What Is the Definition of Employee Motivation?

by Ashley Donohoe - Updated July 13, 2018

Small businesses need motivated workers who are dedicated to the company's mission and goals and who strive to work effectively and efficiently. Motivated employees not only contribute positively to the company's overall success and direction but also help reduce costs, bring creativity and solve challenging problems. Since both internal and external factors can motivate employees, managers should understand employees' needs to create a satisfying work environment and adapt their leadership styles to drive employees to do well. Making employees feel valued, empowered, capable and engaged and offering positive feedback and rewards for individual and team accomplishments are some key ways to improve job motivation.

Tips

  • Employee motivation is defined as the internal or external factors that affect an employee's behavior and the effort put into work tasks.

Employee Motivation Defined

Employee motivation refers to the factors that cause employees to behave a certain way when doing their work, and this can include how committed the employee stays to company goals and how empowered they feel in their daily work. Job motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic, meaning an employee's motivating factors can come from internal or external sources. An extrinsically motivated employee wants to work well to gain praise, recognition or some financial reward from the company. For example, a manager may give out an employee of the month award or offer a bonus to the highest performing worker in a department. In contrast, an intrinsically motivated employee is inspired to do well from a desire for acceptance, meaningful work, power, independence or some other internal factor. Managers can provide interesting and challenging work to motivate these employees.

Importance of Employee Motivation

The benefits of employee motivation go beyond just keeping employees happy at work and increasing employee morale. Motivated workers also stay focused and work more productively and effectively to meet goals and obtain the rewards and recognition they seek. This increased quality of work and productivity can help a company reduce its costs. And keeping these employees motivated and satisfied with their jobs decreases turnover and its often high associated costs as well. Also, motivated employees who feel their ideas and work have meaning may feel more comfortable being creative and offering suggestions to management, and this insight can help managers improve the company.

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Herzberg's Theory of Motivation

Understanding Herzberg's motivational theory, also called the two-factor theory, can give managers insight on what workplace qualities motivate and don't motivate employees. According to this theory, employees feel satisfied and motivated in workplaces that offer:

  •  Meaningful work.
  •  Recognition and appreciation.
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement.
  • A level of control and responsibility for the work.

In contrast, employees do not thrive in a workplace where the leadership, work conditions, job security, workplace policies, salary and relationships with others are poor. This theory shows that managers should foster a work environment where employees have the opportunity to advance, perform challenging work, receive praise and have autonomy.

Increasing Motivation in the Workplace

Managers can follow some basic strategies to increase the motivation level in the office and get their employees more committed to the company's goals. To make employees feel capable and appreciated, managers should give employees clear and specific goals to achieve and recognize their hard work in meeting these goals.

For example, a small sales company may set a goal to increase a product's sales by 10 percent within 30 days and then reward its employees with a special lunch or company outing for reaching that goal. To keep the motivation level high even in challenging situations, managers should maintain a positive attitude, keep employees informed, celebrate even small successes and help employees see the purpose of their work. Giving employees some decision-making responsibilities and an improved work-life balance also can raise motivation and job satisfaction.

About the Author

Ashley Donohoe started writing professionally about business topics in 2010. Having eight years experience running all aspects of her small business, she is knowledgeable about the daily issues and decisions that business owners face. She also has earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a leadership and strategy concentration from Western Governors University.

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