Employee Motivation Theories

Best 5 Employee Motivation Theories

Motivation is a kind of driving force that drives a person to achieve desired goals or certain performance levels. Motivation is such a force that enables someone to give his best for achieving his best. If an organization can fully motivate its employees through various measures then they will be able to provide the best support for the organization. Many psychologists studied human behavior and introduced different theories of motivation. Generally, employee motivation theories provide a great understanding of how people behave and which activity helps motivate them. Based on organizational policy and practice, employee motivation strategies may vary from one organization to another or one country to another country.

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Employee Motivation Theories

There are many theories of motivation and some of the famous motivation theories are as follows:

1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Abraham Maslow was the most prominent psychologist of the twentieth century. His hierarchy of needs theory is the most popular to businessmen and business students ever. Maslow has introduced his theory in 1943 in his book Motivation and Personality. As per Maslow, people are motivated to fulfill their basic needs before moving to advanced needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory

Abraham Maslow showed the hierarchy of needs through a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs and the more complex needs are located at the top of the hierarchy pyramid. The hierarchy of needs in the pyramid is mentioned below:

  • Physiological Needs:  These are the very basic needs for the survival of human beings and are located at the bottom level of pyramids. Physiological needs include sleep, food, water, shelter, etc.
  • Safety and security:  At the second level of the pyramid, safety, and security are mainly considered for salary, shelter, food, threats, etc.
  • Belongingness and Love: These are the social needs for association, affiliation, friendship, and health and well-being.
  • Self-esteem:  This refers to the need for respect and recognition.
  • Self-actualization:  This is the need for the realization of potential and abilities. This refers to the opportunity for personal development, learning, and creativity to work.  Self-actualization is the highest level of need that can motivate human beings.


  1. Hertzberg’s Two-factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg tried to figure out employee motivation theories in a different way. Hertzberg classified human needs into two broad categories namely hygiene factors and motivating factors. The Hygiene factors generally include working conditions, safety, company policies, salary, supervision,  and security of the job. If employees didn’t get satisfaction in this aspect, they will be demotivated.

Motivators are factors that are essential to the job, such as achievement, recognition, increased responsibilities, interesting work, advancement, growth opportunities, etc.


  1. McClelland’s Theory of Needs

McClelland affirms that human being has three motivating factors which do not depend on gender or age. McClelland’s approach to applying motivation theories in organizations is not centered around meeting everyone’s intrinsic needs before addressing extrinsic motivation factors. This dominant drive depends on our life experiences.

The three motivators are as below:

  • Achievement: People with a high need for achievement mostly prefer tasks that provide for personal responsibility and results based on their own efforts in action.  They also prefer quick acknowledgments of their progress.
  • Affiliation: This is the need for love, belongingness, and social acceptance. People are motivated by being loved and accepted by others.  Peoples mainly tend to participate in social gatherings and are uncomfortable with all kinds of conflict.
  • Power: People like to exercise power to control their own work or the work of others. People aspire for positions with status and authority and tend to be more concerned about their level of influence than about effective work performance.


  1. Vroom’s Theory of Expectancy

Vroom’s employee motivation theories in organizations involve addressing intrinsic and extrinsic needs simultaneously. As per Vroom, people will be highly productive and motivated if the below two conditions are met:  1) People believe they are likely to be successful and reach goals that their efforts and 2) Those people believe they will be rewarded for their success.

Vroom’s approach regarding employee motivation theories is relatively simple for most small-business owners.


  1. McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor expressed two distinct views of the human being. The first is basically negative which is labeled as Theory X, and the other is basically positive and labeled as Theory Y. Based on their nature or characteristics, they need to be managed accordingly.

  • Theory X:  These people are lazy and focused on themselves. They benefit from top-down leadership and expectations. This traditional view of the workforce holds that workers are inherently lazy, self-centered, and lacking ambition.
  • Theory Y:  As per this, workers are inherently motivated and eager to accept responsibility where an appropriate management style is required to focus on creating a productive work environment.

Motivation is the psychological factor that enables human beings to be more productive and performance is measured through key performance indicators. If leaders are motivated, subordinates will be motivated by getting support. The company should keep sharp knowledge on implementing employee motivation theories at the workplace to get the best output from the workforce.


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