header image header image

We help organisations become more effective, in a healthy way

We help organisations become more effective, in a healthy way

Call us now - SA callers: 0861 333 262. International callers: +2711 844 1100

Call us now - SA callers: 0861 333 262. International callers: +2711 844 1100

Call us now - SA callers: 0861 333 262. International callers: +2711 844 1100

An Overview of Employee Motivation (Part 2): A Modern Look at Motivating Employees

arrow down image

Ross Hooper

2014-02-11

Join us at the WorldsView Academy Johannesburg campus on 19 February 2014, for a critical discussion around 'Frameworks of Motivation' or share your thoughts in the comment section below and on social media. Find out more

Have you missed part 1 of Ross's blog? Read it here

 

Following on from the last blog post where I presented some of the traditional, 'old school' theories around motivation, we can now delve into some more recent thinking around motivating employees in the workplace.

Firstly, let's look at Daniel Pink's 'third drive' approach to motivating employees:

 

The Third Drive

Scientists have long known that two main drives truly power human behaviour - the biological drive including hunger, thirst and sex, and the reward-punishment drive already discussed in my previous article. However in 1949, Harry F. Harlow, professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, argued for a third drive - intrinsic motivation - the joy of the task itself.

His theory was based on studies of primate behaviour when solving puzzles. Harlow found that when presented with a puzzle, monkeys seemed to enjoy solving the puzzles without the presence or expectation of rewards. He found these monkeys, driven by intrinsic motivation, solved the puzzles quicker and more accurately than monkeys who received food rewards. Edward Deci, a university psychology graduate student, went on to replicate these findings with human beings in 1969, concluding that human beings have an "inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capabilities, to explore, and to learn." (Pink, 2009, 8) This essentially means that motivating employees is actually about motivating them, and not all about merely throwing money at them!

 

Why the Carrot-and-Stick Approach Doesn’t Always Work

The ‘carrot-and-stick approach’ worked well for typical tasks of the early 20th century – routine, unchallenging and highly controlled. For these tasks, where the process is straightforward and lateral thinking is not required, rewards (the carrots) can provide a small motivational boost without any harmful side effects. But jobs in the 21st century have changed dramatically; they have become more complex, more interesting and more self-directed, and this is where the carrot-and-stick (rewards and punishment) approach has really become unstuck. Pink demonstrates that with the complex and more creative style of modern jobs, traditional rewards can actually lead to less of what is wanted and more of what is not wanted.

He provides ample evidence to support the notion that this traditional approach can result in:

  • Diminished intrinsic motivation (lowered third drive);

  • Lower performance;

  • Less creativity;

  • ‘Crowding out’ of good behaviour;

  • Unethical behaviour;

  • Addictions; and

  • Short-term thinking


A New Theory of Motivation

Daniel Pink proposes that businesses should adopt a revised approach to motivation which fits more closely with modern jobs and businesses, one based on self-determination theory (or SDT). SDT proposes that human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another, and that when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives. Organisations should focus on these drives when managing their human capital by creating settings which focus on our innate need to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn and create new things (mastery), and to do better by ourselves and our world (purpose). This forms part of the holistic view of employee engagement, but does not directly inform how employee engagement is enacted and ensured throughout an organisation.

Below are a few initiatives that fit with Pink's revised motivation theory which will assist an organisation to motivate its employees in the correct way:

 

Autonomy – provide employees with autonomy over some (or all) of the four main aspects of work:

  • When they do it (time) – Consider switching to a ROWE (results-only work environment) which focuses more on the output (result) rather than the time/schedule, allowing employees to have flexibility over when they complete tasks. (this is expanded upon below)

  • How they do it (technique) – Avoid dictating how employees should complete their tasks. Provide initial guidance and then allow them to tackle the project in the way they see fit rather than having to follow a strict procedure.

  • Whom they do it with (team) – Although this can be the hardest form of autonomy to embrace, allow employees some choice over who they work with. If it would be inappropriate to involve them in the recruitment/selection process, instead allow employees to work on open-source projects where they have the ability to assemble their own teams.

  • What they do (task) - Allow employees to have regular ‘creative’ days where they can work on any project/problem they wish – there is empirical evidence which shows that many new initiatives are often generated during this ‘creative free time’.


Mastery – allow employees to become better at something that matters to them:

  • Provide “Goldilocks tasks” – Daniel Pink uses the term ‘Goldilocks tasks’ to describe those tasks which are neither overly difficult nor overly simple – these tasks allow employees to extend themselves and develop their skills further. The risk of providing tasks that fall short of an employee’s capabilities is boredom, and the risk of providing tasks that exceed their capabilities is anxiety.

  • Create an environment where mastery is possible – to foster an environment of learning and development, four essentials are required – autonomy, clear goals, immediate feedback and Goldilocks tasks.

 

Purpose – take steps to fulfil employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves:

  • Communicate the purpose – make sure employees know and understand the organisation’s purpose goals not just its profit goals. Employees, who understand the purpose and vision of their organisation and how their individual roles contribute to this purpose, are more likely to be satisfied in their work.

  • Place equal emphasis on purpose maximisation as profit maximisation – research shows that the attainment of profit goals has no impact on a person’s well-being and actually contributes to their ill-being. Organisational and individual goals should focus on purpose as well as profit. Many successful companies are now using profit as the catalyst to pursuing purpose, rather than the objective.

  • Use purpose-oriented words – talk about the organisation as a united team by using words such as ‘us’ and ‘we’, this will inspire employees to talk about the organisation in the same way and feel a part of the greater organisational cause. 

 

The Main Role of Employee Motivation


Motivated employees are needed in modern rapidly changing workplaces. Motivated employees help organisations survive and progress, and are generally more dynamic and productive. To be effective, managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform. 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. For example, research suggests that as employees' income increases, money becomes less of a motivator. Also, as employees get older, interesting work becomes more of a motivator.

In the next article we'll explore the methods that enable and engender motivation amongst employees, and examine how old and new approaches to motivation could actually be the foundation of employee engagement and employee retention - which ultimately ensure improved organisational performance.

 

Would you like to find out more about motivation and engagement? Read the article written by Star Performance for our OD Café on 'Motivation, Engagement and the Circumplex©'

 

References:

·       Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.

 

 

·       Bedeian, A. G. (1993). Management (3rd ed.). New York: Dryden Press.

 

 

·       Bowen, B. E., & Radhakrishna, R. B. (1991). Job satisfaction of agricultural education faculty: A constant phenomena. Journal of Agricultural Education, 32 (2). 16-22.

 

 

·       Buford, J. A., Jr., Bedeian, A. G., & Lindner, J. R. (1995). Management in Extension (3rd ed.). Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Extension.

 

 

·       Buford, J. A., Jr. (1990). Extension management in the information age. Journal of Extension, 28 (1).

 

 

·       Buford, J. A., Jr. (1993). Be your own boss. Journal of Extension, 31 (1).

 

 

·       Chesney, C. E. (1992). Work force 2000: is Extension agriculture ready? Journal of Extension, 30 (2).

 

 

·       Conlin, M. (2010) Smashing the Clock. Bloomberg Business Week. October, 2010. [Accessed 19th December: http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-12-10/smashing-the-clock ]

 

 

·       Harpaz, I. (1990). The importance of work goals: an international perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 21. 75-93.

 

 

·       Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959). The motivation to work. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

 

 

·       Higgins, J. M. (1994). The management challenge (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

 

 

·       Huffington Post. (2013) Is ROWE The Future Of Work? Or An Unworkable Fantasy? [Accessed 19 December 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/rowe-future-work_n_3084426.html] 

 

 

·       Kovach, K. A. (1987). What motivates employees? Workers and supervisors give different answers. Business Horizons, 30. 58-65.

 

 

·       Kreitner, R. (1995). Management (6th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

 

·       Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, July 1943. 370-396.

 

 

·       Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Rivergate Books

 

 

·       Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and Human Behavior. New York: Free Press.

 

 

·       Smith, G. P. (1994). Motivation. In W. Tracey (ed.), Human resources management and development handbook (2nd ed.).

 

 

·       Smith, K. L. (1990). The future of leaders in Extension. Journal of Extension, 28 (1).

 

 

·       Terpstra, D. E. (1979). Theories of motivation: borrowing the best. Personnel Journal, 58. 376.

 

 

·       Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. New York: Wiley


 

View all blogs



comments powered by Disqus

Take note

  • What is OD?

    We asked a few experts...

     

  • Follow our blogs to find out more on what is happening at WorldsView Academy

     

Courses coming up

Organisation Development Concepts

Laying the foundations for a better way of working with organisations. As a key building block in the Certificate in Organisation Development and Change, this two-day module introduces ...

Johannesburg 10 - 11 Nov

Personal Development

Developing yourself as an instrument for change. Understanding and taking responsibility for personal development is fundamental to achieving effectiveness in a business environment.  To do ...

Johannesburg 13 - 14 Nov

Business Acumen

Linking organisation development activities to hard financial results Human Resources (HR) and Organisation Development (OD) Practitioners play a key role in contributing strategically towards th...

Johannesburg 26 - 27 Nov

Facilitation Skills

Broadening and enhancing your facilitation practice The ability to effectively facilitate groups of people is an increasingly important and sought-after skill in organisations today. The facilita...

Johannesburg 28 Nov

Team Development

Leveraging teams in organisations for maximum performance and effectiveness Increasingly teams are becoming core component of organisational life and as such require that an OD practitioner be fu...

Johannesburg 2 - 3 Dec

Blogs/articles/news

Some thoughts about effective teams

A while back we asked ourselves where the teams in our organisation are. The answer was su... Read more

A while back we asked ourselves where the teams in our organisation are. The answer was surprising, even taking into account that ... Read more




View all

twitter feed

join our conversations

pininterest icon image