Improving Employee Motivation: Business and Management

Motivation plays an essential role in maintaining people’s productivity and performance in school and work to attain specific goals. This concept can be defined as encouragement given to subordinates to stimulate their sincere effort to achieve prosperity for an organization (Kuswati, 2019). Indeed, motivation is an integral part of transformation leadership that inspires employees to work harder (Maskurochman et al., 2020). However, in addition to the external factors, motivation should also be generated internally (Kuswati, 2019). Specifically, organizational support and benefits can elicit stronger motivation for workers (Maskurochman et al., 2020). Moreover, a good work environment can increase job satisfaction and improve results (Maskurochman et al., 2020). Any organization that strives for excellence develops specific work practices that maximize the advantage of human capital (McShane et al., 2019). For example, one of the New Zealand companies, Frucor Beverages, is known for its inspiring and engaging environment for its workers (McShane et al., 2019). Furthermore, this firm provides training for the employees and articulates its goals (McShane et al., 2019). Employee motivation can be improved by creating satisfactory working conditions, providing benefits, defining goals, recognizing achievements, and setting an example.

Internal Drivers

Individual desires, needs, and motives drive human behavior and decisions. For instance, Maslow’s motivation theory states that five major categories of internal drivers determine people’s motivation: physiological, belongingness, safety, esteem, and self-actualization (McShane et al., 2019). If one of the primary needs is not satisfied, it will be the strongest driver for one’s actions. Although this theory is not applicable universally due to different priorities, it shows that work efficiency can often be dependent on unsatisfied needs (McShane et al., 2019). A more recent theory, developed based on scientific research, is known as a four-drive theory that, as the name suggests, incorporates four drives: acquiring, bonding, comprehending, and defending (McShane et al., 2019). This theory implies that emotional intelligence (EI) is the foundation of human choices, stating that workers with high EI can better control their internal motives and impulses (McShane et al., 2019). However, these motivation theories cannot be considered complete because various confounding factors may alter human behavior. Still, this knowledge is essential for employers who want to reach the highest work efficiency because it suggests that a good working environment enables better focus on critical tasks.

A different set of internal drivers includes a need to achieve, bond with others, and power. According to Herzberg’s theory, people have two internal drivers: hygiene and motivators – physical environment and recognition for achievements, respectively (Shobe, 2018). The need for achievement stems from people’s desire to attain specific and realistic goals (McShane et al., 2019). Indeed, aspiring employees tend to put additional effort to approach perfection in particular tasks. The need for bonding and affiliation refers to the want to receive approval from others and avoiding interpersonal conflicts (McShane et al., 2019). According to McShane et al. (2019), this need is good for workers, but it should be minimized among those who make crucial decisions. The need for power is the desire to control resources, people, and the environment (McShane et al., 2019). Although this need is not universal, it creates a cohort of leaders in every team.

Work Environment and Financial Benefits

A productive and efficient workforce is the foundation for a company’s success. Employee motivation is related to job satisfaction which includes financial incentives and the physical and emotional environment. According to Shobe (2018), hygiene factors cannot motivate workers for better performance, but lack of these factors can significantly reduce drive. For example, the physical environment, which includes free space, lighting, noise, temperature, tidiness, and aesthetics of the office, was found to have a tremendous impact on companies’ employees (Shobe, 2018). Furthermore, it was found that poor working conditions caused a drop in productivity and increased the incidence of anxiety, depression, and absenteeism among workers due to so-called sick building syndrome (Shobe, 2018). The latter is the state of poor physical and psychological well-being during the time spent in a building (Shobe, 2018). Moreover, the work efficiency in a modern office is correlated with the equipment and communication methods (Shobe, 2018). Indeed, high-quality hardware and software facilitate the successful completion of projects, increasing a firm’s benefit.

Despite the widely-known cliché, financial benefits are the primary motivators for employees to stay in the company and work harder. Indeed, Herzberg’s motivation theory states that hygienic needs, including pay, working environment, social packet, and job security, are the premise for high performance and motivation (De Vito et al., 2018). Furthermore, the financial compensation that meets job demands and effort is crucial for employees to measure the value of their work for the company. Still, according to De Vito et al. (2018), when working conditions are satisfactory, pay is less important than personal growth, recognition, and connection for some workers. Therefore, it is an essential element of employee motivation, but not so crucial as psychological satisfaction from performed duties.

Work-Life Balance

Allowing employees to spend time with their families and having leisure is essential to demonstrate that the leadership values them. According to Shobe (2018), creating obstacles for workers to have a work-life balance makes them feel dissatisfied and unimportant for the company. Indeed, employees with proper emotional support outside of work are more motivated and resilient to various stressors at the workplace (Shobe, 2018). Thus, it is critical to schedule their working hours to leave free time for personal life and prevent different psychological issues.

Clear Goals and Vision

Another critical motivator for workers to continue performing well in a firm is the clarity of its long-term goals. Indeed, any organization should develop a mission and vision document available to all workers (McShane et al., 2019). Furthermore, these statements should be embodied by the company leaders to set an example for employees. Regardless of the nature of an organization, clear goals help create a collective sense of purpose among the staff (McShane et al., 2019). Moreover, determining individual roles in this mission is considered a robust motivator to increase work efficiency because it shows workers the value of their work that can influence the final outcome (McShane et al., 2019). The SMARTER technique, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-framed, exciting, and reviewed, can improve the goal-setting process (McShane et al., 2019). However, goal setting should be controlled by the management team and by the leadership to maintain a high level of complexity that eventually determines a company’s success in the market.

Teamwork and Teambuilding

Most modern organizations’ work is based on the principle of teamwork. According to McShane et al. (2019) and Walkey (2019), a team can be defined as a group of two or more people who influence each other, have a shared vision, communicate, and work together to attain a common goal. One of the Australian electricity companies, Ergon Energy, builds its organization around teamwork because practice showed that groups are better at decision-making and developing high-quality products than individual workers (McShane et al., 2019). The main reason why people perform well in teams is that human beings are social creatures that need bonding to feel fulfilled (McShane et al., 2019). Still, maintaining teams requires substantial investments before the benefit is obtained (McShane et al., 2019). Furthermore, a slight probability of social loafing, which is decreased individual performance with the hope that the group will complete the task, still exists (McShane et al., 2019). Nevertheless, creating appropriate conditions for groups by teambuilding events, communal support, and collective responsibility enables effective teamwork and facilitates prosperity. Moreover, it is almost impossible to imagine a modern company without cooperation, assessment of completed work, and recognition.

Rewards and Recognition

Regular recognition is one of the essential methods to motivate employees to excel in their duties. Employers can present outstanding workers with material or non-material rewards that should be not too expensive for the company and equitable for the staff (Ali & Anwar, 2021; Kuswati, 2019). Indeed, according to Herzberg’s theory, supervisor recognition and empathy are strong motivating factors because rewards can change the organizational culture (McShane et al., 2019; Shobe, 2018). For example, introducing weekly assessments of performance and awards made Home Depot’s workers more disciplined and goal-oriented (McShane et al., 2019). Although firms often use financial incentives, non-material benefits, like community attention and gifts, can be emotionally valuable (De Vito et al., 2018). Employees of non-profit organizations or healthcare workers are often driven by immaterial recognition. Furthermore, research showed that public respect had a more significant influence on staff performance than monetary rewards (McShane et al., 2019). Indeed, any recognition demonstrates the importance of employees for a company, increasing their job satisfaction and productivity (Ali & Anwar, 2021). Therefore, employers that want to improve and maintain motivation among workers should consider recognizing their achievements.

Participation, Autonomy, and Connection

Employee engagement is a critical motivating factor that allows creating an aspiring cohort of employees. According to Shobe (2018), engaging workers is a strong driver because “it touches on aspects of pride and advocacy about the company’s products and brands.” Furthermore, full participation requires additional training and knowledge, upgrading workers’ skills, and boosting performance (Shobe, 2018). For instance, Standard Chartered Bank reported that branches with a higher degree of staff engagement had a rise in the quality of customer service, lower turnover rates, and increased profit (McShane et al., 2019). Indeed, the British government highlighted the need to support employee engagement to elevate the country’s competitiveness in the global market (McShane et al., 2019). Moreover, giving teams and individual employees more freedom in attaining company goals, leading to an increased feeling of responsibility and fulfillment among them (Shobe, 2018). Providing more autonomy to workers allows them to have flexible schedules to perform tasks during the period of their highest productivity and spend time with their families (Shobe, 2018). It appears that engagement and autonomy are crucial drivers for workers that can positively impact the development of an organization.

Another essential motivator for a human being is a connection with other people. Indeed, individuals with a higher need for affiliation tend to modify their behavior, avoid conflicts, and support others to get their approval (McShane et al., 2019). Therefore, organizing various events to facilitate stronger bonding and communication between employees can increase job satisfaction due to the sense of connectedness to the whole. Specific manners of communication create organizational culture, which makes employees feel unique, reducing staff turnover rate (Walkey, 2019). Moreover, contact of management and leadership with workers encourages openness and engagement, raising a firm’s morale and productivity (Walkey, 2019). Still, establishing a rapport and finding a proper style of interaction with individuals can be challenging for employers whose company is multigenerational (Walkey, 2019). For example, millennials are unique in greater demand for organizational transparency, collaboration, and sincere feedback (Walkey, 2019). However, once leaders manage to determine how to communicate with their employees, the age gap will drop, increasing understanding within teams (Walkey, 2019). Thus, an effective connection between staff and managers is a driver for productive work and prosperity.

Transformational Leadership

The primary function of a leader is to motivate others to perform certain tasks and attain specific goals. According to McShane et al. (2019), leaders can persuade others of the importance of work and allocate resources to create an appropriate environment for employees to complete projects successfully. Research distinguishes four leadership types: competency, follow-centric, managerial, and transformational (McShane et al., 2019). The latter type articulates how leaders can change teams by modeling and communicating an inspiring vision to employees (McShane et al., 2019). The four elements of transformational leadership are developing a strategic vision, building commitment to it, modeling the idea, and encouraging experimentation, allowing workers to become a part of an extensive process (McShane et al., 2019). Moreover, leaders can encourage staff to be industrious and professional by setting an example with their behavior that should emanate honesty, integrity, charisma, and confidence, inspiring subordinates to participate more in the organization’s activity (McShane et al., 2019). For example, evaluating one of the bank branches practicing transformational leadership showed that its financial performance grew significantly (McShane et al., 2019). Indeed, leaders play an essential role in incentivizing staff for higher productivity.


In summary, employee motivation is a complex task for managers and leaders because it depends on various internal and external factors. Maslow’s, Herzberg’s, and four-drive motivational theories state that a human being is guided by basic needs like a comfortable physical environment and complex feelings such as a desire to achieve and affiliate with other people. For example, poor hygienic factors such as temperature, noise, decoration, and lighting in a building can demotivate employees from performing their work well. Conversely, good office conditions remove external distractions, allowing people to focus on attaining goals. Another important driver for workers is the clarity of a company’s vision and mission because it gives purpose. Furthermore, encouraging teamwork allows people to perform better because of the need for bonding and communication. Enabling flexible schedules and autonomy provides employees with more time for leisure and family, maintaining a work-life balance. Moreover, recognition of achievements, workers’ engagement in organizational activities and decision-making, and effective communication motivate staff to be more productive. Finally, transformational leaders should set a personal example for higher performance and professional behavior to inspire personnel for better performance.


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Walkey, S. (2019). Connectedness and communication: Does the communication received from a supervisor increase feelings of belonging to an organization? [Master’s thesis, University of Alberta]. Education and Research Archive.

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