Encouraging employees to work within the parameters set by an organization-and to encourage them to work efficiently-is one of the most important goals of an organization. There are a number of important things that managers must do to ensure that employees maintain good work ethic and high levels of motivation, as it is rare for employees to be completely self-motivated.
Understanding that employees are often motivated by outside influences just as much as they are intrinsically motivated is part of what makes a manager or individual in a leadership position an excellent leader; when an individual in a leadership position tries to force employees to self-motivate, the results can be disastrous for the overall morale of the organization and the inclination of the employees within the organization to do work.
There are two basic types of motivation that an individual can experience. Motivation can be split into intrinsic motivations and external motivations; each type of motivation has a place in the workplace, but employers have much more control over extrinsic, or external, employee motivations. Employers have a lot of control over what kind of benefits and punishments can be offered to employees extrinsically, and very little control over how an individual motivates him or herself internally.
Developing proper extrinsic motivations, then, should be the primary goal of the employer (Magloff). This discussion will address four types of motivation that can be implemented within an organization, and will then look at the world-renowned company Google to determine how they have developed their world-class employee environment, and motivated many of the best and brightest in the world to join the team.
Four Key Motivational Theorists
Motivational theorists have developed many different ideas regarding how to best encourage people to work towards a given goal. Every theorist has a different idea of how best to motivate employees; although many of these theories differ significantly in their approach to the human psyche, all agree that people are motivated more strongly by reward than by punishment (Magloff). All the major motivational theorists suggest that an employee environment that does not promote a positive work experience is an environment that will eventually become toxic to the workers; when people are stuck in a toxic work environment, they are rarely willing to put up with the environment for very long (Magloff).
When an environment does become toxic, the workers in that environment will often begin to look for other employment opportunities. For companies that work with highly-skilled, highly-educated workers, this brain drain can be disastrous to the organizational structure of the company. When a company experiences brain drain, especially when these former employees directly join competing companies, a company can quickly go from being one of the primary powers in a niche to one of the weakest companies. The comparison between Google and Yahoo easily shows this: Google’s work environment is highly desirable to employees, while Yahoo’s work environment is not. Google remains a powerful company, while the overall influence and revenue share that Yahoo has attained in recent years continues to shrink (Magloff).
Frederick Taylor is one of the most important individuals insofar as motivational theory is concerned. It is extremely important to discuss Taylor’s theories in the context of motivation, because Taylor was one of the first to discover that people’s motivation is directly linked to the reward that they receive as a result of their work (Meltzer et al.). Magloff writes, “..Taylor devised his famous theory on scientific management. Taylor broke each job down into specific tasks and timed how long it took a worker to do each task. He then specified exactly how each task was to be done and what tools to use. Workers were trained to do each task in a particular way… Taylor also believed that workers were motivated primarily by money, so he also developed the idea that workers should be paid based on whether they reached production targets. Taylor also standardized the role of management, including setting managers apart from operations and giving them more authority to set the tasks workers do” (Magloff). Although most companies in the western world have moved away from assembly line style management, it is important to note that payment for work completed is a revolutionary concept in terms of motivational theory.
Taylor’s discovery has had far-reaching consequences in the business world. Today, it is accepted behavior to pay people based on a salary, but it is also accepted behavior to pay certain types of employees based on performance. For instance, salespeople are often paid on commission; this means that the better they are at their job, the more money they are paid. Commission-based work is a development of Taylor’s motivational theories; even the concept of paying people a fair wage for work is born from the idea that people work better when they are properly motivated by a wage or other form of reimbursement (Meltzer et al.).
Taylor’s theory on motivation, while groundbreaking, does not apply very well to any kind of workplace that does not deal with singular, repetitive tasks. Taylor worked with Ford to develop the assembly line, and required that businesses break down tasks to be done into very small tasks that one individual could do over and over again (Meltzer et al.). From Taylor’s theory, then, the take-away must be that people are motivated by fair payment, and that payment in proportion with the work completed is a powerful motivator for individuals in a working environment.
Unlike Taylor, Hertzberg saw motivation as a much more complex and varied issue that merely the payment of individuals for work completed. Hertzberg viewed people as complex, and saw that things like working hours also had an impact on employee performance (Magloff). Taylor tried to reduce employee productivity to a science, but Hertzberg noted that human beings are much more complex, and that they need a variety of things to be considered fulfilled and happy in any given environment (Magloff).
Working conditions were the thing that Hertzberg tried to focus on in his research; Taylor already addressed the issue of whether payment could be used as a proper motivational tool for people. Hertzberg suggested that payment alone was not enough of a motivational tool for an employer. Instead, employers should try to ensure that there are good working environments provided for employees, because happy and healthy employees tend to be much more productive than those who are not happy and healthy (Magloff).
Another important thing that Hertzberg noted was that employees who experience high levels of job satisfaction in their workplace tend to be more loyal to their employer, and thus, these employers often experience higher worker retention rates than others (Meltzer et al.). It is for this reason that Hertzberg and his theories have remained relevant for so many years. Replacing employees who have left is a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process for businesses, and if it can be avoided, then businesses certainly try to avoid the issue (Meltzer et al.).
Maslow built a theory of motivation that describes workplace motivations, but also describes human motivations as a whole. According to Maslow, every individual experiences a hierarchy of needs. If the needs at the bottom of the pyramid are not met, then the needs at the top of the pyramid cannot be met; he developed this theory by studying a wide array of outstanding individuals, and determined that they have these qualities in common (Magloff).
The basic needs that Maslow suggests are fundamentally important for all individuals are physiological needs and safety needs. This means that if people do not feel physically safe, or if they are exhausted, sick, or underfed, they cannot perform any higher functions (Magloff). This is particularly important for the workplace, because it means that if an employer works employees too hard and employees cannot rest, then the employees cannot perform for the employer at a high level (Meltzer et al.).
Maslow also suggests that if these base needs are met, then the individual can go on and grow through other levels, including love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Employers can help employees meet their self-esteem needs by providing them with positive experiences in the workplace; when this occurs, the individual develops intrinsic motivations, including the feelings of confidence, achievement, and the satisfaction of knowing that they have gained the respect of others (Meltzer et al.). These are all powerful motivators for individuals, and Maslow has developed a theory that describes the interaction between motivations inside the workplace and motivations that occur outside the workplace. On a similar level, Maslow developed a theory that integrates extrinsic motivations and intrinsic motivations.
Lawler et al.
Lawler et al. developed a theory that integrates a number of key issues in the development of a motivational strategy for management. Lawler et al. focus almost entirely on the workplace, writing that “Actual performance in a job is primarily determined by the effort spent. But it is also affected by the person’s ability to do the job and also by individual’s perception of what the required task is. So performance is the responsible factor that leads to intrinsic as well as extrinsic rewards. These rewards, along with the equity of individual lead to satisfaction. Hence, satisfaction of the individual depends upon the fairness of the reward” (Lawler et al.). Lawler et al. suggest that when an individual is offered a reward for a certain type of behavior, he or she will temporarily change his or her behavior so to attain that reward; when the goal is met, the behavior will return to the same type of behavior as before.
Lawler suggests that managerial theory should focus on constant, ever-changing motivations for individuals; when people have no motivations to work and no goals to work towards, they become complacent and intellectually bored. It is only when people have goals to work towards that they become properly motivated to move forward (Lawler et al.).
Motivational Management at Google
Google has embraced a number of motivational management theories to encourage employees to participate heavily in their work environment. According to Google, employees spend such a large amount of time at work that they should be comfortable and happy in their work environment. When employees are not comfortable or happy in their work environment, they are not motivated properly.
Google uses a combination of all the previously-discussed motivational theories to properly motivate their employees. Google has noted that without high levels of pay, highly skilled people will not join the company; as a result, Google pays higher than average salaries to its employees. This is the implementation of the distillation of Taylor’s contribution to employment motivational theory. However, by providing happy and healthy work environments for its employees, Google is also utilizing both Maslow’s and Hertzberg’s theories of workplace satisfaction. Google has done a lot of work to develop a work environment that is relaxing and exciting at the same time, and employee satisfaction at Google is very high (Google.com).
Google has ensured that employees have everything they could ever possibly want in their workplace-and that they have the ability to have fun in their workplace. This is very important for the development of self-esteem and the development of workplace relationships. Lower levels of anxiety and irritability lower the levels of workplace antagonism present in the Google workplace. Finally, Google provides employees with many choices, and gives them the ability to drive their own career. The many different paths given to employees provides them with the ability to mobilize their own intrinsic motivations, in addition to the fulfillment of a plethora of extrinsic motivational factors.
Effectiveness and Implementation of Motivational Theories
Google has done a tremendous job motivating its employees. It has a very high employee retention rate (Google.com). In addition, the company has managed to grow from a tiny start-up to a worldwide conglomerate in less than two decades; this is something that would have been impossible without the participation of the employees in the company.
Since the day Google went public in 2004, the company’s stock has consistently climbed to its price today, which is over $550 USD per share. This is a significant achievement for the company, and the company has also managed to grow from a search engine to a tech company that has influence in a wide array of sectors. Today, Google controls part of the cell phone market with the Android operating system, and also has significant influence in the computer hardware and software industries. Google is used in almost every country on earth, and its e-mail servers serve millions upon millions of customers every day.
Employee satisfaction at Google is very high, and there is relatively low turnover at the company, especially in the highly skilled positions. Google has made it part of its business model to hire extremely motivated, intelligent, and skilled individuals; it has also made it part of the business model to cater to these employees, to ensure that company turnover insofar as skilled labor is concerned is very minimal.
Recommendations for Further Implementation of Motivational Techniques
One area that Google has been considering changing for employee benefit is the area of more flexibility in working hours. Google employees have flexible working hours, but allowing employees to work from home is something that has become very important in discussions in recent years. Parents are particularly interested in this prospect, and this fits squarely into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: an individual cannot be fulfilled at work if his or her family life is not properly fulfilled (Google.com). As a result, there have been many potential discussions regarding the availability of childcare, as well as the flexibility of employee’s working hours. Again, Google is trying to provide all the necessary conditions for employees so that they can develop both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.
Discussion and Conclusions
There are many things that can motivate employees in a working environment, and developing good motivational processes within a business is fundamentally important to the overall success of a business environment. A business that cannot motivate employees, whether intrinsically or extrinsically, will often find itself incapable of retaining employees. A company that cannot retain employees will often find that the replacement of key employees will cause problems in the organizational structure of the company or organization.
A company that cannot develop good rapport with employees on many different levels will often find that there are cultural and social problems that develop within the organization as well. Organizational culture problems may manifest in many different ways, but when irritability and antagonism become problematic within the company, management must find ways to motivate employees into different, more productive types of behavior.
Developing different types of motivational techniques will also allow for better acceptance of these techniques by employees. Not all employees will have the same motivations, and by utilizing and implementing a number of different techniques, an employer or manager can ensure that people are being motivated to succeed within the workplace regardless of their personal situations. The workplace has certainly changed in the years since the 1950s, and motivational theories have developed in such a way that the employee should be valued more than ever before. When the employee does not feel valued, it is difficult to retain the employee within the workplace.
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