The Theory of Motivation

In this time and age of increased competition and opportunities in the job market, job satisfaction plays a major role in retaining talented professionals within mid to high-level companies. Hiring authorities and potential employers are incorporating proven measures and best practices to identify, attract and engage top talent. From reevaluation of hiring/recruiting efforts to offering competitive salaries, employers are revamping the whole process to provide desirable work opportunities to specialized candidates.

Psychologists like Frederick Herzberg, Douglas McGregor, and Gregory Moorhead have made great contributions to industrial and organizational psychology in terms of their research and theories. And these are still relevant in their application to the human resource function. Motivation, by definition, is the desire and action towards goal-directed behavior. It can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual  accomplish goals because one feels competent at doing so, whereas extrinsic motivation can come from external factors such as paychecks, non-monetary benefits etc.

Not surprisingly, currently this concept has been a fairly important one in growing organizations and startups as the market is candidate-driven and therefore, tight for high-potential professionals. For example, in his two factor Motivation-Hygiene Theory, Herzberg refers to motivation as the factors that lead to career growth and personal satisfaction. Without the presence of either, candidates are more likely to choose other job offers with substantially better and competitive compensation package and benefits.

According to McGregor’s motivation in the workplace theory, he has described people falling under two categories; Theory X and Theory Y. He believed that Theory X workers are people that are not ambitious, and that only want to complete tasks for job security. On the other hand, McGregor listed Theory Y workers as highly motivated people that are creative and gain satisfaction from work. He believed if employers and managers identify which group the candidates belong to, they can meet them on their level and use correct strategies to motivate them.

Another fundamental contribution to organizational psychology was made by Gregory Moorhead in 1989, where he highlighted the philosophy of rewards system. He believed that rewards are at the disposal of managers to retain and motivate employees. Moorhead classified these as time rates, payments by results, bonus and profit sharing, gain sharing, stock option plans, performance related pay, skill based pay and flexible benefit system.

Interestingly, this concept spans across multiple generations, especially with the Millennials. Incentives like bonus sharing, PTO, flexible working hours etc. are a big hit amongst these young professionals. And of course, there is no doubt that with technological advancement and global awareness, todays Millennials can add a lot more to these theories of motivation and how they have evolved over time.