Employee Motivation Theories
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 organization can fully motivate their employees through various measures then they will able to provide best support for the organization. Many psychologists studied human behavior and they introduced different theories of motivation. Generally, employee motivation theories provide great understanding regarding how people behave and which activity helps to motivates them.

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

1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory

Abraham Maslow was the most prominent psychologists of twentieth century. His hierarchy of needs theory is mostly popular to business man and business students ever. He introduced his theory at 1943 in his subsequent book Motivation and Personality. As per Maslow, peoples are motivated to fulfill their basic needs before moving to advanced needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory

Abraham Maslow shown hierarchy of needs through a pyramid. The lowest levels of pyramid are made up with the most basic needs and the more complex needs are located at the top of hierarchy pyramid. The hierarchy of needs in the pyramid is mentioned as 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 second level of pyramid, safety and security is mainly considered for salary, shelter, foods, threats etc.
  • Belongingness and Love:  This is the social needs for association, affiliation, friendship and associated with health and well-being.
  • Self-esteem:  This refers to the need for respect and recognition.
  • Self-actualization:  This is need of realization of potential and abilities. This refers to the opportunity for personal development, learning, and creativity to work.  Self-actualization is the highest levels of need that can motivate human being.


  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. Hygiene factors generally included company policies, salary, supervision, working conditions, safety and security of job. If employees didn’t get satisfaction on this aspect, they will be demotivated.

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


  1. McClelland’s theory of needs

McClelland affirms that human being has three motivating factors which does 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 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 acknowledgements of their progress.
  • Affiliation: This is the need for love, belongingness and social acceptance. Peoples are motivated by being loved and accepted by others.  Peoples mainly tend to participate in social gathering and uncomfortable with all kinds of conflict.
  • Power: People like to exercise power to control 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 influences than about effective work performance.


  1. Vroom’s theory of expectancy

Vroom’s employee motivation theories in organizations involves addressing intrinsic and extrinsic needs simultaneously. As per Vroom, people will be highly productive and motivated if 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 of the small-business owners.


  1. McGregor’s theory X and theory Y

Douglas McGregor expressed two distinct views of human being based on the participation of workers. The first is basically negative which is labelled as Theory X, and the other is basically positive and labelled 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 work force 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 factors that enables human being to be more productive and performance is measured through key performance indicators. If leaders are motivated, subordinates will be motivated through getting supports. Company should keep sharp knowledge on how to implement employee motivation theories at the workplace for getting best output from the workforce.


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