Creating a Motivated Workplace

If we can understand the motivation process and what motivates employees, we can influence their behaviour. There is no universally accepted theory of motivation in the workplace due to the complex nature of the topic; however, there are a number of popular theories that aim to explain what motivates employees at work. It is for the benefit of the reader to note that each theory approaches to motivation from a different angle and collectively, they provide useful clues in understanding how to improve employee well-being at work, or rather, how to create a work place where employees will be motivated.

Theory of motivation can be traced back to the ideas of Taylor (1911) who came up with the principles of Scientific Management, which aims to give greater control to management over the labour process by exchanging effort for reward. Taylor regarded management superior to employees and argued that management should be the brains of the organisation. He suggested that to gain more, employees need to work more in the most productive and efficient way possible. Taylor thought if management was determined to put their ideas into practice, work would be more satisfying for the employees. However, in reality, managers used their power and Taylor’s ideas to push employees to their limits. Today’s Business might not adopt Taylor way of managing employees, as employees today want their voice to be heard and wants to be partner in the organisation,  more and more organisation are using this technique of employee involvement as a motivating factor at work.

Planning and performance were the areas Taylor was interested the most. Taylor believed that there is a best method which individuals should take for completing each job as efficiently as possible. He suggested that to improve work process one needs to dissect them into tasks so that the best way to perform a task could be found and detailed instructions can be created for individuals to follow.

Of course, heavy pressure on workers and the terrible working conditions resulted in strong reactions and criticism against Taylor’s ideas. Some of the ideas of Scientific Management could be seen as valuable for productivity and efficiency, but Taylor gave great levels of power to management and regarded employees mostly like replaceable parts of a machine with no consideration of their physical, psychological and social well-being.

The study that highlighted the importance of people in organisations began with a series of experiments in Hawthorne plant in early 1930s, later named as Hawthorn Experiments which led the creation of the Human Relations approach. According to this approach people’s physical environment and their relations with each other is the key for increasing performance at work.

Hawthorn experiments concentrate on four areas: lighting, lay out of the rooms, employees’ perception of their superiors and social relations at work. The overall conclusion was people’s satisfaction at work heavily depend on their social relations with others (friendship, love, sense of belonging, etc.) and social relations were more important than the physical conditions (the actual office building, view, furniture, etc.). In other words, the experiments found that people were motivated more by their social relations than the physical conditions at work.