Background: Current Issues in Motivation
Fostering high levels of employee motivation is considered one of the most critical aspects of performance improvement within organisations. The modern business environment is challenged by economic, social, and political changes on a regular basis, which leads to an increased need to change the established practices in the strive for excellence. Motivation in the workplace decreases when employees do not receive the necessary level of attention as well as when their managers fail to establish a nurturing and positive environment in which performance improvement measures are implemented effectively.
Several important issues associated with motivation in the workplace have been identified. These issues will serve as the basis for the further exploration of motivation as a topic as well as for drawing examples from an organisation. The first issue is cross-cultural challenges. The majority of theories pertaining to motivation were developed in the USA and therefore were meant to apply to American needs; for instance, Maslow’s theory aligns mostly with the Western approach to culture (Jerome 2013). Therefore, there is a need for understanding the aspect of motivation in the context of other cultures, which is especially important when working with foreign companies.
The second issue in motivation is concerned with the need to motivate particular groups of workers in different ways. This is linked to the fact that each person has their own skills, interests, abilities, and approaches to work, as well as different expectations and needs. For instance, in their everyday work, men expect to acquire more autonomy while women are interested in multiple learning opportunities to expand their knowledge. Some people may want to work three days a week but for twelve hours a day while others prefer shorter shifts. Some are motivated by challenging work while others start exhibiting low motivation levels as soon as their job becomes harder than it used to be.
The third issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of appropriate reward programs for motivating workers. Employees need recognition for boosting their performance and engagement, which is why developing reward programs is crucial to maintaining a nurturing work environment (Bartolomiejczuk 2015). The need for recognition is explained by the intense competition in the market, and with most companies relying on the performance of their personnel, guaranteeing the workers exhibit high motivation and engagement in achieving the established goals is imperative. Pay-for-performance and competency-based compensation have shown to bring positive results in regards to boosting motivation and bringing workers on a high level of operations (Kuranchie-Mensah & Amponsah-Tawiah 2016).
Lastly, the maintenance of a healthy work-life balance is an important issue in motivation that most organisations overlook. Without being able to juggle the responsibilities at work and those outside work effectively, workers can experience stress, lower performance, reduced motivation, and even the desire to resign (Egan 2018). Because of this, the work-life balance had become an important issue for improvement since it can regenerate productive capacity and concerns for the quality time of workers.
Review of Literature
In order to explore the issues related to motivation in the workplace for the further development of recommendations for improvement, it is necessary to explore the available research literature on this topic. As motivation has been directly linked to the issue of effective reward programs, Safiullah (2014) explored the impact of developed programs on employee motivation. The author suggested that in order to ensure a competitive advantage in the relevant industry, people who work for a company should be motivated through the provision of a well-balanced system of benefits and rewards. Through collecting data from eighty-one employees of various telecommunication companies, Saffiullah (2014) concluded that major advancements in career path, levels of income, and age intrinsic rewards become primary factors in motivating employees. However, it was identified that companies lack structured reward systems that take into account both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to lead workers to better performance. This finding was also supported by Čečević and Trkla (2014) who found that both motivation and rewarding employees for their work are conditions of productivity growth in both public and private business sectors. Essential components related to increased motivation through rewards include a fair salary, comfortable working conditions, and an effective work organisation.
The issue of motivating employees differently stems from the idea that there are different types of employees working toward an organisational goal. Effective leaders may instinctively know that if they want their workers to show high levels of performance, they need the right kind of motivation (Gaskell 2016). According to Sale’s (2016) approach to employee motivation, each person has their own unique set of motivators that need to be identified by managers to adapt the leadership style of a manager to each employee and therefore engage workers to succeed. These motivators depend on a variety of employee characteristics, values, roles, attitudes, and hierarchical structures (Figure 1). For instance, employees who seek constant recognition, respect, and social status should be motivated through positive feedback while those seeking power and influence can be motivated through acquiring a job title that reflects their power (Sale 2016).
In determining which motivator aligns with each employee the most, it has been recommended to implement a range of simple activities to help both managers and workers understand their motivations behind work. For instance, listing the benefits of being motivated can reveal which aspects of high-performance individuals value the most (Sale 2016). Overall, the range of motivators linked to employee performance can give a sufficient framework for a better understanding of how each worker can be motivated to become the most productive in the workplace.
The maintenance of a sustainable and healthy work-life balance goes hand-in-hand with the mentioned motivators. The research by Reddy, et al. (2010) found that married women employees struggled with dealing with family-work and work-family conflicts due to the inability to balance their work life with personal life. It was found that such variables as family size, the age of workers’ children, work hours and schedules, as well as the levels of social support provided to employees all influenced the work-life balance. Therefore, there is a growing concern associated with the importance of promoting a healthy work-life balance due to the shifts in the roles of both men and women and the implications for family and work performance (Litchfield et al. 2016).
Maslow’s Theory as Applied to Motivation
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has come to the forefront of efforts to understand the desires of employees and creating a motivated workforce. The hierarchy is represented by a pyramid that lays out the most important needs of humankind. Starting with the most basic human necessities, it suggests four more additional tiers leading to the achievement of the highest purpose in life: self-actualisation. Through considering the happiness of employees as applied to the theory, it has become possible for organisations to guarantee the meaningful growth of employees.
The first and the lowest tier of the hierarchy, physiological needs (food, water, rest) should be applied to the workplace in the concept of the basic organisational needs. They can include the offer of employment, a cohesive organisational chart, rules associated with engagement, work expectations, and a job description (Zimmerman 2018). Outlining these basic principles is needed for workers to understand their responsibilities as well as other necessary information required for healthy operation in the workplace.
The second category of needs, safety and security, in the workplace is represented by balancing a manager’s accountability while allowing workers to operate within a safe environment. Having a guideline of decision-making to decentralise responsibilities can result in the development of a more efficient organisation: when a worker makes a mistake, this should be used as a way for company-wide learning (Zimmerman 2018). By doing so, managers install a sense of security in their workers – they understand that they are in control of decision-making and problem-solving and therefore are motivated by the power they have.
The third tier of the hierarchy that is associated with love and belonging is associated with meeting the social needs of workers. The levels of the desired social interactions will usually depend to the personality type of workers: while some are extroverts and prefer being at the centre of social dynamics, others are introverts and value the environment (Cunningham 2013). The sense of belongingness can also be established with the help of allowing employees to enjoy off-work activities within a team of their co-workers. This can be motivational due to fostering an environment of activity diversity that goes beyond the everyday tasks at work (Zimmerman 2018). In this way, a team spirit is created, leading to increased loyalty to the job and the motivation to perform better.
Esteem needs are especially high on the agenda when it comes to motivating workers. This tier in Maslow’s hierarchy is concerned with individuals having a feeling of accomplishment and prestige in life. In the workplace, the reviews of employee performance can help the management to reward and benchmark achievement (Zimmerman 2018). Such reviews can take place several times a year to find out any relevant information that could point to the level of organisational performance. In addition, transparency and honesty regarding performance results will show workers that they are considered valuable parts of an organisation, which will motivate them to do better (Wenzel, Krause & Vogel 2017).
The last and the highest tier of the hierarchy, self-actualisation, is a vehicle for ensuring that employees stay motivated in the work they do for their organisation. Supervisors should identify what their individual team members do best as employees and what brings them a sense of satisfaction. If that aligns with organisational needs, it is imperative to empower workers in everything they do to bring motivation to the maximum level possible. In addition, it is necessary to consider that what motivates employees in the workplace depends on the stage of the Maslow’s hierarchy on which they are focused at a given moment, which suggests that every worker has their own journey and needs to be addressed independently when it comes to boosting motivation.
Findings and Recommendations
Based on the synthesis of available literature on the topic of motivation in the workplace, a plan of action for an organisation can be developed. This plan will depend on the needs of a company as well as particular characteristics of the workplace setting. In the current findings, recommendations will be made in the context of a restaurant, Rick’s Good Eats (RGE), which specialises in serving a fusion of Canadian and Punjabi cuisine. Due to the direct orientation on customers as the core of the business, the company has experienced some difficulties associated with retaining personnel and keeping them motivated to meet the expectations of their clients.
If to apply recommendations developed in the course of the literature review, it can be suggested that RGE should implement several important motivation improvement procedures: addressing the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in relation to employees, establishing a cohesive system of reward programs, allowing for the creation of a healthy life-work balance, and motivating employees based on their personal characteristics.
The first step in improving employee motivation at RGE is the creation of a positive workplace environment that will facilitate other motivation improvement changes. As mentioned by Muduli (2016), a positive environment may be created on the basis of Adam’s equity theory, which implies that workers are more motivated by fairness as well as the input and output ratios in the workplace. When establishing fairness, it will be easier for the management of the organisation to address individual employee needs.
The second step in the process of improving employee motivation in a restaurant setting is recognising the stages of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on which each worker is focused at the current moment. The theory is always working in background and therefore there is always a need to address employee needs and expectations. For example, there may be several newly-hired workers whose main goal in the context of organisational relations is acquiring a sense of belonging to the rest of the group. The needs of these employees should be addressed by promoting a teamwork environment as well as off-site activities to strengthen relationships between workers and increase their desire to perform on a high level (Zimmerman 2018). For employees who have worked for RGE for a long period of time, esteem needs may be high on the agenda, which is why the management should implement reviews to benchmark and reward the achievement. These reviews may be performed once every several months to establish an environment of transparency and support for the achievement of employees. When a worker is seen doing something right, the management should recognise the achievement publicly to cater to the esteem needs of an employee. Another example is the self-actualization need, which is more likely to occur among workers of a higher status. If such employees receive the necessary level of achievement in terms of realizing their potential, they are more likely to benefit their organisation in terms of creative activities (Zimmerman 2018).
As mentioned by Mullins (2016) in Management and organisational behaviour, there are several reasons why employers should study the behaviour of their workers and one of these reasons pertains to the increased knowledge, personal growth, and fulfilment from understanding others. Within this realm, it is recommended for RGE to motivate workers on the basis of their personal characteristics outlined in the literature review section. This recommendation is concerned first with the identification of the type of employee that works for the company. For instance, the “defender” type of employee is always on the look for “security, predictability and stability. They like stable, well-established organisations, giving clear roles with a set routine and career paths” (Gaskell 2016, par. 4). Workers of this type are motivated through extensive communication; they value positive news about recent developments, accurate information on where a company is going, what issues require addressing, and so on. Another example of an employee type that can be found at RGE is the “creator” who “seeks innovation, creativity and change” (Gaskell 2016, par. 11). This employee type is motivated by continuous problem-solving, innovative solutions to workplace problems, the recognition of their accomplishments, and the elimination of routine tasks.
Employee reward programs represent another aspect of boosting employee motivation recommended for RGE. The implementation of a successful reward plan implies both monetary and non-monetary recognition of the work that employees do for an organisation. The first example of non-monetary rewards refers to seminars and workshops that will help RGE to expand the skill sets of their employees as well as engross a considerable amount of new information upon them. Such workshops may also coincide with training and mentoring programs implemented with the support from specialists in the service industry. Written ‘Thank you’ notes given to employees who show high levels of performance is another way in which employees can be motivated in a non-monetary way. When it comes to monetary rewards, RGE is advised to be transparent about the way in which they are administered. By ensuring transparency, the management of an organisation is likely to keep workers motivated to perform well. If giving out money as a bonus is not an option for RGE, gift cards are an option to maintain a cohesive reward program and keep employees motivated.
The exploration of employee motivation issues in the workplace showed that organisations lack the understanding of employee needs and characteristics when it comes to finding suitable ways in which workers can be motivated. It was found that the attention to the Maslow’s Theory of Needs, the creation of a cohesive approach to rewards, the acknowledgement of employee types, and the positive outlook on maintaining a life-work balance can help in boosting employee motivation significantly. For Rick’s Good Eats, the improvement of employee motivation is concerned with not only fostering a positive environment but also with following several crucial recommendations. It is recommended for managers to recognise that each worker in an organisational setting has his or her own needs, desires, and the attitude to work. Because of this reason, there is no unified approach to employee motivation – there is a need to identify existing issues in an organisational setting and improve not only the overall environment but also the attitudes of individual employees to the work they do. Future studies in the area of improving motivation should consider the variability in the needs and demands of employees as each of them has different desires in regards to being motivated in the workplace.
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