Motivation Theories Consistent With Google’s Approach

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Nowadays, it is commonly accepted that motivation is vital for employees because it is assumed to improve their job satisfaction and happiness and encourage them to put more effort into their work, thus leading to enhanced organizational performance. In the academic and business fields, work motivation is defined as “the need or reason(s) why employees make an effort to perform their day-to-day job to the best of their ability” (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD], 2021, p. 3). Scholars have developed a range of motivational theories to explain how and under what conditions employees feel motivated to perform different tasks. This paper aims to use several theories to describe an approach to work motivation at Google, an international technology company famous for its strong corporate culture, attractive employee benefits, and innovation.

Theory of Motivation Consistent with Google’s Approach

Google’s approach to employee motivation is consistent with the self-determination theory (SDT). This theory is grounded in so-called high-quality motivation that is intrinsic and based on personal values, as opposed to low-quality motivation resulting from internal or external pressure (Rigby and Ryan, 2018). According to SDT, every human has three basic psychological needs enabling psychological growth when being met: autonomy, competence, and relatedness (CIPD, 2021). It implies that people are motivated when they feel in control of their lives and behaviors, has an opportunity to build mastery and competence, and share meaningful experiences with others.

Work motivation at Google is consistent with SDT because the company enables its employees to fulfill all three essential psychological needs. For example, autonomy is ensured by flexibility and an 80/20 rule. Google’s employees have flexible schedules and can choose the workplace environment that helps them achieve greater productivity levels (Forbes Technology Council, 2018). The 80/20 refers to the practice where employees allocate 80% of their work time to their primary duties and can spend the remaining 20% on “passion projects” that can benefit the company (Essounga-Njan, 2018, p. 21). Further, competence is realized through access to experts in almost every technological field and the provision of various training programs (Essounga-Njan, 2018; Forbes Technology Council, 2018). Finally, the need for relatedness is fostered by Google’s corporate culture. Google’s culture is focused on constant innovation, continuous growth and improvement, and trust among employees (Forbes Technology Council, 2018). Additionally, the company has a clear mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (Forbes Technology Council, 2018, para. 15). Therefore, Google employees are motivated because they feel part of a group and believe they contribute to a meaningful purpose.

Relevant Theory of Job Design

The theory of job design consistent with Google’s approach is the job characteristic theory. This model can be considered a part of SDT because it leads to similar conclusions about motivation but is limited mainly to job tasks, while SDT provides a more comprehensive framework of workplace relations (CIPD, 2021). The job characteristic theory is based on five job dimensions: feedback, skill variety, autonomy, task identity, and task significance (CIPD, 2021). According to this theory, employees are motivated if they find their jobs interesting and significant, decide how the work should be performed, and receive feedback from supervisors.

Based on the tasks accomplished by employees at Google, one may conclude that this model precisely describes the company’s motivational approach to job design. Google hires only the most competent specialists in their fields, whose values also align with its corporate culture. As a result of their competencies and problem-solving skills, employees perform tasks distinguished by skill variety. Further, task significance is ensured by employees’ understanding that they contribute to the company’s great mission. Due to flexible schedules and the 80/20 rule mentioned earlier, employees have a large task identity and a high degree of autonomy. Finally, since Google encourages a learning environment in the workplace, employees may receive feedback from their colleagues and, thus, increase their mastery and improve performance. Thus, under the job characteristic theory, Google employees feel motivated because of the nature of the tasks they accomplish.

Motivation Theories Explaining Rewards at Google

Google provides its workers with a wide range of rewards, both financial and non-monetary. For example, monetary incentives include, apart from high compensation, such perks as a 401(k), healthcare benefits, and paid leave for new mothers and fathers (Essounga-Njan, 2018). Non-monetary rewards involve a range of amenities for employees’ well-being, such as free chef-prepared food, a fitness center, video games, subsidized massages, ping pong, yoga classes, and other perks (Essounga-Njan, 2018). Training opportunities are also non-financial incentives. At Google, 80% of training programs are conducted through the network called “G2G” (Googler-to-Googler), which involves more than 6,000 employees who help their peers develop professionally (Google, no date). Overall, such a reward system comprising financial and non-financial rewards is called a total reward system (TRS), which includes four major components: base pay, benefits, training and development opportunities, and work environment (Peluso, Innocenti, and Pilati, 2017). TRS is based on various motivational theories, the most relevant of which seems to be Herzberg’s two-factor theory.

According to Herzberg’s theory, motivation is caused by two types of factors: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic factors include pay and benefits, job security and safety, and physical working conditions; they do not directly lead to motivation but prevent employees’ job dissatisfaction (Kariuki and Kiiru, 2021). At Google, employees have high wages, attractive benefits, and a safe and comfortable working environment, all of which contribute to workers’ job satisfaction. Intrinsic factors are recognition, achievement, respect, growth, and an interest in the job (Kariuki and Kiiru, 2021). Google effectively addresses these elements of motivation through its strong corporate culture and vast training opportunities. As was mentioned, the company’s corporate culture fosters trust and teamwork. Further, employees at Google have great opportunities for professional growth by attending experts’ presentations and engaging in employee-to-employee learning programs.

Theories of Motivation Explaining the Behavior of Google’s TVCs

The Google walkout that occurred on November 1, 2018, and the open letter to the CEO, published a month later, can be explained by the equity theory. According to this theory, employees compare their job outcomes with their inputs into it; then, they compare their input-output ratios with those of relevant others – people with similar jobs in the same organization and profession (Kariuki and Kiiru, 2021). If the input-output ratio is considered equitable and fair, employees will be motivated to put effort into their jobs. Otherwise, they will either quit the job or take action to change the situation.

From the open letter published by Google’s TVCs, it is clear that these workers have found inequalities in their input-output ratios, which caused their dissatisfaction. They claimed that they were “doing the same work as full-time employees” but received “minimal benefits” and were “treated as less deserving of compensation, opportunities, workplace protections, and respect” (Google Walkout For Real Change, 2018, para. 4). Consistent with the equity theory, Google’s TVCs feel under-rewarded because their rewards appear to be lower than those of full-time workers. Consequently, they are less motivated to deliver the best outcomes, and they take action to establish equality and fairness.

Reference List

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2021) Work motivation: an evidence review. Web.

Essounga-Njan, Y. (2018) ‘Google’s secret to motivating their employees successfully’, Journal of Strategic and International Studies, 12(3), pp. 19-24.

Forbes Technology Council (2018) ‘13 reasons Google deserves its ‘Best Company Culture’ award’, Forbes, Web.

Google (no date) Guide: create an employee-to-employee learning program. Web.

Google Walkout For Real Change (2018) ‘Invisible no longer: Google’s shadow workforce speaks up’, Medium, Web.

Kariuki, C. W. and Kiiru, D. (2021) ‘Employee recognition and employee performance at public hospitals in Nyeri County, Kenya’, International Academic Journal of Human Resource and Business Administration, 3(10), pp. 243-264.

Peluso, A.M., Innocenti, L. and Pilati, M. (2017) ‘Pay is not everything: differential effects of monetary and non-monetary rewards on employees’ attitudes and behaviours’, Evidence-Based HRM: A Global Forum for Empirical Scholarship, 5(3), pp. 311-327.

Rigby, C.S. and Ryan, R.M. (2018) ‘Self-determination theory in human resource development: new directions and practical considerations’, Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(2), pp. 133-147.

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