Emirates Airline: Motivation and Job Satisfaction


Different theorists have put forward motivation and job satisfaction as important factors of employee performance in an organization. Out of the many theories that have been established to address these two aspects, need-based theories and process theories feature prominently in terms of guiding organizations on how to foster motivation and job satisfaction in their employees. By discussing these theories, this paper seeks to provide important recommendations on how Emirates Airline can foster a culture of high performance as a way of gaining competitive advantage in its industry. It also discusses the importance of human resource management and leadership in facilitating the implementation of the recommendations on motivation and job satisfaction.


The centrality of employees in the success of an organization is an undisputable fact in the current world of business. Managers have become aware of the fact that employees are the greatest assets in the achievement of the goals of all organizations (Lanzeby, 2008). As such, managers and organizations have shown more interest in developing highly efficient and productive employees. Although many factors contribute to productivity, job performance is considered the most influential. However, the concept of job performance is interplay of four variables, that is, ability, a clear understanding of the tasks, environment, and motivation.

Concisely, to achieve high performance, it is important for employees to have the required qualifications, an understanding of their tasks, and most importantly, the ‘will’ to carry out the expected tasks (Bentley, 2013). Although the other areas are well understood, the concept of motivation is controversial. It has attracted a lot of research from industrial and organizational psychologists who believe that it is of greatest importance in the achievement of high job performance and the overall organizational success.

Many models, theories, and approaches have been suggested by different researchers to guide organizations in the process of striving to create a high performance together with motivated and satisfied workforce. In practicality, borrowing from these models, theories, and approaches, different organizations have achieved varied success levels in their quest to have a productive labor force, which is essential in the highly competitive business world. This paper discusses different theories, models, and approaches of motivation and job satisfaction with the aim of recommending that the Emirates Airline can apply to its workforce to improve performance and job satisfaction and consequently achieve success and competitiveness in its industry.

Literature Review

There is abundant literature that focuses on the study of job satisfaction and motivation. The literature covers several broad approaches and theories on job satisfaction and motivation and their successful mode of application in an organization. According to Landy and Conte (2010), ‘motivation’ is multifaceted and difficult to classify. Hence, its precise definition is also elusive since the concept includes individual and situational characteristics as well as individual perceptions of a given situation (Landy & Conte, 2010; Bentley, 2013).

Although employee abilities play an important role in determining their level of performance, their motivation determines an organizational liveliness (Stringer & Didham, 2011). Kreitner and Kinick (2004) define motivation as the degree or level of preparedness of an organization’s employees to work towards the achievement of set goals. It implies the nature of the set of forces that provoke the degree of preparedness. To Rainey (2009), motivation refers to the combination of forces that maintain or alter the direction, quality, and intensity of behavior in an individual, and by extension, the whole organization.

According to Hiriayappa (2009), motivation is a combination of complex forces, needs, drives, tension states, and other factors that sustain individual voluntary activity that is geared towards the achievement of some defined goals. Tracy (2013) simply defines motivation as the level of an individual’s desire to engage in some activity. From the above definitions, it is evident that motivation is a combination of different issues, factors, or forces that start and maintain human behavior. It captures how such forces are directed and sustained to achieve some predetermined outcomes (performance).

Different theories that include need-based theories, process theories, and approaches such as human resource management and leadership have been put forward to explain job satisfaction and motivation. These theories and approaches point to a strong relationship between motivation and job satisfaction. According to Robbins and Judge (2008), job satisfaction and motivation are often confused with one another. However, according to Rainey (2009), the two concepts are related but not synonymous since job satisfaction is part of the motivational process. Job satisfaction is the fulfillment that is derived from experiencing various activities and rewards in a job setting while motivation is concerned with goal-directed behavior.

Need-Based Approach or Content Theory

Need-based theories hold that human beings have needs that must be met in order to have the required motivation to perform well in an organization (Tracy, 2013). In this case, the extent to which a business meets its employee needs is a key determinant of the level of performance of the employees and hence the capacity of the business to attain its objectives. Different theories have been put forward to explain the needs concept to motivation and job satisfaction. Maslow’s ladder of wants and Herzberg’s two-factor hypotheses are the most widely recognized by organizational and industrial psychologists.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the most popular of all motivation theories. According to the theory, people have five fundamental needs that are activated in a hierarchical manner from the lowest to the highest such that it is necessary to satisfy the lowest needs before the next higher needs are triggered (Akehurst, Comeche, & Galindo, 2009).

These five fundamental needs include physiological, protection, attachment, admiration, and self-actualization. Physiological needs are the most basic of all the needs in an individual. They include food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep (Hiriayappa, 2009). For example, organization should provide salaries and benefits that enable employees to afford adequate living conditions. In this case, the claim is that an employee who is hungry or does not have shelter cannot make any worthwhile contribution to the organization.

Security needs are activated only after the physiological needs have been met. They refer to the needs that relate to the desire of a secure working environment that is devoid of any harm or threats (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). These requirements comprise the desire for fair and equal treatment, job protection, health insurance, and wellbeing among others. It is important for an organization to put elaborate measures to ensure that its employees feel safe and secure (Robbins & Judge, 2008). In this case, an organization that succeeds in these aspects such as Emirates Airline is likely to have a motivated and high-performing workforce and hence an increased capacity to achieve its goals.

Affiliation needs, which are also referred to as social needs, are the third in the hierarchy of needs as defined by Maslow. They refer to the need to be affiliated or to belong to a social group. It is the need to be loved and accepted in a given setting (Robbins, 2013). For instance, Emirates Airline can promote teamwork and social events such as picnics, or organization-bowling events. Such efforts help to create an environment where each member feels wanted and accepted (Stringer & Didham, 2011). It is important for an organization to strive to meet the social needs of its employees by creating an environment where each person is treated fairly and accepted by all people without discrimination.

Self-esteem requirements denote the yearning to be cherished, recognized, and approved by others. Such needs emanate from the desire to feel that the organization values each employee contribution to the organization (Bentley, 2013). For example, an organization that strives to provide autonomy, recognition, achievement, and independent is able to promote self-esteem in its workforce.

Lastly, self-actualization needs are ranked uppermost in the Maslow’s ladder of requirements. They represent the desire to achieve one’s highest potential. They also include the desire to achieve self-development. According to Gibson, Ivancevich, Donnelly, and Konopaske (2006), self-actualized individuals present very important and valuable assets to an organization. To achieve this goal, it is important for Emirates Airline to provide a platform for training, self-development through challenging tasks, and opportunities for career growth.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be summarized in the diagram below:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Robbins & Judge, 2008)

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

According to the two-factor theory as developed by Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman, some factors in the workplace cause job satisfaction while others lead to job dissatisfaction (Gibson et al., 2006). The theory is closely related to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs since the level of achievement of employee needs determines their job satisfaction or dissatisfaction (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Factors that lead to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction can be summarized in the table below:

Factors for fulfillment Factors for displeasure
  • Accomplishment
  • Acknowledgment
  • Accountability
  • Progression
  • Growth
  • The labor itself
  • Safety
  • Business guiding principles
  • Connection with superintendents and peers
  • Work circumstances
  • Wages
  • Rank

However, it is important to note that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not opposites of each other. Herzberg points that the opposite of approval is no approval while that of displeasure is no displeasure. As such, the achievement of the factors of satisfaction does not affect or eliminate the dissatisfaction factors (Rainey, 2009). On the other hand, the elimination of the dissatisfaction factors does not lead to satisfaction.

Therefore, the theory holds that it is important for the different factors to be addressed independently. Job satisfaction factors are also referred to as the motivation factors while job dissatisfaction factors are referred to as hygiene factors (Tracy, 2013). Addressing job dissatisfaction factors will eliminate dissatisfaction but will not lead to satisfaction. Instead, to create motivation, it is important to address and focus on job satisfaction factors such as growth, achievement, and responsibility.

In an organizational setting, it is important to address the factors of dissatisfaction to eliminate dissatisfied personnel and then improve the job satisfaction factors to improve employee motivation and consequently performance (Paarlberg, Perry, & Hondeghem, 2008). For example, putting in place measures to create a safe work environment with sound policies will help Emirates Airline eliminate dissatisfaction in the organization while putting in place measures to allow recognition and growth will help it create a motivated workforce. From the forgoing, it is evident that an organization can fail to address one factor and still succeed on the other. In other words, it is possible to have a motivated but dissatisfied workforce. It is also possible to eliminate dissatisfaction factors but still have a labor force that lacks motivation.

To apply Herzberg’s theory, an organization must adopt a two-stage process where it first eliminates the causes of employee dissatisfaction and then help each worker achieve satisfaction. In the first stage, to eliminate job dissatisfaction, Emirates Airline should fix poor and obstructive policies, provide effective, non-intrusive, and supportive supervision, create and support an organization culture that fosters respect for all, ensure competitive salaries, create a secure work environment, and ensure job status by providing meaningful work for each position (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004).

Once the organization eliminates issues of dissatisfaction, it should now focus on creating job satisfaction, which is the second stage of implementing Herzberg’s theory. In this stage, the focus should be on providing opportunities for recognition and achievement, creating a work environment that matches the skills and abilities of employees, creating opportunities of growth in the company through promotions and trainings, and giving responsibility to all individuals as much as possible (Lanzeby, 2008).

Other need-based theories have been put forward to explain motivation and job satisfaction. Alderfer’s ERG hypothesis draws its concepts from Maslow’s ladder of wants. It constitutes of three components, namely existence, relatedness, and growth. In this theory, existence combines the physiological and safety needs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Bentley, 2013).

Further, relatedness is addressed as the belonging needs of the Maslow’s theory while growth relates to the last two Maslow’s needs, namely esteem and self-actualization (Rainey, 2009). Another need-based theory is McClelland’s Acquired Needs theory, which holds that needs are acquired throughout life. In this case, needs are not innate but develop through life experiences. The theory identifies three types of needs, that is, need for achievement, need for affiliation, and need for power (Robbins, 2013).

Process Theories

Process theories focus on the processes through which behavior is energized, directed, sustained, and stopped. Unlike the need-based theories that focus on how organizations meet their employee needs, process theories provide answers on how organizations can sustain their employee motivation. By understanding the processes of maintaining a highly motivated and satisfied workforce, an organization is able to achieve high performance and meet its goals (Stringer & Didham, 2011). Three popular theories in this category include equity, expectancy, and goal-setting theories.

Equity theory holds that employees continuously assess their level of effort against those of others and the rewards they receive for such efforts. According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), this social comparison indicates the desire of people for fairness and equity. The theory posits that if employees perceive a significant difference between their efforts and rewards with those of others, they will strive to bring their efforts, either up or down, to the level of the others.

This goal is achieved by either adjusting their level of performance or trying to adjust the level of performance of the others to match theirs. Therefore, it is important for organizations to be seen as rewarding their employees equitably and fairly whilst adjusting any inequalities quickly. The diagram below shows how employees respond to equity or lack thereof in an organization.

How employees respond to equity or lack thereof in an organization

Expectancy theory is one of the most comprehensive and important process theories. It has been used extensively to understand employee motivation. According to Bentley (2013), motivation is partly a decision-making process that gauges and evaluates efforts for outcomes. In other words, the theory seeks to explain or predict task-related effort. According to Robbins (2013), an individual makes well-calculated but voluntary choices on whether:

  1. A given job can be accomplished
  2. An outcome will be achieved because of performing
  3. The outcome will be desirable. The theory is important in explaining the relationship between expected rewards and the present-day behavior. In this case, the ‘relationship’ can be equated to motivation.

Goal-setting theory is a motivation theory that was put forward by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham. It is the most validated and dominant theory of employee motivation (Paarlberg, Perry, & Hondeghem, 2008). The theory holds that people are motivated when they know what is expected of them (goals). It advocates for organizations to ensure that there are well-established goals and feedback for employees to perform best.

In the goal-setting process, the organization must ensure that the goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART) (Bentley, 2013). The theory is built on five principles, that is, clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback, and task complexity. In clarity, an organization must put forward measureable and unambiguous goals (Landy & Conte, 2010). When goals are clear, measurable, and time-bound, there is also clarity on the behaviors that will be rewarded and hence more motivation.

The level of challenge is an important principle. People are motivated by achievement. Hence, they often judge goals in terms of the significance of the expected accomplishment. In an ideal workplace, rewards should increase with the level of difficulty of the goals (Hiriayappa, 2009). If employees believe they will be compensated or rewarded for attaining a challenging goal, they will be motivated to undertake it. In terms of commitment, goal-setting theory asserts that it is important for employees to feel as part of the process of goal creation to be dedicated to their achievement (Lanzeby, 2008).

In this case, if employees feel that the goals are achievable, they are likely to express commitment (Bentley, 2013). It is important for Emirates Airline to ensure open and timely feedback relating to the tasks of the employees. The feedback is a two-way process where the management must listen to feedback from employees to gauge their progress and/or offer its advice to the employees.

Feedback allows each party to adjust accordingly to attain the expectations of the other, thus creating a mutually beneficial relationship (Rainey, 2009). Lastly, task complexity is an important principle in goal-setting theory. It is important for Emirates Airline to set goals and tasks that are not overly complex in relation to the employee qualifications and roles (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Pushing employees excessively to achieve complex goals can be counterproductive and a blow to their motivation.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is one of the most researched variables in an organization and industrial psychology. The understanding of the concept of job satisfaction varies as evidenced from different researches that have been put forward to this effect. For instance, borrowing from previous researches, Akehurst, Comeche, and Galindo (2009) assert that the higher the prestige of a job, the greater the job satisfaction. However, other researches disapprove this claim by pointing out that many workers are satisfied even in the least prestigious jobs (Rainey, 2009).

Consequently, defining job satisfaction is not an easy task since it is subjective to individuals’ feelings and states of mind (Tracy, 2013). According to Gibson et al. (2006), job satisfaction is influenced by different factors such as quality relationship between an employee and supervisor, quality of workplace environment, and degree of job fulfillment in work. Robbins and Judge (2008) confirm that jobs vary in terms of the degree to which they involve skill variety, autonomy, task identity, task significance, and task feedback.

When jobs are designed to increase the presence of the above characteristics, they result in three important psychological states in employees that include increased experience of meaningfulness of work, increased feelings of responsibility for work outcomes, and increased knowledge of the outcomes of work activities. When employees achieve these states, they are likely to become highly motivated and satisfied with their jobs. According to Kreitner and Kinicki (2004), this situation may not necessarily lead to high performance in an organization.

HRM and Leadership in Motivation and Job Satisfaction

While implementing the various recommendations of motivation theories, human resource management is of great importance in terms of facilitating the achievement of motivation and job satisfaction. While the human resource management is concerned with recruitment and the overall welfare of employees, leadership is important in offering guidance to employee and hence facilitating the achievement of their individual goals in the organization (Bentley, 2013).

At Emirates Airline, the human resource management ensures that employees have the necessary skills and abilities to carry out the expected role in a favorable workplace environment. The leadership at the organization must help in facilitating this environment by putting in place leadership skills and decisions on issues such as policies and resource allocation to ensure that employees remain focused and motivated to achieve their goals. Consequently, human resource management and leadership at Emirates Airline are also important in maintaining a motivated and satisfied workforce (Rainey, 2009).

Analysis-From Theory to Practice-Emirates Airline

The bulk of information from different theories and approaches to motivation and job satisfaction cannot be relevant if they are not turned into practicality at Emirates Airline. In their basic terms, the approaches put forward in the theories are very broad and abstract. In this section, the focus is how Emirates Airline can apply the various assertions of motivation theories to create a highly motivated and satisfied labor force that is able to achieve high performance. The various tenets that have been discussed in the theories will be analyzed and their relevance to organizational success expounded.

Firstly, rewarding is a prominent tenet that arises from different motivational theories. In an organizational setting rewards relate to tangible incentives such as allocation of addition responsibilities, increase in pay, and superior work assignments (Stringer & Didham, 2011). While most organizations use money as rewards, it is not always a good approach. Emirates Airline should combine it with other reward methods since money is not always available and neither are all employees motivated by it (Akehurst, Comeche, & Galindo, 2009).

It is therefore important for Emirates Airline to understand what motivates its workforce before designing rewards to that effect. For example, the role of rewards is extensively mentioned in equity, expectancy, and goal-setting theories, which view rewards as motivating factors for job performance in an organization such as Emirates Airline.

In terms of rewarding, Emirates Airline must ensure that rewards and recognition that are put in place contribute to positivity at the organization by maintaining fairness and equity so that they do not demotivate unrewarded employees (Hiriayappa, 2009). To avoid this situation, it is important for rewards to be based on well-established guidelines that link them to employee performance at the organization. When this goal is achieved, rewards will be able to achieve their full motivational capacity on one hand and preventing grievances on the other.

Another important approach is linking rewards to behavior and performance. This strategy is even more important when rewards include promotions or financial bonuses. A good performance appraisal system, although blamed for being excessively bureaucratic and time consuming, can be a good way of ensuring that rewards are linked to performance and behavior (Robbins & Judge, 2008).

To avoid the complexities of such a system, Emirates Airline should provide rewards in close proximity to its employee appraisals. Further, the organization must ensure that the rewards reflect its goals (Landy & Conte, 2010). By ensuring that the rewards are linked to behavior and performances that advance the goals of the organization, Emirates Airline will achieve motivation that is beneficial to the employees and ultimately the organization.

Secondly, recognition is an important aspect in an organization that is supported by all theories of motivation. Acknowledgment entails official and casual vague enticements such as approval and honor. For example, in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, recognition falls under the esteem needs and is highly ranked as a motivating factor. Although it is highly underutilized, it costs nothing and is highly motivating (Tracy, 2013). Recognition connotes positivity and always acknowledges good actions and behavior (Robbins & Judge, 2008).

At Emirates Airline, it is important for the management to ensure that managers take the initiative to recognize employees for their good efforts either informally as they walk around or through written comments and warm handshakes. Formally, Emirates Airline can allow for recognitions by mentioning individual or group of employees during formal meetings, annual meeting, and other events that offer such platforms (Lanzeby, 2008). However, while it is important to recognize employees at all levels, overusing the tool can erode its effectiveness at the organization

Thirdly, feedback is an important approach towards motivation and job satisfaction that Emirates Airline should use in its workforce. The human resource management and leadership of the organization must provide good two-way feedback mechanisms. For example, the organization should be proactive in giving feedback on employee performance and/or observing employee feedback through their performance and making adjustments where possible to improve their performance (Robbins & Judge, 2008).

If done correctly, it is an important approach for Emirates Airline to foster employee performance and job satisfaction. On the contrary, when done inappropriately, it can lead to low morale and workforce dissatisfaction. Feedback is a major tenet of the goal-setting theory. It is important in ensuring that organizations and employees adjust accordingly to meet each other’s expectations (Rainey, 2009).

The management of Emirates Airline should ensure that feedback is focused on the future rather that past mistakes whilst allowing employees to respond where necessary. Managers should strive to monitor and offer corrections on a timely basis, as this plan is important in addressing issues before they become routine and fossilized in the organization. Documenting feedback is also important to allow managers to maintain track progress on issues of feedback.

Fourthly, Emirates Airline must encourage relatedness and commitment. A feeling of belonging increases organizational commitment, which ensures that members are responsible and able to undertake tasks for the sake of the group and organization (Lanzeby, 2008). To achieve this goal, Emirates Airline must foster teamwork, for instance, by establishing a mission statement that unites the whole team. Further, it should strive to create collective tasks to foster teamwork.

Creating opportunities for team bonding and meeting through picnics and other events is also important in creating a feeling of oneness. It is also important to show courtesy to each member of the organization, acknowledging individual and group achievements, and appreciating and valuing each employee.

Fifthly, Emirates Airline must strive to create a good working environment to foster motivation, job satisfaction, and ultimately high levels of performance. In this case, security ranks highly in defining what constitutes a good working environment. At its basic level, a secure working environment is devoid of any physical harm and risks (Akehurst, Comeche, & Galindo, 2009). At a higher level, security relates to job security, support, fair treatment, and respect for each person. A good working environment not only avails all the necessary resources and support to employees but also ensures no discrimination and disrespect towards employees (Bentley, 2013).

The organization must strive to provide job security, as it allows employees to feel that they are wanted in the organization and that they are not going to be fired unceremoniously (Robbins & Judge, 2008). To achieve this goal, Emirates Airline’s managers must communicate the importance of each employee’s work to the organization’s goals to ensure that they feel as part of the system. The work environment should also foster the participation of each employee. The participation should be carried in a fair and equitable manner in the organization. It should also allow employees to take part in decision-making so that they can own the process and the decisions.

Sixthly, Emirates Airline must offer opportunities for growth. This element represents the highest need in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It relates to self-actualization. At Emirates Airline, it is important for the organization to provide an opportunity for growth through various means such as promotions and trainings (Hiriayappa, 2009). For example, many organizations fail to offer their employees training opportunities.

They cite their cost implications. Such an approach is counterproductive since it not only leads to a demotivated workforce, but also jeopardizes the organization’s capacity to remain competitive in its industry. Training can be formal or informal. In informal training, managers are actively involved in helping employees in acquiring better on-job skills. Formal training can be done through in-house trainings or even through attending training programs in training institutions. In some cases, employees may fund their training.

However, it is advisable for the organization to strive to cover most of such trainings. Only by getting more knowledge from training and other exposure activities can Emirates Airline get new ideas of doing its business (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2004). Another important approach is to be actively involved in preparing employees for future job opportunities in the organization to which they may be promoted. By offering new challenges to employees, Emirates Airline will offer an opportunity for growth and self-actualization.

Lastly, an organization must offer a good work-life balance. Most of the people who work at Emirates Airline have families to which they need to attend. Any organization that does not uphold the family is doomed to fail since employees will not give fully to it once they realize that some basic right have been denied to them. Apart from employee physiological needs that are catered for adequately, it is important to ensure that their personal problems are addressed accordingly to ensure that they remain focused to their work.

The Emirates Airline should provide a working arrangement that promotes work-life balance. For instance, offering counseling services as well as giving off-days on the need basis can be an important way of ensuring that employees feel that their private lives are respected. In this way, Emirates Airline will succeed in ensuring that personal problems of employees do not hinder the achievement of goals.


In the current business environment, remaining relevant and competitive is a challenge that organizations such Emirates Airline face. However, the labor force holds the key to achieving the competitive advantages that are necessary to compete effectively. Motivation and job satisfaction hold the key to high employee performance as discussed in this paper. Different theories have been put forward to explain how an organization can help its employees to be motivated and satisfied.

Need-based theories such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s two-factor theory, and process theories such as equity, expectancy, and goal-setting theories make important recommendations on how an organization can create motivation and job satisfaction on its employees. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs lists five hierarchically activated needs, which must be met to create motivation and job satisfaction among employees. Herzberg’s two-factor theory on the other hand identifies factors that cause job satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It puts measures of addressing each factor. On the other hand, process theories focus on how organizations encourage and sustain behaviors that foster motivation and job satisfaction.

The recommendations include rewards, recognition, feedback, work-life balance, opportunities of growth, good work environment, and relatedness and commitment. These elements are important to Emirates Airline. Hence, it should adopt them to achieve a high performance workforce. While implementing these recommendations, the support of the organization‘s leadership and human resource management is of great importance. Consequently, by adopting the recommendations, Emirates Airline will not only have a highly motivated and satisfied workforce but also the capacity to face competition in its area of business.

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