Despite tremendous strides in understanding human motivation, we still don't do a very good job of practising it in our daily work.
To us it appears that many managers are trying to manage the way that managers did one hundred years ago. It is a well-known fact that UK managers are not so well qualified as many of the managers of our international competitors, which indicates they have received less training and may have never been taught how to motivate people. Secondly even when you know the principles of motivation the job is to manage a complex set of variables and many managers find it too difficult, the results unpredictable and thus give up.
The important thing for our purposes isn't what the breakdown is, but the recognition that we are dealing with many different categories of people and that there is no one best way to motivate everybody. As managers, we have to find out what motivates our people and then adopt a strategy of "different strokes for different folks", (Labovitz, 1997).
1. ABRAHAM MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS
The first theory to explore on motivation is the one put forward by Abraham Maslow commonly called Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
When people "malfunction", says Maslow, it is because they cannot meet their needs through constructive and socially acceptable behaviour. Maslow A (1954).
Before Maslow came along conventional thinking was that motivation was something one person did to another. Maslow identified that motivation was an internal drive.
He established that we all have needs and these motivate our behaviour e.g. if you are hungry you are motivated to eat. A need that is satisfied will not motivate us e.g. Once you have eaten the need is satisfied until you become hungry again. Also, there is a hierarchy to these needs e.g. If you are worrying about something this may override the motivation you have to eat.
Maslow identified five levels of need, classified under two general headings: primary needs (physiological and safety needs) and secondary needs (social, esteem, and "self-actualisation" or self-fulfilment). The primary needs are also known as the "belly" needs; the secondary are known, as the "brain" needs.
2. FREDERICK HERZBERG
Built on Maslow's theory Herzberg carried out research with three hundred engineers and accountants and asked them the question “what motivates you and what de-motivates you”. What was established in the answers was Herzberg two-factor theory, which he called motivators and hygiene factors. Herzberg found that the answers to these two questions was a different list of variables.
The conclusion was if the working conditions were de-motivating staff and if there was improvement in working conditions this didn’t motivate people it just stopped them being de-motivated. The true motivators were a separate list of variables.
Clearly, the manager wants to prevent people from being dissatisfied, so if there is not enough car parking on site for all of those who want to park to provide more parking close by will stop people being dissatisfied.
However, your main effort should go into managing the true motivators, which for the individual are his or her, needs on the upper part of Maslow's hierarchy and the Hergsberg list of motivators. For example, many people want to advance and improve at work and one way to do this is receive more education and training. So, for the manager and the organisation to facilitate this is a true motivator.
Another perspective to where we are now in considering motivation is the theory put forward by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field of organisational behaviour.
3. KURT LEWIN (1936)
Behaviour = Individual + The environment
Lewin said that the individual’s behaviour is a combination of the individual’s values, standards and the perception applied in the environment they find themselves in.
"A successful individual typically sets his next goal somewhat but not too much above his last achievement. In this way he steadily raises his level of aspiration."
"Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process."
"If you want to truly understand something, try to change it."
To look at it another way the individual is formed by their grandparents in the sense that they inherit their genes. They are also formed by their parents in the sense that parents have a major influence on the formative education and training. Finally, they react and respond in an environment and are influenced by this environment.
By the time you as a manager start managing an individual there is very little that you can do to change that person, they are who they are. What is the variable that you can manage for the individual it is the environment.
Being aware that we are all different and what motivates one person doesn’t motivate another, e.g. you like meat I am a vegetarian. What the job is about is finding out what the list is for each of the people that work for you remembering that there are two lists - motivators and hygiene factors.
“Thus, one of the roles of management is to be an environmental creator. The way you organise and process work causes behaviour. Change the way you act, and the behaviour of your employees will change accordingly.” (Labovitz, 1997)
4. PAVLOV DOGS BEHAVIOURISM
One of the oldest theories of motivation is that reward (and punishment) can determine behaviour. Pavlov demonstrated this showing that dogs would respond to certain types of simulation.
Many organisations adopt this approach offering employee’s reward for increased performance e.g. targets and bonuses for sales people, extra holidays for time served. However, if you think about our previous discussion many of these are applied to the wrong list. So why do organisations continue with these incentives, it is because they can be controlled, the other things on the list eg recognition and advancement are more difficult to control.
There are no easy answers in the game of motivation. But there are some guidelines that can help us separate the effective from the ineffective motivators.
Clearly some of the incentives organisations provide are not dealing with the true motivators. The key to motivation is working out the two-part list for each of your employees. Dealing with the hygiene factors and working on the true motivators.
Remembering nothing will demotivate your staff more than the lack of equity.