This paper highlights the various perceptions and concepts of employee motivation in recent years and how managers are responsible for it. Takeuchi (2009) speaks about how a High Performance Work System is a means of increasing the competitive advantage of an organization which is one of the criteria deciding its success. Stone’s (2008) discussion of the self-determination theory further elaborates the various aspects of employee motivation and the managerial requirements for sustainable motivation. Petroni and Colacino (2008) have contributed information for motivation of knowledge professionals who are becoming increasingly valuable in the Modern Age of computers. Holtz and Harold (2009) have spoken about the qualities of the manager which promote employee commitment. The value of a trusting relationship between the manager and employees is highlighted by them (Holtz and Harold, 2009). The varieties of employee commitment are discussed by Shore et al (2008).
High Performance Work Systems
The relationship between the practices of the Human Resources Management and the firm performance relies on the role of the employees (Takeuchi 2009 p.2). High performance work systems have become beneficial in the increasing demand for talented managers and employees. Organisational outcomes are influenced by social mechanisms which include environment or climate, social relationship and employee attitudes and behaviours. Takeuchi focuses on how HRM practices influenced employee behaviours and firm performance. Strategic HRM is defined as” the pattern of planned resource deployments and activities intended to enable an organization to achieve its goals” (Wright and McMahan 1998 as cited in Takeuchi 2009 p. 4). Job satisfaction and affective commitment are two attitudes examined.
The perceptions of the employee to the importance of directions and performance expected constitute the organizational climate. A shared climate is expected where a group of workers share the same perceptions as they are exposed to similar norms, leadership and HRM. Six dimensions have been attributed to in climate: “goal emphasis, management support, nonmonetary reward orientation, monetary reward orientation, work group cooperation and means emphasis” (Burke et al 1992 as cited in Takeuchi 2009 p.5).
Motivating employees through compensation programs indicate that organisations are focusing on ways to “humour” their staff. Incentive plans are mooted by the HPWS (high performance work systems) to keep employees happy and motivated to work hard for the organization; profit-sharing plans and gain-sharing ones are other methods (Takeuchi 2009 p.5). Developmental and merit-based performance appraisals and flexible work assignments allow the employees to recognize their importance to the organization. A supportive environment is created by exhaustive skills training (Sun et al 2007 p. 561).
Takeuchi’s (2009 p. 21) study indicates that shared establishment-level climate mediates the cross-level relationship of HPWS and the attitudes and behaviours of the individual employee. Concern for employees is one significant factor which endears the HR manager to his employees. Organisational practices decide the climate. HPWS influences multiple levels of the hierarchy through several mediators and intricate inter-relationships (Takeuchi 2009 p.22). Implementing the HPWS in an organization leads to increased job satisfaction and commitment that produces excellent performance outcomes. Employee turnover which is costly is prevented.
The self-determination theory
The motivational mantra is the basic tenet of an organization (Stone et al, 2009, p.75). Employees are to be empowered, and allowed to share in decision- making. Self-initiation and autonomy need to be supported. Sustainable motivation is the concept: organisations are aware that the working age population is reducing and they have to sustain what is available (Stone et al 2009 p.76). Rewards and compensation schemes may not always have conveyed the right message. Mistrust may be fuelled. The self-determination theory is the resort and it contains a number of assumptions about human behaviour and motivation.
Modern work that is complicated, creative and heuristic requires self-determination to produce the best results. The self-determination theory works upon core psychological needs of the human: competence, relatedness and autonomy (Stone et al 2009 p.76). The belief that he has the ability to influence an outcome is competence. The experience of fostering a social and supportive relationship is termed relatedness. The experience of behaving out of one’s own compulsion and choice with self- determination is autonomy (Stone et al 2009 p.77). Satisfying the core human needs leads to sustainable or lasting or enduring motivation. The result is employees who work to satisfy themselves and who are not attracted by the compensations or rewards. Creating autonomous motivation results in gains productivity. Research has identified greater satisfaction, better performance and lesser anxiety levels and lesser depression (Baard, Deci and Ryan 2004 cited in Stone et al 2009 p.77). The core human needs exist in all cultures and contexts (Vansteenkiste, Zhou, Lens and Soenens 2005 cited in Stone et al 2005 p.78) and in students from various cultures (Grouzet et al 2005 cited in Stone et al 2009 p. 78).
Sustainable motivation through changing work rules, standards and procedures has seen employees become more creative, proactive and acting voluntarily (Gagne and Deci 2005 as cited in Stone et al 2009 p. 78). Six paths of change have been indicated by Stone et al (2009 p. 79).
- Frank discussion about problems and suggestions through open questions and soliciting participation with supportive dialogue are helpful. A supportive dialogue is far better than a managerial monologue. Confrontations, labeling and blaming, all sentiments which invite resentment, denials or shutting down, are prevented (Stone et al 2009 p.80). The employee’s perceptions are invited.
- Active listening conveys the picture of encouragement to the subordinate who is willing to bring forth his thoughts on the subject and share them with the top brass as well as his colleagues. Encouragement from his immediate managers helps in the process. Reflective listening is also included with active listening (Millner and Rollnick 2002 cited in Stone et al 2009 p.80). It has to be done carefully and empathically. Summarising is yet another method of active listening. Frequent statements of affirmation are necessary in the process of active listening.
- A series of possible actions or choices may be suggested for a problem following the open questions and active listening (Stone et al 2009 p.81).This is the procedure adopted when innovative changes are to be established and responsibilities clarified. The dialogue prepares the employees for change and their willingness to do so becomes greater.
- Sincere feedback or effective praise on occasions or unique contributions motivates the employee (Stone et al 2009 p.82). Praise for mere compliance may not carry the same message as praise for an action that is described as an initiative by the employee. The credit is then given to the employee. The praise is to be for a definite contribution and is not to seem insincere and vague. It follows immediately after the action and is not kept for a later occasion.
- Minimising the monetary rewards and comparison helps the employees. Keeping monetary rewards may cause a rebellion among contenders (Stone et al 2009 p.82). The self-determination theory offers a more feasible alternative approach. Compensation and benefits are minimized as autonomous motivation is not possible with them. Outright salary rises may produce autonomous motivation.
- Developing talent and sharing knowledge may also increase autonomous motivation (Stone et al 2009 p. 83). Training, educational chances and promotions are looked forward to by employees. Learning new skills and collaboration with others increase their self-confidence and competence. These also offer autonomy.
Self –determination theory produces long-term motivation. Sustainable motivators are to be applied to the critical workforce.
Motivation strategies for knowledge professionals
Motivation for knowledge professionals has been studied by Petroni and Colacino (2008 p.21). Technical professionals have been motivated using three categories of motivational tools: formal structures, incentives and informal management techniques.
The first group of structures has four methods: dual ladders, third-career orientations, internal project funding and prestigious societies (Petroni and Colacino 2008 p.22). The dual ladder path allows a technical professional a separate path of progression for another career while still remaining in the technical portion of the organisation (Petrino and Colacino 2008 p.22). Many researchers have found complaints and inadequacy in this particular structure. The third career orientation is better at motivation. It allows the technical professional to move from one demanding project to another and not up the ladder. Researchers have found that the confident professionals exhibit their excellence by implementing innovative ideas (Shlaes 1991 as cited in Petroni and Colacino 2008 p.22). Society or prestigious groups also honour exalted technical professionals with their Order. Whether this causes sufficient motivation is questionable.
The second group focuses on rewards and compensations, a traditional technique for motivation. If the reward structure is not established as suited to the organization, employee needs may not be satisfied and may actually cause a demotivation. (Ellis & Honig-Haftel 1992 as cited in Petroni and Colacino 2008, p.22).
The third category comprises of the informal techniques employed by managers. Motivating the knowledge professionals to be creative may not work unless the environment is changed (Kochanski et al, 2003 cited in Petroni and Colacino 2008 p.22). The manager has to provide an environment where the employees have a chance to boost their creativity.
The motivational factors which managers have to practice to the satisfaction of the knowledge professionals have been contained in a conceptual model. The policies designed by the manager and the supervisory practices are so created to meet the understanding of the professionals’ expectations (Petroni and Colacino 2008 p. 23). Promotions are based on appropriate criteria. Career advancement is made possible according to the employees’ preferences. Traditional practices do not work where knowledge professionals are concerned; these thereby affect the goals. The professionals are transformed into managers through training and the sharpening of administrative skills. The professional’s motivational potential is tapped. Underemployment and misutilisation are prevented (Petroni and Colacino 2008 p.24). All these contribute to job satisfaction.
The value of knowledge professionals increases with time. Improvements and developments are made while they work. The learning behaviours of the professionals are to be exploited with professional enrichment programs. Recruiting career planning and placement need to be sound and problem-free.
The Manager, leadership style and the employee reactions
How managers convey bad news or how they leave things unexplained may cause employees to behave most unexpectedly; they either retaliate or show lesser cooperation (Holtz and Harold 2009 p.777). On the other hand even if explanations are given, they cannot be accepted always. Factors that contribute to the efficacy of explanations are to be understood by the manager before he involves in them. A framework has been designed by Bobocel and Zdaniuk (2005 as cited in Holtz and Harold 2009 p. 777). These researchers have suggested that trusting relationships in the social context and characteristics of the messenger influence the employee perceptions. The explanations that appear sincere, justified, adequate and legitimate lead to the employee perception of it as effective. Trust is the mediator of the process. When it is increased, employee reactions become favourable (Holtz and Harold 2009 p.781).
What is the secret behind employee commitment?
Study in a US manufacturing firm of 490 employees indicates that managerial perceptions of affective commitment are predicted by self- reported commitment and supervisor-focussed impression management (Shore et al 2008 p.635). Three types of commitment are described: affective, continuance and normative. Affective commitment relates to the emotional attachment of the employee to the organization. Continuance commitment is the remaining behind of the employee due to the high cost incurred when leaving. Normative commitment is the remaining behind due to a feeling of reciprocity after having availed of many benefits and privileges (Shore et al 2008 p.636). Shore’s study focuses on affective and continuance commitments. It found that a manager treats an employee well if he were committed. The behaviours of employees who take the trouble to impress, flatter or do favours for the manager are perceived as positive attitudes towards the manager. Favourable outcomes are salary increases, promotion and high performance certificates (Westphal and Stern 2007 as cited in Shore et al 2008 p. 648). Employees also like others to know that they are committed through job performance, impression management and oganisational citizenship (Shore et al, 1995 cited in Shore et al 2008 p. 648).
Organisational outcomes are influenced by social mechanisms which include environment or climate, social relationship and employee attitudes and behaviours (Takeuchi 2009 p.2). “Goal emphasis, management support, nonmonetary reward orientation, monetary reward orientation, work group cooperation and means emphasis” are the six dimensions that have been attributed to in climate or environment (Burke et al 1992 cited in Takeuchi 2009 p.5). HPWS (high performance work systems) keep employees happy and motivated to work hard for the organization. Profit-sharing plans and gain-sharing ones are other methods (Takeuchi 2009 p.5). Shared establishment-level climate mediates the cross-level relationship of HPWS and the attitudes and behaviours of the individual employee (Takeuchi 2009 p.21). The HPWS in an organization leads to great job satisfaction and commitment among employees that produce excellent performance outcomes. Costly employee turnover is reduced. The self-determination theory is the method to ensure sustainable motivation (Stone et al 2009 p. 76). Supportive dialogue, active listening, innovative changes, sincere feedback, autonomous motivation and talent development with chances of promotion and sharing of knowledge lead to sustainable motivation (Stone et al 2009 p.79). The increasing value of knowledge professionals has been stressed and the methods of motivating them are different (Petrino and Colacino 2008 p.21). Employee reactions can be managed by the manager adjusting the way he approaches his employees for explanations. The factor of trust in the relationship helps to motivate the employees (Holtz and Harold 2009 p.777). Managerial perceptions of affective commitment are predicted by self- reported commitment and supervisor-focussed impression management (Shore et al 2008 p. 635). Three types of commitment have been described: affective, continuance and normative. The affective and continuance employee commitments lead a manager to recognize the value of his employees. The behaviour of employees who take the trouble to impress, flatter or do favours for the manager are perceived as positive attitudes towards the manager (Shore et al 2008 p. 648). Employee commitment is essential for excellent organizational performance and it is the manager who ensures this.
Holtz, B.C. & Harold, C.M. (2009). When your boss says no! The effects of leadership style and trust on employee reactions to managerial explanations. Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, Vol. 81, p. 777-802. The British Psychological Society.
Petroni, A. & Colacino, P. (2008). Motivation Strategies for Knowledge workers: Evidences and Challenges. Journal of Technology, Management and Innovation, Vol.3, No. 3 JOTMI Research Group.
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