Job Satisfaction and Employee Motivation

Category: Employee, Motivation
Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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This paper gives an understanding of the term “Motivation”.

The term is used almost every day of our lives but not everyone know what it takes to actually practise motivating. In this case, I would be explaining in details what motivation is all about, the objectives of motivating an individual in a certain way and how the overall performance is affected. I would also be testing some motivational theories in an empirical case (Google). Here, I hope to identify the working style at Google; the nature of work, employees and the environment, what motivates and de-motivates employees and engineers at work.

Organisations claim that their biggest asset or their major sources of competitive advantage are their employees but most organisations do not know how to motivate their employees. Research has shown that different organisations apply different style of motivation. We would analyse these empirical cases with the motivational theories discussed in the literature review and also analyse key motivational factors associated with our empirical case. This would lead to my conclusion and recommendation on how to effectively motivate employee to increase productivity and performance.

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A Review on Motivation and its theories

Work motivation and employee satisfaction plays a more central role in the field of management theoretically and practically and it is indeed one of the most important factors affecting employee behaviour and performance. Managers attach great importance to this concept of management in organisational settings as an effective motivational practice on employee(s) lead to organisational effectiveness in different levels. The next question we can ask ourselves is “what is motivation? ” The concept of motivation refers to internal factors that impel actions and external factors that can act as inducements to those actions Locke, E.A & Latham, G. P. (2004). This has being the universal definition of motivation but certain authors and researchers have aimed at giving the simplest definition to this concept. Mullins, L. J defines motivation “as the direction and persistence of action” (Pg 406, 5th Ed). Mullins went further to suggest that motivation is concerned, basically, with  why people behave in a certain way, why people choose a particular course of action in preference to others and why they continue with a chosen action, often over a long period and in the face of difficulties and problems (pg 406, 5th ed).

Atkinson defines motivation “as different factors that combine at a particular time to influence the duration, vigour, and persistence of an individual’s behaviour in a given situation (pp2, 1964). The three aspects of human actions which can be affected by motivation are intensity (effort), direction (choice) and duration (persistence) and coupled with experience and ability leads to effective performance Jindal-Snape & Snape, J. B (2006). Motivation, as a concept of management is vast in nature and indeed permeates many of the sub-field that compose the study of management e. . leadership, teams, performance management, managerial ethics, decision making and organisation change Steers, R. M & Mowday, T. R & Shapiro, D. L (2004) and this is the reason why this topic has attracted attentions from different authors and researchers in the past years. This has also led to the proposition of theories to support this managerial concept i. e. motivation. These theories are referred to as motivational theories. There are so many theories on motivation, each acting as a competitor to the other on attempt to best explain the nature of motivation.

Within the vast number of theories, some are built on economic knowledge with a psychological understanding (Maslow, 1943) etc. Mullins, L. J suggests that all these theories are at least partially true and all help explain the behaviour of certain people at certain times but however, the search for a generalized theory on motivation at work appears to be in vain (Pg 414, 5th Ed). It is indeed because of the fact that there are no generalized or single solutions as to what motivates people or individual in organisation, that there are different theories on motivation.

These theories are then divided into those concerned with identifying the needs toward which behaviour(s) is directed – content theory and those that are concerned with the dynamic, mental processes that lead to individuals following certain goals rather than others – process theory Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006). Abraham Maslow proposed the most influential and widely recognised theory of motivation. The Maslow theory of needs (1943) is the one of the widely discussed theories of motivation having proposed the hierarchy of needs.

He proposed that individuals are wanting beings, who always want more and what they want depends on what they already have and these needs are arranged according to its importance in levels, hence the hierarchy of needs {draw:frame} Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) Jindal-Snape and Snape (2006) suggests that according to this hierarchy, each need can act as a motivator, provided all needs lower in the hierarchy are satisfied and a satisfied need no longer act as a strong motivator.

This goes to explain why individuals/employees who are not satisfied at their current position would be motivated to put in more efforts until their needs are satisfied. Maslow argued that the first three needs on the list represent deficiency needs that people must master before they can develop into a healthy personality, while the last two represent the growth needs that relate to individual achievements and development of human potentials Steers, R. M et al (2006).

Mullins evaluated Maslow’s theory of needs by suggesting that individuals advance up the hierarchy as each lower-level needs becomes satisfied and therefore, managers must pay attention to the next higher level of needs in other to motivate employees if there is a change in behaviour (Pg 418, 5th ed). Abraham Maslow’s theory (1943) attracted criticism Wahba, A & Bridgewell, L (1976) for the existence of a definite hierarchy of need. In 1972, Clayton Alderfer modified Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model. He summarized the hierarchy of needs into a framework of three different classes of needs known as ERG Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006).

Existence needs, which include nutritional and material requirements. At work places, working conditions and pay/wages fall into this type of need Relatedness needs, which are met through relationship with family and friends and at work places, relationship with fellow colleagues and managers. Growth needs which reflect desire for personal psychological development Fincham and Rhodes suggest that Clayton Alderfer (1972) theory differs in number of important respects to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pg 198, 4th Ed).

They went further to say that while Maslow proposed a progression up the hierarchy, Alderfer argued that it was better to think in terms of a continuum, from concrete (existence needs) to least concrete (growth needs) and it is possible to move along it in either directions (pg 198, 4th Ed). This means that if an individual’s need e. g. growth needs seem difficult to fulfil, that creates a frustration regression that forces a shift to another need e. g. relatedness needs.

Jindal-Snape and Snape suggested that ERG theory differs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in that it does not assume that a need is only activated if it is deficient and two needs could operate at the same time in motivational practice. Fredrick Herzberg (1966) was accredited as the founder of the second, highly influential theory to have evolved after Maslow’s. Unlike Maslow and Alderfer, Herzberg’s work was based on research where he interviewed professionals from different companies, this work he called the Herzberg’s two-factor theory. This theory consists of two factors noted from his interviews.

Factors that led to employee dissatisfaction, he called de-motivators or hygiene factors while factors that led to individual/employee satisfaction, he called motivators. Fincham and Rhodes suggest that motivators involved achievements, advancement, recognition, autonomy and other intrinsic aspect of work that represent sources of satisfaction and if absent leads to dissatisfaction while the other concerned with working conditions, salary, job security, company policy, supervisors and interpersonal relations and other sources of extrinsic aspect of work were sources of dissatisfaction (pg 199, 4th ed).

Herzberg’s two factor theory are also referred to as intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors and it has being highly influential and practised. Herzberg deserves credit for introducing the field to the role of job design specifically, job enrichment as a key factor in work motivation and job attitudes Steers, M. R et al (2004). Herzberg’s two factor theory are not to be confused as being opposite of each other as Wilson, F. M suggests that the opposite of job satisfaction is no job satisfaction while the opposite of job dissatisfaction is no job dissatisfaction (Pg148, 2nd Ed).

Another motivational theorist was David McClelland (1992). He based his work on the personality of individuals Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006). He identified four main motives; The achievement motive, explains our concerns for doing things better than others Power motives, desire to influence others Need for affiliation, desire to establish and have a positive relationships with people around us. Avoidance motives Very often, we hardly recognize the latter one as the top three are the most important.

Mullins suggests that the first three motives correspond to Maslow’s self-actualisation, esteem and love needs (Pg 425, 5th ed) while Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006) suggests that although everyone has all needs, the strength of each need for each individual is different. They went further to say that these needs are innate and are developed relatively early in life and they remain unchanged. These motivational theories mentioned above all fall into the content theory of motivation, we have identified and elaborated on them. I would now move ahead to briefly identify some of the process theory of motivation.

I will not be going into detail with the process theory of motivation as it wouldn’t be needed for the latter stages of this study. Process theories also called the cognitive theories aim at “identifying the relationships among the dynamic variable which make up motivation and the actions required to influence behaviour and actions” Mullins, L. J (Management and organisational behaviour, Pg 426, 5th Ed). Mullins suggests that it provides further contribution to our understanding of the complex nature of motivation (Pg 426, 5th Ed).

Very few motivational theories fall into the category and some of these theories are Vroom’s Expectancy theory proposed by Vroom. V (1964) and then revised together with Lawler, E. & Porter, L. (1968). Goal setting theory proposed by Locke, E. A (1960s) has emerged as one of the modernised way of motivating employees Wiley (1997). This theory emerged as researchers began to discover that simple act of specifying target for behaviour enhanced task performance Steers, R. M et al (2004). Locke (1968) suggests that the logic of goal setting theory is that an employee’s conscious intentions i. . the goals are primary determinants of task-related motivation since goals are instruments that direct our thoughts and actions. Results of goals/self-regulation research indicate two critical preconditions of a positive goal-performance feedback: acceptance of goals assignment and provisions for performance feedback Wiley (1997). An Empirical Case Having discussed and understood what motivation and the related theories are all about, the next step is to identify how applicable these theories are in a real life situation especially for the purpose of this case study.

Jindal-Snape and Snape (2006) suggest that to answer this sort of questions, we first need to consider the nature of the work and the environment, and then the nature of these workers themselves. About Google Google Inc. is an American public corporation. Founded in 1998, Google runs the world’s most popular internet search engine. Its position has earned the organisation huge profits and given it outsize influence over the online world.

It is also known for the quirky corporate culture created by its billionaire co-founder, Larry Page and Sergey Brin which includes a chaotic, campus-like atmosphere at its offices, where workers are pampered with free, chef-prepared food and other amenities. My research environment (Google) is highly engineering-driven and we all know that engineers enjoy a lot of trust, creativity and power which is very different from most jobs at a more product-driven company. Firstly, I would be giving a proper definition of what engineering is all about, the nature of engineers and what motivates them.

Engineers are people who are qualified, trained professionally to engage in various branches of engineering. Wen, C. K (2007) suggests that engineers are normally assigned to problems and a specific set of goals and constraints; they find technical solution to the problem that satisfies these goals within those constraints and these goals and constraints may be technical, social or business related. Engineers solve practical problems with the aid of technological tools, mathematical and scientific knowledge which they possess.

They are often confused with scientist Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006) but in essence, scientist explore nature to discover undiscovered principals while engineers apply these principles coupled with technological knowledge to solve technical problems. In the field of engineering, engineers are generally motivated by two most important factors; innovation and creativity. Engineering involves creativity as it gives engineers the freedom to engage in self-driven tasks. This can act as a very strong intrinsic motivation which it corresponds to Herzberg’s motivator in his two theories (1966). Vere, I. 2009) argues that it is implicit that creativity is integral to design innovation, and that design and the fostering of creativity should be the cornerstone of engineering pedagogy. Further, Vere, I. D suggests that creativity is of paramount importance in the engineering practice as it endows one with the insight and discipline to seek out and address problems from the boundaries of different engineering disciplines. For engineers, innovation leads to an awareness of self-importance which corresponds to esteem needs on Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs. Innovation and innovativeness leads to recognition Herzberg’s two-factor theory (1966).

Innovation leads to advancement which creates challenges as Jindal-Snape & Snape suggest that the rate at which science and technology are advancing provides a different set of challenges and if these engineers were to stay on top of their game, access to up-to-date equipments must be necessary and at hand. Engineers are also highly motivated through feedbacks on their innovation and products, an assured link between their efforts and outcome Jindal-Snape & Snape (2006) and researchers have also shown that this field of occupation are highly motivated by intrinsic factors than extrinsic factors.

Having said all this, we would be looking at some secondary empirical data from ex-googlers relating to employees’ satisfaction, problem encountered with aim at exploring and identifying the perception of these engineers regarding the factors that motivate them. I would be discussing ways on how such problems could be minimized, motivational schemes that can be put in place to eliminate such problems. According to a blog [2] posted by an ex-googler stating his reasons why he left the search giants, he states and

I quote; “For one thing, it was unlikely to initially be able to work in an area that one was passionate _about, the products and team where all interesting and exciting to work with but unfortunately, I was unable to be passionate about my particular area. This became less of an issue as time went by but for experienced engineers that have good knowledge and understanding of what they want and what sort of things they enjoy working on, this could lead to job dissatisfaction”. The same engineer and ex-googler as above went further to say that due to sheer size of code base and vast number of Google’s specific tools and frameworks; it also takes very long time to learn how to actually become productive at Google, which can be very annoying, frustrating and de-motivating at times. Another internet blog [3] from an engineer and ex-googler reports his insights about what it was really like working for Google.

This particular engineer who now works for Microsoft reports that the lava lamps, organic dinner and free shuttle; hygiene factor (Herzberg’s two-factor theory, 1966) put in place to act as a source of motivation lies a company where employees end up working long hours, don’t enjoy private offices and get paid less. He also highlighted some de-motivators working for Google. _“Employees are generally in the building working long hours between 10am to 6pm and after that, most engineers spend most of their evening working from home. There are employees whose desks are literally in the hallway.

Google does not place any value on past or previous industry experience but puts tremendous values on degrees especially from Stanford. Employees actually get paid less salary compared to the amount of effort put in and the quality of the health insurance is not above standards. Most employees don’t actually get a 20percent project and managers will not remind you to start one”. _ According to another internet source [4], a 20percent project is an allocation of 20percent time to every engineer and employee at Google to work on side projects and indeed great innovation come out from this provision of 20percent time e. g. -mail, Google news etc. Very few internet blogs from ex-googlers show job dissatisfaction at Google while most internet blogs and videos indeed agree that Google is indeed a very unique place to work. Engineers and employees agree that the organisation provides everything they needed to work with and be productive but it’s up to them i. e. the engineers to take that extra mile. We have understood the theoretical aspect of motivation and we have seen some empirical cases of engineers and ex-googlers. Now, I would be analysing these empirical cases with some of the motivational theories discussed above to form a conclusion.

Extrinsic Factors/Hygiene Factors

These factors provide less or no motivation to employees but the absence of these factors leads to a dissatisfaction in work places. In organisations, managers perceive extrinsic motivation as a motivator but in essence, they are not real motivators, rather they support the mental ability and health of these employees. Such factors include wages, benefits, company policies and administrative rules and regulation governing these employees, interpersonal relations with fellow colleagues, supervisors and subordinates, good working conditions and security.

From one of the blogs above, we observed an engineer and ex-googler who was dissatisfied with the nature of the job. He emphasized on long working hours and less salary paid which does not compensate for the long hours of working. Early management theories such as Fredrick W. Taylor’s scientific management theory suggested using financial compensation to impel motivation and job performance Wiley (1997). Wiley also suggested that while controversies persisted, pay or good wages is generally valued by all employees and good wages continues to be ranked among the top five factors that motivate people in their respective jobs.

Also, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943), psychological needs are said to be the first and most important need to be satisfied and in other to satisfy this needs, good or satisfactory wage has to be paid to employees to ensure maximum productivity. This same employee identified poor working conditions as another factor that contributed to his dissatisfaction. He brought to our attention that some employees have their office desk literally on the hallway due to the fact that there were less room available. He also made mention of the company’s health insurance which was not up to standard.

These factors constitute to employee dissatisfaction and change in behaviour and attitude towards work. This also corresponds with Clayton Alderfer’s (1972) existence needs which include material requirements, good working conditions and substantial pay. For these employees to work effectively and productively, this need has to be satisfied but not as much as their intrinsic needs if there exists any. Extrinsic factors could be a source of motivation for these engineers unlike scientists Jinda-Snape & Snape (2006) where salaries, incentive schemes, prospects for promotion and other extrinsic factors were not considered as motivating factors.

Intrinsic factors/Motivators

Motivational factors (Herzberg, 1966) are factors which build strong motivation and create a high job satisfaction for employees and they are directly related to the job content of any employee. Absence or decrease in level of these motivations is sure to affect the level of employee satisfaction. An observation in the internet blog from an ex-googler identifies this factor as a major contributor of his dissatisfaction at Google. He states that he was no allowed to work in an area that he was passionate about, leading to dissatisfaction.

Herzberg’s two-factor theory (1966) mentions autonomy or having a responsibility as an employee to undertake personal tasks leads to job satisfaction. This need to work where one is passionate about leads to self development and achievement and this relates to Clayton Alderfer’s (1972) growth need reflecting the desire for one’s personal development. From the internet blog described above, the ex-googler and employee reports that Google does not place value on past experience. I think this statement relates to the need for recognition (Herzberg, 1966) and the need for achievement (David McClelland, 1992).

These two needs both represent intrinsic factors that motivate engineers. They want to be recognized for their individual achievements as well as scientist (Jindal-Snape & Snape, 2006). Another intrinsic factor which motivates employees and engineers at Google is the nature of innovation and being innovative. From a video posted on the internet on life at Google, engineers are allocated personal time to engage in self-driven tasks which leads to side projects and occasionally transform into innovations.

From the blog above, we observed that an engineer was dissatisfied due to the fact that most employees do not actually get that 20percent project and managers do not remind them to start one. This also relates to Clayton Alderfer’s (1972) growth need and desire for personal development. Analysis of Google key motivational factor Google seems to be aware of what motivates its employee to their best at work, the need to customize and individualize programs for motivation and intrinsic rewards.

Individualization defines human beings as unique in different ways and Google accomplishes this individualization by allowing each engineer in the company take one day a week to work on personal related projects. This is the ultimate in individualization because it not only gives the employee the choice of choosing any projects but allows autonomy and independence in management of the project; growth needs (Clayton Alderfer, 1972). Google also identifies what motivates its employee through communicating with them and because of this communication that they are able to motivate employees through intrinsic rewards.

Conclusion and recommendations Over the past years, there have been numerous surveys on what motivates employees to do their best work and in other to attain to high levels of performance; employers depend on their employees to perform at levels that positively affect the bottom line Wiley (1997). We have learnt that the various theories of motivation discussed in my literature review have various applications in managerial practices. When applying these theories practically, managers must take into consideration how each employee feel and react to their work.

These employee feelings and reaction are based on their personality, characteristics, need pattern and values. It also depends on the job component, nature and role of the job, the autonomy and skills in executing the task. Managers must consider both intrinsic and extrinsic aspect of the task and apply various motivational theories when suitable. When motivating these employees with intrinsic factors, managers and employers must show appreciation and give credit to employees for their work and always praise for a job well-done Wiley (1997).

Wiley also suggest that recognition and praise are probably the most powerful and efficient, yet the least costly motivational tool. Another intrinsic motivational tool that managers should apply is autonomy and employee independence. This creates a sense of moral respect for an employee’s action towards their work and creates a huge motivation and job satisfaction. Google managers should allow engineers take on projects that they are passionate about. This freedom to participate on self-driven task would create job satisfaction as human being enjoy what they love doing.

Extrinsic factors are related to the content or environment in which the job is executed. Mangers and employers must ensure that employees get satisfactory wage to cater for their psychological needs which is first on the order of hierarchy, ensure that there are good working conditions, provision of tangible rewards and fringe benefits, job security, job re-design and promotion offered to act as source of motivation to employees. Promotion and growth in the organisation and interesting work are longstanding factors that motivate people to do their best work.

Employers and managers should communicate with their employees often to identify their personal needs. Employee survey should be used to gain additional information from employees regarding motivational preferences and this is often what they value and lack. Wiley further suggest that if organisations adequately and regularly administer such surveys and consider their results, then perhaps they would gain a great deal on competitive advantage through motivated and productive employees.


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