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Where does employee motivation come from?

Ever wonder why your staff loose motivation and what you can do to help them stay in the game? Well, in answer to this question, there are three main theories of motivation that are studied by us HR nerds, and also psychologists, and now you!

Hertzberg's Two-Factor Theory

Frederick Hertzberg designed a theory regarding employee satisfaction that has two primary factors: motivation and hygiene. Hygiene factors decrease employee motivation and include things like working conditions, administrative and company policies, status, security, salary, interpersonal relationships and supervision. When people feel dissatisfied in any of these areas, their motivation decreases.

Motivation factors include the work itself, growth, recognition, advancement, achievement and responsibility. When employees feel a sense of satisfaction these areas, their motivation increases.

McClelland's Theory of Needs

David McClelland found that every individual experiences a need for achievement, a need for power or a need for affiliation. One of these three is the driving motivator for your employee:

  • Affiliation: Wants to be part of a group and liked by others, prefers collaboration over competition or independent work and doesn't enjoy uncertainty or high risk

  • Achievement: A strong drive to set and accomplish goals, enjoys working alone, is willing to take calculated risks and wants to receive regular feedback on their accomplishments

  • Power: Prefer to influence and oversee others, enjoys competition, status and recognition and likes to win arguments

Vroom's Theory of Expectancy

Vrooom (yes like a car going fast!) developed the theory that employee behavior comes from conscious choices made to minimizing pain and maximize pleasure and also had three variables:

  • Expectancy: The idea that if you increase the effort you put into your work will increase your performance. Expectancy is influenced by an employee's skill set, access to resources, and support in performing their job.

  • Instrumentality: The idea that if you perform better, then you will achieve an outcome. Instrumentality is increased if the employee understands how performance is tied to rewards, and management consistently and transparently distributes those rewards.

  • Valence: This is when an employee understands and values the importance of their work. To increase valence the important outcomes of the work are known and understood by the employee who is more motivated to do the work because of those outcomes.

Happy I got a chance to share a little bit about motivation today & nerd out a little. If you're looking for some ways to increase employee motivation check out HR Building Blocks: Mentorship & Development and Internal Economy.


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