Motivation Theories and Millennial Worker

Understanding the factors that lead to employees committing to organizational mission and vision is critical to business growth. Numerous scholars have formulated theories, which explain the things that inspire workers. Osland et al. cite organizational environment, capacity, and motivation as three essential drivers of employee performance (47). Some established motivation theories include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and Herzberg’s two-factor theory among others. Ozguner and Ozguner allege that different generations of the workforce drive motivation from diverse factors (209).

The aspects that inspire Baby Boomers do not necessarily motivate the millennials. This paper will discuss two established motivation theories and compare them to a contemporary school of thought in management and motivation.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

According to this theory, individuals have a set of needs that are organized based on their order of urgency and significance. Employees work in a systematic way to realize these needs, starting from the least to the highest (Ozguner and Ozguner 209). This theory holds that failure to achieve one of the needs, which are lower in the hierarchy, may hinder the attainment of others as one scales the ladder. Maslow’s theory groups employees’ needs into two sets, which are psychological and growth.

The inability to meet the psychological needs may lead to challenges in employee development. In an organizational setting, this theory recommends that managers provide a stable working environment and make sure that workers are well remunerated. Ozguner and Ozguner state that employees are motivated if paid according to their role in a company (210). Moreover, institutional leadership ought to guarantee job security to their workers. It would be difficult for employees to pursue professional growth in an insecure working environment.

Competitive wages and job security may help to satisfy psychological needs. However, organizational leaders must also consider the growing needs of employees. As per Ozguner and Ozguner, workers aspire to develop a sense of belonging to a company (211). They also crave to safeguard their esteem and achieve self-actualization. Managers must ensure that these needs are satisfied. Acknowledging employees’ contribution and promoting those that perform exemplary can help to meet esteem needs. Additionally, providing training and development opportunities to employees may assist them to attain self-actualization.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg analyzed the concept of motivation from a different angle. He carried out a study that identified the factors, which pleased and disgruntled employees. This theory concluded that “aspects of work environment that satisfy employees are very different from those that dissatisfy them” (Ozguner and Ozguner 213). The theorist termed the factors that did not please employees as hygiene since they depended on circumstances in which a job was executed and had nothing to do with the work itself.

These factors include working conditions, security at workplaces, supervision, organizational policies, and remuneration. The two-factor theory argues that it would be difficult for an organization to motivate employees without improving their working conditions (Ozguner and Ozguner 214). For instance, workers are likely to perform dismally if harassed or operating in a horrible working environment. Therefore, organizational leaders must ensure that staff operates in a positive environment. For instance, instead of managers being highhanded, they should allow employees to decide on matters that affect their areas of specialization.

Herzberg referred to features that are inherent to a job as motivators. They included recognition, growth opportunities, accomplishment, and enhanced responsibilities. The two-factor theory argues that motivators comprise of the conditions that inspire employees, leading to their improved performance (Ozguner and Ozguner 215). It acknowledges that career development and achievement are some of the elements that enable organizations to retain experienced employees. In other words, these factors serve as essential motivators to many workers. Most personnel prefer challenging tasks. The two-factor theory holds that institutions that encourage employees to try demanding assignments are likely to maintain a motivated workforce.

Modern Thought in Management and Motivation

The modern school of thought in management and motivation contravenes Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. According to Maslow’s theory, employees must meet their needs in a systematic order. The theory fails to appreciate that at times, workers may have a set of needs that require satisfying concurrently (Khorasani and Almasifard 135). The modern views on management and motivation acknowledge that employees have varied needs that must be fulfilled instantaneously regardless of their order of priority. Paying attention to a single need and ignoring the others may not motivate workers.

Today, managers encounter challenges dealing with a workforce that comprises individuals with a sense of entitlement (Khorasani and Almasifard 137). According to Calk and Patrick, contemporary workers view themselves as special and trust that they can accomplish anything (37). Therefore, modern theories on management and motivation encourage organizational leaders to align job specifications with employee values. That way, an organization is assured of motivating its workers, thus reducing cases of employee turnover.

One of the weaknesses of Herzberg’s two-factor theory is that it used standard measures to determine the factors that motivate employees. The current school of thought on management and motivation holds that employees are different. Therefore, the factors that motivate one worker may not automatically inspire the others. Today, managers are advised to identify and address the needs of individual employees to motivate them. Contemporary principles of management argue that not all workers submit to the universal hierarchy of needs. For instance, semi-skilled staff may not yearn for self-actualization. Thus, managers should distinguish employees to ensure that they meet their unique needs.

Motivating Millennial Workers

One of the challenges of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is that it does not consider the differences that are inherent in various generations. Calk and Patrick maintain that the needs of Millennials are not hierarchical (134). Therefore, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory may not be effective in motivating this generation of employees. Technological development has resulted in the deconstruction of the hierarchy of needs.

Millennials desire to achieve all their needs simultaneously regardless of their order of urgency (Calk and Patrick 37). Therefore, the application of Maslow’s theory may be detrimental to this generation. Herzberg’s two-factor theory helps managers to evaluate employee satisfaction. Nevertheless, the theory is ineffective in motivating millennials because it advocates the use of standard measures to assess staff contentment. It becomes difficult for a company to address the individual needs of all millennials.


Scholars have come up with varied theories, which analyze the factors that contribute to employee motivation. Two of these theories are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Maslow’s theory maintains that employees’ needs are hierarchical and must be realized systematically. Herzberg’s theory identifies hygiene and motivators as the two categories of factors that disgruntle and inspire employees respectively. These two theories of motivation are criticized for using general standards to evaluate factors that motivate employees. They are ineffective in motivating millennials because their needs vary. Moreover, millennials strive to achieve multiple needs concurrently rather than hierarchically.

Works Cited

Calk, Russell, and Angela Patrick. “Millennials Through the Looking Glass: Workplace Motivating Factors.” The Journal of Business Inquiry, vol. 16, no. 2, 2017, pp. 131-139.

Khorasani, Sasan Torabzadeh, and Maryam Almasifard. “Evolution of Management Theory Within 20 century: A Systematic Overview of Paradigm Shifts in management.” International Review of Management and Marketing, vol. 7, no. 3, 2017, pp. 134-137.

Osland, Joyce S, et al. Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach. 8th ed., Pearson, 2006.

Ozguner, Zeynep, and Mert Ozguner. “A managerial Point of View on the Relationship Between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg’s Dual Factor Theory.” International Journal of Business and Social Science, vol. 5, no. 7, 2014, pp. 207-215.