Process theories motivate people in organisations

Armstrong contends (2007: 119) that '[o]ne of the very most fundamental concerns of reward management is how high levels of performance can be achieved by motivating people'. In so doing, he draws attention to an important triangular relationship, and one that is implied in the conditions of these question, and one which is the focus of this essay, namely the relation between motivation, performance and reward. Generally speaking, the relationship is figured in the knowing that clear and desirable rewards will motivate people in organisations to work hard and therefore will result in high performance. The idea of employee retention - 'the easiest way to retain people' - is a different but related concept. Folks are more likely to stay in organisations, I submit, where there's a clear and productive relationship between your three factors mentioned in Armstrong's summation. For this reason, inter alia, so that as Armstrong articulates (ibid. ), [t]he development of a performance culture is an average goal of reward strategy'. However, despite these fairly unequivocal assertions, motivation itself is not really a clear, monovalent concept. Indeed, there are multiple theories of motivation, various practices for implementing and evoking it, and competing positions on its efficacy and correlation with performance. In this essay, I am going to juxtapose two central theories of motivation - content theory and process theory - in order to analyse the manifold nature of the term, also to consider how both of these broad theories of motivation, of which there are extensive respective components - can be employed in practice as a way of conceptualizing employee reward and retention.

The need to conceptualise motivation in theoretical terms is manufactured evident when one considers the practical implications of the relation between motivation, performance and reward. Only by establishing a style of motivation, a theory of how it functions, can performance be modeled and rewards managed. The proof of the theory is then evidenced used, and a definite understanding of motivation theory permits changes and developments to be produced to practice and performance. As Armstrong has argued (2007: 119), '[m]otivation theories provide essential guidance on the practical steps necessary to develop effective reward systems', and 'there is nothing so practical as a good theory'. Two such prominent theories will be the content theory and process theory of motivation. Prior to an analysis of these two schools of thought however, a necessary preliminary is an overview of what's meant by motivation theory in general. Generally speaking, theories of motivation are worried using what inspires or causes visitors to act, and exactly how this technique of inspiration occurs

Motivation theory is concerned using what 'moves' visitors to do something - what influences people to behave using ways. It explains the factors that affect your time and effort that they placed into their work, their levels of engagement and contribution and discretionary behaviour. (Armstrong, 2007: 119)

Clearly, motivation theory is a wide-reaching discipline; behind nearly every human action there's a conceptual space for theories of motivation. The fundamental difference between your two schools under present discussion - the content theory of motivation instead of the procedure theory - lies not really much in the type of the things that move people to do something, the influences per se, but rather with their origins. In other words, the fundamental question both schools differ on is the following: from where does the average person derive his/her motivation? To cite the useful conceptual precis provided by London (1997: 179), it can be said that: '[c]ontent theories describe what people want and distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic needs' whilst '[p]rocess theories describe how people decide what things to do'. There's also, as London notes, 'theories of goal setting and feedback (Locke) clarify mechanisms that help keep people on target and evaluate their progress', but it's important to note that the notion of reward is already intrinsic to both theories of motivation. Goal-setting theories and reinforcement theories, when i note below, privilege reward specifically, but the notions of reward and recognition are nevertheless contained in more general analyses of both schools of motivational thought. Broadly speaking, therefore, it could be said that this content theory of motivation privileges the internal factors that influence and inform human behavior. By contrast, process theories of motivation consider the idea processes and cognitive aspects of motivation. Content theory is ontological in its theoretical approach: it can be involved with the nature of motivation, and the factors that constitute it. Process theory, on the other hand, is epistemological: it relates to the mechanisms and processes where we theorise and understand motivation. The implications of this distinction for clarifying the ultimate way to retain and reward individuals in organisations are significant.

Although something of the oversimplification, there's a distinction between content and process theories of motivation that can be broadly described as a respective emphasis on internal and external factors respectively. Content theories of motivation privilege the average person; they consider his/her needs, goals and aspirations per se. As a result, content theories of motivation are highly theoretical, and sometimes adduce models of motivation that connect with all individuals and in all contexts; they may be internally defined, and so universal, rather than dependent upon environmental or context-specific factors. One such prominent theory of motivation is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. As Erez et al. acknowledge (2001: 354) '[t]here have been lots of need theories which may have stimulated research in neuro-scientific work motivation, of which Maslow's has been without doubt the most popular'. Needs theories of motivation are content theories because they consider the inner factors that are defined by the average person: 'need models depict a content theory concerned with features of the average person [] that energize and sustain behaviour' (ibid. ). Maslow posited a hierarchy of needs, whereby there a five distinct types of need: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. These are figured in increasing order worth focusing on, and a lower level need must necessarily be satisfied before an increased level need; quite simply, one must have fulfilled one's belongingness need before being able to achieve one's esteem needs, for example. The very last category, self-actualization needs, is never fully fulfilled, and remains an ongoing search for reward and recognition. Importantly as a content theory of motivation, Maslow's needs 'can be looked at universal' (Erez et al. , 2001: 355). This theoretical model has significant implications for best practice in conditions of organisational employee reward and retention. In terms of planning a reward strategy, the management of an organisation must consider the necessity of fulfilling employee needs in line with the Maslow hierarchy; quite simply, the strategy adopted must privilege various employee needs and motivating factors in the correct order. This means, for example, that an employee must feel he/she belongs within an organisation, that he/she ties in, before he/she can be rewarded for his/her effort and thus feel a feeling of self-esteem. This has implications for practice. Consider the utilization of IPR (Individual Performance Review) in certain organisations analysed by Redman & Wilkinson (2009: 201), who found that performance was improved by establishing a sense of belongingness (through close relations between management and staff), which then allowed for a larger sense of esteem, and presumably, increased motivation. As the authors noted with regard with their study

Not only did IPR visibly and symbolically show staff their value and importance to the organisation however the manager also personally cared about their well-being. In some of the accounts of appraisers [adduced in the written text case study] there have been classic human-relations descriptions of the IPR encounter going well beyond the boundaries of work relations.

This relates to the significance, given the theoretical basis for a need-based model of motivation, of what Ramundo (1994) called 'the bargaining manager', namely the individual who concerns him/herself with 'enhancing organizational results through effective negotiation' [emphasis mine]. The focus on negotiation - rather than a one-way procedure for individual desires or external factors - is a good means of figuring motivation and reward, and highlights how both content theory and process theory come together when individual needs (embodied by the employee) meet external and organisational goals and objectives (embodied by the 'bargaining manager'). This follows closely the Maslowian style of needs, and thus indicates that content theories of motivation have clear practical implications. However, so that as lots of theorists have noted, caution should be exercised when highlighting the importance of either content or process theories of motivation at the trouble of the other. Quite simply, there are manifold facets to motivation theory, in a way that an exclusive concentrate on either content or process theory inevitably reduces the complexity of the motivation-performance-reward dynamic. As Redman & Wilkinson have articulated, content theories frequently run the chance of over-emphasizing the role of the average person, and underplaying the value of environmental and external factors as influences on motivation. The IPR model adduced above, for example, when interpreted according to the Maslow principle of needs (a content theory of motivation), could be looked at to place too much focus on internal factors (a sense of belongingness, self-confidence and so forth), and insufficient emphasis on a process theory approach, which would consider the way the individual performs a cost-benefit analysis with their activity, considers the long-term rewards, and sacrifices more emotional, individualised elements towards a more rational, analytical approach. Redman & Wilkinson (2009: 153) thus draw attention to this potential problem with an exclusively content based approach:

Focusing on motivation as a person skill presupposes that folks are unaffected by their conditions of work or just how that they are treated. Factors once considered the responsibility of management or personnel are individualised such that the focus on control systems, job design, pay rates or being truly a 'good employer' becomes the straightforward problem of hiring the most appropriately 'skilled people'.

The cost-benefit model of motivation - wherein an individual rationally and dispassionately weighs up the professionals and cons of a specific action - is a process theory model, and downplays this content theory focus on emotional, internal considerations. Used, both theories are useful, and can be employed in tandem, in order to maximise the efficacy of reward management, also to ensure the optimum retention of employees. As Erez et al. have noted (2001: 354), the point where both theories get together is within their approach to outcomes. The means in which a certain act's outcomes and consequences are conceptualized by the individual constitutes the difference between your two approaches, nonetheless they nevertheless have this important consideration in keeping, in a way that

The two theories converge in their mutual concern, with the valence from the outcomes of a specific act. Need theory considers the type and degree of the valence associated with an act, whereas expectancy theory adds the perceived probability of the outcomes.

This convergence becomes more apparent when a comparison is manufactured between two prominent kinds of motivation theory, one that is content based and the other which could be described as a process theory model. In the former case, Alderfer's ERG theory, much like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, posits a model of interrelated needs, defining these as existence, relatedness, and growth needs respectively. Effectively, as Avery has summarised (2001: 64), Alderfer thereby 'condensed Maslow's five motivational factors or levels into three: existence (physiological and safety needs), relatedness (socialization and esteem needs), and growth (self actualization'. The main implication of Alderfer's condensed needs style of motivation is the fact that, like Maslow's hierarchical model, it posits an interrelation between your various components of the individual's collective needs, such that they are simply always dependent on one another. Just as in Maslow, the low hierarchical strata must be fulfilled before a higher category of need can be fulfilled, the levels of need are interdependent in Alderfer's model, such that (ibid. ), '[a]ccording to Alderfer, all needs can be simultaneously active, and the lack of an increased ordered need satisfaction makes lower level needs more important'. The implications of the theory to discover the best practice of retention and recognition of employees at work are important and many. A perceived lack of one need, when i note above, has implications for your assessment of others, and thus a lack of, for example, of feeling of growth and development between employees would have, according to Alderfer's model, serious implications because of their existence (the physiological and safety elements of the Maslowian equation), and thus their probability of staying at the company. Avery (2001: 66) highlights the value of such an activity theory for clarifying the best way to both retain and reward employees

If employees are not feeling worth in the business, they could seek greater fulfillment of these existence needs, possibly through greater need to find out their position is secure within the department, or enhanced concern about their salary which would provide them with items to satisfy their physiological needs.

Another content theory of motivation, the two-factor theory (or the motivation-hygiene theory), posited by Herzberg, highlights a number of external, environmental (i. e. workplace) elements that happen to be contingent with the fulfillment of a person's perceived needs. Avery (2001: 67) articulates how this model fits into the aforementioned theories of motivation, and how recognition and retention are implicated in the model

This theory postulates that we now have two factors that serve to either meet employees if they are present in the task place (motivators), or cause dissatisfaction of employees if these items are absent (hygiene factors). Motivators include achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth; whereas hygiene factors include company policies, supervision, working conditions, salary, status and job security, amongst others [].

Vroom's expectancy theory, by contrast, is a process theory of motivation, and refers to a model of motivation which, as Isaac et al. summarise (2001: 212), 'suggests that folks, acting through self-interest, adopt courses of action regarded as maximizing the probability of desirable outcomes for themselves'. Vroom contends in his expectancy theory of motivation that 'people consciously choose particular courses of action, based after perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs, as a consequence of their really wants to enhance pleasure and avoid pain' (ibid. ). Contained in this model is thus one of the inherent top features of the procedure theory of motivation, namely the individual's assessment, through the rational cost-benefit analysis, of the likely outcomes of his/her action, alongside how desirable those outcomes are actually. Different process theories have been formulated - reinforcement theory highlights the value of reward as a form of extrinsic motivator, goal-setting theory has important applications as a way of using the mechanics of the process theory to formalize and articulate targets and outcomes - but each of these shares this focus on the external outcomes of action. This element, as I note above, is exactly what unites the two theories, although each conceptualises it in completely different ways.

The most salient distinctions between the different conceptualizations are, as I indicate above, how motivation comes from in the first instance, and the temporality of decision making. In the case of content theories of motivation, for example, the factors that move the average person are derived largely from the self. Secondly, and in regards to to the temporal focus of the individual's decision making, this content theory of motivation emphasises the 'here and now' of your choice making process; it is based on feelings (of belongingness, esteem etc) at the time of the action. In comparison, the procedure theory of motivation allows for a longer term approach, in which the individual considers not merely the short term nature of the action, but how it fits into a broader scheme of costs and benefits, desirable and undesirable outcomes. The implications for clarifying the best way to retain and reward people in organisations are considerable. The ontology of managing motivation is implicated in both models. In the content theory of motivation, so that I adduce above in the form of the IPR studies, reward and effectively retention (justifying the individual's contribution, and increasing his/her esteem and belongingness and so probability of remaining with the organisation) are both achieved via a synchronous approach. The manager, or motivator, achieves powerful from the employee by fulfilling his/her needs, based on the hierarchy outlined in the theory (whether it be Maslow, McClelland or any other needs based model), and both before, after and during the action. By contrast, process models of motivation are more concerned with deriving motivation through a diachronous methodology, whereby the desirability of the action is pre-established by contrasting the less favourable present situation with a lot more favourable outcomes of confirmed action. This diachronous approach reaches its most reliable when there's a clear marriage of desirable individual outcomes and organisational goals; it is the responsibility of the motivator (i. e. the manager of the organisation) to reward individuals where these two are closely aligned. As Isaac et al. (ibid. ) note in their analysis of leadership through process theories of motivation, the 'desire to increase self-interest provides aspiring leaders with original opportunities to assume leadership roles by simultaneously meeting both follower needs and organizational requirements'. The identical could be said of effective managers, who incorporate the principles of both process and content theories of motivation in order to gather the triumvirate of an effective organisation: motivation, performance and reward. Where these three are closely aligned both conceptually and in practice - in other words, when a clear and cogent theory of motivation is in place - the fourth variable, namely the retention of employees, follows as a consequence of high motivation, strong performance, and fulfilling rewards. Both content and process theories of motivation assist in clarifying the ultimate way to bring put these concepts into practice.

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