Employee motivation and its individual differences
Motivation of employees is one of the tasks and responsibilities of managers, regardless of the area or level of their work. Motivated employees work harder, make fewer mistakes, are more accommodating and willing, and cause less problems or conflicts. They not only achieve better results, but also require less supervision and control. The article deals with the motivation of employees, its factors and the most common differences, as well as how to approach employees with different individual motivations.
There are a large number of circumstances affecting work motivation, both positively and unfavorably. However, they can be classified into certain groups, from several points of view. The main ones include hierarchical classification , classification into internal and external, tangible and intangible factors , as well as the so-called two-factor classification , which divides motivational circumstances according to whether they cause job satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Hierarchical classification of needs
Most often, the model of human work motivation, associated with the name of A. Maslow, is based on the fact that it motivates to work to satisfy needs that are hierarchical in nature. They are therefore satisfied gradually, according to their position in the hierarchy. The needs “hierarchically higher” have a motivating effect especially when the needs of “lower” are already satisfied.
The five groups of needs mentioned by Maslow’s classification include
- physiological needs , the satisfaction of which is a condition for survival. Wages for work primarily serve to satisfy them;
- the needs of security , safety and health, the satisfaction of which is determined primarily by working conditions and the workplace environment;
- social needs , ie friendship, belonging, social acceptance, etc., to satisfy which there is a pleasant atmosphere at the workplace or the opportunity to have fun at work from time to time;
- the need for recognition , ie appreciation, self-esteem, prestige, success, respect and attention of others, etc., also referred to as the needs of one’s own ego;
- needs of self-realization , which include the need to develop and apply one’s own abilities, gain new experience, solve problems, be creative at work, etc.
Motivation and with it work performance are mainly influenced by needs that have not yet been completely satisfied; with the increasing satisfaction of needs, their motivational influence decreases. However, this does not apply to the hierarchically highest need for self-realization, which, unlike the needs of the “lower”, can never be completely fulfilled, according to Maslow. Satisfaction can even gain strength.
From declining incentive effects needs that have already been satisfied, the theory concludes that an important factor in permanent staff motivation is called. Enrichment work (job enrichment), coupled with gradually increasing their autonomy and decision-making powers. This allows them to gradually satisfy even higher needs.
Maslow’s theory gives a very good overview of the main motivating factors that work in the workplace. However, Maslow has already noticed that meeting lower needs does not automatically mean that workers’ interest shifts to higher needs. In addition, some higher needs may be met even if lower needs are not fully met. His theory, in principle valid, may not apply to everyone.
Internal and external factors of motivation
Distinguishing motivational factors into internal and external views motivation as a process. The internal factors of motivation include those that are related to work as such : these are needs that people satisfy in the performance of their work. External motivational factors are formed by what they gain for performing the work.
Internal factors of motivation
There are four important internal motivating factors. These include the independence with which people can do their job, the new skills they create in doing so, the visible results to which their work leads, and the wider societal meaning or purpose of their work. Of course, even these factors may not affect all employees equally.
Independence motivates mainly because it is based on the natural human need to manage one’s activities . Of course, the support of independence does not mean that we give employees the opportunity to decide on their work completely independently. However, it may mean, for example, that we gradually transfer or delegate some decision-making powers concerning the manner in which it is performed, such as the choice or timing of individual steps. At the same time, we can facilitate their decision-making by providing them with timely feedback on the basis of which they can make the right decisions. If they can do it, then we don’t have to interfere too much in their work, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
An equally effective internal motivating factor is the ability to develop your skills . This motivation also reflects one of the basic human needs, namely the need to improve in one’s activities. It works especially when we increase the skills we care about or rely on and which strengthen our self-confidence.
For practical motivation, this means that the tasks assigned should not be too easy for individual employees, but also not too difficult. They should be entered in such a way as to give them the opportunity to gradually but permanently increase their abilities .
The third of the internal motivational factors, ie the visible results of the work , is often the strongest. People want to see concrete results for their work, which together with their growing abilities also increase their self-confidence or self-confidence.
Similarly, many need to do work that has a broader social meaning and significance . However, the purpose of motivational work is usually not “numbers”, such as corporate profits. It is the specific benefit of the activity that the employee performs, for certain persons, usually customers, or the company as a whole.
If the broader meaning or significance of their work is not obvious to employees, it needs to be explained or emphasized to increase their motivation. For example, by explaining to them why and how their work is important for customers.
When these circumstances are met – employees have the opportunity to work with a certain degree of independence, continuously develop their skills and see the results and meaning of their work – they often try to perform complex tasks with considerable effort, requiring overcoming significant obstacles.
In other words, with the exception of people who do not like their job (and would like to do something else) and work that is unpleasant in nature, internal motivation can be supported by most employees . For example, by emphasizing what makes their work interesting, by alternating different tasks, passing on higher authority and independence, but also by creating a pleasant working atmosphere and opportunities to have fun at work from time to time.
External factors of motivation
These include what employees get for their work, if they do it correctly and on time, from their organization or their surroundings. It is primarily a financial reward (bonus, bonus, etc.), but also an increased hope for promotion, future salary increases, etc. External motivational factors include praise and recognition and personal or professional prestige, which is associated with the job or place of the employee.
Material and intangible motivation
Maslow’s model and the distinction between internal and external factors of motivation show that an important part of motivation consists of ” intangible ” circumstances . These include not only internal factors, but also part of external ones.
The importance of intangible motivational factors, whether praise, recognition, the opportunity to gain new experience or work independently, is often underestimated by leaders and organizations. However, these circumstances are also important for many employees, partly because they satisfy needs that cannot be met with money . An example is the need to increase your professional self-esteem, ie to consider yourself in your field as capable and successful, to “self-realize” based on the application of your abilities, etc.
The material factors of motivation are, of course, dominated by money, which can be used to satisfy various needs. However, even for money, as well as other material motivational factors, it is true that their motivational effect usually decreases with increasing satisfaction of needs, ie increasing incomes. The possibility of a further increase in income is therefore often no longer so motivating.
Motivation, satisfaction and dissatisfaction
The important division of motivational factors, associated with the name of the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, is based on the fact that some of the motivational factors increase job satisfaction and thus lead to higher motivation. An example is interesting work, recognition, higher responsibility, the possibility of personal growth, etc. Other, no less important, however, look different. They make it possible to eliminate job dissatisfaction or demotivation of employees, but they do not in themselves lead to higher motivation, or they only cause it in the short term.EXAMPLE # 1:
This is illustrated by a simple example. If you ask employees in almost any organization what motivates them or their satisfaction, their superiors will surprise them a little. However, after a moment’s thought, they usually state that they are motivated by financial rewards, praise or recognition.
If you ask them afterwards, on the contrary, what provokes their dissatisfaction (that is, what demotivates them), they usually react much faster and usually state more circumstances. Usually among them there is no lack of unfair evaluation, lack of interest in their opinions or suggestions, distrust of their abilities, insufficient powers, too binding rules of work, frequent and unexplained changes, etc.
Faster answers to the second question may be related to the fact that many organizations – to their detriment – actually demotivate rather than motivate their employees. Often, even to an extent that, with some exaggeration, leads to the question of whether some managers are secretly not trained in their ability to arouse the dissatisfaction of subordinates. However, the different responses to both questions stem from another fact, namely the differences between the factors that lead to motivation and demotivation.
Motivators and hygienic factors
F. Herzberg’s theory, which explains this fact, divides motivational factors into so-called motivators and “hygienic” factors . Motivators lead to employees working with higher interest and commitment. In addition to the characteristics of the work as such, they include external circumstances that they may seek , such as financial rewards or the possibility of promotion. Hygienic factors, on the other hand, have no motivating effect. However, if they are missing, they can demotivate. Their designation is based on an analogy with health care. Inadequate hygiene can worsen health, but adherence to it does not in itself improve health.
Hygienic factors do not concern the work itself, but working conditions . These include (worsened) relationships in the workplace, especially with a direct superior, job security, but also the amount of basic salary, the range of employee benefits, work organization, etc.
A significant source of demotivation or dissatisfaction of employees is, above all, unfair evaluation and remuneration, whether real or perceived, but also not very clear policy of the organization regarding the promotion of employees. Limited or unconvincing communication between managers and employees is often involved.
The unfavorable impact of hygienic factors is evidenced by the experience with the hiring of new employees. A frequent reason for their job dissatisfaction is the violation of the so-called psychological contract . Its content includes the various expectations that new employees bring to work, which are usually born on the basis of not entirely certain oral promises of the employer. Thanks to them, employees assume that they will gain certain benefits at the new workplace, such as training opportunities, career advancement, more independent work, language skills, etc. If they do not get these opportunities even after a long time, they perceive this as a breach of an unwritten agreement with the employer. They feel dissatisfied and their motivation decreases.
Two important conclusions follow from Herzberg’s theory. The first is that dissatisfied workers can only be motivated with difficulty, and their motivation tends to be more expensive. It is usually difficult to achieve their higher responsibilities. Dissatisfaction at work leads them to understand it as a less important part of their lives . They don’t try too hard in it, they work below their level or they are not interested in increasing their abilities. If we want to motivate them, we must eliminate their dissatisfaction.EXAMPLE 2:
An example is a situation where an organization decides to increase motivation by “enriching” work, ie by trying to increase their independence and expand the scope of their authority. More independent work combined with higher competencies is one of the important motivators. However, the motivating effect of this factor depends on whether the organization manages to eliminate employee dissatisfaction. If their dissatisfaction survives (there will be mistrust in the workplace, employees will suffer from feelings of injustice and organizational obstacles will prevent them from working), then this method of motivation will not have too much impact.
The second conclusion of Herzberg’s theory is that eliminating employee dissatisfaction may not be enough to motivate them . Eliminating the causes of job dissatisfaction is important, but in relation to motivation it is only a necessary condition, not sufficient.
This circumstance is a frequent source of misunderstanding in practice. Many organizations intuitively believe that if their employees stop being dissatisfied, they will also be motivated. Therefore, they increase their basic wages, offer various benefits, create a pleasant working environment, etc. and believe that their employees will work with greater effort or responsibility as a result. Despite their efforts, however, they find that their motivation is not growing. This is despite the fact that their satisfaction and job stability is increasing.
The reason is that higher basic wages, more varied benefits or a more pleasant working environment, including relationships at the workplace, do not in themselves lead to higher motivation . If employees lack motivators, their performance may remain average despite considerable satisfaction.
Motivation and work success
Working conditions that increase satisfaction and motivation are mainly those that increase the work success of employees. However, organizations that care about the satisfaction of their employees, but also want to increase their motivation, should focus on the circumstances that allow them to be successful. That is, to strengthen their skills, increase their powers, improve their work equipment, clearer or more unambiguous definition of their tasks or remove various unnecessary obstacles in their work.
They achieve higher satisfaction and motivation in this way also because their employees earn more due to their higher performance (with a correctly set remuneration system).
Main types of individual work motivation
The motivational factors mentioned in the previous section are universal and affect most employees. This applies not only to external factors, ie financial rewards, opportunities for promotion, praise and recognition, etc., but also internal factors associated with the work itself.
However, the effect of motivational factors is always to some extent different: what satisfies one may not be interesting for another. It may even be that what is a reward for one worker is a sanction for another.EXAMPLE 3:
An example is the possibility of working from home, which some employees welcome as an opportunity to work more independently, while for others it may mean the loss of social contacts, which are an important part of their work motivation.
Recognizing the individual motivational profile of the employee, ie revealing which motivational factors affect him more strongly and which less, is the key to his motivation. It is important to understand what types of tasks he prefers to perform (and therefore usually better), how best to appreciate him, what to alert him to to strengthen his motivation, how to give him feedback or what reaction can be expected of him in different situations. However, it is also important to assess its overall suitability for the workplace.
Differences in the motivation of employees are related to their personal qualities, the degree of satisfaction of their needs, but also their experience, age or life stage. They are manifested by the fact that some of their needs prevail over others. They react more strongly to the possibility of their satisfaction, and if they are not satisfied, they are more dissatisfied than others.
If the predominance of certain needs is significant, we can speak of a predominant type of individual work motivation . The main types of personal motivation can be divided into seven groups . It belongs to them
- significant financial or material motivation ,
- motivation based on work interests ,
- performance motivation ,
- motivation based on personal or professional reputation ,
- motivation based on the social significance of work ,
- motivation based on the need for power ,
- motivation based on the need for belonging .
People who are dominated by this motivation are usually not difficult to identify. Their relationship to work is lukewarm and rather purposeful, in the extreme case cynical: they see it only as an opportunity to earn money. They are all the more interested in the various financial benefits that employment brings (wages, bonuses and other benefits), in how they could achieve higher wages, than others earn, what they could lose if they performed a certain extraordinary task. , whether their good evaluation will increase the chances of a salary increase, etc. They usually require an additional financial reward for each job.
It is appropriate for people with this motivation to clearly determine the expected results of work and the rewards for achieving them, and to follow these rules. It is also appropriate to strengthen the share of performance remuneration in their salary or to use other material remuneration, such as employee benefits, which they may seek.
Preferential interest in financial reward is natural in cases where the work performed is uninteresting (for example, because it is constantly repeated or is boring), demanding, unpleasant or even risky. In other cases, however, it may be a feature leading to lower job stability, and from the organization’s point of view, it may represent a potential weakness of the employee. Strong financial orientation of people in places with higher decision-making powers can also be a source of personnel risks in the form of fraud or fraud.
A slight reduction in starting salaries can help to reduce the risk of hiring employees with too strong a financial motivation at the expense of internal motivation (for places or professions where this motivation is not suitable). The aim is to verify whether job seekers are also interested in the job as such.
Motivation based on interesting or fun work
People with this motivation are interested and entertained in their work because it corresponds to their interests and abilities, or because the social environment of their workplace suits them. In the workplace, they are often referred to as “heartthrobs”. They want to do their job well, but they are not very ambitious – they are satisfied where they are.
A pleasant working atmosphere and interesting tasks contribute to increasing their motivation. The manager can increase it by assigning them, within the possibilities of his workplace, tasks that they enjoy or on which they prefer to work.
Workers belonging to this group have an increased need for success, achieving the best possible result, solving problems, overcoming obstacles, etc. The common denominator of these needs is an increased effort to strengthen their self-confidence.
People with strong performance motivation are characterized not only by an interest in work as such, but above all by an effort to prove that they are good at their work. They look for more challenging tasks, try to acquire new skills, respond to the challenge that a job or task brings, and often tend to compete with others. In an effort to prove their abilities, they tend to be willing to work regardless of effort and time. Sometimes, however, they may enter certain risks in this endeavor. They prefer to work alone or together with people who are motivated in the same way as they are.
The motivation of these employees can be supported by assigning more demanding, independent or broader tasks, giving them the opportunity to see the results of their work, emphasizing the importance of personal skills and experience for successful tasks or drawing attention to new experiences that certain tasks bring. The feedback provided to these people should be factual – they want to know what they are doing well or badly and what they could improve.
On the contrary, these employees may perceive the assignment of not very demanding tasks as a sign of distrust in their ability, which may reduce their motivation. If they need to perform a simple task, it is useful to remind them that we do not underestimate their abilities, but that performing the task is essential for the organization.
Motivation based on social or professional reputation or prestige
Workers of this type are characterized by an increased need for social or professional appreciation, attention or visibility. They therefore seek praise and recognition, are interested in the impression they create in their surroundings, and are increasingly sensitive to the opinions and evaluations of others. The symptoms of this motivation therefore include frequently asked questions about the evaluation of one’s own work, the tendency to tell about one’s successes or to pay attention to who will be praised for the work done.
Employees for whom this need is important can be motivated primarily by public praise and recognition, assigning tasks that are clearly “in sight”, emphasizing the social or professional prestige that their work brings them, etc. If we do not want to lose their motivation, they should we would always criticize them only behind closed doors.
Motivation based on social significance or mission of work
The employees of this group include people with an increased need to perform work with a broader social meaning. Manifestations of this motivation include the tendency to work with significant commitment, especially in conditions where the assigned task is socially important and the employee believes in its importance.
The performance of employees guided by this motivation can be strengthened by emphasizing the mission and social significance of their organization as well as by drawing attention to how their work contributes to the fulfillment of the goals and mission of the organization.
Motivation driven by the need for power
For people with this motivation, the opportunity to promote their opinion and make decisions, even about others, is important. People with an increased need for power thus have a stronger tendency to control and influence others, but also to show them their superiority and emphasize their social status. Therefore, they like to speak on behalf of the group or try to convince others of their opinion.
They are suitable in situations where others need to be persuaded and there is no room for compromise. Clear career opportunities and goals contribute to their motivation. Their actions can be annoying, especially in a work team, where they may tend to interfere with the work of others, disrespect their opinion or pursue only their own goals.
Motivation based on social belonging
People with this motivation show a strong need to be a member of a group or organization. Unlike the previous category, however, people with this need are willing to submit to the requirements of their group or organization.
They want to be popular and cooperate with others, they are not inclined or interested in competing. If problems arise in their working group, they need to resolve them as soon as possible. In their work, they are motivated by the opportunity to cooperate with others and maintain good relations with them. The expression that we trust them also contributes to their motivation. The actions of a person with a strong need for belonging can sometimes be confusing at first glance. The following example illustrates this.EXAMPLE NO. 4:
The manager decided to appreciate the worker who did her job very well. He therefore praised her at a meeting of his department and congratulated her on her work. However, her reaction surprised him. Instead of smiling and thanking her for her appreciation, she seemed insecure or startled. She lowered her head and left the room as soon as possible after the meeting.
The mistake made by the manager was that in his recognition he did not take into account what motivates the worker and how he will react to the praise as a result. Her work motivation was dominated by the need to be part of a work team. As a result, she did not want to be exalted in any way among her co-workers. Her praise or recognition would therefore be more effective if they were expressed in private.
Individual motivation and work attitudes
Individual motivation, together with personality traits, also influences the work attitudes of employees, which is reflected in their different approach to work or different reaction to certain work situations. Positive work attitudes include perseverance, initiative, responsibility and friendly social behavior , ie the effort to help others even in a situation where this help will not be directly rewarded, etc.
Like motivation, positive work attitudes can be strengthened. In addition to personality traits, they are also conditioned by the style of management, the actions of superiors and other workplace conditions . The relationship between the willingness of employees to help others and their own job satisfaction or sense of belonging to an organization or work group is well known. A responsible attitude to work is often the result of higher personal powers. An employee’s attitude to their work may depend in part on what they consider important for success at work and how much they trust their abilities.
If he believes that his success at work is primarily related to his abilities and trusts his abilities, his attitude to work tends to be positive. If, on the other hand, he underestimates his abilities and fears of failure, his favorable attitude to work weakens. The manager can help improve this attitude by trying to convince the employee that success in his or her job depends primarily on personal effort. If he succeeds, the employee’s attitude to his work can improve.
The same can apply to an employee’s attitude to learning new practices. This attitude can also be influenced by whether the opportunity to learn new techniques is linked more to one’s abilities or to the effort expended.
The motivation of employees is always to some extent individual. Differences in personal motivation, related to personal qualities, condition the employee’s reaction to various work situations and what motivational tools can be used to increase his performance.
The main types of motivational factors that may predominate in an individual motivational profile include financial motivation, performance motivation, the need for social or professional prestige, and the need to perform work with a certain social mission. However, the actions of employees can also be influenced by the increased need for power or social belonging.