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Having a motivated workforce

The type of motivation investigated in this study is known as intrinsic motivation, whereby employees are driven by the inherent pleasure and satisfaction they get from work.

The type of motivation investigated in this study is known as intrinsic motivation, whereby employees are driven by the inherent pleasure and satisfaction they get from work.

Low morale costs money. Motivated employees make money. Very often, when a business wants to increase its sales or production, or wants to improve the quality of service being delivered, managers tend to look towards expensive methods.

Very often, when a business wants to increase sales, managers look towards expensive methods

This might include sending employees on extensive training programmes or increasing expenditure on advertising or expensive machinery. While these are essential items within a successful operation, we tend to overlook the most basic of all schemes – having a motivated workforce.

A recent study carried out by Justin Azzopardi, who has an M.Sc in Occupational Psychology, aims to provide a different perspective on how a company’s employee motivation can be increased.

The study, which consisted of a sample of 145 men and 262 women aged 18 to 55, focuses on autonomy, a term that refers to one’s independence and freedom at work with minimal control from superiors.

It specifically aims to find out whether providing employees with autonomy results in an empowered and intrinsically motivated workforce. This is of particular interest when one considers the various positive outcomes that can be beneficial to a company.

These include increased job performance and satisfaction, increased trust and commitment to managers and the organisation itself, a philosophy of positive attitude and a general improvement in the well-being of the workforce.

Such positive factors may suggest the reason for the decrease in absenteeism and employee turnover.

Reference to autonomy in this study is therefore twofold: autonomy support in the workplace and one’s own autonomy orientation. Autonomy support refers to one’s manager providing subordinates with the freedom to make decisions and choices related to their work. This contrasts with employees who work for controlling managers, and who do not have any freedom to work on their own initiative.

Autonomy orientation, similar to a personality trait, refers to one’s preference to work in an environment which favours autonomy support. This is the opposite of somebody who has a controlled orientation which describes an individual who enjoys being led, characterised by financial rewards and deadlines.

Organisations can employ various motivational strategies in order to enjoy the benefits that result from a motivated workforce. In turn, this can have a positive impact on the company’s productivity, sales as well as profits.

It also suggests that during recruitment, selection panels can identify individuals’ motivational orientations and assess whether they enjoy working independently or not – depending on the requirements of the position.

It is proposed that empowerment has a very strong link with intrinsic motivation. One cannot become motivated if not empowered first.

Empowerment can be described as a combination of autonomy, meaning, competence and impact. Employees become empowered when they have the freedom to work independently, have choices and make decisions, when their work is meaningful, when they feel competent executing their work and when they feel that their work has an influence on the organisation as a whole.

The type of motivation investigated in this study was known as intrinsic motivation, whereby employees are driven by the inherent pleasure and satisfaction they get from work.

The study revealed that having an auto­nomous orientation is not synonymous with feeling empowered and becoming intrinsically motivated. This implies that individuals who have an autonomous orientation will not automatically feel inherently motivated if the right conditions are not present.

Findings suggest that offering employees adequate autonomy support should contribute to their feelings of empowerment. Individuals with this type of orientation also seek out working environments that are autonomy supportive. Organisations can exploit orientation to their advantage and use this notion in their recruitment procedures.

For instance, if a position calls for someone to work independently and on their own initiative, selection may include a test which determines the person’s orientation. Contrarily, if an individual is required to work submissively under the control of management, then it is futile to employ somebody bearing an autonomous orientation.

Understanding motivational orientations can be helpful in recruitment. Tests such as the one used in this study – known as the General Causality Orientations Scale – can differentiate between individuals’ motivational preferences, such as people who are motivated by the work itself or simply by financial rewards. Some positions require highly autonomous individuals. Other job roles call for people who wish to be controlled by financial incentives and deadlines, while other positions might require individuals who enjoy being dependent on their managers and being led by them.

Therefore, interviewing panels can use motivational orientation scales to identify the right candidates needed for positions that require a particular motivational trait. Apart from recruitment, motivational tests can be used as selection criteria for training programmes.

There are many advantages associated with having an intrinsically motivated workforce. Contemporary organisations may want to consider adopting autonomy supportive practices at work that may provide opportunities to enhance empowerment and intrinsic motivation to reap the benefits this study proposes, such as increased performance.

This article was submitted by CSB Group.

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