Needs-Based Motivational Theory and Acquired-Needs Model

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 2
Words: 601
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

The Acquired-Needs Model in The Workplace

David McClelland came up with the acquired needs theory that categorized employees into three groups based on their dominant motivations: achievement, power, and affiliation. Employees may have all three motivations in every workplace but present one as the dominant motivator (Khurana & Joshi, 2017). Some employees are driven by a desire to achieve mastery of their trade, and they belong to the achievement group. They want to accomplish assigned tasks and often prefer working alone. Employees whose dominant motivator is power feel a need to be in positions where they can influence, encourage or teach others. These employees like to win, are competitive, and enjoy recognition and status (Khurana & Joshi, 2017). The affiliation group has employees who need to make social connections with other employees and nurture those relationships. David McClelland’s acquired needs theory is relevant in building a conducive workplace environment that brings the best out of all employees as they serve in positions that best suit their dominant motivations.

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Building A Work Environment Upon David McClelland’s Acquired Needs Model

The first step in creating a work environment centered around David McClelland’s acquired needs model is identifying which employees have the three dominant motivators in the acquired needs model (Khurana & Joshi, 2017). The second step is to structure a leadership approach that considers the categorization of the staff based on their dominant motivators. With this in mind, tasks, assignments, and working groups can be developed based on the needs of each team member. When employees are given tasks that match their needs, they are happy and motivated and stay engaged with their tasks.

For instance, employees whose dominant motivation is affiliation would work best in a group that would offer them a sense of belonging. Such employees should be considered for team tasks. Team members whose dominant motivator is affiliation do not like to assume the risks of working alone. When giving them feedback, it is important to emphasize their good working relationship with their colleagues. Employees whose motivation is power would work best when placed in charge. They should be taken through training to sharpen their leadership skills and put in charge of goal-oriented tasks. When giving them feedback during appraisals, it is crucial to be direct with them as they appreciate a candid approach (Khurana & Joshi, 2017). The third category is employees motivated by achievement. These would do well in challenging tasks since they thrive in tasks where they are challenged. Such employees look forward to overcoming demanding tasks. They appreciate balanced feedback during appraisal where they are clear on their strengths and weakness during the task.

Reward Strategies Based Around David McClelland’s Acquired Needs Model

Some of the reward strategies that can be effective with the acquired needs model include public commendations. Employees with power as a dominant motivator would be more receptive to public praise and appreciation for their roles. Employees who are more inclined towards achievement as a dominant motivator would appreciate a letter of appreciation or a handwritten note for a job well done. Employees who belong to the affiliation group and often work on tasks in a group can be rewarded with a group trip and time off to build on their social connections with fellow team members of similar motivations. Work-life balance considerations are critical for all employees regardless of their dominant motivations (Khurana & Joshi, 2017). Despite the best efforts to create a healthy work environment, tensions, stress, and friction are inevitable. Ensuring that employees get significant time away from work to reset and recharge is essential in maintaining a work-life balance.


Khurana, H., & Joshi, V. (2017). Motivation and its impact on individual performance: a comparative study based on McClelland’s three need model. Clear International Journal of Research in Commerce & Management, 8(7).