Human resources managers perform key functions to help sustain business operations. They outline policies that are imperative in facilitating employer-employee relations. Their main task is to successfully motivate employees to meet a company’s financial goals while still maintaining its principles. Many theories seek to explain how motivation works in attaining the best results from workers.

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Maslow’s theory explains that an individual is motivated according to the level of needs, and he will progress depending on how well these needs are addressed at each level. Needs at a basic level include security, social needs, psychological needs and favorable working conditions. The needs are addressed by ensuring there is security at the workplace and workers are friendly and respectful. Companies also should allow bathroom breaks and refreshment breaks and reasonable working hours to avoid extreme exhaustion. Needs at a higher level such as self-actualization and self-esteem can be handled by providing challenging projects and offering rewards such as promotions and benefits.

Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory

The Two-Factor theory argues that that there are two factors that motivate workers: hygiene and satisfiers. These factors are not determinants of success, but their absence results in underperformance. Hygiene factors in this case refer to job security, salary, organizational policies and working conditions. Satisfiers, also known as motivators, include growth opportunities, responsibility and recognition. A human resources manager needs to do research to find out what workers really need and then make necessary improvements to increase performance. For example, creation of a non-smoking section or involving employees in development plans and decisions of a company helps them feel recognize and appreciated.

McClelland's Acquired Needs Theory

The Acquired Needs theory recognizes that each individual prioritizes needs differently and that some needs are not hereditary but acquired in life. A high achiever for example, has a need for achievement and power; this means that his preferred workplace environment might differ from the average worker. A high achiever is driven by responsibility, a degree of risk and feedback of his performance. He wants to know whether he is improving. A team player has a need for affiliation; he desires a friendly, social and conflict-free and cooperative environment, rather than competitive work situation.

Alderfer's ERG Theory

Alderfer's ERG (existence, relatedness and growth) theory is built on Maslow’s theory. However, it groups an individual’s needs into three: existence, relatedness and growth needs. The needs are material and deal with an individual’s physical and social needs that cover interpersonal relationships and development needs that involve a person’s development and psychological growth.