Explanation of Employee Motivation

Modified: 17th Sep 2021
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Employee motivation is a very integral part of everyday business and has been recognized by countless organizations. According to (Simon & Enz, 1995) it is the factor which encourages people to select a particular job, continue working there, while putting in one’s best effort. Another definition for employee motivation is the desire to make huge efforts in achieving goals for the respective organization, while recognizing efforts capability in fulfilling personal needs (as cited in Ramlall, 2004).

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This study aims to give a thorough explanation into the phenomenon of employee motivation and how its nature alters the overall commitment as well as work performance of its employees by making use of relevant theories and examples. To give a focused representation the researcher concludes by presenting practical implementations of one or more theories on a specific company in order to gauge what affect the theory initiates at that company.

These aims hold a lot of significance for the researcher as they provide valuable insights into the field of employee motivation and how the phenomenon of motivation affects the attitudes of the employees. In order to achieve this goal the researcher requires educating the audience by providing reliable and authentic literature which is constructed by respected scholars as well as experts of this field. In the course of the literature, the theories as well as examples of employee motivation and its aspects would be presented in order to act as propositions for gauging how motivation affects employee commitment and work performance levels. Following which a background of a case study would be provided which would present how a theory of employee motivation is implemented on that company and how does it affect the commitment as well as work performance of the employees of that particular company. This is the procedure through which the researcher would hope to achieve the aims outlined above for this study.

Theoretical background

What is employee motivation?

Employee motivation is the drive which makes workforce strives to achieve goals and objectives which would be beneficial for themselves as well as their entire entity. It is the input of the effort and what influences that effort in the first place.

It is highly emphasized by critics as well as analysts alike that the quality which distinguishes a successful organization from others is directly proportional to the satisfaction of their employees. Thus for this very reason the trend of investing heavily in injecting resources into the human resource department is commonly observed in organizations all over the world in order to increase and maintain high levels of motivation for their employees.

Some of the theories which explain how motivation can affect employee’s commitment and performance at work are presented below:

Maslow’s Theory

Maslow (1943) assumes that a hierarchical system could be used to best describe human needs where higher order needs can be fulfilled after the lower order needs. Champagne & McAfee (1989) as cited by Ramlall, 2004, explain Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs applied to employees as being divided into 5 Levels or needs of an employee.

These needs start from the lowest order need known as physiological needs such as food, shelter, rest, etc are basic needs of the employees.

Working up the ladder towards higher order needs such as safety & Security needs include all the factors which ensure a safe and secure environment to make the employee comfortable to work in.

Since all the needs are hierarchal and are fulfilled once the previous ones have been adopted, social needs which are further high up the ladder include all the factors which are related to social interaction and communication.

Catering to the ego as well as esteem comes when all the previous needs are met and includes praises and awards as well as grooming such as training.

Finally leading to the highest order need known as self- actualization needs is provided where one acknowledges their strengths and weaknesses and strives to deliver while making such points strong.

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Herzberg (1959) developed a theory named, ‘two-factor theory’

According to (Steers, as cited by Ramlall, 2004) both motivators as well as the hygiene factors can be divided into the following aspects.


  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • The work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Growth

Hygiene Factors:

  • Company policies
  • Salaries
  • Co-worker Relations
  • Supervisory styles

According to Herzberg; Mausner and Snyderman (1999) in this theory there are two guiding factors which determine satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction levels of the public. While one is known as ‘Motivators’ the other is known as hygiene factors. Employee retention as well as turnover have commonly been predicted by the aspects of satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction in a job. The main purpose of this theory is to provide an explanation with regards to satisfaction and motivation in organizations by presenting that both the aspects of satisfaction and dissatisfaction are orchestrated through individualistic factors such as motivation and hygiene factors respectively. The best explanation of how motivators work is being those aspects within a job which cause people to carry out their functions and their intent to either remain or leave their company. It becomes apparent that the motivators are interrelated with the job content when the variables which fall under this category are considered as the level of achievement attained, amount of recognition, the nature of the workitself, nature and intensity of the responsibility, prospects of advancement as well as future growth.

At the same time hygiene factors are those factors which are necessary in every environment and the lack of which creates a severe level of dissatisfaction. These factors come from external aspects which are not directly related to one’s job. Examples of such factors could be the nature of the policies of the concerned company, the level of salary, relations with the colleagues as well as the role played by the supervisors.

According to Herzberg a state of satisfaction cannot just be achieved by getting rid of all of the reasons which cause dissatisfaction with the help of hygiene factors; rather only a neutral state could be achieved through this procedure. To achieve satisfaction through motivation would only be brought about through the use of the internal motivational factors.

Organizational commitment

Organizational commitment has been best defined by (Mowday, Steers and Porter, 1979) as ‘the relative strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization’. Three more factors which could prove helpful in distinguishing organizational commitment are presented by (Porter, Steers, Mowday, &Boulian, 1974) as;

  • Solid belief as well as acceptance in the goals and values of an organization.
  • Desire to put in the best effort for the sake of the organization.
  • Solid aim to remain a vital part of the organization.

Case study of a private medical laboratory company in Zimbabwe

To better explain the phenomenon of how employee motivation helps in increasing commitment as well as performance at work, a practical example of a case study of a major private sector medical laboratory based in Zimbabwe is presented which has adopted one of the theories related to employee motivation known as “Herzberg’s two- factor theory.” This case study is contained in the research paper named ‘An examination of employee retention strategy in a private organization in Zimbabwe’ and is co-authored by three scholars namely Malvern W. Chiboiwa, Michael O. Samuel and Crispen Chipunza. The aim of carrying out this case study was to gauge what are the factors which affect employee motivation and enable effective retention of the employees while reducing overall turnover. The nature of this study was however qualitative which is why this study carried out a well structured interview questionnaire. The instrument was distributed amongst quite a large sample amounting to 2240 respondents. The reason for studying this company is that it has adopted the mentioned theory and through observing the areas where the theory becomes applicable in the organization can add reliability as well as validity to this essay.

By studying the results of the research a few deductions about the organization finally became clear. The most common amongst them were that, firstly, non-managerial employees displayed a higher rate of labor turnover.Secondly a lot of employees would have left in the near future. Thirdly a weak reward based system is the cause of the high rate of employee turnover in the organization.

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As has been mentioned before the need of creating the two factor theory by Frederick Herzberg arose when a need for understanding the motivating as well as de-motivating factors of an environment was felt. Thus two factors known as ‘hygiene’ and ‘motivators’ were presented which depicted their relevantly related points to be considered. Points such as how favorable or non favorable the various policies of the companies were, whether the salaries paid were according to the job description, skills required and paid on time, if coworkers relations were hospitable or not, the nature of the supervisory styles and if they were accommodating or not, were all parts of the hygiene category and contributed to the de-motivational influences on an individual or groups surrounding. While this was the list of hygiene factors, the motivator factors were more positive and were influenced by feelings of achievement on reaching personal or public milestones, the level of recognition within staff members and colleagues, the level or nature of responsibility assigned which includes the nature of the work itself, including the advancement as well as growth visible in that field (Bassett- Jones & Lloyd, 2005). Now the thing to be noted in this study ‘An Examination of employee retention strategy in a private organization in zimbabwe’ carried out by (Chiboiwaet.al 2010) is that neither the hygiene or the contrasting motivator factors are being done justice towards in order to achieve the positive results desired. While this study incorporates the use of the Herzberg theory it just goes on to show that if the motivation levels of employees is low then their commitment to their work as well as their performance in it would be greatly compromised if continued to be neglected.

This whole case study presents that when the organization fails to incorporate an attractive retention program for its employees it encourages employee turnover.

Identifying the reasons which cause employee turnover in the concerned organization is one of the objectives of this case study. Other equally important objectives include analyzing and working around the existing retention practices followed by the organization as well as make the practices as effective as possible while at the same time devising a potential retention program which would be successful in combating the high rate of turnover witnessed within the employee pool of the organization.

Going through the study it clearly becomes evident that the retention strategies used by the organization has visible flaws in its system which need to be addressed on an urgent basis in order to proceed further in terms of retaining their workforce. Amongst the numerous factors which need to be looked into and revised, some of the most basic aspects which demand attention are that the non- managerial staff is the most prone to leaving the company frequently. The reasons for this are that

After analyzing the results of the data received from the interview which took place regards the organization, the reason for the high turnover was eventually traced back to the poor remuneration packages offered to the non-managerial staff, as well as the dismal state of working conditions coupled with the increased job insecurity.

According to the Herzberg two- factor theory, salary is a hygiene factor which means that if it is not taken care of it could become a grave cause of concern by becoming a dissatisfying element. Hence this study reinforces that belief and the importance of money and remuneration package is gauged by the statement of Kinnear and Sutherland (2001:17) who state that money proves to be an important factor of attracting as well as motivating quality employees inorder to retain them within the organization

Locke (1980) as cited in Tietjen and Myers (1998: 227) has further gone ahead to explain that other than money, the need for goal setting, participation in the decision making process as well as the overhaul of the job design are further ways in which employees can be motivated to ensure better performance. However Locke (1968) came to conclude that by far one of the most important motivating drive was fulfilled by money.

Robbins (1983) as cited in Meudell and Rodham (1998: 128) seconds the Herzberg theory of motivation claims of money being a hygiene factor and a basic necessity by stating that it can pretend as both a gauge to assess the value placed on employees by their organization, as well as provide the employees with the buying power to purchase according to their personal needs. These benefits are included amongst one of the basic rights of employees, and the lack of fulfillment leads to a great degree of unhappiness amongst employees.

To provide proof for this statement, a survey carried out on a website states that after a comparative analysis was taken the results showed that many organizations which were facing turnover were loosing their employees on grounds of inadequate compensation. Since this could give an idea a high turnover for numerous organizations was due to their low level of compensation plans, however, attractive compensation was not the main retaining factor where employees were staying for a long time, instead the reason many employees remained was because of the internal factors of their job description such as the nature of relationship they shared with their supervisors and co- workers and the overall satisfaction they derived from their jobs (www.reliable surveys.com).

This surprising revelation suggests that factors which cause dissatisfaction are different from ones which stimulate satisfaction on the job and should be viewed as such both the theories used in our study, namely Herzberg’s two- factor theory as well as Maslow’s theories of motivation, are exemplified according to this statement. Both these theories propose that while the fulfillment of aspects such as compensation along other financial benefits only cater to lower needs, higher needs are secured when aspects such as overall motivation and satisfaction are ensured.

Another points by Herzberg that salary is just a hygiene factor so it does not have a direct motivating effect but the lack of fulfillment of which could cause unrest, this point is seconded by Hays (1999: 48) whose advice is that if money is the only way how the management can show appreciation for performance then it will results in more harm than good because it would not be enough to ensure retention of the employees. The reason for this is stated there are various other factors such as freedom and flexibility in the organization which are far stronger motivators for employees than just increasing the compensation. However these points are more justified in areas where the economy is strong and there exists a non inflationary environment. When referring to Zimbabwe, it should not be ignored that the current situation of the country is overcome by an extremely inflationary environment and increasing salaries could be viewed as a retention tool by organizations to keep their employees. The authors make some suggestions to bring about a positive development; market surveys of the Zimbabwean market could be used to regularly review salaries in such a situation to match with the inflation trend which would help Zimbabwean organizations to retain their employees. A bi-monthly basic salary payment method can be put in place in order to renew their reward system. According to the introduction of the bi-monthly payment, after 15 days a percentage of the companies previous month’s salary can be given out followed by the basic salary with the monthly increase at the normal payment day which includes taking out the advance paid at the middle of the month (IPMZ, 2OO7).

Annual bonuses such as the 13th cheque, as well as other performance bonuses for performance, funding for education, full medical security as well as allowance for housing, are some of the benefits which should be provided by organizations to their employees to show appreciation (IPMZ, 2007).

Another reason why the private medical laboratory company of Zimbabwe was witnessing such a high rise in turnover has been explained by Lambert and Hogan (2009: 98) as the flight of the country’s talent outside the country. This move was orchestrated by two motives mainly; while one was the matter of better compensation packages, the other was the interrelated concept of advancement in careers. Here Herzberg’s two factor theory comes into play when the matter of salary as well as advancement in careers comes to the surface. While salary is a hygiene factor which is considered a basic necessity according to this theory, advancement in the career is the motivator factor which becomes the driving force for the workforce to work hard. The scientific and industrial research and development centre (SIRDC) carried out a study where they stated that out of nearly around 479,348 skilled Zimbabweans in the diaspora, the majority were educated and held bachelor’s degrees. Furthermore around 20% of those held post graduate degrees, and 5 percent held doctorate degrees.


Finally it has been shown how the theories of employee motivation can be used to maintain the commitment as well as work performance of the employees in general terms as well as specifically by presenting the example of the private sector medical laboratory company in Zimbabwe. Through this case study we learnt how this theory is applied and what sort of input generates which sort of result therefore the masses are aware of which factors to take care of when ensuring employee motivation. According to this case study their employee retention program was shown to be weak which explains that the employees were not as motivated as they could be if better prospects were presented to them. Eventually the author suggests some changes which should be implemented and the weak areas looked into if things are to change for the better.

Concluding the study the researcher would like to make some recommendations to the managers as well as other authoritarian entities to keep employee motivation development in a high priority list in order to generate the desire benefits. The techniques as well as strategies and areas which have been shown to work in the case study should be applied in the human resource department in order to better manage the employees.


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