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Chapter: Business Science : Human Resource Management : Sustaining Employee Interest

Motivation theories

An interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom

Motivation theories

An interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom


Motivational theories are split into two groups as process and content theories. Content theories endeavor to name and analyze the factors which motivate people to perform better and more efficiently while process theories concentrate on how different types of personal traits interfere and impact the human behavior.Content theories are highly related with extrinsic rewards, things that are concrete like bonuses and will help improve employees' physiological circumstances whereas process theories are concerned with intrinsic rewards, such as recognition and respect, which will help boost employees confidence in the work place and improve job satisfaction.


A famous content theory would be Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and a famous process theory would be the equity theory.


Theories of motivation provide a theoretical basis for reward management though some of the best known ones have emerged from the psychology discipline. Perhaps the first and best known of these comes from the work of Abraham Maslow. Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs describes a pyramid comprising a series of layers from at the base the most fundamental physiological needs such as food, water, shelter and sex, rising to the apex where self-actualisation needs included morality and creativity. Maslow saw these levels of needs being fulfilled one at a time in sequence from bottom to top. Employment and the resources it brings are classed under ‗safety needs‘ (level 2) while the workplace may also contribute to a sense of ‗belonging‘ (level 3) and recognition at work can satisfy the need for ‗self-esteem‘ (level 4).


Frederick Herzberg‘s motivator-hygiene theory, first published in 1959, argues that an employee‘s job satisfaction or dissatisfaction is influenced by two distinct sets of factors and also that satisfaction and dissatisfaction were not at opposite ends of the same continuum but instead needed to be measured separately. The two sets of factors are motivator factors and hygiene factors. According to Herzberg, real motivation comes from the work itself, from completing tasks, while the role of reward is to prevent dissatisfaction arising. Expectancy Theory is the theory which posits that we select our behaviour based on the desirability of expected outcomes of the action. It was most prominently used in a work context by Victor Vroom who sought to establish the relationship between performance, motivation and ability and expressed it as a multiplicative one – where performance equals motivation x ability. There are a lot of attractions for this kind of approach, particularly for employers who can target their motivation effort and anticipate a definable mathematical return for them. As this is a cognitive process theory it relies on the way employees perceive rewards These three theories plus variants of them have been used in countless research studies and continue to inform the practice of reward management up to the present day.


Job evaluation

Job evaluation is closely related to reward management. It is important to understand and identify a job's order of importance. Job evaluation is the process which job's are systematically assessed to one another within an organization in order to define the worth and value of the job, to ensure the principle of equal pay for equal work. In the United Kingdom, it is now illegal to discriminate worker's pay levels and benefits, employment terms and conditions and promotion opportunities Job Evaluation is one method that can be adopted by companies in order to make sure that discrimination is eliminated and that the work performed is rewarded with fair pay scales. This system carries crucial importance for managers to decide which rewards should be handed out by what amount and to whom. Job evaluation provides the basis for grading, pay structure, grading jobs in the structure and managing job and pay relativities.


It has been said that fairness and objectivity are the core principals using an assessment of the nature and size of the job each is employed to carry out.


There also many different methods of job evaluation which can be used, but the three simplest methods are ranking, classification and factor comparison. However, there are more complex variations of methods such as the point method which uses scales to measure job factors. This method does not not rank employees against one another but looks at the job as a whole. A disadvantage of these methods of job evaluation are that they are very static and it would be very difficult to perform a job evaluation quickly if it was needed.


An advisory company named ACAS stated that there were five main reasons why employers look at performing a job evaluation. These include: When deciding on a pay scale: Making sure that the current system is fair and equal for employees, Deciding on benefits such as bonuses,Comparing pay against other companies and reviewing all jobs after a major company pay change . Employees need to feel that they are being paid a fair wage compared to the same job with the competition. If this is true it may help reduce staff turnover which is very beneficial for employers as it reduces the cost of hiring new staff.


Research regarding job evaluation has mainly been conducted using qualitative data collection methods such as interviews, large scale surveys and basic experimental methods. Therefore, there is a large gap for research on job evaluation collecting quantitative data for a more statistical analysis. A comparison between public and private sectors and the methods of job evaluation is another area that should be considered for further research.


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