Motivating employees is a key issue for most managers. In order to achieve a high level of performance and productivity, managers nowadays are inclined to pay more attention on this issue. Different employees need different motivation. This assignment will first look at the different characteristics of professional workers and lower-level contingent workers.
It will also address the different motivation approaches which are generally used by managers towards these two different groups. And then, by applying a set of motivation theories, we will explain why managers should use such different methods.
2. Characteristics of professional workers and lower-level contingent workers
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According to Robbins(1998), professional workers are the employees who usually have specialist knowledge, own a permanent working status and tend to be well-paid in an organization, such as software engineers and accountants. On the other hand, lower-level contingent workers are usually the people who lack specialist skills, work part-time involuntarily due to redundancy and tend to be paid at a relatively low level.
Professional workers are often placed to important positions and take more responsibility while contingent workers are always working on simple tasks and with less responsibility.
3. Different approaches of motivation applied to professionals and contingent workers in the real business world
In the real business world, organization managers are usually recommended to take different approaches of motivation towards their professional employees and lower-level contingent workers.(www.accel-team.com) Managers tend to motivate professionals by offering challenging projects, giving them autonomy in following interests and structuring work and rewarding with educational opportunities.
French computer services company CAP Gemini Sogeti, for example, used to motivate its engineers and technicians by giving them challenging tasks and relevant solution tools (Robbins 1998). To motivate contingent workers, managers use pay increase, an opportunity for permanent status and membership of an occupational sickness benefit scheme. Reader’s Digest used to motivate its temporary staff in such a similar way (Syrett, 1983). A set of theories of motivation in the following part may help to explain this difference to a certain extent.
4. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and implications
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is one of the content theories of motivation which attempt to explain motivation in terms of what arouses and energizes behaviour (McKenna, 2000).
Maslow(1954) identified five human needs that motivate people as physiological needs, security needs, social needs, self-esteem needs and self-actualization needs. The five needs are arranged in a hierarchy and are divided into higher order and lower order. Maslow continued to argue that only if each lower need is gratified will the next higher need becomes more dominant.
Maslow’s theory can help managers to identify the needs of professional workers and contingent workers. As is widely accepted, professional workers’ physiological needs and security needs can be easily satisfied with their jobs. Stable and sufficient income ensures them food, shelters and security.
Once these needs are met, professionals will begin to seek out relationships that provide affection and belonging, to desire respect and recognition and finally tend to reach his or her ultimate potential. In the case of contingent workers, the lower order physiological needs would rank higher in priority since they do not have job security or satisfactory income, which makes their basic needs hardly guaranteed. As a result, contingent workers will have to pursuit lower-level goals first and then to chase higher-level ones.
Having identified the different needs of professional workers and contingent workers, managers should take different approaches. To satisfy the needs of self-esteem and self-actualization, managers should motivate professionals by giving them enough autonomy or some challenging tasks. But for low-level contingent workers, the main motivators should remain in a pay increase or an opportunity for permanent status, since that will definitely make their basic physiological needs and security needs satisfied.
5. McClelland’s theory of needs and implications
Differing from Maslow’s argument of the existence of the hierarchy, McClelland (1961) proposed a theory of needs which emphasizes on individual needs of achievement, power and affiliation. He believed that all the three needs exist in each person but to different levels. Need for achievement forms the basis of McClelland’s theory of work motivation (Arnold, Cooper & Robertson 1995).
In compliance with McClelland’s theory, satisfying people’s need of achievement will become a motivator. This theory can be used effectively to explain how to motive the professional workers. Scarpello and Whitten (1991) studied the personalities of technical entrepreneurs in R&D organizations, inventors and research scientists and found that most of these people scored high on the needs of technological challenge and autonomy.
Individuals with a high need to achieve prefer job situations with an intermediate degree of risk, personal responsibility and feedback (Robbins, 1998). Following McClelland’s theory and these research findings, organizational managers can easily conclude that the most effective approaches to motivate professional workers are to satisfy their needs of taking intermediate risks, owning autonomy and getting feedback.
Although McClelland believed that the needs of achievement, power and affiliation exist in everyone, he also admitted that there is a level difference between different people. This theory could also help to explain how to motivate contingent workers. Due to the nature of the job and different personalities, lower-level contingent workers may not necessarily have the need for achievement as strong as professionals. Therefore, according to McClelland, approaches to meet contingent workers’ other needs, such as the need for belonging and friendship, could be used as motivators.
Even though there is a difference between Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and McClelland’s theory, both of them advocate that an effective way of motivation is to satisfy different people’s different needs.
6. Expectancy theory of motivation and implications
Unlike the content theories of motivation, expectancy theory which is a part of the process theories of motivation helps to explain individual differences in motivation and behaviour (Huczynski & Buchanan, 2001). Originally proposed by Vroom(1964), the expectancy theory suggested that motivation is determined by the function of three factors as expectancy, instrumentality and valence multiplied together. Vroom argued that people will be motivated to high performance if only he/she perceives that an effort leads to desirable rewards.
According to Vroom, managers must relate their motivation approaches to employees’ desirable rewards. Different people have different desirable rewards. Recent researches done by Bailyn(1991) demonstrated career-minded engineers were more likely to be motivated by challenging researches than monetary rewards. Professionals receive a great deal of “intrinsic” satisfaction from their work.
The chief reward for them is work itself. But for contingent workers, since they have no job security and are typically provided little or no health care, financial benefits and the opportunity to gain permanent employment become their premium preferences. Since motivation must be the rewards which are desired by the staff, challenging projects should be the most appropriate way to motivate professionals since they provide opportunities for professionals to commit themselves to their field of expertise. Similarly, a low-level contingent worker will be highly motivated if he or she sees an opportunity for permanent status or a pay increase or a chance to develop salable skills.
7. Goal-setting theory and implications
Another process theory, goal-setting theory pioneered by Locke in the late1960s well explained how employees could be motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback. Lock(1968) proposed that intentions to work toward a goal are a major source of work motivation. He also argued that performance is shaped by goal difficulty and goal specificity. The more specific and difficult the goal is, the higher the level of performance will be. More to the point, feedback affects people’s further performance.
According to this theory, the staff should do better if they are given specific and challenging goals and suitable feedback. However, things do not happen equally true among professionals and contingent workers. In many cases, professionals’ performance will be higher if a task is more specific and challenging. (Amabile and Glynn) But for contingent workers, due to the lack of professional skills, they may not prefer to accept challenging work.
They are typically low in self-efficacy. This phenomenon was explained by Locke as possible limits to the effectiveness of goal-setting. However, Locke’s argument about feedback could have the same positive responses. When given enough feedback, both professional workers and contingent workers will give more efforts to their work. Therefore, goal setting theory explains the reason why most managers could use on-going challenging goals to motivate professional workers effectively while less effective in contingent workers’ situation.
In conclusion, professional workers and lower-level contingent workers have so many differences in terms of their needs, perceptions of desirable rewards and abilities. Each motivation theory has helped to explain how these differences affect the motivation from different perspectives.
Managers could not expect to use the same kind of approach to motivate the two groups. Considering all of the differences, managers generally could use such approaches as giving on-going challenges, offering autonomy in work and providing feedback to motivate professional workers. In the case of lower-level contingent workers, measures like a pay increase, an opportunity for permanent status and a chance to develop professional skills could become more effective.
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