The growth and wellness of any organization can be perceived by the amount of loyalty and commitment showcased by its employees. It is widely known that people are the most important asset of any organization (Osabiya, 2015). To tap the best potential of employees an organization must provide them with a source of inspiration that not only helps them achieve the desired results but also ensures a long-lasting association with the company. This is where the role of motivation becomes necessary. Motivation has varied contexts and hence has varied definitions. But, for our essay, we have adopted the approach of describing motivation as to how an individual or group is inspired to achieve the desired objective (Bawa, 2017). The essay seeks to discuss the role and importance of motivation in the context of the organization. The focus will be laid on evaluating the strengths and limitations of some known content and process theories with prospective ways in which these theories could be applied in a managerial situation.
Motivation theories are essentially classified as Content Theories and Process Theories (Osabiya, 2015). The nature of both types is significantly different from each other. While content theories focus on "what" motivates human behaviour, the process theories are concerned with "how" motivation occurs. Content Theories are the earliest known theories of motivation whereas process theories were introduced later to improve the existing content theories. Content theories of motivation are considered to have static nature that focuses on which factors most constitute the fundamental trigger of motivation whereas, process theory is considered to have dynamic nature that treats enterprise as a continuously evolving being (Rhee, 2019).
Content Theories also are known as ‘need theories’ and are the earliest known theories of motivation. Content Theories explain the necessities and requirements that are essential to motivate a person. The most fundamental theory under content theory is the one proposed by Abraham Maslow, popularly known as Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory. To gain further insight, let us analyze various theories under Content Theories The theory is based on human needs formulated in a pyramid diagram that represents the sequence of needs with the most basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid moving to distinct needs at the top. In his theory, Abraham Maslow has identified Physiological Needs that comprise of the basic and biological necessities required for an individual to survive like food, clothing, shelter and sex, Safety and Security Needs that requires an individual to feel the need to be safe and secure in financial terms, Affiliation/Belonging Needs comprising of need to have social contact, love and affection from peer and society, Esteem Needs that are slightly high-end needs and aim towards having self-respect and recognition in society or having the ownership of something (tangible or intangible) that gives them a sense of respect and pride and lastly, Self-Actualization Needs that aim towards self-fulfilment when an individual has taken care of all other needs (Ozguner et al., 2014).
The greatest benefit of applying Maslow's Need Hierarchy theory in the managerial context is that it helps the managers in identifying specifically at which stage of need the employee is. The managers can define a course of progression for employees and lead them towards self-actualization which is the ultimate objective. It has been found that managers can specifically aim in enhancing the esteem needs of the employee by rewarding them with awards and incentives which becomes a stimulating factor in increasing the motivation levels of the employees thereby improving the performance towards achievement of organization goals.
However, the theory has also been criticized on certain counts. Maslow’s theory of need hierarchy was derived from 18 famous people he perceived as self-actualized. From this narrow sample size, a list of standard characteristics was derived which was applied to all people regardless of culture or tradition (Mcleod, 2020). This is questioned by several analysts on account of its comprehensiveness and therefore, becomes a significant weakness of the theory. The sample size being the personal choice of Abraham Maslow and not a generic outcome from a large population makes the theory to be perceived as biased from a scientific perspective (Kaur, 2013). The theory is also regarded as gender-biased by some researchers as it contains more highly educated male figures than females, thereby questioning the validity of the theory (Mcleod, 2020). The theory also assumes that lower needs must be satisfied to achieve higher needs. However, this phenomenon does not apply to all individuals. In several cases, it has been found that even when the person was poor and could not manage his physiological needs (e.g., Rembrandt and Van Gogh), they still had attained esteem or self-actualization needs (Mcleod, 2020).
Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory also known as the two-factor theory was proposed by a known behavioural scientist, Fredrick Herzberg in 1959. According to Herzberg, several job factors result in job satisfaction also called motivational factors while some factors promote dissatisfaction called the hygiene factors Theory (Ozguner et al., 2014). Herzberg in his theory opined that opposite of satisfaction is ‘no satisfaction’ and opposite of ‘no dissatisfaction’ is dissatisfaction. The theory resembles Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory (Ozguner et al., 2014) where the basic needs such as physiological needs, social and security needs are covered as Hygiene factors and self-actualization needs and self-esteem needs are considered as Motivation factors. The theory also states that an organization must integrate high motivation and high hygiene factors to ensure the best performance from its employees.
A significant benefit offered by this theory is that company, by providing its employees with better working conditions can help them derive motivation from within which organically improves the performance (Osabiya, 2015). The theory urges the organizations to think beyond monetary factors (salary) and identify the other factors that dissatisfy the respective employees and take corrective actions so that motivation levels are not dropped (Ozguner et al., 2014).
However, job satisfaction does not guarantee job productivity. A major weakness surrounding the theory is that not all times can a highly satisfying job lead to a productive employee (Yadav, 2019). Another limitation of the effectiveness of the Herzberg Theory is that job satisfaction is a subjective concept and might have different meanings for different people, for instance, considering the prevailing health crisis where a large part of the population is working from home, there might be some employees who would feel comfortable working in night shift whereas there might also be some others for whom working in a late-night shift might not prove to be as productive (Sanjeev & Surya, 2016). Hence, job satisfaction cannot have a prescribed scale that could be applied to all in general. Herzberg Theory does not account for external factors that may have an impact on the job satisfaction of an employee. Hence, if an employee gets a relatively higher salary offer from a competitor company, he might feel dissatisfied with the present job regardless of the best suitable working conditions provided by the present organization (Yadav, 2019).
McClelland’s Theory of Motivation was developed by David McClelland and his associates. According to this theory, human behaviour is driven by three kinds of needs. These are needed for achievement that is the drive to excel, set standards and strive for success, the need for power that motivates an individual to control others, seek authority and get things done and the need for affiliation which motivates an individual to foster a friendly relationship with people or society at large (Rybnicek et al., 2017). According to this theory, managers in the organization must identify employees who carry traits specific to achievement, power and affiliation and give them related tasks so that the employees can be more productive and contribute better (Rybnicek et al., 2017).
The advantage of McClelland's Theory of Motivation is that employees are given tasks that suit their capabilities the most which lead to improved performance and increased motivation levels (Royle & Hall, 2012). This leaves less room for errors as employees are made to perform the job that they like thereby leaving them satisfied with increased motivation and commitment towards the organization (Royle & Hall, 2012). The criticism surrounding this theory is that it does not take into account the basic physiological needs which are marked as the most essential needs and focus entirely on achievement, affiliation and power needs (Sinha, 2015). Also, making the employees repeatedly do only one kind of job may curtail any prospect of the employee wanting to work in a different function of the organization. The organization might not be able to create as many job opportunities to accommodate employees who share same needs which limits the scope of application of theory on a larger scale in the organization (Sinha, 2015).
The Process Theories are concerned with “how” motivation occurs. These theories focus on what kind of process can influence our motivation and were introduced after the content theories came into practice (Bawa, 2017). The theory outlines various behavioural patterns of individuals in fulfilling their needs and requirements. Amongst Process theories, a well-known theory is that of Vroom’s Expectancy Theory. The theory explains what motivates people to choose one option over another (Parijat & Bagga, 2014). It is based on three factors, Expectancy, which indicates the level an employee is willing to exert in hopes that increased efforts will lead to better results. The second is instrumentality which is the belief that as you perform well, a valued outcome will be received. The third is valence, which shows the importance that an individual associate with the expected outcome (Parijat & Bagga, 2014).
The biggest strength of the theory is that it integrates employee expectations with rewards and incentives. The organization can employ the reward and incentive systems to create an effective workforce for accomplishing organization goals (Parijat & Bagga, 2014). Upon application of the expectancy theory, the drive to do good work and perform well comes organically in employees who are motivated to perform better for achieving target rewards. However, each individual has his/her way of evaluating rewards which limit the scope of the theory as one reward cannot be uniformly applied on all and thus, the managers have to actively engage and identify what are the different motivating factors for different employees (Lloyd & Mertens, 2018). Another reason why the theory sometimes does not give an effective outcome is that there are trust issues between employees and managers because of which the employees may not feel inclined to work even if there is a reward at the end (Lloyd & Mertens, 2018).
Locke’s Goal-setting Theory is a great framework to use when setting goals for oneself or employees. The theory is based on the research that with the right goals both productivity and motivation can be increased (Latham & Locke, 2018). The theory was developed by Locke and Latham who were able to demonstrate that when specific and challenging goals are set coupled with regular feedback on progress, it leads to an increase in productivity and motivation. The theory applies to jobs that are both highly complex or simplistic (Latham & Locke, 2018).
Goal setting is largely responsible for increasing productivity because of several reasons. Firstly, goals keep one focused on what is important (Smith, 2019). Therefore, when an individual gets side-tracked, they can quickly realize that it is a distraction and does not align with one’s goals (Smith, 2019). Secondly, goals make an individual persistent and can especially help one push through difficult times (Smith, 2019). Thirdly goals help one rise to the challenge (Smith, 2019). However, the theory is also marked by certain limitations. First of all, goal-setting can sometimes create a sense of stress and pressure instead of a sense of determination and achievement in some people (Smith, 2019). The focused approach followed during goal setting can often lead to an individual missing out on a genuinely lucrative opportunity (Smith, 2019). Besides, it has been observed that goal-setting does not necessarily mean that the individual will achieve the objective or be as productive as it is being perceived (Smith, 2019).
Adams’ Equity Theory focusses on people's perception of fairness of their work outcomes and inputs. According to equity theory, the felt injustice can lead to anger, dissatisfaction and guilt. The theory proposed by John Stacey Adams takes into account two variables, Input of efforts given by an individual and Output of results achieved (Business Balls, 2019). According to the theory, people would feel underpaid if the output/input ratio is less than that of others. Conversely, people would feel overpaid if the output/input ratio is more than that of others (Business Balls, 2019). The equity theory helps in bringing about uniformity and reducing exploitation in pay amongst those workers or employees who are doing the job of the same nature (Young, 2018). This, in turn, serves as a source of motivation among employees who feel that they are treated equally and fairly. The equity theory also helps foster a good relationship between co-workers thereby reducing ugly competition and dirty politics (Young, 2018). However, the theory has certain limitations as well. The difference in perception between employee and organization on the work done and output received can create dissatisfaction in the employee who feels he has done good work but is still underpaid because the organization thinks he could do better (Parikh, 2019). As different people have different capacities of performance and cannot be uniformly judged purely on the nature of the job because their skills might be different. Thus, the scope of the effectiveness of Equity theory becomes limited in this scenario (Parikh, 2019).
It is the primary responsibility of a manager of any organization to optimize the performance of its team and align them towards achieving business goals. The role of motivation and positive reinforcement becomes extremely important to lead a team of employees. In my opinion, the motivational theories are not "One size fit's all" kind of factors. Each individual is different and is driven by a unique set of goals, expectations and aspirations. To best motivate the employees requires an amalgamation of several motivational concepts. If I were the manager of a diverse workforce, my first task would be to analyse the goals and desires of each employee. I would sit down with my employees individually or observe their work style to assess, what they most desire out of their jobs and can their goals and expectations be aligned with the business vision.
This would give me a clear picture where my employees stand (as per Maslow's Need Hierarchy Model) and it would be easier for me to channel their energies towards moving ahead in the hierarchy flow ultimately achieving self-actualization. For specific department function, such as an organization's sales team, the Vroom's Expectancy theory will be most suitable. I would define targets for sales team and announce rewards and incentives towards the achievement of those tasks to ensure that the employees feel inspired and encouraged to take up bigger business targets and help the organization in achieving desired sales figures. The shop floor level employees who are responsible for doing some kind of job-based on skilled-labour can be driven based on Equity Theory which will make such employees content that they are being paid equally as much as their peers. All the actions and decisions need timely monitoring and review which will enable me to identify any gaps or concerns arising in terms of job dissatisfaction. These gaps will be duly analyzed and corrective actions will be taken on a contingent basis.
To conclude, every organization needs its human resource capital to give their optimum performance to achieve business goals. Motivation and positive reinforcements are the most important factors that can drive an employee to do wonders in their job. Motivation can be understood from several schools of thoughts where content theories which are traditional theories focus on what an employee needs and process theories aim at how the employee can be motivated. Although the essay has been able to highlight several differences between content and process theories, it cannot be concluded that one is better than the other. Both content and process theories offer several advantages and limitations. However, the best way to gain effective outcome is to make judicious use of both kinds of theories by identifying individual and group motivational factors and applying the concepts to achieve the ultimate organization objectives.
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