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6 Theories of Motivation

Featured Best Practice on Motivation

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This presentation is a compilation of PowerPoint descriptions and diagrams used to convey 30+ different leadership and motivation theories and models. These materials can be used for: 1. Self-development - understanding and improving personal leadership knowledge and capability 2. Teaching [read more]

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Satisfied, engaged, and encouraged employees are absolutely crucial for the success and growth of an organization.  However, interpreting the human psyche and determining what encourages and drives people to achieve their objectives isn’t easy to figure out for leaders and human resources experts.  This is where research and insights gathered from the various Theories of Motivation come to play.

The importance of understanding the Theories of Motivation further amplifies as research suggests that only a fraction of employees feel engaged in their respective organizations.  Engaged and satisfied employees have been found to be much more efficient and perform better than those who are not.

As each individual is unique, there is no single method to encourage people.  Motivational Theories are evaluation tools to help managers comprehend what drives a particular employee. Managers who invest time in getting to know their people, understanding their personalities, and determining their behaviors are more likely to build great teams and environments, achieve objectives and contribute significantly to the organization.

A number of motivational theories have been put forth by psychologists and Human Resource Management (HRM) experts.  Out of these, 6 theories are of particular importance and acceptance across industries and organizations:

  1. Equity Theory
  2. Two Factor Theory
  3. Hierarchy of Needs Theory
  4. Three Needs Theory
  5. Goal Setting Theory
  6. Expectancy Theory

It is up to the immediate supervisors and line managers to work out which Motivation Theory works best for each individual in their teams.  Let’s delve deeper into some of these theories.

Equity Theory

Equity Theory, postulated by John Adams, underscores that people are greatly influenced by the views and situations of their colleagues in developing a sense of fairness in their workplaces.  Their responses, actions, and behaviors are altered in accordance with the way they perceive they are being treated at the organization compared to others.  They tend to be more motivated when they feel they are being treated fairly.  Likewise they feel demotivated when they feel discriminated against or if they realize that others are enjoying a greater reward-to-effort ratio than they are.

As per the theory, managers have a big role in motivating their people by ensuring treatment of the entire workforce impartially and tackling concerns about inequality instantly.

Two Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg came up with the Two Factor Theory based on multiple studies to identify key factors that render people motivated or dissatisfied with their jobs.  Herzberg studied 14 different factors for their influence on employees’ job satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  He categorized these factors into 2 major classes: Hygiene factors (or dissatisfiers) and Motivation factors (or satisfiers).

Hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) are extrinsic to the job and tend to reduce job dissatisfaction by working on the need to avoid conflict or trouble.  For example, salary, policies and rules, administration, relationships with bosses and peers, working conditions, workspace, and the quality of a supervisor.

Motivation Factors (satisfiers), on the other hand, are intrinsic and imperative for job satisfaction and satisfy individuals’ growth and self-actualization needs.  For example, work, responsibility, performance, and achievement; advancement opportunities; recognition; personal growth; and job status.

The theory suggests that managers who want to motivate their teams should treat employee satisfaction and demotivation as two separate things and use job rotations and reorganization to improve job satisfaction.

Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory stipulates that by satisfying the 5 levels of human needs, people can be motivated.  Depicted as hierarchical tiers within a pyramid from bottom to top, these 5 levels are physiological (food, shelter, clothing), safety (employment, health), social (friendship), esteem (recognition, freedom), and self-actualization (personal growth).  The 4 lower tiers are described as “Deficiency Needs,” whereas the top tier is referred to as “Growth or Being Needs.”

Interested in learning more about the other theories of Motivation? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on 6 Theories of Motivation here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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This presentation is a compilation of PowerPoint descriptions and diagrams used to convey eight of the most popular motivation theories and models. Motivational strategies can help improve employee performance, reduce the chances of low employee morale, encourage teamwork and instill a positive [read more]

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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