Gaps in Employee Motivation Analysis

Subject: Employee Relationships
Pages: 15
Words: 4196
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: PhD


The relationship between employees and employers is influenced by how systems are designed to work in the business environment (Steers, Mowday & Shapiro, 2004). Employee motivation is determined by how employers treat employees. Therefore, it is important to motivate employees as one of the ways of increasing productivity (Mak & Sockel, 2001). Incorporating the concept of fun constitutes one of the most effective strategies that a firm can use in fostering employee motivation. Human resource managers should ensure that their organizations’ operations are designed as a system. The systems theory underscores the importance of adopting a holistic approach to running the organization (Gelso, 2006). Incorporating the systems approach in an organization’s HRM practices plays an essential role in considering human capital as one of the core components or subsystems in promoting optimal performance. The systems theory is essential in establishing a link between the human and organizational phenomena (Amagoh, 2008). This paper evaluates various studies that deal with employee motivation. The paper also provides a literature review of the current information regarding employee motivation. In addition, the paper expands research questions that tackle some of the unspecified elements in employee motivation.

Literature Review

Formerly, employees were regarded as merely a factor of production in terms of their labor in the production of goods and services. However, the Hawthorne Studies, which were carried out by Elton Mayo in the mid-1920s to early 1930s revealed financial remuneration was not the sole motivator for employees and their attitudes influenced their behavior (Dickson, 1973). These findings altered the perception towards employees and led to the development of a human relations line of administration, which focused on the needs and incentives of employees (Bedeian, 1993). Various theories have been used to achieve this objective. Maslow’s need hierarchy theory had five major levels of human needs and proposed motivation was achieved if the lower level needs were satisfied before the higher-level needs (Goble, 2004). Herzberg’s two-factor theory classified motivation into motivators and hygiene factors. The motivators, which included acknowledgment and accomplishment yielded job contentment. Conversely, hygiene factors, which included salaries and job self-assurance produced job discontent (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Vroom’s expectancy theory argued employees’ effort yielded performance, which in turn gave rise to rewards. Therefore, positive rewards result in high levels of motivation and vice versa (Rynes, Gerhart & Minette, 2004). Adams’ equity theory asserted that workers aspired to impartiality between themselves and their coworkers and fairness were realized when the proportion of worker outcomes over inputs was the same for all employees (Adams, 1965). Skinner’s reinforcement theory, on the other hand, maintained employees’ activities yielded positive upshots were likely to be reiterated while actions that caused negative results were likely to be shunned (Skinner, 1953).

The systems theory emphasizes the significance of establishing a balance amongst the various subsystems and internal components. However, to be effective in applying the systems theory, HR managers must develop a comprehensive understanding of the employees’ values and preferences. Raiden, Dainty, and Naele (2009) corroborate that the systems approach “seeks to define and develop an understanding of the system and related processes within which the actors’ behavior occurs” (p. 20).

Karl, Peluchette, Hall-Indiana, and Harland (2007) suggest that HR managers should consider several elements, which include personality, experienced fun, related consequences, attitude towards fun, and emotional dissonance in their pursuit to entrench the concept of fun in the workplace. Employees who experience fun in the workplace tend to be characterized by minimal dissonance and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, employees who experience fun in the workplace tend to report a high level of job satisfaction (Karl et al., 2007). Therefore, understanding the employees’ behavior is fundamental in integrating fun as a part of the elements in fostering a high level of employee motivation. Integrating the systems approach can enable an organization’s management team to understand the employees’ behavior. The systems theory enables HR managers to deal with the issues that arise in managing complex entities such as organizations. Integrating the systems theory improves the efficiency with which organizations manage the different organizational aspects such as machines, people, technology, processes, and money (Shaw, Holland, Kawalek, Snowdon & Warboys, 2007).

A study by Lindner (1998) sought to grade the weight of motivational dynamics of employees at The Ohio State University. These dynamics included job assurance, empathy on personal issues, devotion, interesting work, pleasant working conditions, diplomatic chastisement, decent wages, upgrades and growth, a sense of belonging, appreciation of work done (Lindner, 1998). Information was obtained from the workers through questionnaires. It was observed that interesting work ranked the highest followed by decent pay and appreciation of the work done. It is vital to explore ways of using fun at work to motivate employees and improve productivity at work.


Description of Relevant Studies

Rainlall, S. (2004). A review of employee motivation theories and their implications for employee retention within organizations. The Journal of American Academy of Business, 9(2), 21-26.

Research Problem

The article expounds on employee motivation theories. Such theories are important in increasing productivity in different organizations. Many rights and freedoms of employees have been undermined by the management of many institutions leading to boycotts and go-slows that have subverted productivity. The research problem in this article is how employees can be motivated to enhance productivity.

Research Purpose

The article by Rainlall (2004) provides a synthesis of employee motivation theories. It also explains how employee motivation affects employee retention and other behaviors within organizations. According to the theory, many people in leadership positions have failed to play their roles as expected. Most of the wrangles in the workplace are cultivated by poor remuneration and poor treatment of employees. The stress that builds up after such wrangles affects all the operations of the business. The author of this article points out how such problems can be avoided.

Design and Elements

In reviewing the diverse employee theories, Rainlall (2004) uses the literature survey methodology. The literature survey focuses on the various theories of employee motivation. The author assesses how the various theories on employee motivation affect employee retention. The literature survey methodology assesses how the employee motivation theories are linked to various human resource elements such as job design, employee supervision and management, diversity management, work-life balance, employee training and development, and job characteristics. The methodology is operationalized by evaluating the opinion of different scholars on the theories of employee motivation and retention. The data is analyzed by undertaking a comparative analysis of the opinion of the various scholars. Subsequently, the article provides different perspectives on the concept of employee motivation and retention.

Threats to Validity

One of the threats to validity is bias during data collection, which can affect the cogency of the research. The problem is tackled by confirming data with the sources and researching from credible sources. Thus, the literature survey methodology is implemented by sourcing data from well-established online databases such as EBSCO, ProQuest, and the Social Sciences Research Network. Using these sources increases the validity of the data collected because most of the sources contained in the online databases are from books, periodicals, and other peer-reviewed sources.

Findings and Implications

The findings from the research illustrated why it is important to retain critical employees and how many employees can be retained in an organization. Different theories of motivation such as the need theory of motivation are discussed. The findings depict these theories apply in real-life situations. The research implies employee motivation has a substantial impact on the commitment in an organization.

Evaluation of the Study

The research has undertaken extensive comparative analysis on the theories advanced by different scholars on the concept of employee motivation and retention. By using the literature survey methodology, the paper has evaluated different perspectives on the concept of employee motivation and retention. Subsequently, the study has overcome the threat of generalizability by not relying on the perspective of a single author, hence increasing the reliability and validity of the findings.

Lin, H. (2007). Effects of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation on employee knowledge sharing intentions. Journal of Information Science, 33(2), 135-149.

Research Problem

The article by Lin (2007) elucidates extrinsic and intrinsic motivation on employee knowledge intentions. Extrinsic motivation occurs when employees are asked to engage in activities to earn a reward. Intrinsic motivation involves motivating an employee personally using different ways. The research question in this article is the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on employee knowledge sharing intentions.

Research Purpose

The purpose of the research is to provide knowledge on the best way to motivate employees to carry out their duties.

Type of Design and Elements

The study adopts a mixed research design by integrating both qualitative and quantitative research design. The study focuses on the different aspects that contribute to intrinsic and extrinsic employee motivation, thus fostering knowledge and information sharing. The study assesses the sources of extrinsic motivation such as reward and reciprocal benefits. Conversely, the intrinsic rewards entail emotional benefits such as enjoyment and knowledge self-efficacy (Stam, 2009). The methodology is implemented by integrating the survey research design using questionnaires as the data collection instrument. The survey considers 172 employees selected from 50 large entities in Taiwan. The data is analyzed using a descriptive analysis approach.

Threats to Validity

The main threat to the validity of the research conducted is the threat of generalization. In a bid to deal with this challenge, the study has selected a relatively large sample [172 employees] selected from different organizations [50 firms]. Subsequently, the sample selected is adequately representative of the prevailing perception of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as a catalyst for information and knowledge sharing.

Findings and Implications

The findings from the research show many employees prefer extrinsic motivation. Organizations without employee motivation report difficulty in sharing information accompanied by sluggishness in completing tasks. The research indicates the importance of motivation, particularly extrinsic motivation.

Evaluation of the Study

The study makes a compelling case on the types of motivation coupled with how employees can be motivated. The adoption of the descriptive approach has enabled the study to obtain the opinion of different respondents on the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation. By using the random sampling method, the study has eliminated biases that come from recognizing the efforts of a few employees. Thus, the findings are important in guiding business entities in recognizing the general efforts of employees.

Nishii, L., Lepak, D., & Schneider, B. (2008). Employee attributions of the “why” of HR practices: Their effects on employee attitudes and behaviors, and customer satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 61(3), 503-545.

Research Problem

This article underscores the existence of bad attitudes and behaviors among employees as a major challenge in organizational sustainability. The authors cite ineffective management as the main cause of the problem. The research question is how the attitude of employees and their behavior affects the organization (Nishii, Lepak & Schneider, 2008).

Research Purpose

The purpose of the research is to enlighten the human resource managers on the different HR practices that can be implemented in promoting the development of a positive employee attitude.

Types of Design and Elements

The study is based on a mixed research approach, which hinges on qualitative and quantitative research designs. The journal focuses on the elements of employee satisfaction, organizational citizenship behavior, and commitment. Data is collected qualitatively by conducting a survey on 1,100 department managers and 4,500 employees selected from different companies. One of the core instruments used in data analysis entails the 5-point Likert scale. This instrument enables the researcher to condense and manage the voluminous descriptive data collected. The data is analyzed using descriptive statistics by calculating the mean and standard deviations of the different research variables.

Threats to Validity

The threat of originality of the data cannot be ignored in conducting research studies. The validity of the study is improved by incorporating a sizeable research sample, hence improving generalization. Additionally, the threat to validity is eliminated by undertaking focus group interviews, which improve the relevance and credibility of the data used in the study.

Findings and Implications

It is shown that most companies that fail to maximize their profits attribute the failure to poor relations between the HR team and employees. The lack of interaction within the organization reduces the enthusiasm of employees leading to the decentralization of activities. Thus, managers must create a high level of organizational citizenship and satisfaction. This move will improve the likelihood of nurturing positive employee attitudes.

Evaluation of the Study

By incorporating an extensive research sample and the descriptive research method, the study has gathered diverse opinions on the aspects that contribute to positive employee attitude such as an effective reward system. Poor remuneration and lack of motivation are some of the factors that cause employee dissatisfaction.

Mayer, R., & Gavin, M. (2005). Trust in management and performance: Who minds the shop while the employees watch the boss? Academy of Management Journal, 48(5), 874-888.

Research Problem

The journal article explains most of the things that happen in the modern business setup. The research problem revolves around motivation and trust issues between the employees and their employers (Mayer & Gavin, 2005). Lack of motivation causes employees to work hard only when their employers are around and do shoddy work in the absence of their employers.

Purpose of Research

The purpose of the research is to show how trust is related to the motivation of workers and how organizations are affected by these issues. The research aims at showing how trust can be used to build motivation in an organization.

Design and Elements

The study adopts the qualitative research design by surveying a sample of small non-union manufacturing firms in the US. The study entails a survey on a sample of 333 employees selected from different companies. The study focuses on the various elements that affect the employees’ trust, viz. integrity, benevolence, and ability. The data collected is analyzed quantitatively by undertaking an exploratory factor analysis [EFA]. Additionally, the analysis integrates descriptive statistics and correlations. By using these instruments, the study has improved the quality of the research findings.

Threats to Validity

The validity of the study is enhanced by selecting a representative research sample. Thus, the findings of the study are generalizable. Additionally, validity is improved by using effective testing and measurement model such as the Confirmatory Factor Analytic model. Moreover, the study’s validity is improved by undertaking extensive model testing using the best-fit model. Thus, the study has assessed the different aspects that enhance trust in the workplace.

Findings and Implications

The findings from the research indicate trust issues are associated with the poor performance of the employees at the workplace. The research also shows productivity increases in areas where employees interact with the section managers. Addressing these issues is likely to increase productivity in various organizations.

Evaluation of the Study

The study provides compelling evidence on the significance of trust and motivation in the workplace. Employees are uncomfortable in places where they are not trusted. On the contrary, employers also monitor their employees due to the lack of trust. Working under the scrutiny of employers makes employees uncomfortable hence lowering their productivity.

Combs, J., Liu, Y., Hall, A., & Ketchen, D. (2006). How much do high‐performance work practices matter? A meta‐analysis of their effects on organizational performance. Personnel Psychology, 59(3), 501-528.

Research Problem

The above journal article illustrates the costs associated with improving the performance of activities in an organization (Combs, Liu, Hall & Ketchen, 2006). The research question is the extent to which high-performance practices matter. The article speculates how much an organization is likely to spend on implementing different motivational theories.

Research Purpose

The purpose of the research is to assess the relationship between high-performance work practices such as employee motivation and overall organizational performance. Thus, the research aims at enlightening managers and business owners on the benefits of high-performance practices at work.

Types of Design and Elements

The design employed in this article is a meta-analysis. The methodology is applied by sourcing data from the past literature. A sample of 92 past studies on HPWPs is considered from which 22 practices are selected using the random sampling method. The meta-analysis methodology is implemented by undertaking quantitative analysis using the t-test as the main research instrument.

Threats to Validity

Threats to validity include originality and quality of the data since the study mainly relies on secondary research. However, a strong meta-analysis works well for the research as it helps in establishing trends and uniformity in the provided data. Moreover, the meta-analysis design increases the study’s validity because it selects a sample that is systematically representative of the past studies on HPWPs. By drawing research from a representative sample, the study eliminates the likelihood of making the wrong conclusions.

Findings and Implications

The findings of the research indicate that many organizations fear paying off bonuses and rewards to workers. However, such organizations face employee strikes from time to time. The strikes lead to greater losses as compared to the cost of rewarding employees. The overall implication of the study is that the benefits of rewarding employees outweigh the cost of neglecting them.

Evaluation of the Study

The study concludes that any organization that rewards its employees appropriately has nothing to lose in terms of profitability. By taking into account the different elements that comprise the HPWPs using the meta-analysis methodology and t-tests, the study has generated a strong conclusion on the relationship amongst the different HPWP on organizational performance.

Literature Review on Employee Motivation

Different organizations engaged in various undertakings. Each employee in a given organization has assigned duties and responsibilities. In some organizations, the management is not concerned with the affairs of the employees (Gagne & Deci, 2005). The employees are ‘demotivated’ because of this factor causing them to work inefficiently and lack the commitment to their organizations (Locke & Latham, 2004). Such situations affect the productivity of a company (Oldham & Hackman, 2010). The management has different options it can apply to increase the morale of the employees towards work. Rainlall (2004) proposes various motivation theories in the workplace that have a substantial impact on employee motivation and their commitment to an organization.

Employee motivation is one of the ways an organization can increase productivity (Kanfer, Wanberg & Kantrowitz, 2001). Therefore, many employers have implemented this knowledge by rewarding employees differently. However, in the mind of many employers, the motivation of one employee may lead to the motivation of others, which is not the case in many institutions because some rewards are unjustified (Leete, 2000). Some individual awards breed enmity in the workplace. Lin (2007) addresses the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on employee knowledge sharing intentions.

Many organizations experience employee unrest from time to time, which paralyze the operations of the organizations (Locke & Latham, 2002). In addition, companies incur heavy financial losses during these periods. Most employers have the impression unrests arise due to the need for better monetary compensation (Harlow, 2009). However, most of these unrests arise due to employees’ attitudes towards their work and poor working conditions. Lack of satisfaction at work often drives them to plan such unrests (Egan, Yang & Bartlett, 2004). The study by Nishii et al. (2008) shows poor relationships between the HR team and other employees play a substantial role in reducing the enthusiasm of employees, which leads to poor performance. Consequently, it leads to poor services and customer dissatisfaction.

Before employment, qualifications for prospective employees are required to determine their suitability for specific jobs. Thereafter, only suitably qualified candidates get the jobs (Nohria, Groysberg & Lee, 2008). Showing trust motivates employees increasing a healthy workplace. Many employers have the illusion that being hard on employees assures better work (Erdogan & Bauer, 2005). However, such an illusion is false and employees only work hard when they are under supervision. Therefore, employers need to understand employees’ need for freedom in the workplace.

The overall performance of organizations depends on how employers treat their employees (Meyer, Becker & Vandenberghe, 2004). Individual practices of employees are governed by the efforts set aside by the organization. Employers must invest and be ready to spend part of the organization’s resources if they expect to reap maximum productivity from their employees (Martin-Cruz, Martin-Perez & Trevilla-Cantero, 2009). Many employers are not conversant with the cost of employee motivation and some may take it as a waste of resources (Mayer & Gavin, 2005). However, the benefits of having motivated employees surpass the costs incurred in motivating the employees. It is, therefore, necessary to take the time to study the advantages and the disadvantages of motivating employees (Chiang & Jang, 2008). Combs et al. (2006) provide the estimated cost of implementing various motivational theories in motivating employees.

A thorough evaluation of the five articles leads to the knowledge that employee motivation is vital to the success of an organization, which includes high levels of productivity and customer satisfaction. The following five questions may also arise from the studies. What are the benefits of employee motivation? Why is extrinsic motivation preferred to intrinsic motivation? How can customer satisfaction be enhanced and what is the importance of customer satisfaction to an organization? How can trust be developed in an organization? What are the benefits and shortcomings of employee motivation to an organization? Providing answers to all these questions will fill the literature gap in employee motivation and act as a comprehensive guide to help employers obtain optimum productivity from their employers.

Research Question to Address the Gap

This section advances a research question that tackles one of the unspecified issues from the above literature review.

Research Question

  • What strategies can be used to enhance employee satisfaction?
  • What is the importance of customer satisfaction to an organization?

The purpose of the research is to illustrate what a business entity stands to lose when it fails to handle its employees properly. The lack of employee satisfaction might affect an organization’s capacity to attract and retain customers (Lin, 2007). Alternatively, a high level of employees’ satisfaction improves the effectiveness and efficiency with which they serve and attend to customers (Nishii et al., 2008).

Design and Elements

The study will apply the mixed research design. The design will be applied by integrating empirical and descriptive designs. The descriptive research design will be implemented by undertaking surveys to understand the current trends in human resource management practices. By comparing the findings of the empirical and descriptive studies, the study will contribute significantly to the development of theory. Data will be analyzed using qualitative and quantitative techniques. Thus, the data will be numeric and theoretical (Wacker, 1998). The numeric data will be used to calculate financial losses thereby establishing the percentage of loss that a company incurs due to the employees’ bad attitude and lack of motivation.

Strengths and Limitations

By integrating the mixed research design, the study will develop the causal relationship between employee behavior and the implemented human resource management practices. Thus, the likelihood of the findings using the mixed research design contributing to theory will be improved substantially (Ellis & Levy, 2008). However, relying on empirical data might limit the credibility of the study’s findings. This limitation will be eliminated by sourcing empirical data from credible libraries and databases.

Improving the Quality of the Study

As indicated above, the threats to validity will have no room for the research. Certainty, clarity, and keenness will be used to beat any threats to the validity of the study. The chosen design will involve describing the variables as presented in the research. The data will be analyzed quantitatively using descriptive statistics approaches. The analysis method will contribute to the development of an effective understanding of the strength of the relationship amongst the research variables.

Data Analysis

Statistical analysis tools such as the t-tests, correlation analysis, and the Likert scale will be used to determine the differences in customer satisfaction as a function of employee motivation. Data analysis will further be enhanced using graphs, tables, and percentages. The two methods will be expected to bring out the distinction between the effects of motivation and customer satisfaction. In addition, the mode of data presentation will be easy to read and interpret.

How Data Collected Will Answer the Research Question

By undertaking correlation analysis, the study will answer the research questions effectively. For example, the study will lead to the development of the impact of integrating fun in strategic HR practices on a firm’s profitability. Furthermore, the ANOVA tests will be used in determining the relationship between the research variables, viz. employee and customer satisfaction, on the organization’s overall performance.


A review of the literature has shown that employee motivation is fundamental to the success of an organization. However, a firm needs to incur some costs in a bid to motivate its employees. It is recommended that employers should find out these costs and be prepared to incur them for the overall good of the entire organization.


The productivity of a company depends on the enthusiasm of its employees. On the other hand, employee motivation is determined by how the employer treats the employee and the employee’s attitude towards work. Therefore, employers need to prioritize the motivation of employees as one of the ways of increasing productivity.


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