From Workplace Motivation Theory To Practical Employee Programs
Application of motivation theory in the workplace - more than creating a compensation structure
One of the most basic hurdles business organizations have is employee motivation. Workplace motivation is constantly challenged by corporate changes in policies, employee benefits, work conditions and a host of other factors. Sure compensation, rewards, reinforcements and punishments are in place but it takes more than these to motivate an employee to become productive.
Through the years, there are prominent workplace and behavioral psychologists who delved into motivation theory and how it affects the organization. Here are some of the theories. Moreover, here’s how they can be instruments for increasing employee motivation and improve workplace relationships and productivity.
Thorndike’s Reinforcement Theory
Simply put, the reinforcement theory of Edward Thorndike explores the cognitive process involved in shaping employee behavior by controlling the consequence of such behavior. In addition, the theory uses rewards and punishments to reinforce desired behavior or extinguish undesirable ones. The focus of Thorndike’s theory is the relationship of the behavior and the consequences associated with it. Moreover, a key component of in this theory is the timing of the consequences - Fixed interval, fixed ratio, variable interval, and variable ratio.
Reinforcement Theory in Action
- Fixed interval – Reinforcement is given after a fixed period of time. A good example is the regular pay checks given to employees.
- Fixed ratio – Reinforcement is given after a certain number of behavior occurrence. Sales target bonus is a good example. Once a certain sales target is reached, a specific bonus is given.
- Variable interval – Reinforcement is given at special period without specific timings. Employee citations and promotions are good examples.
- Variable ratio – Reinforcement is given at varying instances of behavior. Special awards and incentives for specific performances are samples.
Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
Victor Vroom's motivation theory stresses that employees are motivated to choose a behavior based on the desirability of the reward. Understanding Vroom’s Expectancy Theory entails understanding that each employee has his own personal goals. Likewise, there exists 3 basic elements that managers need to consider when creating employee benefits and rewards program.
Three basic elements of the theory:
1. Valence: Relative importance of the reward to the employee. How important is the reward for the employee? Is it worth doing the good behavior?
2. Expectancy: This is the idea whether the effort of the employee is enough to perform as expected to receive the rewards. Decision makers need to look at the employee skills, knowledge and even confidence to actually do a certain behavior.
3. Instrumentality: How sure is it that when the employee performs as needed he/she will receive the promised reward? Management must be true to its word when it comes to giving rewards to employees.
Expectancy Theory in Action
Companies must learn what the employees need. This way benefits and rewards are meaningful to employees. Whether it is financial, career improvement, psychological rewards or combinations, all behavior outcomes must be desired by employees. As such, realigning rewards and employee needs is an integral step.
Another important step that companies should take is to provide ample skill and knowledge to its employees to actually perform as they are expected. Both performance and competency gaps need to be bridge in order to give employees the know-how and confidence to perform properly.
Instrumentality encompasses everything from allocating the appropriate budget and resources to career path planning and succession planning are instrumental to employee motivation.
Take care of your emplpoyees
Emoployee motivation is very important here are other resources that will help you keep your employees happy and productive:
- The Art of Looking Busy – Improving Corporate Culture and Performance
- How to Fight the Monday Blues and Enjoy at Work
- How to Demand For Your Target Raise Without Getting Fired
- Corporate Culture: How to Maintain Positive Relationships in The Office
- Corporate Jargon and What They Really Mean to Employees
Adam’s Equity Theory
John Stacey Adams went beyond the individual employee. His Equity theory incorporates comparing one’s situation with another person. An employee not just looks at his own condition but compares it with others. If he feels unfairly treated then work motivation plumets.
Adams used the idea of “give and take” as a motivational construct. Employees ask themselves if the amount of work they are putting in is commensurate to the rewards that they receive. The balance of effort and reward must be established in order to motivate the person.
Equity Theory in Action
Companies must research on industry standards when it comes to pay and benefits of a particular position or rank. This is why many companies highlight that they have above average salary compensation during the hiring process. However, there are other factors to consider apart from the basic pay. Incentives, stock options, profit shares etc. make a huge difference when it comes to enticing employees to remain in the company.
Having a salary schedule that details minimum and maximum pay for a rank/position will help control huge salary discrepancies in the organization.
Having standard benefits for all and special ones will alleviate the idea of having favoritism. Moreover, having clear-cut policies on who can receive these special benefits needs to be communicated at all levels of the organization. Transparency on the benefits and rewards policies will dispel questions about favoritism.
Motivation in the workplace is vital to the survival of the business. It’s not easy task to keep employee motivation at high levels. As such, companies must provide programs based on well-researched theories and strategies and not simply shoot from the hip. A sound program is one that addresses employee needs while maintaining high productivity and profitability.