Accoring to Agarwal, (2007) organisation and management have been analysed and theorised since man first collaboratively worked together to achieve common goals. Motivational theory explores “ forces acting on or within a person that cause the arousal, direction, and persistence of goal-directed, voluntary effect” and is a frequently investigated area of organisational behaviour (Barnet & Simmering, 2006.
P. 563). With no one unanimously supported theory, it is not surprising that each theory’s development attracts a flock of critics, each dedicating time and resources to questioning validity. Miner, (2007) gives a comprehensive account of theory, describing a good theory as one that presents unique insights, is interesting, purposeful, testable and well written, adding depth to the literature it is grounded in. It is from this yard stick that this essay aims to evaluate the two content theories developed by Frederick Hertzberg and David McClelland.
Initially, each theory will be overviewed, to develop a general understanding of the conclusions made regarding motivational strategy. An evaluation of the strengths and limitations each theory presents will follow, identifying how these assessments can be applied to contemporary organisations. Through this it will be shown that regardless of the limitations theories experience, their development and subsequent scrutiny, continues to uncover the enormous potential associated with understanding and respecting the internal motivational make up of individuals. Hertzberg’s Two-Factor Theory
Fredrick Hertzberg developed the Two-Factor Theory after conducting a study in the 1950s, which approached 200 engineers and accountants from different companies. Using the critical incidence technique, Hertzberg asked open questions, encouraging interviewees to identify and prioritise factors effecting their job fulfilment (Kondalkar, 2007). From this research Hertzberg suggested job satisfaction be approached by identifying ‘motivational factors’ with the potential to lead to satisfaction and ‘hygiene factors’ that risk dissatisfaction if not maintained to an appropriate standard (Kondalkar).
Motivating factors were found to be associated with job content whilst hygiene factors stemmed from the context in which the job was performed (Wood et al, 2010). Diagram one, lists these factors and illustrates the limitations Hertzberg discovered in linking high-level motivation with hygiene factors. That is, “any improvement in hygiene factors do not motivate workers but their reduction below a certain level will dissatisfy them” (Kondalkar, p. 106).
Also, it can be seen that no overlapping factors relating to both satisfaction and dissatisfaction exist, as the conclusion was made that they were independent “rather than opposite extremes on a single continuum as traditional views had held” (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2010, p. 130). Diagram one: (Content taken from Kondalhar, 2007, pp. 105-106) Upon evaluation, a number of criticisms have come forward, many relating to the breadth of Hertzberg’s study.
The research involved limited respondents; all male white-collar workers in accounting and engineering firms; therefore the needs of many occupational groups were not reflected (Wagner & Hollenbeck, 2010). Also the study failed to recognize individual diversity and the varying prioritisation of needs relating to ones age, gender and culture (Wood et al, 2010). Wagner and Hollenbeck (2010), question Hertzberg’s “critical-incident technique” claiming that it “is a questionable research method, subject to errors in perception…memory and…subconscious biases” (p. 31). This view is echoed by Wood et al (2010), who are concerned that Hertzberg’s method may have encouraged respondents to attribute positive experiences at work to their own management of situations, and negative experiences to environmental conditions beyond their control. For this reason the theory has been labelled ‘method bound’ indicating that similar results could not be achieved through any other approach, thus limiting its credibility and successful application in other work settings (Kondalkar, 2007).
Finally, there is ambiguity surrounding the labelling of motivational versus hygiene factors. Many factors showed up as both satisfiers and dissatisfiers, especially those related to salary, relationship and status (Miner 2007). So, managers wishing to apply the theory must be aware of these limitations, rather than assuming Hertzberg’s motivational and hygiene factors will be relevant to all organisations. Despite it’s imperfections, Hertzberg’s theory has been successful in developing a framework through which organisations can approach job design and enrichment.
It may provide managers with a starting point for understanding and explaining individual performance, and offer suggestions for improving employee output (Wood et al 2010). Broadly categorising motivational factors as being internal, and factors leading to dissatisfaction as external, has highlighted that natural human motivation comes from ones desire to improve themselves, be engaged in meaningful activities, and be recognized for their efforts, rather than purely for monetary gain.
Furthermore, Miner (2007) considers employees who focus solely on hygiene factors, as an employment risk, being less driven, and more dependent on frequent external incentives to stay motivated. This information may be useful if these factors can be assessed within the recruitment process. In practical terms this theory encourages organisations to take a more personal approach to their staff. To assess the presence or absence of these contributing factors, organisations could work closely with their workers, developing their own unique set of hygiene and motivational factors specific to their people in their industry.
With open communication channels and improved workplace relationships, organisations have the potential to increase transparency into individual motivational needs of employees. This would put them in a better position to ensure their workforce remains motivated, whilst environmental conditions are appropriately maintained to facilitate optimal performance. Motivational factors could be addressed through addressing performance feedback, development of internal or external client relationships, knowledge acquisition and individual influence over ones time and schedule (Herzberg 1976 as cited in Miner 2007).
For hotel employees, an intranet website could be utilised for charting individual performance results, customer/interdepartmental feedback, posting educational programs on offer and a feedback forum to make suggestions sent direct to management. Giving employees transparency into departmental running costs, the responsibility to manage their own costs, and allowing employees to direct justifiable funds into areas they feel could improve unit output, could also empower and motivate individuals (Miner).
McClelland’s Achievement Motivation Theory McClelland used an “arousal based approach to studying motives” which began by linking hunger and the influence of food images on thought processes (Miner J. , 2005 pp. 47-48). This was later applied to such areas as achievement (nAch), affiliation (nAff), and power (nPow). The Thematic Apperception Test measured needs by evaluating stories written by people after viewing particular images, which were categorised, according to which need they appealed to (Wood et al, 2010).
Through this study McClelland found that although most people presented a combination of nAch, nAff, nPow characteristics, one usually dominated, and the identification of the predominant need could help provide insight into an individual’s behaviour, management style and therefore, job suitability (Miner, 2007). He also explains how all three groups learn through experience, which circumstances evoke the strongest sense of personal satisfaction, and are gravitated to activities that regularly provide that experience (Miner, 2007).
McClelland’s theory in some way helps to provide an explanation for those people who may not fit into the motivational model proposed by Hertzberg. McClelland was interested in the influence of unconscious motives on human behaviour (McClelland, 1987 ) and his acquired needs theory would categorise the 200 accountants and engineers interviewed by Hertzberg, as being nAch. That is, all their motives relate to the intrinsic desire to improve ones abilities and reach ones goals in order to obtain the feedback that they are ‘achieving’ something (Wood, et al 2010).
Diagram two outlines the conditions required to engage nAch individuals, many of which could be applied to someone with entrepreneurial ambition (Miner, 2005). Although those seeking such conditions could be perceived as valuable employees, their shortcomings may surface when required to manage others if they do not possess the emotional intelligence required to understand those whose need for achievement is not as strong (Miner). Diagram Two: (Content taken from Miner, 2007, pp. 36-44) McClelland’s theory goes on to identify two other categories of people.
Those with nAff bias have a desire to be liked by everyone, enjoy human interaction and working towards team goals. For this reason nAff individuals may find management challenging when they are required to make tough decisions that are not supported by subordinates, however may still perform well in project management roles (McClelland, 1987). NPow people may be better suited to upper management as they are less likely to put the maintenance of amicable relationships before the needs of the organisation (Miner, 2005).
As with all three categories, the nPow group also has its negative tendencies. As outlined in diagram two, according to McClelland (1987), there are four sequential stages of power, and those that reach the final stage, have the highest prediction for managerial success. Others who may become entrenched in personal power motives may manage people poorly due to their preoccupation with their own needs, and fail to develop respect due to high inhibition and low affiliation behaviours (McClelland).
According to Wood et al (2010) the main significance of McClelland’s research was that it proved nAch behaviour could be successfully learnt throughout life, and did not have to be acquired in early childhood as originally thought. Also McClelland clearly established a link between nAch motives and entrepreneurial activity and performance (Miner, 2007). This has important practical implications for organisations as it indicates that appropriate training of employees could increase the presence of nAch and nPow motives, which have been supported indicators of high-level performance (Miner).
McClelland has successfully developed and implemented such programs around the world (Miner, 2007) and believes this finding could be applied to developing nations and create considerable improvements in the performance and output of entire countries (McClelland, 1961). Alhtough McClelland’s theory recieves more support than many other early theories, its key limitation lies in the convenience of practical implementation (Robbins, 2009). Whilst managers may benefit greatly from knowing and understanding the implications of needs biases of employees, such subconscious patterns re difficult to assess (Robbins), and the methods used to do so, such as psychometric/motivational testing or motivational interviews/surveys can prove time-consuming and costly.
Therefore the time and financial commitments required to assess subconscioius needs of employees is a barrier for many organisations (Robbins). Another drawback of the theory relates to the lack of relevance for female employees. The theory was formulated after analysis of male subjects alone, and when women were later studied the results were inconsistent, despite achievement motivation being significant with women entrepreneurs (Miner 2007).
Such concepts as fear of success reduced achievement motivation scores, with high inhibition and power motivated behvaiours operating in completely different ways (Miner). Organisations should therefore be mindful that McClellands methods may only be relevant to the male contigent of their workforce when considering practical implementation. Managers may overcome these limitiations if equipped with the knowledge of the three core needs and practice recognition of the behaviours which represent them (both within themselves and others).
Once educated individuals may, with experience, become skilled needs assessors. Until individuals have had an opprotunity to experience a range of nAch, nPow and nAff related situations, they themselves may not have a clear understanding of their own needs bias. They may feel dissatsified or unmotivated or both, without really understanding why. For this reason it may be useful to give employees a chance to experience the various factors, then assess their responses, in order to help them identify with their own subconsicous motives.
Also educating employees about the various tendencies, may in itself help employees to recognize where they fit within the needs theory model. During a workshop, the various needs concepts could be explained, then each individual could map their needs on a scale such as shown in diagram two, in order to see where their tendecies lie. A questionaire could be developed with each answer having a particular rating within each of the categories to assist employees with identifying with their needs.
You are working on a team project with three others, and they are disinterested and not pulling their weight. Would you: a) Be happy that you could run the project in your own way and be motivated by the challenge? b) Organise a social function and try and get everyone engaged through developing positive relationships?