6 Major Theories of Motivation and the Implications for Employee Recognition and Engagement

 

I have written frequently on the importance of situational recognition. Depending on which one or blend of the major theories of motivation you subscribe to, the implications and the advice to leaders varies for recognition and engagement strategies. 


Let’s start first with The Equity Theory that was created by John Adams. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to Adams, people compare themselves with their peers to see if they are being treated equitably and adjust their own efforts accordingly.

If you subscribe to the Equity Theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to make certain all employees are treated fairly. To create engagement, leaders must address issues of inequity immediately.

The second major theory of motivation is the Two Factor Theory created by Frederick Herzberg. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to Herzberg, people are motivated by things like achievement, recognition, meaningful work, responsibility and opportunities for growth and development. Herzberg also stated that, “people are dissatisfied by things like policies, especially red tape.”

If you subscribe to the Two Factor Theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to make certain you focus and act on employee motivation and dissatisfaction as two separate issues. An important step is to redesign work and workflow to build in motivation.

The third major theory of motivation is the Hierarchy of Needs Theory created by Abraham Maslow. This theory is probably most widely known outside of the organizational development community. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to Maslow, five levels of needs motivate people:

  1. Physical
  2. Safety
  3. Social
  4. Esteem and
  5. Self – Actualization

According to Maslow, as lower level needs are met, those at high levels become more important.

If you subscribe to the Hierarchy of Needs Theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to ensure employee’s lower level needs are satisfied. To create employee engagement you must provide opportunities to meet higher level needs.

The fourth major theory of motivation is the Three Needs Theory and was created by David McClelland. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to McClelland, people have three basic needs; achievement, affiliation and power. A sense of achievement is particularly important in the work place.

If you subscribe to the Three Needs Theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to ensure you set challenging goals for employees and provide lots of concrete feedback regarding achievement. If you buy into this theory it can be supported with things like leader boards, badging and social feedback.

The fifth major theory of motivation is the Goal Setting Theory and was created by George Odiorne. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to Odiorne, people are motivated when they participate in setting challenging goals for themselves, understand their role in achieving those goals, and progress is measurable. I spent 15 years working closely with Dr. Ken Blanchard. He had a saying that I believe rings very true in that all good performance starts with clear goals.

If you subscribe to the Goal Setting theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to establish measurable objectives in partnership with employees and link these objectives to bigger company goals. It is also critical for employee engagement to provide regular, ongoing feedback.

The sixth major theory of motivation is the Expectancy Theory and was created by Victor Vroom. The quick rundown of this theory is that according to Vroom, people are motivated when they expect their effort will succeed in creating a particular outcome. And, that outcome is meaningful for the person.

If you subscribe to the Expectancy Theory, the implication to leaders is that you need to give employees lots of opportunities to succeed and significantly reward success while clearly identifying the links between rewards and success.

Which theory of motivation do you subscribe to?

More importantly, which theory of motivation do your employees subscribe to?

Remember, when it comes to recognition and engagement, at CSI we think one size fits one.



Peter Psichogios is the President of CSI International Performance Group whose mission is to help companies create engaging employee and customer experiences.Prior to joining CSI International Peter Psichogios served as an executive member of one of the largest Instructional System Association companies in the world. In this capacity, he led all the front-end analysis and worked directly with Dr. Ken Blanchard, leading the large-scale E -Learning and employee engagement initiatives. Peter has been fortunate to work with the who's who of the Fortune 500 and many of the world's fastest growing companies, helping them deliver innovative learning, engagement and recognition solutions.

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