Motivation is the Key!

The role of manger to is to achieve the objectives of the organisation through people.  A leading function of management is influencing others to work towards achieving those objectives and results through other people therefore a major responsibility in this role is to motivate staff.

Effective managers must have an understanding of why people behave as they do and what they can do to influence and motivate employees to meet the objectives of the organisation.  Motivation is about a win/win situation.  We need to aim to meet both the needs of the individual and the needs of the organisation so that both win.

Motivation has been defined as “the willingness to exert high levels of effort towards organisational goals, conditioned by the effort’s ability to satisfy some individual need.” Robbins (1998) Organisational Behaviour: Pearson Ed. p.199.  Therefore motivation can be described as the work managers do in order to inspire, encourage and drive people to take the essential action to achieve organisational goals and at the same time satisfy their individual needs.

So what motivates employees?

A number of theories exist including:


The more an individual needs are met the more motivated they will be to perform.  Note that the word individual is used, as what motivates one person may not be the same for the next although there are some common factors. There is no clear cut standard for motivating individuals and teams although a mass of research has been done in this area which provides us with some clues as to motivation.

One of the chief responsibilities of managers and supervisors is to motivate their people, and to promote the self motivation and performance of the team.  “Motivating is entirely about people and what causes them to behave or perform”.  Managers need to create an environment in which staff wants to be motivated.

A study by Response Analysis in Princeton, New Jersey, of 1600 employees found that:

52% will give their best if they’re given responsibility

42% will give their best if recognised for their success.

39% will give their best if their strengths are suited to their duties.

The theories of research basically support common sense in terms of how we can motivate employees.  Basically people want the following:

  • To do a meaningful and worthwhile job that provides enjoyment and satisfaction (esteem and self-actualising needs)
  • Clear standards and objectives (achievement needs)
  • Adequate job training (achievement, self actualisation, growth)
  • Supportive management (social, recognition)
  • Feedback on performance (esteem, recognition)
  • Opportunities for advancement (responsibility, growth)
  • Being treated as a worthwhile individual (social, esteem, recognition)
  • Safe and healthy working conditions and adequate remuneration (safety and physiological needs)
  • To work with tools, equipment and work systems that support, not hinder their best efforts (security and achievement)
  • To work for someone who ‘practices what they preach’ and behaves with integrity, honest and fairness (security, esteem, self-actualisation)

Source: Cole (2005) Management – Theory and Practice: Pearson Ed. P.293

Despite these great ideas there is no standard package for motivating people.  A manager needs to spend time with their people to understand what motivates them.