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Employee Motivation

Retention and “voluntary turnover” are becoming major challenges in today’s “highly competitive labor market” and research indicates that employees fail to remain committed to their organizations “if they are not sufficiently motivated” (Islam and Ismail, 2008). Research also indicates that if the jobs of employees are “enriched” they could be motivated to “perform better” (Herzberg, 1968). However, experienced managers have found that a single approach of “one-size-fits-all” fails to work in employee motivation because individuals are different and have distinct needs and perceptions (Lazenby, 2008). It is then a challenge for managers and organizations, large and small, to find ways of motivating their employees to deliver optimal results and to remain with organizations for longer periods of time. This paper aims to analyze the meaning and significance of employee motivation in today’s competitive and globalized world.

‘Employee motivation’ is a term based on the Latin word “movere” which means “to move” (Islam and Ismail, 2008). Researchers define motivation as a “force that energizes behavior” by providing a suitable course to be followed in addition to the desire to be persistent (Bartol and Martin, 1998). This definition is proves that humans need to be motivated to succeed and achieve goals in life. It is believed that the primary function of a manager is to lead teams and individuals towards specified goals by motivating and steering them effectively.
With extensive studies and research conducted to test theories of motivation, it has been concluded that “individuals are different” with distinct personalities, expectations, beliefs and attitudes, therefore, a single approach cannot be applied and implemented to different individuals, successfully. Studies also indicate the importance of “goal orientation” among individuals which classifies people into two basic categories (Elliot and Church 1997). People belonging to the first category have a “mastery or learning orientation” by virtue of which they “welcome challenges” and are open to the idea of acquiring novel skills which provides them the ability to “master challenges” (Lazenby, 2008). The second category of individuals comprises of those employees who have a “performance orientation” and are more interested in evaluating themselves with regard to their goals in life (Lazenby, 2008). Such individuals can be daunted easily by the belief that their objectives are difficult to attain which often lead them to seek situations where they can be assured of their success.

Managers in powerful and senior positions face the daunting task of gauging employees and ensuring their retention. It has been found that even in jobs which require individuals to be engaged in “fairly routine and repetitive tasks”, the performance will be enhanced if employees are given the opportunity of learning initially with accomplishing “specific goals” and then being geared for “performance goals” after substantial experience and confidence (Lazenby, 2008). Thus, it is important for managers and organizations to understand that individuals differ from one another so that they can find suitable factors to motivate their workforce. By doing so, organizations ensure the commitment of their employees to the organization and motivate them to work towards the collective goal of efficiency and excellence of the organization through their zeal, confidence and enthusiasm to succeed.
Bartol, K.M. and Martin, D.C. (1998), Management, 3rd ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
Elliot, A. J., and M. A. Church. (1997). A Hierarchical Model of Approach and Avoidance Achievement Motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 72:218-232.
Herzberg, F. (1968). One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? Harvard Business Review 46:53-62.
Islam, Rafikul, and Ahmad Zaki Hj. Ismail. (Winter 2008) "Employee motivation: a Malaysian perspective." International Journal of Commerce and Management. 18.4: 344(19). 
Lazenby, Scott. (Sept 2008) "How to Motivate Employees: what research is telling us." Public Management 90.8: 22(4). 

Tags: Management essays, management effectiveness, participative decision making