Attrition and Motivation System of Employees

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Employee motivation has always been a serious challenge for leaders and managers in organizations. In most cases, when employees are unmotivated, they tend to expend little or no effort in their jobs (Anderson, Heriot & Hodgkinson, 2001). This has a negative impact on the productivity levels of an organization. On the other hand, motivated workers tend to work hard and are unlikely to leave for better opportunities since they are not just working for the pay, but also the satisfaction that their jobs provide (Freedman, 2011). They would be creative and innovative, producing high quality job outcomes. In the case study described, it appears that the management is using the same motivational tactics for technical staff and scholars. This has resulted in high attrition rates since what may work for the former does not apply to effective on the latter. This paper seeks to determine what the organization is doing wrong to make so many of their intellectual staff quit. It also examines the different motivation needs of various professionals to establish how the issue of attrition can be addressed.

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Problematizing Processes

Technicians are normally judged and evaluated based on their performances that are predetermined using various parameters, such as output or productivity levels. They tend to gauge their performance levels by the amount of work they can do in comparison with the money that are paid. The environment is highly structured in such a way that everyone has a role to play (Anderson et al., 2001). In fact, all should personnel understand exactly what to do, when to do it, and whom to report to in a company. Scholars, on the other hand, are not used to such an environment. By nature of their professions, they expect to be given autonomy to express themselves and to be creative (Anderson et al., 2001). Innovation is not based on something that can be determined or predicted, since scholars are charged with coming up with new ideas. They cannot function in a structured setting for the reason that intellectual freedom is their main resource.

Literature Review

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, different people require different motivations. In this context, assuming that the motivational needs of intellectuals are the same as those of practitioners is the first mistake that the organization has made. Regarding the Maslow’s pyramid, practitioners can be placed at the bottom level two due to the fact that they are working for a living (Freedman, 2011). Their main motivation is the money they expect to earn and career security. Their value to the organization is judged on how much money they make on a monthly basis. It is explicable that the firm should reward them on the same basis. Intellectual workers are motivated differently, although they work as much as practitioners to also ensure they have a degree of financial security. They are likely to be much higher in the hierarchy of needs. In the case study, it is evident that many intellectuals are trying to self-actualize through their work, which places their motivational needs at the very top of the chart. Based on their general perspective, their work is bigger than the reward and even themselves (Freedman, 2011). They are motivated by a desire to create new solutions and improve the world. Therefore, when they are placed in a high-pressure environment, they are unlikely to perform well because the threat of having their security withdrawn is more likely to discourage than motivate them (Kilduff & Mehra, 1997). In addition, practitioners are supervised by people who are essentially just as qualified as or more qualified than they are. For example, engineers will work under an engineer who has done his or her work previously so that he or she can motivate or guide them based on the standards that they both understand. On the other hand, Calas and Smircich (1999) argue that scholars may work under each other, but the management of directors may not have the same knowledge and interests like them, which makes it difficult for them to understand their specific needs and motivate them effectively (Tavallaee, Soofi, Sadaghiyani & Salehifar, 2012).


Critical literature proposes another possibility for the attrition issue. It argues that attrition could be attributed to the fact that scholars are hired to create knowledge. Therefore, by virtue of this, they feel superior since they are essentially creators of knowledge, and they can use it in other places should they decide to leave (Chou & He, 2010). According to Choo and Bontis (2002), intellectual capital is appreciated for its value and contribution in the workplace, but not enough research has been dedicated to understanding the motivation levels of scholars (Choo & Bontis, 2002). The solution that this paper proposes is that the organization should engage in research, utilizing its staff to understand factors that motivate them to work. Moreover, the management should focus on identifying factors that make scholars leave the business organization. Critical literature proposes that one of the main reasons for attrition could be that the job performance tools that organizations provide scholars may not be effective or suitable for their knowledge creation endeavors (Tavallaee et al., 2012). Thus, they may opt to leave in pursuit of a supportive environment.

Problems Redefinition and Reframing

From assessing various texts on the matter, it is essential to state that a recurring theme is evident, which is in relation to insufficient research on why intellectual workers tend to have relatively short lifespans in organizations. Tomi (2009) posits that by applying some specific structures, such as motivating strategies and organizational culture, human capital in a firm can be supported and encouraged to live up to its full potential (Puga & Trefler, 2014). More specifically, when intellectual or knowledge capital is supported, intellectuals would be more active and innovative, and attrition levels would reduce significantly (Hussi, 2004). However, approaching the issue by first investigating attrition is illogical since the core of the problem is in relation to the absence or deficiency in motivation. After discovering what the main motivating factor is, the managers of the organization in the case study can then address attrition levels by ensuring that they motivate the intellectual resource appropriately (Puga & Trefler, 2014).


In conclusion, the information gathered in this paper from various sources can be applied in a reflection of the problem situation so that the issue can addressed in a more competent and comprehensive manner. Scholars and other intellectuals do not like to be forced into a system that may curtail their creativity levels. In addition, it is clear that they cannot be motivated in the same way as practitioners. While the needs of the former are well defined, the requirements of the latter are highly complex, and in many cases, they are not very well understood. Therefore, this paper proposes that the most effective problem-solving process would commence from first investigating exactly what is missing in the motivation system in the firm by figuring out what drives workers. After establishing this, it would be better to make a recommendation to the management on how best to motivate their employees. In the end, as long as the company understands what it is that the intellectual staff wants, the attrition problem can be easily resolved.


Anderson, N., Heriot, P., & Hodgkinson, G. (2001). The practitioner-researcher divide in industrial, intangible assets and knowledge creation. Journal of Knowledge Management, 7(13), 36-52.

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Calas, M. B., & Smircich, L. (1999). Past postmodernism? Reflections and tentative directions. Academy of management review, 24(4), 649-672.

Choo, C. W., & Bontis, N. (Eds.). (2002). The strategic management of intellectual capital and organizational knowledge. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Chou, S. W., & He, M. Y. (2010). Knowledge management: the distinctive roles of knowledge assets in facilitating knowledge creation. Journal of Information Science, 30(2), 146-164.

Freedman, A. M. (2011). Using Action Learning for Organization Development and Change. OD Practitioner, 43(2), 8-12.

Kilduff, M., & Mehra, A. (1997). Postmodernism and organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 22(2), 453-481.

Puga, D., & Trefler, D. (2014). Knowledge creation and control in organizations. Journal of Economic Literature, 3(1), 22-23.

Tavallaee, R., Soofi, J. B., Sadaghiyani, J. S., & Salehifar, M. (2012). Developing a Model of Knowledge Networks in Organizations-Case Study: Petroleum Industry of IR Iran. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 2(5), 375-379.

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Tomi, H. (2009). Reconfiguring knowledge management–combining intellectual capital, intangible assets and knowledge creation. Journal of Knowledge Management, 8(2), 36-52.

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