The Relationship Between Motivation and Efficiency

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 35
Words: 7200
Reading time:
29 min
Study level: Master

Abstract

This dissertation discusses the determinants of workplace motivation and efficiency, as well as the relationship between the two. To that end, the author has conducted a cross-sectional survey of 100 workers in the food industry to analyse their motivation and collect their opinions on a variety of potential motivating factors.

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They find that high intrinsic motivation is associated with low extrinsic motivation (the opposite is also true), with the former increasing and the latter declining along with one’s job level. Additionally, they discovered a small correlation between extrinsic motivation and the improvement factors used, which may become more significant once these factors are isolated. There may also be a slight negative relationship between intrinsic motivation and these factors, though it is likely not significant.

Overall, the study concludes that companies in the industry should focus on short-term goals for most employees, such as pay and stability. Additionally, it creates numerous opportunities for further research into the motivation-related determinants of performance as well as measures such as transparency and flexible work hours.

Introduction

Efficiency, a term that is often used interchangeably with productivity though it has the added connotation of minimizing the resources used for a task, is generally considered a critical metric in most companies, as it defines how well they use their resources. Businesses with high efficiency can generate the same performance as their inefficient counterparts at a substantially lower cost. As such, most firms implement a variety of measures that aim to improve their competencies and reduce costs.

However, some aspects of efficiency may be underresearched, particularly in relation to human resources, as noted by Yu et al. (2018). The trait consists of a variety of small improvements, which will typically come from employees at all levels in the company. However, it is challenging to generate an environment and culture that motivate workers to contribute to the generation of these ideas. Additional research into the relationship between employee motivation and efficiency, both on the personal and the overall business level, is warranted.

Efficiency is particularly important in the food industry because of the nature of the products that it produces. Most foods have a short shelf life and are best used while as fresh as possible, whether in production or consumption. As a result, it is critical for most food companies (with the possible exception of preserved food manufacturers) to save as much time as possible in creating their products and delivering them to customers.

Efficiency is essential for the achievement of time savings through the elimination of unnecessary procedures and the optimisation of existing ones. As such, the problem of the conditions necessary to generate efficiency is particularly prominent in the food industry. This study will explore it by surveying employees within the sector and exploring their motivation as well as opinion on productivity.

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Motivation, a combination of the factors that influence employee desire to work, is the focus of this paper, particularly as it pertains to efficiency and opportunities to improve it. The first key construct and assumption behind the research is that employees who demonstrate a higher degree of motivation will perform more efficiently, accomplishing more work in the same time frame.

The second construct suggests that it is possible to meaningfully improve employee motivation through external incentives, such as money or promotion opportunities, thereby increasing their efficiency. The research will not discuss the current efficiency of companies in the food industry because of the complexity of the topic and the difficulty of an objective and numeric evaluation. To test the constructs, the study will attempt to answer the following questions:

  1. What determinants of motivation are the most significant in the food industry?
  2. What are the most valuable motivation improvement opportunities in the food industry?
  3. What efforts to improve employee motivation will result in the most significant efficiency improvements?

Literature Review

Efficiency

Organisational efficiency is a loosely-defined term due to the variety of interpretations that can be applied to it. Per Machado and Davim (2017), there are at least fourteen recognised definitions that can be classified as purposes, elements, or results of an organisation’s work. This paper will focus on efficiency as a starting point which every competitive business will attempt to attain.

As such, it will analyse the efforts that food companies make to avoid wastage of time or energy to obtain advantages over other industry members. In this context, Kucuk Yilmaz and Flouris (2019) claim that efficiency is a critical determinant of the business’s overall performance and note that it is adaptive rather than being an immutable part of the structure. As such, it is important to consider the changing business environment and the measures that businesses are taking actively rather than ones stated in their documentation.

It is essential to adapt the research to the food industry and its specific efficiency needs. Shah, Bhat and Davim (2014) note that their primary concerns are reductions in energy consumption, improved food safety, and superior food characteristics. For the purposes of the former, it is necessary to refine production processes and reduce unnecessary wastage.

These objectives can be achieved through a variety of small improvements that are suggested and executed by employees. As noted by the Information Resources Management Association (2019), it is necessary to secure active worker participation to achieve this objective and reach overall efficiency. Employees have to be committed to the organisation’s work to suggest improvements and execute strategies successfully independently. However, this commitment does not occur in every case, and it is essential to study its determinants.

Motivation

It is possible to define motivation is several different manners, as it is similar to efficiency in its abstract nature. Robert et al. (2019) provide the meaning “internal forces that direct, energise, and sustain work-related effort’ (p. 62). Tasso (2018) supplies a more specific definition that focuses on reasons that are not money and status, such as the pursuit of goals, the curiosity of learning and other internal beliefs.

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With that said, this definition implies that motivation is solely defined by the person’s character, which is not necessarily correct. Lorincová et al. (2019) conclude that salary, workplace atmosphere, and the team can improve one’s motivation to perform and submit new ideas. As such, the business can influence employee motivation, though the extent to which such a practice can be effective will be discussed later.

It can be challenging to evaluate the relationship between efficiency and small proposals by the employees, particularly in businesses with inferior knowledge management frameworks. However, Yu, Gudergan and Chen (2018) claim that motivated employees produce higher-quality work in general, willingly undertaking challenging but productive tasks and addressing them with creativity and persistence.

On the other hand, Ganta (2014) finds that employees with low motivation will avoid difficult tasks, try to minimise the work that they have to do, and seek opportunities to quit. As such, businesses both gain from improving employee motivation and are harmed if they choose to neglect it. With that said, the relationship between motivation and performance is not necessarily linear.

Heckhausen and Heckhausen (2018) suggest that instead of maximising the characteristic, businesses should seek an optimal level that declines as the task becomes more complex. Overmotivation is also a problem because of the pressure it can put on employees, and to avoid it, it is necessary to attain an understanding of the components of motivation.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Motivation aspects are generally classified as intrinsic and extrinsic, depending on their origins. According to Azemi (2017), intrinsic motivation originates within the individual and results in them doing work for no visible reward, coming from attributes such as altruism or product involvement. As such, the definition of intrinsic motivation is consistent with that provided by Tasso (2018), though it only constitutes part of the person’s reasons to work as opposed to their entirety.

Adjibolosoo (2017) identifies intrinsic motivation as vital, noting that some models suggest that employees with sufficient levels of beneficial internal qualities do not require external impulses to achieve their best performance. With that said, it is challenging to develop these qualities in individual employees, particularly because it can take a long time to do so. As such, businesses should also consider other methods they can use to convince employees to improve their performance.

These approaches will generally interact with the parts of the employee’s motivation that interact with outside stimuli, or their external motivation. Examples of it include results such as “external reward or social approval, avoidance of punishment, or the attainment of a valued outcome” (Ryan and Deci, 2018, p. 14). Externally motivated employees perform well when they consider the rewards for their work to be adequate for the effort that they have to produce.

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With that said, per Elliot, Dweck and Yeager (2018), intrinsic motivation is generally seen as more influential than its external counterpart. It is preferable to have the former as opposed to the latter because less effort is necessary to maintain it. However, due to the difficulties of developing powerful intrinsic motivation within employees, it is still beneficial to study this field.

The relationship between the two aspects of motivation is convoluted, producing conflicting results in research. Mumford and Hemlin (2017) propose that intrinsic motivation improves work quality, its extrinsic counterpart affects work quantity, and, when both criteria are combined, each is equally effective. Both of these values are critical when considering efficiency, as the company wants to produce higher numbers of products of improved quality with the same resources.

Amabile (2018) suggests that the reason for these differences in work outcomes is that intrinsic motivation affects creative tasks, while extrinsic motivation promotes algorithmic performance. Intrinsically motivated people would find satisfaction in the act of creatively improving their work. At the same time, their counterparts would optimise the production process to minimise the effort they need to exert to achieve the expected reward. Each of these changes is desirable, and businesses are interested in promoting each characteristic.

However, research findings suggest that work to address both aspects of motivation can be counterproductive because of the interaction between them. Amabile (2018) highlights contemporary social psychological theory, which indicates that the imposition of extrinsic rewards leads to a decrease in intrinsic motivation as the person changes their perception to focus on the new goal.

One possible reason is that extrinsic rewards are associated with measurable performance, which does not generally correlate with creative design, where benefits can be subjective or challenging to evaluate. With that said, the study by Elliot, Dweck and Yeager (2018) did not find this negative relationship in a realistic environment. Extrinsic incentives improved performance without producing a noticeable decline in intrinsic motivation. As such, while the matter may still be contentious, it should be possible to examine several motivation-increasing practices that have proven to be effective.

Motivation Improvement Measures

As the development of one’s intrinsic qualities is mostly dependent on the individual and can take a long time, this study will focus on the improvement of extrinsic motivation without substantially harming its counterpart. Banya (2017) suggests that fair and consistent performance measurement is critical to motivation and productivity improvements.

It creates an expectation of a quantifiable reward and fosters healthy competition among staff members, improving extrinsic motivation and ensuring that employees exert more effort. Amabile (2018) promotes the concept of paying for performance, in which a worker’s wages are partially or fully contingent on their work satisfying specific quotas.

However, Amabile (2018) also notes that it can be associated with severe negative consequences if the practice is too intense, instituting overly stringent metrics and effectively penalising people for failing to reach them. Such an environment will demotivate workers instead, causing them to exert minimal effort and search for employment elsewhere.

With that said, as mentioned above, extrinsic motivation depends on factors other than wages or promotion opportunities. Miller (2016) consider it in terms of emotional commitment to one’s workplace, the positive emotion that one can derive from working there and not elsewhere.

To that end, a business that intends to improve the motivation of its employees should aim to make its environment as welcoming and attractive as possible. de Pablos, Zhang and Chui (2019) highlight improvements in worker relations through better living conditions, welfare initiatives, and benefits as measures that can be effective at improving extrinsic motivation. Additionally, changes to an organisational culture that promote cooperation and teamwork alongside constructive and positive discussion can make it more attractive. Overall, it is possible to enhance employee extrinsic motivation in multiple ways, both directly and indirectly.

Hypotheses

The literature review has provided insights into several important topics, including the different varieties of motivation, the factors that influence them and the relationship they have with performance. As such, it is possible to formulate several hypotheses that can be tested later on in the study:

  • H1: Employees with high intrinsic motivation have low extrinsic motivation, and vice versa.
  • H2: Employees with high intrinsic motivation will tend to be in higher positions than those with low intrinsic motivation.
  • H3: The efficiency of employees with high extrinsic motivation can be improved substantially through external efforts.
  • H4: Employees with high intrinsic motivation will respond to external motivating efforts less strongly than those with low intrinsic motivation.
  • H5: Compensation and promotion opportunities will be less influential with regard to efficiency than the motivators related to the workplace environment.

Methodology

The study is cross-sectional quantitative and observational and was conducted through the distribution of surveys that aim to evaluate worker motivation and their opinion on efficiency improvements. An experimental design would yield more valid and useful results, but the author would need to ensure the cooperation of the companies that employed these workers and convince them to implement various possible motivational measures.

With a lack of definite change over time, there was also no reason to make several measurements or employ a control group. As such, a cross-sectional observational survey is best suited to the author’s needs and capabilities. As the study concerned worker personalities, a survey was appropriate because it allows the author to collect information directly from the workers.

The aim was to produce data that was as accurate as possible and evaluate the perceptions of motivation in the food industry. A quantitative design was best suited for the purpose, and once it produced results, a qualitative study may follow and inquire deeper into the underlying reasons.

The conceptual framework of the study is that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are critical to the efficiency of the employee. However, businesses can only directly influence an employee’s extrinsic motivation. Measures to improve intrinsic motivation are likely to be indirect, take excessively long times, and not be guaranteed in their success. As such, they will not be considered in this study, and intrinsic motivation is assumed to come solely from the individual.

The study will review potential measures that improve different aspects of extrinsic motivation and their perceived effect on the employee’s productivity. It will also request workers to share their suggestions regarding possible motivational initiatives that affect efficiency. Through this effort, the author expects to obtain a preliminary overview of the relationship between motivation and productivity.

The survey used for the study consists of three distinct parts: demographic data, motivation analysis and efficiency improvement suggestions. As the questionnaire relies on the perceptions of workers, the author has deemed evaluating their self-reported productivity not to be beneficial due to the high risk of misreporting. The first section collects the information necessary to differentiate the workers into meaningful groups for the purposes of analysis.

The second section aims to consider both their intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in detail to understand the degree to which workers currently appreciate their positions. The Work Preference Inventory created by Amabile et al. (1994) was used for the purpose of producing detailed and accurate information. It uses a 4-point Likert scale to evaluate respondent reactions to a variety of statements that concern intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors. The instrument is well-known in the field and has been used in various motivation research since its inception, both for education and work purposes.

The third and final section takes the external motivation factors from the second part of the survey and considers improvements in their underlying rewards. Using a 5-point Likert scale, the respondents are asked to evaluate a variety of statements, as in the last section. However, these propositions are more hypothetical in nature, proposing a change and asking the person to consider their resulting efficiency change.

To avoid leading questions, the author has incorporated the possibilities of both an increase and a decrease into most statements. At the end of the section, an open-form item is present that lets the person propose suggestions for efficiency improvement. While not a valid quantitative instrument, the responses can offer valuable insight into ideas that the author may have overlooked. As such, they can contribute to future research and uncover essential relationships that are omitted in the current model.

Corresponding to the purpose of the research, the author used a sample of food industry workers. Cluster sampling was used, taking place through contacting several companies and asking them to permit communications with employees who may be willing to contribute to the research.

To obtain a degree of heterogeneity and improve the representation of the study, they attempted to diversify the respondents. Having obtained permission and the contact addresses of the employees, the author asked them to fill out the survey and return it. For the purposes of the study, a sample of 100 people should be sufficient, though any additional responses would help improve its accuracy. Ninety-three people responded and completed the surveys, and eight had to be removed from consideration due to their incompleteness, leaving 85 questionnaires for analysis.

Through these measures, the author attempted to minimise bias and reduce the influence of any outliers by ensuring that the answers come from many different subgroups.

The author will follow ethical guidelines in their research and ensure that their process is morally valid. The usage of the Work Preference Inventory and its authorship will be disclosed, as will any other information that is sourced from other works. The research participants will be informed of the study’s purpose in detail before they consent to participate in it, and they will have the ability to withdraw their response at any time prior to publication.

The author will take extensive measures to guarantee their security and privacy, removing any information that can be used to identify it from the published manuscript. The author will use data that is produced by the surveys without deceptively altering or fabricating it to reach accurate conclusions. Lastly, they will disclose any sources of funding or conflicts of interest and adhere to codes of ethics in all other regards.

Once the data is collected, the author will begin data processing and analysis to obtain and present conclusions. They will review the responses for missing data and eliminate those that have too little usable information or appear not to be legitimate, such as ones with only extreme responses or uniform answers. The data will also be transformed into a format that can be processed by software more efficiently. The R suite of statistical software will be used to convert the information and draw conclusions.

Both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of the respondents will be assessed, and the effects of each of the potential improvements. Ultimately, the research is expected to produce answers to the research question and suggest improvements that will help food companies achieve improved motivation and efficiency from their employees. However, the limitations of the study have to be taken into consideration.

As mentioned above, the observational design is potentially not as useful as an experimental design, which may be used to follow up on the results of this study. Additionally, the relatively small sample size introduces the possibility of bias by covering a small portion of the population. An additional issue is that the survey will rely on the perceptions of the workers and may, therefore, introduce biases.

However, with a subjective matter such as motivation, such a problem may be unavoidable. The discussion will also lack depth because of the introductory nature of the research, which aims to suggest topics for future consideration. Overall, the results of the study should not be treated as conclusive and ready for practical application. However, they can supply insights that will then be explored further and proved or disproved.

Findings

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation scatter chart
Figure 1: Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation scatter chart (intrinsic motivation is the X coordinate; extrinsic motivation is the Y coordinate).

Fig. 1 appears to confirm hypothesis 1 strongly, with the linear regression showing a strong negative correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The plot appears to conform to the line strongly, with few outliers. The fact supports the hypothesis further, making the result less likely to be an outlier. The distribution of points within that conforming zone is mostly random, with some small clusters likely generated by noise.

A remarkable finding is that no employee’s intrinsic motivation was below 2, which contributes to the plot’s skewed positioning, where the left third of the area is unpopulated. By contrast, a substantial number of the responses show an extrinsic motivation below 2, suggesting the presence of a significant difference between the two. The possible reason for this discrepancy will be reviewed in the discussion section.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations across different job levels.
Figure 2: Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations across different job levels.

Fig. 2 displays the progression of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations throughout increasing job levels. The “Other” option that was present in the questionnaire was not used, so it is not listed in the figure. It can be seen that employee intrinsic motivation increases along with their job level, with an especially noticeable jump between senior workers and managers, where the growth slows substantially.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivation increases between part-time and full-time employees, declining considerably but generally staying the same for the other four job categories. Senior employees are particularly notable for having similar degrees of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, being positioned at the intersection of one’s growth and the other’s decline. Overall, hypothesis 2 appears to have been confirmed, with increased intrinsic motivation associated with a superior position at the company.

A plot of employee extrinsic motivation (X-axis) and the overall opinion of proposed efficiency improvement measures (Y-axis).
Figure 3: A plot of employee extrinsic motivation (X-axis) and the overall opinion of proposed efficiency improvement measures (Y-axis).

Fig. 3 shows a different trend to Fig. 1, with increases in extrinsic motivation being associated with a slightly rising interest in potential motivators, thereby confirming hypothesis 3. The graph appears to conform to the linear regression less than the previous one, though there is still a similarity, possibly due to the broad spread of the points on the X-axis. There are substantial deviations at different points in the plot.

The elements also appear to be clustered in higher numbers of groups, though that is because the average for motivation improvement questions was formed. With eight questions, the average was incremented by 0.125, creating 32 total vertical grid points and encouraging clustering through having the same Y coordinate. Overall, it may be asserted that hypothesis 3 is confirmed, with people who have a high extrinsic motivation being likely to respond positively to external motivators. The significant variance may be explained by diverging responses to different stressors, which will be reviewed next.

A plot of employee intrinsic motivation (X-axis) and the overall opinion of proposed efficiency improvement measures (Y-axis).
Figure 4: A plot of employee intrinsic motivation (X-axis) and the overall opinion of proposed efficiency improvement measures (Y-axis).

Fig. 4 shows that, if there is a relationship between intrinsic motivation and responses to external factors, it is slightly negative, a result similar to that for hypothesis 3. As such, hypothesis 4 is confirmed, though further review will be required to assess the strength of the relationship. Additionally, the plot appears to be scattered randomly and broadly around the line, further taking away from the likelihood of a potential relationship and increasing the chances that it was caused by noise. Similar considerations apply as those for Fig. 3 concerning the appearance of the plot, as both use the same data set for the Y-axis. Overall, the validity of hypothesis 4 is likely not as high as that of hypotheses 1 and 3.

Averages of the participants’ responses to different external motivating factors.
Figure 5: Averages of the participants’ responses to different external motivating factors.

Fig. 5 partially contradicts hypothesis 5, as pay is among the most agreed-upon factors that affect one’s performance. With that said, there is no strong positive consensus on the effectiveness of any measure, with none exceeding 3.5. The other part of hypothesis 5, promotion opportunities, is reaffirmed, as the measure shows the lowest score on the chart. As such, it can be seen as partially confirmed and will be expanded upon in the discussion section.

Coworker comparisons and stability also appear to be significant predictors of one’s efficiency, as each reaches a score above that of compensation. On the other hand, independence, experimentation and management, as well as coworker recognition, do not appear to influence one’s efficiency significantly. With that said, each is still above 2.5 in average score, which suggests that they warrant consideration nevertheless.

The answers to the freeform question also warrant consideration, as they contain several valuable insights. Not all of the respondents filled out the question, but 34 questionnaires have it answered, and the author has reviewed the messages inside. One prominent topic that was mentioned numerous times was transparency. The respondents claimed that they would like to know the purposes toward which they are working to motivate themselves.

Another suggestion that was mentioned often was the provision of flexible work hours alongside their reduction. Several people mentioned work-life balance and health as the factors that affect their productivity, while others highlighted how their performance was inconsistent and would benefit from the ability to work only when able to do so well. These items were not mentioned in the questionnaire, and their potential importance ill be discussed below.

Discussion

Internal and External Motivation

The results of the analysis confirmed hypothesis 1, finding a significant negative relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The result indicates that employees who enjoy their work will not be as concerned about other forms of compensation or the workplace environment as those who do not appreciate it. The finding is consistent with Amabile (2018) and her description of modern psychological theory, but it also contradicts the practical results of Elliot, Dweck and Yeager (2018), who did not find a relationship in a review of various studies.

With that said, the authors do not reject the idea altogether, instead claiming that it needs more empirical testing before it can be accepted. The study conducted within this dissertation provides additional context in a practical environment, though, being observational rather than experimental, it is not evidence of the highest possible quality.

It should be noted that few to no employees with low (or high) scores in both internal and external motivation. The former result can likely be explained through the proposition that an unmotivated employee would likely not be interested in work, either never taking a position or leaving the job shortly after starting it.

On the other hand, an employee with high scores in each category should theoretically be able to exist. One possible reason why no such people participated in the study is the small sample size, which may have excluded such individuals due to their presumable rarity. Alternately, the ideas of Adjibolosoo (2017) may be recalled, with intrinsically motivated employees not requiring extrinsic incentives to perform. This idea can be interpreted as the decline of their extrinsic motivation, as initially asserted, which would be reflected in the Work Preference Inventory.

Motivation and Job Levels

The analysis found a substantial relationship between one’s job level and their motivation levels. Extrinsic motivation declines as one attains higher positions, while their intrinsic motivation increases. With that said, there is a substantial increase in extrinsic motivation between a part-time and a full-time job. A possible reason is that part-time employees have less interest in the environment or the compensation, prioritising items other than work.

On the other hand, full-time employees are committed to the company and expect higher returns for their time and effort, also being more conscious of the environment because they spend more time in it. They want to see raises, promotions, bonuses, and other types of incentives in exchange for their loyalty. As they rise to higher positions, their needs may be satisfied, particularly as their responsibilities also increase and they become potentially unwilling to take on more work for additional compensation.

This theory may also explain why intrinsic motivation increases alongside one’s job level. The intrinsic motivation of part-time and full-time workers is strongly similar, possibly because they are substantially more interested in external factors, particularly pay. Once their needs are satisfied, they are willing to stay in the same position, occasionally requesting raises. However, intrinsically motivated people would be more interested in career growth, seeing it as the expansion of their work.

They would also do higher-quality work per Mumford and Hemlin (2017), leading to management recognition and a higher likelihood of promotion. As a result, the higher levels of a company would be populated by highly motivated people who are willing to take on the challenges of management. In this interpretation, the limited growth between different management levels indicates that, as the number of jobs declines at each level, the choice of personnel for the purpose depends more on experience and position availability than motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation and Efficiency Incentives

The study finds a somewhat significant relationship between extrinsic motivation and responses to potential external incentives. The result is consistent with the theory, as extrinsic motivation governs one’s responses to external stimuli (Ryan and Deci, 2018). Moreover, the overall shape of the graph suggests the existence of a relationship rather than random chance. However, the relationship is not as strong as may be expected, with the trendline starting at an interest level of 2.5 and ending at 3.5.

Numerous highly extrinsically motivated respondents did not respond strongly to the improvement questions as a whole. The result is seemingly contradictory to the theory behind the study and the finding drawn from the analysis. The workers should have been ready to start doing more work in exchange for improved conditions. The discrepancy may be explained by the nature of motivation and the specifics of the conducted analysis.

Extrinsic motivation does not necessarily lead workers to perform better in exchange for superior rewards. As Ganta (2014) notes, extrinsically motivated employees seek to reduce the amount of effort that they have to put in to receive the same reward. With objectives that are challenging to quantify, they can find ways of creating the appearance that they are working more efficiently without necessarily applying themselves to a higher degree.

However, quantifiable goals are substantially more challenging to obfuscate in this manner. With a clearly-defined goal system, employees who want to benefit without exerting themselves will have to create superior methods of working wherever possible. As such, extrinsic motivation should not be disregarded as a driver of efficiency. This consideration is especially pertinent given the nature of the analysis, which may be obfuscating a relationship such as that described.

Highly extrinsically motivated employees may still be unwilling to apply substantial effort even if they are compensated better. Heckhausen and Heckhausen’s (2018) notions about overmotivation are relevant in this case, as workers may start feeling pressured and prioritise other concerns. For example, an increase in labour that is accompanied by a pay rise may mean working overtime hours for many workers, which some will be unwilling to do.

Another significant factor is the nature of the analysis, which combines all of the different potential incentives into a single average. Workers may respond strongly to some factors while rejecting others, especially since some of the questions oppose each other. The fifth analysis was conducted partially to obtain an overview of this situation and check whether the responses to these stimuli are uniform or different.

Intrinsic Motivation and Efficiency Incentives

While there is a trend line in Fig. 4, it does not necessarily signify the existence of the same relationship as may be asserted for Fig. 3. The reason is the significantly broader spread, which implies that any relationship that emerges has a high probability of being modified by random chance.

With that said, the negativity of the line’s incline warrants some consideration due to its consistency with the literature. Amabile (2018) claims that the same relationship exists, with external rewards potentially jeopardising an employee’s high intrinsic motivation. As such, it is necessary to consider the possibility that, while there may have been some modification, the overall trend may be accurate. Nevertheless, if the relationship exists, it is likely somewhat minor and not predictive of an individual employee’s responses due to the high variance.

With that said, it is necessary to consider the broad range of measures that are proposed within the study. Some of the less direct ones, such as coworker recognition or independence, do not necessarily fall under Amabile’s (2018) definitions. However, per Miller (2016), they can generate an emotional commitment in the employee, facilitating their creative work and making the overall environment more agreeable.

Such measures should have a neutral or positive effect on an intrinsically motivated employee, facilitating their work and improving their well-being. As such, there are substantial reasons to question the existence of the trend and not consider hypothesis 4 to be definitively proven. Theoretically, the relationship between incentives and intrinsic motivation should be close to neutral. Further research into the topic, preferably using a larger sample and more detailed questioning, is required to obtain a definitive answer.

Stimuli Responses

As the section regarding extrinsic motivation and incentives suggests, there is a substantial disparity in the responses given to different questions. Workers appear to value pay, stability, and comparisons with their coworkers while being uninterested in promotion opportunities. With that said, none of the incentives received a particularly high score, ranging from approximately 2.35 to 3.45 at the highest.

The lack of interest in any of the incentives is reminiscent of the ideas of Amabile (2018) and Ganta (2014), with workers being concerned about excessive expectations and possibly not having the intrinsic motivation they would require to be willing to apply themselves earnestly. While there were workers who were highly interested in items such as pay, their responses were mitigated by the high number of those who are not. As a result, no category could attract universal interest, expressed as an average score near or above 4.

Hypothesis 5, which was rejected by the findings, asserted that employees would not necessarily be interested in pay as much as other opportunities. It was based on the ideas of Amabile (2018) regarding pay for performance as well as sentiments of people being ready to take lower pay to work under a more personable manager (Oswald, Behrend and Foster, 2019).

However, these ideas were not found to be valid in practice, with pay ranking high on the employee priority list. As one of the most easily measurable changes, it may be expected that this may be the case once the invalid assertion is discarded. Most employees would like a higher salary, even if it meant that they would have to apply themselves more. With that said, the other results of the analysis also warrant consideration, especially the promotion opportunities.

Promotion is another way to obtain an increased salary, but it was ranked the lowest among the eight different extrinsic incentives. It is possible that, while employees are willing to work more for increased pay, they are less likely to seek different and increased responsibilities. The emphasis on stability, which scored the second-highest, may support this idea, as workers dislike undergoing significant changes.

Additionally, comparisons to coworkers, which can dictate variable pay or raise probabilities, scored the highest, motivating employees to perform. On the other hand, the scores of management recognition (which can influence promotion recommendations), independence and experimentation are relatively low. Overall, it appears that, with regard to efficiency improvements, workers are substantially more interested in the short term than the long. Most are only willing to apply themselves for an immediate reward and do not formulate a broader vision toward which they can work.

The differences found between various efficiency improvement incentives can also partially explain the disparity in responses highlighted in the third analysis. Extrinsically motivated workers may favour items such as independence, experimentation, or promotion opportunities irrelevant, seeing the job as a source of income rather than a significant part of everyday life that warrants active, long-term commitment. Amabile’s (2018) notion about creative and algorithmic performance applies here, with such employees seeking to become better at what they do instead of expanding their horizons.

Due to the self-reported nature of the Work Preference Inventory, workers may also have overstated their extrinsic motivation. When considering the practical implications of the changes that they claimed to support in theory, they found themselves less interested. As a result, there is a substantial spread of results and outliers, even if the general trend of association between extrinsic motivation and response to incentives applies.

Additional Considerations

Transparency was the first significant item mentioned by participants in the freeform section. They complained that they were not informed of the direction of the company and given smaller, routine tasks to complete without understanding the broader framework. This consideration likely applies to lower-level employees, who are not involved in strategic planning. They also tend to be extrinsically motivated, as was shown above, which is significant because this category of employees performs in return for a specific reward whereas intrinsically motivated workers can apply effort toward a less defined goal (Azemi, 2017; Ryan and Deci, 2018).

Increased transparency would enable workers to understand the direction of the company better and see what goals their team is working to achieve. Knowing what they need to do in the long term and the rewards potentially associated with a successful project can motivate them to contribute to its completion, which they can do better once they know how it is progressing.

The second idea mentioned was that of flexible work hours, which would enable workers to work when they can do so at optimal efficiency. With that said, it may not necessarily apply at all levels, as the food industry is reliant on timing due to the short shelf life of many of its ingredients. Workers in factories may not be able to operate under the flexible hours model, though it can apply to administrative staff and other office employees.

The relationship with health and work-life balance mentioned by some respondents qualifies as the welfare mentioned by de Pablos, Zhang and Chui (2019), meaning that it has potential to improve worker relations and, consequently, performance. As such, this proposal also warrants an investigation, though such a task would be beyond the scope of this work.

Limitations

The study is subject to a variety of limitations, possibly the foremost of which lies in the sampling. The cluster sampling method is not truly random and may have introduced some biases that are challenging to quantify. Additionally, the sample size is not necessarily large enough to warrant the unconditional acceptance of the results, with an investigation that has a higher size being more appropriate. The self-reported nature of the survey introduces the possibility of another set of biases and other inaccuracies.

Conformity bias, in particular, is a significant issue, as the respondents were describing themselves and may have skewed the answers to appear more desirable as workers. Acquiescence bias is another potential issue due to how some of the questions are worded, though the author has attempted to modify them to minimise the likelihood. Overall, the results of the study warrant substantial scrutiny before they can be accepted, particularly for the less significant relationships.

Implications for Practice

The primary implication of the study is that employers should not focus on any one aspect of motivation to maximise it. None of the measures reviewed was highly approved by the workers who responded to the survey, indicating that individual advances would not generate the desired effects. Instead, it may be reasonable for an employer to focus on a broader strategy, working to improve each external motivator to obtain a cumulative effect.

This is not to say that each aspect warrants an equal investment; they should have different priorities based on the potential effects that they have. Pay, in particular, should be an area of substantial consideration due to its relative popularity and ability to spur employee efficiency. Pay for performance, in particular, may warrant an application, though the potential dangers of such an approach should also be noted.

With that said, this paper should be taken as a set of suggestions that should not drive company policy but rather contribute to its formation. Many of the findings, particularly those related to incentives, are inconclusive, likely because of variance among the workers. Many lower-level employees value stability, but talent that can drive innovation and eventually take a more prominent position at the company will often thrive when given the opportunity to be independent.

As such, it is necessary to review each employee individually and apply appropriate measures to achieve optimal company performance. With that said, there should still be an established overall framework, and such individual allowances should be the responsibility of managers who interact with employees directly. This dissertation aims to help executive managers design such a broad policy to maximise employee efficiency by motivating them.

Future Research Directions

A future study may be useful for purposes of confirming or rejecting the results of this research through the usage of a larger sample. Through the commitment of a higher amount of resources, it would also be possible to adopt random sampling and reduce potential biases. Additionally, an experimental design may be useful for obtaining factual evidence and reducing the biases inherent in self-reporting. Research that expands on the current motivation strategies of different companies in the food industry would also be beneficial to determine the strong and weak points of the strategies.

Lastly, it may be necessary to expand upon the possible improvement measures, especially those that were omitted in this study. Transparency and flexible work hours are noteworthy ideas, especially as they pertain to the specifics of food industry operations. They may be researched individually or as part of a broader framework such as that used in this study.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares that they have no conflicts of interest of any nature that were involved in the creation of this dissertation.

Conclusion

The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the relationship between employee motivation and efficiency and review the potential effects of several motivation improvement measures on employee productivity. It found that employees who are motivated extrinsically, who constitute much of the non-senior staff, can respond positively to several motivators, notably pay, stability, and co-worker comparisons. On the other hand, incentives have a weak, possibly negative relationship with the more valuable intrinsically motivated workers.

These employees are typically responsible for creative work and innovation, and companies benefit significantly from cultivating and motivating them. Methods through which they may be incentivised, as well as the influence of external factors on intrinsic motivation, warrant research in additional detail.

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Appendix: Motivation and Efficiency Questionnaire

Section 1: Demographic Questions

  • What is your age?
  • What gender are you?
    • Female
    • Male
    • Prefer not to say
    • Other
  • What is the highest education level that you have attained?
    • Below high school
    • High school
    • Bachelor’s degree
    • Master’s degree
    • Ph. D.
    • Other
  • How long have you worked for your current company?
    • Less than 6 months
    • 6 months to 1 year
    • 1 to 3 years
    • 4 to 6 years
    • 7 to 10 years
    • More than 10 years
  • Which option would describe your job level best?
    • Part-time staff
    • Full-time staff
    • Senior staff
    • Management
    • Middle management
    • Executive management
    • Other

Section 2: Motivation Survey

Uses the Work Preference Inventory by Dr. Teresa Amabile.

There are four answer options for each of the questions in this section:

  • Never or almost never true of you
  • Sometimes true of you
  • Often true of you
  • Always or almost always true of you
  • I am not that concerned about what other people think of my work.
  • I prefer having someone set clear goals for me in my work.
  • The more difficult the problem, the more I enjoy trying to solve it.
  • I am keenly aware of the income goals I have for myself.
  • I want my work to provide me with opportunities for increasing my knowledge and skills.
  • To me, success means doing better than other people.
  • I prefer to figure things out for myself.
  • No matter what the outcome of a project, I am satisfied if I feel I gained a new experience.
  • I enjoy relatively simple, straightforward tasks.
  • I am keenly aware of the promotion goals I have set for myself.
  • Curiosity is the driving force behind much of what I do.
  • I’m less concerned with what work I do than what I get for it.
  • I enjoy tackling problems that are completely new to me.
  • I prefer work I know I can do well over work that stretches my abilities.
  • I’m concerned about how other people are going to react to my ideas.
  • I seldom think about grades and awards.
  • I’m more comfortable when I can set my own goals.
  • I believe that there is no point in doing a good job if nobody else knows about it.
  • I am strongly motivated by the money I can earn.
  • It is important for me to be able to do what I most enjoy.
  • I prefer working on projects with clearly specified procedures.
  • As long as I can do what I enjoy, I’m not that concerned about exactly what I’m paid.
  • I enjoy doing work that is so absorbing that I forget about everything else.
  • I am strongly motivated by the recognition I can earn from other people.
  • I have to feel that I’m earning something for what I do.
  • I enjoy trying to solve complex problems.
  • It is important for me to have an outlet for self-expression.
  • I want to find out how good I really can be at my work.
  • I want other people to find out how good I really can be at my work.
  • What matters most to me is enjoying what I do.

Section 3: Efficiency Improvement Suggestions

The questions in this section (with the exception of the last one) are rated on a Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

  • If your pay changes, your efficiency will change correspondingly.
  • If your promotion opportunities change, your efficiency will change correspondingly.
  • If the recognition of your work by the management changes, your efficiency will change correspondingly.
  • If the recognition of your work by your co-workers changes, your efficiency will change correspondingly.
  • If your work is compared to that of your colleagues more or less, your efficiency will change in the same direction.
  • Your efficiency would improve with more independence rather than managerial oversight and goal-setting.
  • Your efficiency would improve if your company becomes more open to new ideas and experimentation.
  • Your efficiency would improve if your company becomes more focused on implementing a stable work environment.
  • Please enter any motivation-related efficiency improvement suggestions that you have here.