Seven best theories of motivation for increased productivity

Motivation is an important part of any organisation. This is because it plays a crucial role in determining the level of productivity, as well as the quality of work delivered by employees. As such, leaders are obligated to always ensure that their employees are motivated so that organisational and personal goals are achieved in good time. Nevertheless, a leader cannot fully understand how to motivate their employees if they do not have knowledge about the theories of motivation. As such, this article explores different motivation theories and how they influence productivity.

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The role of motivational theories is to provide insight into what drives people especially in a place of work, to work towards specific outcomes. The leaders or managers in a given place of work may be interested in motivation theories to know which ones are useful in enhancing the productivity of their workers.

Types of motivation

Prior to settling on a specific motivation theory, a leader needs to understand the different types of motivation. There are two primary types of motivation namely extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

1. Extrinsic motivation

This is a form of motivation arising from external sources, the desire to undertake a task with rewards that come from external sources. Extrinsic motivation is reward driven and works by utilizing incentives as a mean to motivate individuals. It aims at saving individuals from facing penalties and punishments. Examples include getting paid after completion of a job. Taking an extensive studying for exams in order to avoid failing.

Some extrinsic motivations are beyond the control of the individual which means, once a person commits to the task, the reward that comes with it cannot be altered through a bargain. One good example is salaries. Once a person commits to working, they do not determine the salaries they earn at the end of the tasks. Extrinsic motivations have the ability to boost the performance of a person because of the expectations ahead. Increasing extrinsic motivation increases performance and a reduction also reduces the performance of the person. Types of extrinsic motivation include:

  • Affiliation motivation
  • Incentive motivation

2. Intrinsic motivation

This is motivation arising from within the person. An individual’s personal desire drives them to perform certain tasks that are beneficial and leaves them feeling content with themselves rather than having the desire to receive an external reward. Examples of intrinsic motivation include the desire to get a job in order to improve one’s living situation leading to one being content with their living standards, and engaging in sporting activities for personal enjoyment.

Most people who have achieved major milestones will tell you that ‘passion pays more than wages’. Basically, they are telling you that intrinsic motivation comes before extrinsic motivation. The passion to achieve great things leads one to realize the extrinsic motivations such as salaries or profits. Types of intrinsic motivation include:

  • Achievement motivation
  • Competence motivation
  • Power motivation
  • Attitude motivation
  • Fear of consequences motivation
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Motivational theories

1. Equity theory of motivation

The equity theory is a motivational theory that portends that wages alone cannot be used to influence the motivation levels among workers. This is because other things such as equal treatment affect employee motivation. The equity theory of motivation, therefore, suggests that at a place of work, people usually examine their contribution against the benefits that they receive, and compare them to those of others. If they find no equity after this comparison, they become motivated to work towards minimizing the inequity.

This shows that this motivation theory triggers productivity among employees, in the quest for equity. However, the equity theory of motivation is criticised on grounds that it does not take into consideration differences such as values, individual needs, and personality that exist among people.

2. Acquired needs theory

The concept around the acquired needs theory of motivation is based on Maslow’s theory of motivation which is discussed next. According to this theory, everyone regardless of their age or gender has three motivating drivers. These are affiliation, achievement, and power. While affiliation refers to the need to belong or relate, achievement encompasses the need to exhibit competence or to accomplish.

Conversely, power, in this case, refers to the need to have control over work. The people who have the drive to achieve always yearn for regular feedback on their achievements and progress. As such, they explore challenges and also prefer being independent. This is how to influence their productivity. You can also trigger the productivity of such people through goal setting and praising them for their success.

People who are motivated by the need for affiliation, in contrast, are team players but may be less effective as leaders. The productivity of such people is improved when they are placed in groups that make them feel like they belong. In contrast, those who are motivated by the need for power can become good leaders because they are fulfilled when they are in control or when they are able to influence others. This is where they are most productive.

3. Maslow’s theory of motivation

Developed by Abraham Maslow who was an American physiologist, the hierarchy of needs theory has been used to explain human motivation. This theory is based on the premise that the needs of an individual are arranged in a hierarchy of priority. This implies that the satisfaction of one need enables an individual to move to the next higher order of needs.

Maslow’s theory of motivation is also based on the argument that a need becomes less motivated once it has been achieved. Scholars who have analyzed the Maslow theory of motivation have emphasized that people tend to pay more attention to the highest level of the hierarchy, self-actualization. This level is usually achieved once an individual has achieved all the other needs in the other levels of the hierarchy.

In an organizational setting, the hierarchy of needs implies that once an employee completes a given task, their individual needs are elevated to the next level of the hierarchy. This means that as a leader, you need to focus on encouraging employees to strive to conquer difficulties experienced when handling challenging tasks, as a way of enhancing their productivity.

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4. Alderfer’s erg theory

The erg theory of motivation is a reduced system of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Alderfer’s erg theory echoes Maslow’s theory in that availability of needs that have not yet been met inspires individuals to put more effort so as to attain them. In the erg theory of motivation, the needs ranked lowly like security and physiological needs are clustered together and termed as existence needs that are essential for human survival.

The medium level needs comprise of social needs as well as self-esteem are categorized together and termed as relatedness needs. The top need in this pyramid of classification is the self-actualization need which generally relates to the growth of individuals. This theory of satisfaction relates to Maslow’s theory in that acquired satisfaction from the already acquired needs encourages one to strive harder to attain the higher rank needs such as growth needs and relatedness needs. Therefore, through this theory, an individual’s productivity and efficiency are achieved leading to more profits in an organisation.

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5. Expectancy theory

The expectancy theory is based on the assertion that individuals tend to commit to a given task depending on what they expect in return. This implies that more effort is emphasised on a task from which high returns are expected. As such, this theory advocate for employee compensation based on their performance.

According to the expectancy theory, organisations should always ensure that employees expect potential job promotions and salary increments as a way of motivating and inspiring them towards the achievement of both organisational and personal goals. This is because when employees have nothing to look forward to they tend to put minimal effort and hence are not productive.

According to this theory, an employee’s motivation to execute a task is determined by three factors namely expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. In this case, expectancy refers to the belief that the outcome of increased effort is the success, while instrumentality is the conviction that good performance results in rewards. Valence, in contrast, refers to the extent to which an individual values the results of success.

6. Goal setting theory

The major argument in the goal setting motivational theory is that the setting of goals is crucial for motivation. These goals should be specific and challenging. Furthermore, such goals should be characterised by dimensions such as commitment, feedback, and clarity. Commitment, in this case, means that organisations should always be devoted to including employees, especially during goal setting.

This is because such inclusion makes them feel like part of an entity; they also feel that their input at their place of work is always appreciated. Feedback and clarity as the other dimensions that should be part of a motivational strategy mean that a motivation technique should be clear and measurable and also should enhance feedback generation, as a way of promoting productivity and inspiring employees. In addition, feedback is necessary because it highlights the weaknesses as well as strengths of an employee, thereby facilitating creativity and innovation.

However, the goal setting theory does not consider an individual’s goals; the goals of a company may not be the same as those of individual employees. Due to this limitation, the goal setting is only applicable to motivation that is associated with the desire to achieve personal goals. Nevertheless, this theory is useful in driving the significance of employee motivation.

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7. Herzberg’s motivation theory

Frederick Herzberg emphasized the need for satisfying the needs of employees in workplaces. Therefore, Herzberg’s motivational theory acknowledges that employees have personal needs, which affect their productivity negatively especially when not met. In this theory, Herzberg identified two main influences of individuals in any given workplace: hygiene factors and motivators. In other words, this motivational theory states that both motivators and hygiene factors influence the level of motivation in an entity.

While motivators are things that keep people happy, hygiene factors are elements of life that do not facilitate increased satisfaction, but those that can lead to dissatisfaction when missing. Hygiene factors include interpersonal relationships, salary, working conditions, technical supervision, and job security. For example, technical supervision does not necessarily increase satisfaction, but it could lead to overall dissatisfaction for both an employer and the employee when it is missing.

On the contrary, examples of the motivational factors highlighted in Herzberg’s motivational theory include achievement, recognition, and advancement. The implication of this motivational theory is that entities should be concerned with the nature of work. This can be achieved by introducing opportunities that inspire the achievement of self-realisation and the assumption of responsibility if they want to increase satisfaction among employees.

Similarly, employers who would like to reduce dissatisfaction should focus on the job environment by influencing, supervision, policies, and working conditions to ensure a productive and satisfied workforce. This shows the need to focus on both motivators and hygiene factors during the implementation of motivational strategies.

In summary, all these theories of motivation carry a valuable lesson that employees need motivation so that they can become productive. Since each of these theories is based on an assumption that employees are motivated by something, then it is important for a leader to understand the theories so that they are aware of the factors they need to alter in order to boost employee productivity.

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