including:

  • Expectancy: The belief that more effort will lead to success
  • Instrumentality: The belief that there is a connection between activity and goal. Good performance warrants a reward.
  • Valence: How much the individual values the expected reward?

Vroom implies that the three factors are multiplied to determine motivation. It means that if any of these has a zero value, the individual will be unmotivated.

6. Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory

Coined in 1987, it states that behavior can be formed by its consequence. Appreciation, money, rewards, promotions, among others, can increase the possibilities of the repetition of good behavior. For instance, when an employee who does not perform well usually, makes good sales on a certain day and is praised or rewarded for doing so, they are more likely to give the same performance over and over.

7. Alderfer’s ERG Model

ERG was coined in 1969, condensing the Maslow’s into 3 categories including:

  • Growth: Self-actualization and esteem compel the individual to make productive effects
  • Existence: Is about physiological and material desires
  •  Relatedness: Relationships with significant others such as colleagues, friends, and family

The most concrete needs are existence while the growth needs are the least. ERG implies that employees’ needs must be recognized.

8. Protection Motivation Theory

This deals with how individuals make decisions in stressful events. It predicts the eventualities that cause people to have a change of behavior. It is governed by 2 appraisals, including coping and threat. Threat depends on how frightened people get. For instance, how scared does an individual feel about the possibility of losing their job? Feeling that underperformance may have severe consequences is referred to as perceived severity. Fear arousal assesses the amount of fear evoked by the perceived vulnerability.

9. Incentive Theory

This suggests that individuals are motivated to complete tasks to gain external rewards. For instance, an employee would be inspired to get to work early for a promotion. Reinforcement and association are the key aspects here.

10. Humanistic Theory

This suggests that people have strong cognitive reasons in the performance of various actions, as illustrated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People will want to first fulfill the basic needs as they get down on the lower levels of needs. The primary need is to meet self-actualization. Motivation plays a key role in every organization. It is not always based on financial favors, non-financial methods too can be used to get the best out of employees. Here’s something to read

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