What Motivates Employees to Achieve Better Performance at Work? Essay

The research problem I intend to address in my thesis is, ‘What motivates employees to achieve better performance at work? ’ The question of motivation has long been a central concern in organizational psychology, while performance itself remains elusive to measure and improve. As the world enters the second year of the most challenging recession since 1929, the time is ideal to consider ways in which productivity can be ramped up as a way of expanding GDP.

Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor theory has been particularly influential in its claim that job satisfaction is directly related to a class of motivators that includes recognition, advancement, and growth. Herzberg’s theory, read in conjunction with Maslow’s notion of a hierarchy of needs, represented a fundamental shift in motivation theory, which had previously posited that factors such as salary and working conditions were more important determinants of job satisfaction and, thereby, improved performance.

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In the wake of Herzberg, some HR managers and managers consider their job done if they have added a few motivational factors into a job enrichment plan. However, I plan to test for a different hypothesis: that there is a difference between a partial job enrichment plan and a conventional one. I hypothesize that a comprehensive job enrichment approach will result in better motivation, and therefore better performances, than a partial approach.

The problem is suitable for research on a doctoral level because it will contribute nuance to the current academic understanding of both motivation and performance theory, and it will benefit business managers by proving that job enrichment delivers maximum ROI only if it is approached comprehensively. The research’s distinctive and original contribution will consist not only of proof of the greater efficacy of comprehensive job enrichment but also in providing a formal model of job enrichment for use by other researchers and also by HR departments.

The practical upshot of these contributions will be an empirically-tested framework to improve worker performance. Timetable: June 2009: Literature Review December 2009: Methodology I: concept June 2010: Methodology II: Data gathering December 2010: Data analysis June 2011: Discussion December 2011: Introduction, Conclusion, Bibliography June 2012: Final draft for review The most challenging stage, and the one in which I will need to most sharpen my skills, is the Methodology I stage.

There are two specific challenges: the first is to determine what exactly constitutes comprehensive job enrichment, and the second is to operationalize this model. If the model is so comprehensive as not to exist in the real world, there will be little point in distributing the survey. On the other hand, if the model is compromised, there will be a false distinction between the two models of job enrichment I propose to examine. To some extent, I believe that these challenges can be solved in the literature review stage, e. g. y discovering whether there are existing models of comprehensive job enrichment that I can import into my own research. An alternative to this approach might be to solicit input from workers themselves on what they consider job enrichment factors. I am currently undecided on which approach is methodologically sounder, but I expect the literature review to guide me. Portfolio Exercise 2 Here are five articles I consider particularly relevant to my research, along with notes on how they might inform my research. These materials were easily obtained from the library and from online sources.

One more time: how do you motivate employees? ” This article, by Frederick Herzberg, introduces the Two Factor theory and as such is a part of the conceptual foundation of the paper. Herzberg’s distinction between hygiene and motivational factors will be described and defended, for only motivational factors will be recognized as contributing to job enrichment. Herzberg’s personal definitions of motivational factors will also be considered closely, as they may or may not be operationalized in the survey itself. “Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. This article, by Hackman and Oldham, builds on Herzberg’s conceptual foundation by adding a practical and empirical component. Hackman and Oldham’s methodology, in particular their connection of motivation theory to actual job design, can help to inform my own methodology, as I too need to understand how to link motivation theory to testing. “Motivation and personality. ” Maslow’s theory of human motivation is the most heavily-cited work in the field, and must be engaged in any meaningful research pertaining to higher-order motivation.

Of particular interest to my research is Maslow’s version of the distinction between hygienic and motivational factors; I wish to examine is Maslow’s theory can coexist with Herzberg’s methodology, or whether there are nuanced differences that I might adopt in place of some of Herzberg’s definitions. “Frederick Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory and the 21st century workforce. ” Herzberg’s most influential work was done in the 1960s, making it necessary for me to understand if there are meaningful shifts in what counts as motivational to modern employees.

Danback’s dissertation engages this question directly, and will therefore help me understand if any modifications to Herzberg’s assumptions need to be made in light of changes in work culture. “Employee reactions to job characteristics. ” Hackman and Lawler’s article is another, much-needed practical report of how employees actually react to job enrichment efforts. One of the challenges of my methodology is to determine why, or whether, employees might not respond to valid job enrichment efforts, and this article will provide needed background for the answer.

Review of these articles is intended to provide two areas of insight: a better operationalization of motivation theory into practical survey terms (for example, does “job growth” get translated into more precise terms, or are respondents allowed to interpret it themselves? ), and a way to understand how employees notice, and respond to, job enrichment efforts. I do not anticipate that reviewing these articles will result in a revision of my research question; rather, they will help me sharpen the question and better define and use some of the terms in my research.

Finally, insofar as the articles also represent attempts to engage the conceptual aspects of motivational theory, addressing them in my analysis will allow me to frame my real-world survey results in the context of debates within motivation theory. Portfolio Exercise 3 At first, it seemed implausible to me that research on job enrichment could pose an ethical dilemma for the researcher, the subjects, or users of the research. However, on further consideration, I realized that there were few possible ethical dilemmas that had to be dealt with in the design and body of the research. Before engaging the ethical issues, I need to clarify my position in defining ethics. In the traditional business context, ethics refers to A)a set of law-respecting behaviors and B)a set of stakeholder-respecting behaviors, the two of which sometimes overlap. But the definition of ethics has been changing in recent years, particularly as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement gains steam.

For example, an adherent of CSR would consider corporate behavior that promotes greenhouse emissions to be unethical, even if such behavior is within legal standards or if it benefits shareholders. The essential claim of the new school of CSR is that ethical behavior must treat earth itself as a stakeholder. For this reason, it is worth wondering whether job enrichment is itself an ethical issue, and should be engaged as such in the research design and methodology.

The central question in this regard is: Do businesses have an ethical responsibility to provide for the higher-order motivation of their employees? Such a question was unthinkable two decades ago, but today there is an increasing awareness that worker rights are at least equal to worker obligations; as such, just as there was a process of redefinition of industrial culture and practice that made worker safety a non-negotiable right, we may now be in the middle of a process that is redefining the right to be psychologically and emotionally engaged by one’s job.

On the other hand, business leaders may simply be papering over unengaging jobs with the rhetoric of empowerment and engagement; for example, in the easily-satirized move of renaming jobs to sound more engaging than they actually are (a floor salesperson becomes an ‘associate,’ as if, by this mere shift in terminology, the sales person is supposed to become more of a stakeholder), and in the ‘employee of the month’ phenomenon. These practices raise their own ethical issue: are businesses being deliberately dishonest and manipulative in offering workers the shadow, rather than the substance, of job enrichment?

It is important for the research to raise this question, for otherwise it would uncritically accept the proposition that all job enrichment efforts are made in good faith. Perhaps it is better to think of job enrichment, and its perception by workers, as an offshoot of game theory, which can model both ethical and unethical behavior. Another consideration posed by my research is whether, by summing up the process and results of motivation and job enrichment, I would be offering businesses another out from the organic process of thinking about job enrichment.

Job enrichment is not a technical process, like an accounting method that someone can read about and implement; it is a functional process that all companies have to go through on their own. My research will naturally be limited by the kind of access to survey respondents that I obtain; as such, it may not be applicable to job enrichment scenarios in other cultures or industries. However, someone reading the report may get the impression that it contains a laundry list of things to be done, and feels exonerated of having to think out their own process.

Therefore, my research needs to call attention to the fact that it is meant to serve as decision support for the business context. It is not a roadmap to job enrichment planning and implementation. Another ethical dilemma posed by the research is whose account of enrichment to adopt. I am trying to measure job factors that have both subjective and objective dimensions, and dealing with this ambiguity raises some ethical points. For example, what if surveyed workers are in objectively un-enriched positions, but feel enriched? Is it ethical to report a survey subject’s erroneous assessment at face value?

If not, the research would have to get into a fuzzy area of worker perception—e. g. , in gauging the responses workers who feel that their jobs are comprehensively enriched. However, adopting perception lets businesses off the hook; what if the business is negligent in job enrichment, but has lucked out in getting workers who consider their jobs to be enriched? After all, some people simply feel lucky to be employed, and may respond to any survey accordingly. If I tweak the survey to make it more ‘objective’ (e. g. , by asking precise questions such as, “Do you regularly interact with senior managers at job-related meetings? ), I may be going in the other direction and superimposing my view of job enrichment; gaming the results, as it were, by ruling out those employees who perceive themselves to be in enriched situations. After a great deal of consideration, I don’t believe that there are any actual answers to these questions. There is an innate politics of question selection, sample space selection, and survey design procedures. I think that the most ethical approach is for the researcher to be up front in describing the underlying assumptions, and describing the limitations (both self-imposed and structural) of the study.

In my case, I have to dwell at some length on the issue of perception versus objectivity, and to make my thinking transparent to the reader. My goal in conducting this research is to discover and measure the correlation between comprehensive job enrichment and better work performance, but, for my results to be meaningful, I have to be painstakingly precise in defining the construction of job enrichment. I am clearly not taking management’s word for what counts as job enrichment; however, this approach does not mean that I should uncritically accept all worker input about job enrichment.

The research design will fall halfway between treating respondent input as canonical and between peppering the survey with my own ideas about what counts as job enrichment. As an ethical matter, I have to define and defend how and why I am taking this approach; otherwise, I will be portraying my research as having a kind of authority that it doesn’t really have, and also precluding those who read it from taking away a more nuanced understanding of what counts as enrichment.

The final ethical position has to do with keeping one of my major hypotheses—that comprehensive job enrichment is good for performance improvement—from becoming embedded in the survey design, so that the result is guaranteed to be what I hypothesize. A surefire way for this undesirable effect to happen would be if survey distribution was not truly random. Surveys must go a cross-section of workers, covering the spectrum from least to most motivated, and lowest to highest performing, for the data to have validity.

However, I am concerned that survey distribution cannot be left up to companies themselves, for two reasons: 1)They might learn who has described their jobs as not being enriching, and could act punitively in return; and 2)They might choose the employees most likely to respond, who would themselves be the most highly motivated employees. So my challenge is to find a natural and ethical way to get less-motivated employees to take the survey; I cannot rely on self-selection or company assistance to do so, because both of those methods would privilege motivated respondents.

The problem, simply put, is how to get non-motivated employees to take a survey about the factors of motivation. It is an ethical problem, because solving it involves making decisions that will have an impact both on the validity of my data and, potentially, on the professional lives of survey respondents. While I have not understood how to surmount this difficulty, I have at least begun to take it seriously in ways that will, I hope, make the research stronger.

Finally, I believe that the research has its own ethical responsibility to the world of work; it is the equivalent, in its way, of industrial safety research, as it is laying the groundwork for businesses to redefine work for the benefit of both workers themselves and the bottom line. However, my zeal to make this point must not be allowed to seep into my research design; I genuinely wish to be led by the data, and I willing to live with any genuine surprises or setbacks for my hypothesis. Portfolio Exercise 4

Jobs that are boring and monotonous are not merely a nuisance for those who hold them; they depress productivity and therefore threaten the health of the entire economy. In premodern and/or centrally planned economies, the interest factor of jobs was hardly important, as humans were mechanical factors in planned production. In fact, for at least half of the twentieth century, the human factor was far less important than automation and other ways to render capital investments more efficient. However, soon after World War Two, the economies of the U.

S. and other industrial nations began to enter a phase in which human capital began to take on great importance as a factor of production in its own right. In modern economies, automation was a given, and new productivity had to be squeezed out of making human capital more efficient. In this environment, the difference between a bored and a motivated employee became magnified. Even in highly automated environments, the distinction is significant; consider that, in 1987, a study found that an American car was likely to have 2. times as many quality errors as a Toyota, despite the fact that both cars were made in exactly the same kinds of automated factories. Job enrichment is the process of making jobs inherently interesting and rewarding. As such, job enrichment is taking on a central function in service economies, as it can help restore the productivity that it lost by bored and otherwise non-engaged employees. In the early years of organizational psychology, job enrichment was defined by what Herzberg later called “hygienic” factors such as salary and working conditions.

Herzberg’s great contribution was to argue that, while hygienic factors could contribute to dissatisfaction, they did not contribute to satisfaction; instead, motivational factors like job growth and responsibility were more responsible for making workers satisfied. This so-called Two Factors theory is the foundation of modern job enrichment theory, and is part of the consilience that has emerged around the topic of higher-order motivational factors. As famously argued by Maslow, humans are more motivated by appeals to emotional and intellectual fulfillment (e. . , feelings of well-being and purpose) than by appeals to appetite (e. g. , higher salaries). The motivational theory of job enrichment is one of those theories whose acceptance has actually slowed down both academic research and practical change. Herzberg and Maslow’s theories are so convincing that, confronted with them, HR managers and business leaders merely accept the fact that jobs have to be fulfilling without thinking more acutely about what fulfillment means, and how it can be operationalized in the daily working environment.

The process of making jobs more engaging to the worker is known as job enrichment. Job enrichment refers to a complex set of conditions. Firstly, it is built atop what Herzberg called the hygienic factors; without fair compensation, safe working conditions, and conscientious management, there is no foundation for the motivational factors. Once the hygienic factors are addressed, motivational factors have a better chance of finding fertile ground. Job enrichment is about generating motivation and enthusiasm by going beyond the mere mechanics of work.

To understand how, consider the example of Frederick Taylor’s early experiments in industrial efficiency. Taylor discovered an ideal weight for a coal shovel based on the physiological mechanics of shoveling; thus, he increased productivity by changing the mechanics of work. Job enrichment refers to something entirely different—appealing to the heart and mind of the worker, and bypassing mechanics. To go back to Taylor’s context, one way to implement job enrichment would have been to make each coal shoveler responsible for determining his or her own method of getting coal into the bins.

This approach might have given workers a sense of responsibility and equity that would have resulted in more total work getting done. My hypothesis is that, while job enrichment is a concept that has caught on in most working environments, the journey is incomplete. Herzberg lists a number of factors that can result in enrichment; I wish to determine how many of these factors have been embedded into jobs, and secondarily to determine the connection between comprehensive job enrichment and employee performance.

I hypothesize that comprehensive job enrichment results in more motivation, and therefore more performance improvement, than partial job enrichment (or, for that matter, no enrichment at all). Comprehensive job enrichment does not simply refer to a set of characteristics possessed by a job. It also refers to the process whereby such jobs are designed and defined, and to the process of feedback that makes the job continually relevant and fulfilling to the worker. The art of job enrichment involves balancing feedback from employees, HR, and management, as well as inputs from organizational theory.

Job enrichment does not take place in a vacuum, but is constrained and defined by the industrial culture in which a business finds itself. For example, consider the following two descriptions of American and Japanese industrial culture: |Hamper (1992, pp. 1-2) |Raz (2002, p. 107) | |The assembly line did indeed stink. The noise was very close to |Living in company dormitories often brought about a reliance on | |intolerable… A car would nuzzle up to the old man’s area and he would|company-sponsored leisure activities, which were controlled by the | |be waiting for it, a cigarette dangling from his lip…

Car, |company and filled with educational lectures designed to instill | |windshield. Car, windshield. No wonder my father preferred playin’ |appropriate values of loyalty and responsibility [which is] basic to | |hopscotch with barmaids. |understanding the high motivation of Japanese blue collar workers. | This example is intended to demonstrate how radical differences in industrial culture can necessitate vastly different approaches to job enrichment.

My own research is designed to measure the performance differences between workers in partial job enrichment situations versus workers in comprehensive job enrichment situations. This approach can be valid across industrial cultures, as its premise is that more job enrichment is better, regardless of the precise motivational factors involved. Reflection on the Drafting and Rewriting Process My first draft jumped right into a retelling of my research project. I realized, towards the end of the draft, that this approach was mistaken, because there is a lot of stage-setting to be done for job enrichment.

One cannot be introduced to this topic without also being introduced to the history of organizational psychology and even business process management a la Frederick Taylor. In the rewrite, I spent more time setting the stage, because I want my own work to be understood in the context of this much larger conversation about work and efficiency that has been going on since the publication of Principles of Scientific Management. In editing, I realized that 1,000 words is actually a lot of space, given a sparse and academic writing style.

It is enough space to write an essay in its own right. Therefore, I allowed myself the latitude of spending more time in setting the stage; I also realized that taking such an approach allowed me to finesse the necessity of having to answer questions about my methodology, which is still developing. For me, the process of rewriting this introduction was somewhat traumatic, as I realized the irreducible difficulty of adopting a precise definition of Herzberg’s motivational factors within the context of actual jobs.

At the back of my mind constantly nagged the worry, ‘What if HR managers and CEOs believe that jobs at their company are fulfilling, but are actually not? ’ accompanied by the worry, ‘What if workers are deluded about their own job experiences? ’ The dilemma is as follows: motivation is at once measurable (after all, it shows in performance differences) and subjective (as it is largely a question of how the worker feels about his or her own job). This dual nature of motivation presents huge difficulties for any study, and I felt tempted to keep engaging this problem instead of sticking to an introduction of the subject.

Frankly, I was hoping that the introduction would solve some of the problems that wait to confront me in the methodology, but instead I found that the problems had multiplied. My research question is still relevant, and still concerns me, but I realized that I had to do more theoretical work (and reading) to figure out how to treat the variable of motivation, and how to model the element of subjectivity (for example, some employees are more easily pleased than others) into the study. It also struck me that, unless illustrated with examples, it was difficult to properly explain the oncept of motivation (as distinct from hygiene). While explaining the concept, I realized something that had been missing from my earlier conception of the research: the relevance of cultural differences. One weakness in Herzberg’s theory is the absence of an appreciation of cultural difference; motivational factors are treated like black boxes that are the same for workers generally. Yet, as I began to think about example to illustrate the Two Factor theory, I realized that culture was in fact a huge determinant of what counts as motivation.

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