Motivation is the psychological process of providing purpose and intention to behavior, according to the Journal of Extension. By using motivation theories, management can inspire employees to take action and become self-directed. Motivation begins with identifying particular needs and providing a solution to meet those needs. Various theories exist that have been studied and implemented in management regarding employee motivation.
Acquired Needs Theory
This theory states that every person has the same needs, but each individual prioritizes them differently. The theory identifies three needs: achievement, power and affiliation. The need for achievement is the desire to do well at a task, the need for power demonstrates itself through influence over other people, and the need for affiliation is the yearning for meaningful relationships. Management needs to identify each person's first priority need and adjust the working situation accordingly to optimize each person's performance.
Robert Owen, a Welsh social reformer, developed a theory based on his experience with machines during the Industrial Age of the 1800s. The better a machine is taken care of, maintained and looked after, the better it performs. This theory was revolutionary during his time and has continued to be true. Management that places the workers' needs and desires as first priority will produce efficient and motivated people.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies a person’s most basic needs on a progressive pyramid, ending with a person’s least basic needs. Maslow's theory states that only unsatisfied needs can be used to motivate a person. For example, if a person makes a lot of money, he no longer views money as a motivating factor in his work. The needs that Maslow identified include physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization. According to this theory, management can motivate workers by meeting their most basic human needs and building on them. For example, management should ensure that employees are allotted a fair amount of time for food, social interaction and breaks.
Two Factor Theory
The two factor theory identifies two main sources of motivation for people in the workforce. The first is hygiene factors, such as the working environment, a person’s salary, job security and management styles. The second motivator in this theory is satisfiers, which include achievement, status, recognition, responsibility and potential growth. The more these factors are present in a worker's environment, the more an employee will be motivated.
The ERG theory represents existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs. This theory is built on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with a condensed understanding of human needs and behaviors. Existence needs are desires for well-being, such as feeling appreciated and valued. Relatedness needs are interpersonal desires, such as having a strong social network and good relations with management. Growth needs include the desire for personal and professional training and development, such as coaching and continual training.
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