Employee Motivation and Work Engagement


The motivation of employees is a significant issue in the field of organizational behavior. Motivation can be defined as a psychological process that makes people adopt and maintain behavior that is oriented toward achieving goals (Singh et al., 2016). It is closely related to work engagement, meaning employees’ awareness of the company’s objectives and willingness to take efforts to help the organization to reach success (Rana et al., 2019).

Since engaged workers commit themselves to organizational goals, they contribute to the company’s growth and development (Singh et al., 2016). Therefore, it is vital for organizations to motivate their employees in order to survive and thrive. The aim of this paper is to review the recent literature on employee motivation to identify the factors influencing workers’ motivation and the effects of employee engagement on the organization’s performance. In the end, practical recommendations for practitioners and policymakers are given, which are likely to improve employee motivation in organizations.

Key Findings of the Articles

The rationale for choosing the articles was their relation to the topic of employee motivation and work engagement. The majority of the selected articles are related to the chosen organizational behavior issue within the UAE, which is the region of interest of the author of this paper. Arab culture is different from the Western one, which is true for the workplace culture in particular (Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al., 2016). Therefore, for this paper, it was decided to minimize the number of articles that are not directly related to organizational issues in the Arab world.

Recently, researchers have expressed interest in exploring the influence of leadership on employee motivation. Al-Bahri and Othman (2019) aimed at studying how leaders influence the motivation of workers and their productivity. The researchers used the descriptive research design to identify the role of leadership in employee motivation and productivity in the Omani public sector. The rationale for their research was that in Oman, leaders often did not know the principles of motivating workers, and employees in the public sector had a low level of motivation because of guaranteed employment (Al-Bahri & Othman, 2019).

The study indicated that leaders had a significant influence on employee motivation and productivity. It was found out that leaders could foster workers’ innovative behavior, job satisfaction, and organizational performance by establishing a collaborative, respectful, and trustful climate and using financial and non-monetary incentives (Al-Bahri & Othman, 2019). The value of this study is in a thorough exploration of the existing literature on the effect of leadership on employee motivation.

Two studies were concerned with the interrelation between authentic leadership and staff engagement. Authentic leaders are individuals who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, share information transparently, make objective and well-thought decisions, and act according to their moral values (Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al., 2016). Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al. (2016) conducted a quantitative empirical analysis to identify the influence of authentic leadership on employee empowerment and work engagement.

The method of the study was a questionnaire sent to 376 managers of a large petroleum company in the UAE. The participants were chosen using stratified random sampling, and the response rate was 50.3% (Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al., 2016). The results showed that authentic leadership motivates employees, thus increasing their work engagement and organizational citizenship behavior.

Al Samkari and David (2019) conducted a survey among 45 head teachers and 200 teachers in four private schools in Dubai to explore the relationship between authentic leadership and staff engagement. Their findings confirmed the results of the study by Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al. (2016) with a special reference to the field of education. The researchers found out that self-awareness, autonomy, and objectivity in making decisions, and moral values are vital for teachers; therefore, school leaders should possess these qualities and cultivate them in their employees (Al Samkari & David, 2019). These two studies suggest that authentic leadership is a suitable leadership style for improving employee motivation.

Another study was designed to explore what factors, apart from leadership, influenced employee engagement. Al Mehrzi and Singh (2016), driven by the evidence that only 26% of UAE workers were engaged in their jobs, decided to investigate what affected the engagement of employees in the UAE. They found out that organizational culture, including the workplace and relationships with coworkers, leadership, work in teams, and perceived corporate support, had a large influence on workers’ engagement (Al Mehrzi & Singh, 2016). These findings imply that for an organization to have an engaged workforce, it should improve each of the identified factors.

Researchers also expressed interest in investigating the relationship between the characteristics of jobs and the level of employee motivation. Singh et al. (2016) used the job characteristics model (JCM) to assess what parameters of jobs motivate workers in the UAE. The JCM proposes five characteristics that affect work outcomes: skill variety, feedback, autonomy, task significance, and task identity (Singh et al., 2016). If a job has high levels of at least three of these parameters, it has a high potential to motivate workers (Singh et al., 2016).

Singh et al. (2016) aimed at exploring the relationship between age, gender, and culture and the motivating potential of five job characteristics. The findings showed that people aged 30-39 experienced lower motivation due to a lack of feedback. Furthermore, white-collar jobs were found to be more motivating than blue-collar jobs. As for gender, females were usually more motivated, especially in terms of feedback, while men were motivated by task significance and skill variety.

Some studies were focused on investigating factors that help organizations to improve employee motivation. Syed et al. (2018) aimed at exploring how training could enhance workers’ job commitment and performance. Their findings indicated that training, such as transfers to other work areas or the development of work knowledge, increases employee motivation, thus improving their productivity (Syed et al., 2018). Al Naqbi et al. (2018) conducted a study to investigate how financial and non-financial incentives influenced employee performance and to what extent these incentives were used in the UAE public sector.

The researchers found out that non-monetary incentives, such as certificates of appreciation, enhance employee motivation as effectively as financial stimuli (Al Naqbi et al., 2018). As for the incentive system in the UAE, it was found to be good, but further improvements could be made because some employees were not awarded for excellent performance (Al Naqbi et al., 2018). These findings can be of value to policymakers developing the systems of employee motivation.

Scholars also paid attention to the question of how the motivation of employees affected organizational performance. Rana et al. (2019) distributed 200 questionnaires among IT and Telecom companies in India to study the relationship between work engagement and individual performance. They found out that high employee engagement led to outstanding task performance (Rana et al., 2019). Kim et al. (2017) intended to investigate the causal relationship between work engagement and organizational commitment.

Upon completing a literature review, the researchers concluded that in most cases, work engagement resulting from such factors as professional growth, job characteristics, and social support, led to organizational commitment (Kim et al., 2017). However, inclusive or interpersonal leadership could at first make workers committed to the organization, and after that, employees would become engaged in their work (Kim et al., 2017). Thus, employee engagement positively affects the performance and organizational commitment of employees, but, sometimes, leaders can make workers loyal to the company, thus causing them to be engaged in work.

Finally, one study attempted to evaluate the degree of employee motivation in the UAE banking industry and identify its impact on performance. Bose (2018) collected data from six major banks in the UAE and found out that employees in the banking industry in the UAE are insufficiently motivated. The researcher also identified that the job impact was the most significant motivating factor that enhanced employee motivation, while organizational culture was the least significant (Bose, 2018). These findings indicate the need for the UAE banking industry to improve its systems of employee motivation.

Article Synthesis

The key findings of the reviewed literature indicate that motivation is a crucial issue related to organizational behavior. It has a direct relationship with organizational performance since motivated employees are more committed to a company, more engaged in work, and more willing to fulfill the goals of an organization. The reviewed studies indicated a significant role of leadership in employee motivation. Al-Bahri and Othman (2019) found out that leaders can increase workers’ productivity by motivating them through establishing a collaborative and respectful working atmosphere. Other studies emphasized the role of authentic leadership on employee motivation.

Researchers proved that leaders could better motivate their employees if they exercised self-awareness, transparency in working relationships, objectivity in making decisions, and the adherence to moral principles and developed these qualities in workers (Al Sahi Al Zaabi et al., 2016; Al Samkari & David, 2019). Apart from leadership, such factors as organizational culture, perceived organizational support, and teamwork can increase employee motivation and engagement if they are well-organized within a company (Al Mehrzi & Singh, 2016). These findings give an insight into organizational aspects that managers should consider to enhance employee motivation.

There are certain measures that organizations may implement to empower their workforce. Syed et al. (2018) discovered that training workers and enhancing their competencies and skills raised their motivation and engagement levels. The study by Al Naqbi et al. (2018) showed that motivation was composed of three factors: non-monetary incentives (appreciation from managers), financial rewards, and the social dimension (the retirement system and allowances).

Singh et al. (2016) found out that job characteristics, along with age, gender, and culture, also influenced workers’ motivation. For a job to be motivating, it should possess high levels of such qualities as skill variety, task significance, task identity, feedback, and autonomy (Singh et al., 2016). Further, researchers discovered that workers of all ages often felt a lack of autonomy, and middle-aged employees experienced a lack of skill variety (Singh et al., 2016). A lack of feedback resulted in a low motivation in male workers and expatriates (Singh et al., 2016). Managers and policymakers may use these findings to redesign jobs and develop an incentive system to increase employee motivation.

The reviewed literature also proved the need for organizations to pay attention to employee motivation and engagement. Engaged employees outperform their tasks and have high productivity, which leads to the effective accomplishment of organizational goals and an overall increase in organizational performance (Rana et al., 2019). Employee engagement also leads to organizational commitment, but this relationship is reciprocal, meaning that in case of inclusive and interpersonal leadership, organizational commitment may lead to increased work engagement (Kim et al., 2017).

The considered studies also give some insight into the situation with employee motivation in the UAE. Although the system of incentives is perceived as good, it needs further improvements, particularly in the banking industry (Al Naqbi et al., 2018; Bose, 2018). The emphasis should be put on factors that workers consider important and the binding nature of rewarding employees for outstanding performance.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Employee motivation depends on such factors as leadership, organizational culture and support, teamwork, the system of incentives, and job characteristics. In its turn, it influences workers’ productivity and commitment, as well as the performance of an organization. Therefore, some recommendations may be given to practitioners and policymakers on what they should consider while planning to enhance employee motivation. First, it is necessary to educate leaders about the importance of motivating the workforce and provide them with tools for empowering workers. It may be beneficial to employ the principles of authentic leadership to motivate the staff.

The second recommendation is to redesign jobs so as to make them more motivating. It may be noted that men need more motivation than women, and expatriates need more empowerment than native workers. Thirdly, employees, especially middle-aged ones, should be provided with training to improve their skills. Finally, organizations should work on developing and refining their systems of financial and non-monetary incentives.


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