Employee Motivation and Rewards

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Executive Summary

Employees are key drivers of the organization and should be motivated to help meet the set goals and objectives. Encouraging and rewarding them seem to be challenging for many managers. This paper aims to explain why some workers remain unresponsive to this approach and how to use applied research methodology to address unmet needs. Maslow, McClelland, and Hertzberg conceptualized that individual demands of participants should be addressed, but their ideas failed to suggest how managers can identify and deal with them accordingly. It was established that motivation and rewards reenergize employees only to a certain extent while neglecting some people.

The study established that attempts to motivate everyone using contemporary theories were unsatisfactory. Therefore, applied research is necessary since it uses many methodologies to conduct an in-depth analysis of the problem faced by employers and offer a simple answer. Other methods that are seen as effective include ethnography and case study examination, allowing the investigator to interact with disengaged workers and understand their respective needs for meeting them. In a nutshell, it becomes challenging to apply the motivation theories to address individuals unwilling to contribute. Design thinking overlooks the existing theoretical underpinnings when handling a complex issue. This approach is an applied methodology that goes beyond the existing theoretical grounds to offer simple solutions to what is perceived as a complex problem. Managers must do several things in their attempt to motivate their employees. First, leaders should consider the individual characteristics of workers to reveal their needs. Second, they should effectively communicate with them in order to find the root cause of the issues. Lastly, the personnel at higher levels should adopt design thinking when seeking solutions to employees’ problems.


The present-day business environment is a rapidly evolving sphere, which requires people to timely readjust to the emerging circumstances in order not to lose profits. From this perspective, the nature of the organization and the methods managers use to motivate workers are the two critical considerations, allowing to realize the set goals and aspirations. The failure to meet the objectives of a company can be frequently attributed to the participants’ unwillingness to achieve actual results by using the old schemes. Therefore, the complexity of employee motivation positively correlates with applied research methodology that provides simple answers to increasing their flexibility as per the business world requirements by using an individualized approach. In other words, this method of examination of problems corresponds to the necessity to consider the human factor when developing organization’s vision, mission and stakeholders’ aspirations.

A responsive and engaged workforce tends to be more productive than a group of employees whose members are unmotivated and apathetic, and this outcome explains the need for providing a scientific basis for a shift. For example, the reduction in stakeholders’ dividends or low company’s marginal revenues are indicators of low staff morale, whereas the link between them is not explicit. De Vito et al. (2018) argued that if employees feel motivated or satisfied, they are likely to exert more effort hence helping the company realize objectives since their contribution to the companies’ success becomes apparent. From this standpoint, it is evident that motivating and rewarding employees in the workplace are vital for enabling the organization’s progress while retaining its competitive advantage. Studies point out shows that motivated workers are more productive and usually produce better-quality results, which in turn leads to reduced turnover rates (Vito et al., 2018). Therefore, they will be more aware of the environment’s conditions and the possibility of a change and readjust timely, as per the provisions of applied research.

In the contemporary world, the impossibility of ensuring a positive attitude of employees towards the performed work explains the emergence of other problems, which are seemingly disconnected from the business. As Rybnicek, Bergner, & Gutschelhofer (2019) noted, unmotivated workers would thereby adversely affect the company’s ability to remain competitive in the industry. Economists argue that the costs of disengaged individuals are likely to run into a substantial amount of dollars, hence necessitating the need for managers to have the problem fixed as early as possible (Rybnicek et al., 2019). In this case, an optimal solution is to develop talent within the organization and effectively promote workers as per their achievements for preparing for the unpredictability of the market conditions.

My vision as a manager has always been to see all my employees well-motivated to work diligently to realize the organizational goals. However, the issue of motivation is complex because regardless of how hard companies try to reward employees based on performance, some do not respond to rewards. There must be different ways employees can get satisfied and thereby improve organizational output by paying attention to the business circumstances (Fischer, Malycha, & Schafmann, 2019). In this case, applied research of the markets of operation can be used for determining the ability of motivated staff to cope with challenges as opposed to their colleagues unwilling to improve results. In this case, creativity, passion, and deep connection to an organization serve as the main criteria correlating with the outside factors and reflecting the potential of combining the internal and external circumstances for better profits.

I have also realized that the detrimental effects of workers’ disengagement are more critical when people have opposing views on different matters. In such a case, the stanpoint of the majority when not accepted by others results in the latter’s tendency to lose hope, which slows down the overall productivity. This situation might lead to the desire of qualified and exprienced specialists, who can potentially contribute to the business’ capability to remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment, to seek other employment. Hence, as a manager, my role is to identify disengaged employees and address the reasons for their resentment by paying attention to individual needs and opinions. Also, those who do not want to cooperate in any case should be removed as they can negatively affect others’ motivation and make it impossible to rely on applied research serving as the evidence of markets’ shifts.

In addition, the coordination of actions of all participants should be done with respect to the role of rewards and responses alongside the potential failure to benefit from these provisions. I aim to use a personalized approach to this area in order to find an optimal way for people to comply with the requirements of the business. Motivational theorists, including Maslow, Hertzberg, and McClelland, claim that this method is more advantageous for better outcomes than generalizations (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). Therefore, varying levels of energy and enthusiasm are to be taken into account when increasing engagement and improving the systems in alignment with the external circumstances as per applied research.

Intrinsic motivation tends to positively impact employee job satisfaction; hence, employing a reward management approach that emphasizes this method is critical. As it was mentioned earlier, active participation is a force that propels people towards a given direction. In the workplace, employees are usually driven or guided by different factors. As a manager, my vision is to ensure everyone is encouraged by the benefits selected with regard to individual needs. Psychologists, particularly behavioralists, were more concerned with human behavior, studied habits, and later hypothesized theoretical frameworks or theories which, if incorporated in the workplace settings, effectively address needs. Thus, their approaches can be used for analyzing people’s conduct to provide them with necessary advantages.

Psychological approaches had various claims regarding how managers could motivate their workers. Maslow’s need theory maintained that a person is reenergized when all his needs are addressed (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). The keyword here is “when all,” which means when motivating, it is advisable to start from the basic needs of every worker instead of subjecting all of them to the same type of remuneration. Maslow also postulated that individuals usually work for security and money, but the manager must engage them in various activities to utilize their skills (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). Therefore, one cannot ascend to the next level unless their lower needs are addressed. As such, an employee cannot realize his full potential in terms of performance when they have other issues outside the workplace that are yet to be resolved. The discussed provisions allow concluding that firms’ capability to survive in the continuously evolving market conditions, presenting the main macro trends, is conditional upon the employees’ flexibility, which depends on their motivation to readjust efforts.

Research Aims-Problem Solving

Workers in any organization must be motivated to improve job performance and satisfaction. Many studies have been done regarding different ways to reward employees for working hard and helping the companies accomplish the set goals. Managers have been employing various motivation theories to reenergize the disengaged employees to join others and work as a team. Sometimes, they succeed, but not all workers respond to rewards. McClelland’s motivational theory stressed the need to address individual differences to motivate every employee since they respond to rewards differently (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). In turn, Maslow claimed that human desires should be satisfied based on urgency, though in the workplace setting, employees tend to have varying needs because they come from different backgrounds (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). Addressing individual needs is key for the realization of employees’ job satisfaction problems; however, identifying the issues of every worker in a complex environment remains a big challenge for many leaders. As a manager, I would have to understand what level team members are currently at and attempt to address the specific needs that could help fulfill those aspirations. In doing so, I would help every employee move forward and cooperate to guarantee the organization’s progress.

However, addressing the individual needs alone based on Maslow’s approach might not work since it is difficult to understand or identify individual psychological needs. Research shows that psychological needs can be addressed using Hertzberg’s two-factor theory. Improving working conditions can be the best way to motivate or address these aspects of the employees’ activity in the workplace. Such needs, according to Hertzberg, can be solved by improving motivator factors that enhance job satisfaction (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). Promotions and recognition of individual contributions can solve the described problem. Other approaches to meet unique needs include using McClelland’s theory by addressing three motivators: achievement needs, affiliation needs, and power (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). From this standpoint, it is evident that there is no individual theory a manager can employ to satisfy all disengaged employees.

As a manager, I have established that employee motivation requires applied research for improvements because it appears to be one of the complex issues. Money and rewards cannot motivate all people in the workplace. Therefore, this study explores why workers respond differently to motivation and rewarding systems in the organization. Further, we shall ascertain if addressing individual needs could be a remedy to reenergize the disengaged employees. It is also evident that motivation and rewards cannot help all employees because every worker has unique individual needs. Therefore, it can be hypothesized as follows:

  1. Motivation and rewards have the potential to reenergize the disengaged employees at the workplace to a certain extent;
  2. Motivation and incentives improve worker’s job satisfaction to a certain extent;
  3. Addressing individual needs is the best way to motivate employees;
  4. No single motivation theory can be applied in the workplace place to reenergize all disengaged workers;
  5. It is challenging to identify the individual needs of every worker and address them accordingly.

For performing a global change in employees’ motivation, one should pay attention to proxy indicators, which should be adequately evaluated and affected. At the level of self, the number of successfully conducted initiatives will serve as evidence of productiveness. At the personnel’s level, employees’ job satisfaction, when remained unchanged as per regular surveys, alongside the amounts of strikes would be alarming factors. For stakeholders, the continuity of improvements, expressed in the duration of projects in months, is the indicator allowing for reflecting on the reduced morale stemming from the dubious effectiveness of operations. For the whole organization, the staff turnover rates, resulting from the lack of motivation, will be viewed as the conditions reflecting the insufficiency of efforts. Meanwhile, the mentioned problems as per the indicators can be addressed by adopting design thinking, allowing to precisely state the reasons for negative outcomes. As a result, the engagement will be improved by applying motivators corresponding to each of the specified areas.

The impact of unmotivated employees on the organization includes low turnover, increasing overhead costs, and losing hardworking employees due to job satisfaction. In their attempt to fix the problem, organizational managers usually resort to underpaying their workers, worsening the situation. The organizational managers can lay off the disengaged employees and hire new ones where an attempt to reenergize the disengaged ones has failed. Firing the unmotivated workers is critical to the recovery process because the recruits are likely to corporate with the hardworking and salvage the organization from shutting down. The indictors of the disengaged employees could be the withdrawal of junior managers having failed to reenergize the unmotivated workers. Many managers find it necessary to quit when they realize that their efforts to help organizations to remain afloat are insufficient for making a global shift. This issue occurs when they understand that their workers cannot effectively cooperate with one another. In this case, they should provide everyone with an opportunity to express their concerns instead of keeping them hidden from others.

Lastly, the dissatisfaction of stakeholders can be caused by the ineffective performance of workers and, consequently, result in their confidence in the organization’s failure to achieve long-term progress. In this case, the problem could include poor coordination or leadership of either junior managers or the entire management. If the whole administration is the one that has failed to motivate the employee, they can overhaul it and appoint a new one. However, overhauling can only be done after a thorough investigation into the matter. Holding a general meeting can provide insights into the challenge and help the stakeholders take the best option of salvaging the organization from shutting down. The above mentioned are key indicators of the unmotivated employees in an organization that need to reenergize as one way of helping them build teamwork and continue working towards the organizational goals.

Literature Review

Several researchers have tried to dig deeper into the issues of employee motivation in their attempt to establish the role of motivators in reenergizing workers. Every company usually wants to reward its workers for reenergizing disengaged employees to work harder and enable an organization to realize its set goals. Many studies have been conducted to ascertain the effects of motivation on workers’ morale and performance. Moreover, motivation aims at intrinsically reenergizing disengaged workers to put in more efforts and achieve the set goals. According to Fischer et al. (2017), people tend to be motivated by other factors besides intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. The study established that managers could foster creativity and innovation among their employees but use intrinsic motivators (Malycha et al., 2017). They further demonstrated that inherent motivation had a more significant impact on workers’ performance and creativity.

Workers’ job satisfaction tends to be influenced by organizational culture, motivation, and leadership. Paais and Pattiruhu (2020) argue that motivation, good leadership, and corporate culture positively improve workers’ activity when used collectively but have no effects on job satisfaction. Therefore, the manager who uses the three parameters to motivate employees might fail to achieve the organization’s target; the approach cannot be viewed as suitable. Good leadership was cited as the best motivator since it significantly increased employees’ job satisfaction (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). A democratic and friendly manager in a company motivates his workers because they would feel loved, work hard, and obey all the commands, improving job output. The study also noted that both motivation and organizational culture had no impact on employees’ perceptions (Paais & Pattiruhu, 2020). Good leadership has little effect on job performance, so managers must understand how to blend the three criteria to ensure that both workers’ satisfaction and positive outcomes are achieved simultaneously. It is not always easy to motivate employees to get satisfied with the job and increase the organization’s performance. Therefore, the tasks at hand should be addressed by relying on evidence, incorporating the discussed areas for modifying the overall environment.

In an organization, workers’ needs influence how they respond to motivation. As mentioned above, good leadership increases employees’ job satisfaction, but organizational output, meaning both motivation and rewards, partially affects the companies’ performance. Hence, there is something beyond inspiration that can make many disengaged employees happier, which is yet to be established. Rybnicek et al. (2019) described how individual needs affect employees in the workplace to give a clue on how people respond to rewards in varying ways. They investigated the impact of rewards on workers’ satisfaction and job performance using McClellent motivation theory (Rybnicek et al., 2019). The research cited the advancement of technology in the last decades, which might have rendered some views ineffective, particularly those used in the early 60s and 70s. In most cases, individual needs determine how people respond to rewards. Rybnicek et al. (2019) also argued that heterogeneous incentives tend to have overlapping neural activation in employees’ brain’s motivation circuitry. So, if a bonus fails to activate these specific brain regions, the manager has to offer a different reward. The findings correlated with Herzberg’s statements discussed above, including his two-factor theory when he argued that employees respond differently to rewards.

Another approach to improving the situation regarding employees’ attitudes is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory for motivating workers. Thus, De Vito et al. (2018) confirmed that this approach is critical for understanding how individuals respond to rewards. It was also cited as a critical determinant of employees’ job satisfaction and performance (De Vito et al., 2018). This theoretical method is grounded in one tenet, according to which needs should be satisfied based on their urgency level. Maslow also noted that providing a conducive working environment is a way of meeting workers’ needs (De Vito et al., 2018). The research established that a good working environment increases workers’ compensation levels, which is reflected in improved output and job satisfaction (De Vito et al., 2018). Managers must, therefore, ensure the reasonability of rewarding systems and promotion opportunities for all employees besides demonstrating good leadership skills. In other words, having proper reward management goes beyond good leadership since it does not affect output. In this way, both Maslow’s needs theory and McClelland’s motivation theory confirmed that a kind of environment shapes how managers improve job satisfaction and organizational performance.

Considering the above, it is evident that all researchers agree that regardless of the motivational approach used, they do not tend to have absolute power to impact all employees’ job satisfaction. Martono, Khoiruddin, and Wulansari (2018) argue that a reward management system improves employees’ welfare and positive perceptions. Managers in charge of this mechanism are responsible for analyzing individual needs and rewarding them accordingly to increase productivity and employees’ satisfaction (Martono et al., 2018). Meanwhile, motivation and reward methods affect the workers in different ways. For example, a good manager is likely to be loved by all people, which reflects increased job satisfaction. In this sense, good managers are seen as humane motivators who are ready to resonate with their employees when they have pressing issues.

The research implicitly shows that the concept of employee motivation is not easy as managers have always perceived it. Theoretically, it might appear easy; in reality, motivation and rewarding workers is a bit complicated. As a manager, I have to understand all issues involving employee attitudes to successfully reenergize all disengaged persons to work as a team with other hardworking colleagues in their pursuit to realize organizational goals. It is essential to understand what can motivate each worker before developing the best method to address their issues. In this regard, it is wrong to assume that all people have similar individual needs and, if they are subjected to similar rewards, reenergizing is a logical outcome. Identifying every desire of involved participants in the workplace is the key to ensuring that all of them get motivated (Stoyanova & Iliev, 2017). However, due to the intricate nature of the organizational setting, it is challenging for managers to identify personal obstacles to productivity.

Methodology and Methods

Motivating and rewarding employees using contemporary theories have been proved ineffective in addressing all disengaged workers. Even though Maslow’s need theory and McClelland’s motivation theory attempt to offer a better way of addressing individuals, they failed to show how managers can identify the needs in an intricate workplace setting (Sangaramoorthy & Kroeger, 2020). It becomes evident that employee motivation is a complex problem because no psychological theory has offered an optimal approach to have the issue fixed. Moreover, the case of unresponsiveness to rewards is due to the brain responsible for motivation failing to be stimulated by incentives. From this standpoint, there is a need to use design thinking overlooking the contemporary motivational theory’s approach. Design thinking, which is sometimes referred to as “thinking out the box,” offers unscientific answers to a complex problem.

Considering the above analysis, the research question can be formulated with regard to the revealed gaps in applied research. Hence, the focus is: How can managers ensure the flexibility of operations as per the market needs by developing effective reward and motivation systems, addressing the problems of all employees on a case-by-case basis? It incorporates the considerations of the harm caused by disengaged workers and the necessity to avoid the feeling of dissatisfaction, which is to be addressed by innovative methods. These aspects are linked to the general atmosphere in the workplace and the possible distractions as common phenomena stemming from this challenge. In this case, design thinking is viewed as more effective than previously used theories, and it is applicable to the described multi-faceted problem by adopting a corresponding methodology.

First, it is critical to conduct a survey among the disengaged employees. It should be noted that some workers do not express their opinions openly. Thus, managers must politely invite them to explain the challenge to avoid exclusion from teamwork. Leaders should ask them if there are significant obstacles and timely resolve them if any. They can be related to overworking and the feeling of not being involved. As a manager, I can solve the problem through delegation or hiring more staff to reduce time spent at the workplace.

Second, taking a genuine interest in workers can boost their confidence. This approach will promote positive attitudes towards managers and make others appreciate the exerted efforts. Hence, leaders must always be careful when communicating with disengaged employees. This method can encourage the teams to work even harder to produce the best possible results. On the contrary, the neglect of this area might lead to gradually deteriorating conditions for workers and their growing resentment.

The way to address disengaged workers’ issues is to set clear goals that they know and fully what they are supposed to work towards. Once they know the goals, they can manage and plan how they would work towards achieving them. Where the goals are complex and confusing, the workers disengage because they feel the task is confusing and time-wasting. Goals not only make employees focused but also, they can easily measure their success. Also, it is good to give workers something to strive for. A comprehensive reward system would enable the disengaged employees to work hard toward achieving the organization’s goals. The manager can create a sense of health competing in the workplace setting, and if it proves effective, it can be replicated to other departments.

Another approach offers flexibility such that a manager can also adapt to workers’ needs and reenergize them. For example, employees who want to work remotely and remain productive can be given a chance to feel valued and work hard to realize the organization’s objectives. Lastly, as a manager, it is good to build trust as those employees respect you. A leader who is not trusted by his juniors can find it challenging to motivate them. Gaining trust sometimes is not easy since it requires integrity, honesty, openness, and transparency. Once disengaged workers learn that their employers can be trusted, it becomes easy to disclose what is ailing them or making them feel unmotivated.


Ethnography can be the best way of understanding disengaged worker individual needs because it provides an in-depth study of people, their habits, mutual differences, and culture. Factors influencing peoples’ behavior at the workplace can emanate from where they stay. Since it is not always allowed to bring issues from home in the workplace, the affected workers remain stressed, thus making it difficult to address their sources of disengagement. Ethnography emphasizes the role of in-depth observation of the issues at hand before suggesting the best way to address the problem. The manager can study how the disengaged work interacts with co-workers and closely monitor whether the root of the problem is from how the organization is treating them or the issue if from home. The benefit of ethnography is that it allows the manager to consider the broad scope of workers’ environment in establishing what could be ailing them. It makes it challenging to respond to rewards.

Case Study

Case studies stress in-depth analysis of one worker through interviewing to dig deeper into the problem they might be going through, which makes them perform poorly and appear dissatisfied with their work. Just the ethnography, case studies seem to be more informative because it is an interview, the manager can ask other pertinent issues of management which the disengaged employees would have otherwise not easy to disclose during the meetings Merits of mixed methods allow an investigator to view the issues at hand from different angles before deciding on the best way to solve them. People come from different environments, which affect the way they respond to rewards and leadership styles. The disengaged employees might be having varying issues. If the managers fail to understand them well, there is no way they would be reenergized and work hard to help an organization achieve its set goals and objective. The mixed methodology offers the best course of addressing the individual needs when it allows the manager to analyze the root causes of the problem employees are facing before rewarding or motivating them.

Management Research Perspective

In business management, sometimes it becomes challenging to apply a single method to solve a complex problem. It has been established that applied research offers managers a wide range of approaches to solve employees’ challenging issues. From the reading, applied research was defined as a kind of research design to offer solutions to specific management issues affecting society, organization, group, or individual. In essence, applied research is more or less the same as contractual research or scientific method of inquiry because it encompasses practical applications of scientific techniques to issues facing businesses.

I have noted that the journey of applied research methodology in problem-solving entails identifying the issues or complex problems, developing a hypothesis, and then testing the suggested answers through an experiment. This study points out that applied research always employs empirical approaches to find solutions to practical problems in business or management. What has been come out clear regarding applied research is that it resembles non-systematic inquiry due to its direct way of seeking a solution to business or management problems. In other words, applied research can be conceptualized as a typical follow-up research design with the potential to investigate the finding of basic or pure research, either refute or validate the findings and use them to create an innovative solution to a complex problem.

What is interesting about applied research is that it is not confined by theoretical underpinning, which most cases influence how professionals solve the problem. For instance, in this research regarding motivation and rewarding employees, it was established that managers always think motivation is as simple as it may sound, something which is not the case. Motivation is a complex problem, which even the psychological theory such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and McClelland’s motivation theory cannot be used to a final lasting solution to all disengaged workers. Applied research can use design thinking, which is always referred to as “thinking outside the box,” to quickly find answers or solutions to the problems.

Some key insights from this assignment are that complex issues research multiple methods when seeking answers or solutions. Managers should also analyze the problems at hand and think beyond theoretical knowledge to find the best solution. The study also demonstrated how design thinking as an approach to problem-solving is best applied to the workplace. In the study, I learn that there is no single motivation they a manager can use to address the individual needs of the employees. However, thinking outside the box is deemed the quickest way of identifying individual needs that must be addressed to reenergize the disengaged employees. Disengaged employees were seen as detrimental to the organization’s success (Kuswati, 2020). For instance, if the managers cannot address their individual, they can negatively influence hardworking employees affecting teamwork.

The readings show the need to carry out comprehensive research before concluding that the problem at hand can be solved with ease or not. For example, it was established that good leadership in an organization positively affects job satisfaction but not performance. Therefore, to get to the bottom of an issue, no matter how simple it might seem, one must test several tentative solutions by conducting research using different methodologies. In such much as the motivation theory failed to give a good approach on how individual needs of employees can be identified, they are informative as far as motivating, and rewarding employee is concerned. The findings from this would always inform my decision as a manager. I will also suggest complex problems to several research methodologies to get to the bottom of the issue before suggesting tentative solutions. Where it is difficult to get a solution would apply design thinking. The best thing about design thinking (thinking outside the box) is that one has to overlook the existing facts when seeking answers to what appears to be a complex problem.


In an organization, it has been established that employees are critical drivers because they determine if the set goals would be achieved or not. Motivation is one way of propelling all the employees to get reenergized. However, finding the best ways to motivate disengaged employees has always been a problem for managers. Many leaders think motivating and rewarding employees is an easy task, which is not the case since the whole concept is complex. The motivation theories that have been in existence for a long time do not offer a comprehensive approach managers can use to address the individual needs of the employees in the workplace setting. Applied research seems to provide the best way of addressing the complex issue of employee motivation. The approach emphasizes using several methods to analyze the issues at hand and identify the simple way to solve them.

There are several things that managers must do when addressing individual needs. First, managers must always use different methods when analyzing reasons why employees get disengaged for addressing them accordingly. Second, there is a need for managers to directly ask disengaged employees the root cause of what is ailing them before rewarding them based on the identified unmet needs. Lastly, using design thinking in the workplace is better because it offers the best solution to the complex problem whereby saving on time and resources that would have been used to motivate disengaged employees.


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Stoyanova, T., & Iliev, I. (2017). Employee engagement factor for organizational excellence. International Journal of Business and Economic Sciences Applied Research (IJBESAR), 10(1), 23-29.

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