Employee Motivation

Employee Motivation

    Whats Inside?

The success of an organization is realized through the performance of employees. Moorhead and Griffin (1998) state that an employee’s performance is a result of both their ability and motivation. Therefore, one of the biggest tasks for managers is to motivate employees so that they perform well and give good results. Employee motivation can be considered to be a driving force for employees to attain specific goals and objectives of an organization (Rizwan et al, 2014). Rizwan et al (2014) also define employee motivation as a reflection of the energy, commitment, and creativity that employees bring to their jobs. Motivation builds employees’ willingness to work by increasing productivity and improving overall efficiency.

Research on employee motivation has long considered employee motives and needs as factors that affect their motivation for work. These can be environmental forces such as work-related benefits and forces inherent in a person such as personal needs. A study carried out by Grant (2008) shows that motivated employees are self-driven, highly engaged, highly involved in their work, and willing to take on responsibilities. Some of the factors that affect employee motivation are:



Employees that commit to learning become satisfied with their jobs and show more positive performance. Harrison (2000) established that learning that is prompted by training positively affects employee performance and is an essential element for the achievement of organizational goals.



Reward systems help organizations to attract, retain and motivate employees and also get high-performance levels. Rewards can be categorized into intrinsic (financial e.g. bonus, salary, etc.) and extrinsic (non-financial e.g. recognition, title, security, appreciation, promotion, decision-making opportunities, feedback, comfortability at the workplace, etc.) rewards. Intrinsic rewards result in conscious satisfaction for employees. They motivate employees and in turn affect their individual and organizational performance.



(Nohria et al, 2008) state that motivation has four drives that underlie it. The extent to which these drives are satisfied affects emotions and behaviour. The following are the drives:


The drive to acquire

This drive tends to be relative as humans usually compare what they have to what others have. It can be about acquiring physical goods or status. Most importantly in the workplace, it is about remuneration. People always compare their salaries to others’ salaries.


The drive to bond

When employees bond in the organization, they feel cared for. It results in high motivation and the feeling of pride as a result of being part of the organization. It results in employees becoming attached to the organization.


The drive to comprehend

This stems from the need to understand the world around us and make things comprehensible. At work, this results in the need to do meaningful work. Employees become demotivated if they perform monotonous tasks or tasks that they deem as meaningless.


The drive to defend

It results in employees wanting institutions that promote justice, freedom of expression, and have clear goals and intentions. It leads employees to have a sense of security and confidence.


According to The McKinsey Quarterly (2006), some of the questions that can be asked to determine employee motivation are the following:

  • I feel a sense of personal satisfaction when I do this job well.
  • My opinion of myself goes down when I do the job badly.
  • I take pride in doing my job as well as I can.
  • I feel unhappy when my work is not up to my usual standard.
  • I like to look back at a day’s work with a sense of a job well done.
  • I try to think if ways of doing my job effectively.


Employees can then answer by showing to what extent the given statement relates to them.


Past research has resulted in several facts about employee motivation. The following are some of the findings:

  • 21% of employees in America strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work (Gallup, 2017)
  • Grant (2008) says that motivation affects productivity, performance, and persistence. 
  • The studies of Ryan and Deci (2000), Thomas (2002) as cited in Grant (2008) state that motivated employees are more self-driven as compared to less motivated employees
  • There is a direct relationship between employee motivation and job satisfaction Lloyd (2005), Chen et al. (2004), and Lok and Crawford (2004).
  • There is a direct relationship between employee motivation and organizational commitment Lloyd (2005), Chen et al. (2004), and Lok and Crawford (2004).
  • A study by Sirota et al. (2005) shows that organizations that implemented various motivation programs involving constructs as camaraderie, equity, and achievement were considered to be more effective than organizations that had no or twice as many ‘enthusiastic’ employees (total 45%)
  • When employees are more motivated, their performance increases (Asim, 2013)
  • An intrinsic reward has a significant positive relationship with employee motivation with a significance level of p< 0.01 in the study by Rizwan (2014).
  • There is a positive relationship between employee motivation and employee performance with a significance level of p< 0.01 in the study by Rizwan (2014).


A study on the Slovak enterprises for the years 2015 – 2018 which had a total of 26,416 respondents providing responses (5 = very important, 4 = important, 3 = neutral, 2 = slightly important, 1 = unimportant, showing the importance of certain factors in their motivation for work) showed that there are differences in factors affecting motivation between men and women (Hitka et al, 2020). The table below shows the resulting relative frequencies.


Basic salaryMale 1%2%8%26%63%
Fair appraisal systemMale1%2%10%32%55%
Good work teamMale1%2%9%36%51%
Job securityMale1%2%11%31%55%
The atmosphere in the workplaceMale1%2%10%36%51%
Supervisors approachMale1%3%11%35%50%
Fringe benefitsMale1%2%11%36%50%
Communication in the workplaceMale1%3%15%40%41%


  • Hitka et al (2020) also showed that the motivational needs of people with different level of education completed are different.


  • The study by Hitka et al (2020) showed the important factors for motivation. The overall results were as follows:


Basic salary4.494
Fair appraisal system4.408
Good work team4.406
Job security4.398
The atmosphere in the workplace4.391
Supervisors approach4.354
Fringe benefits4.330
Communication in the workplace4.242
Working hours4.186
Work environment4.173
Social benefits4.143
Job performance4.116
Workload and type of work4.077
Free time4.057
Opportunity to apply ones own ability4.040
Personal growth4.033
Mental effort4.019
Career advancement4.010
Individual decision-making3.971
Information about performance result3.960
Relation to the environment3.899
Mission of the company3.873
Name of the company3.845
Physical effort at work3.821
Regions development3.785



  • Basic salary, fair appraisal system and good work team were considered to be the three most important motivation factors.


Improving employee motivation

According to some of the results, motivation is affected by gender. Managers should take into account this fact when creating ways to improve employee motivation. Also, the level of education affects the kinds of factors that result in motivation. Therefore, managers should also take this into account (Nguyen et al. 2014). (Nohria et al, 2008) also gives suggestions for improving employee motivation through the four drives discussed earlier. They suggest the following:


  • The drive to acquire – Implementing reward systems

Implementing systems to reward good performance and also setting achievable targets that employees can meet and obtain rewards. And also, setting meaningful rewards can improve employee motivation.


  • The drive to bond – Targeting work culture

Creating a work culture that promotes teamwork, collaboration, openness, and friendship, enabling employees to feel like management considers and cares for them, and that they have good relations amongst themselves.


  • The drive to comprehend – Considering job design

Ensuring that employees’ jobs are meaningful, challenging, and interesting.


  • The drive to defend – Implementing performance management and resource allocation processes.

Ensuring that there are fair, trustworthy, and transparent business processes for performance management and resource allocation. Although employees may disagree with certain outcomes, they need to be able to understand how the decision came about.


Focusing on these drives helps organizations to improve employee motivation and therefore obtain the most out of their performance.



Meyer and Nujjoo (2012) discuss the company Google’s way of maintaining motivation among employees. Their strategies include both financial and non-financial rewards. On average, Google employees receive a salary of £86 800 a year, as compared to an average of £21 500 in the UK private sector (Rupert, 2011). They include flexi-time for employees such that employees have flexible working hours, which improves their work-life balance. Employees are also allowed to spend 10% on any pet projects unrelated to the core business (The Google Culture, 2011). This boosts their job satisfaction as they can work on other personal tasks and they have a sense of freedom. The Google work culture results in employees being highly productive, highly committed to the organization, and less likely to leave.


Organizations can apply some of the concepts of the Google work culture and other ways suggested earlier to maximize employee motivation. Employees need to feel supported and have a sense of freedom to be satisfied and motivated for their work.


Main References

Gallup, 2017. State of the American Workplace Report. 

Hitka, M., Lorincová, S., Vetráková, M., Hajdúchová, I. and Antalík, I., 2020. Factors related to gender and education affecting the employee motivation. Entrepreneurship and sustainability issues7(4), p.3226.

Meyer, I. and Nujjoo, A., 2012. The relative importance of different types of rewards for employee motivation and commitment in South Africa. SA Journal of Human Resource Management10(2), pp.1-10.

Nohria, N., Groysberg, B. and Lee, L., 2008. Employee motivation: A powerful new model. Harvard business review86(7/8), p.78.

Employee motivation and employee performance in Pakistan. International Journal of Human Resource Studies4(3), p.35.

Tatenda Emma Matika
This article was written by Tatenda Emma a Guest at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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