These classical theories are still relevant today, because they are effectively used tools in our business environment. Moreover, they explain basic people needs and motivations as well as help managers to understand employees. Therefore, there is no doubt that they will be used in future.
Motivation theories come in two forms – ‘content’ theories and ‘process’ theories.First, I will be looking at content theories, then I will look at process theories. The content theories include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s two –factor theory. The process theory consists of Adams equity theory and expectancy theory.
What is motivation? Naylor (2004, p. 369) defines it as ‘the set internal processes and external forces that direct behaviour’. Bennett (1991, p.339) states that ‘motivation results from the drives, needs and aspirations that determine behaviour’. In other words, motivation is what encourages us to do things like going to work or practice sport.
Content theories ask question ‘What are the needs that motivate people to behave in certain ways?’. These theories are trying to find out what specific things motivate people so that they can work harder and more efficiently. Managers would be the ones who benefit the most because if they would know their employee’s needs, they could introduce reward system that would satisfy them and meet organisational goals.
The most famous classification of needs is formulated by Maslow. He arranged five levels of needs in a hierarchy. This theory states that ‘when a lower need is satisfied, the next highest becomes dominant and the individual’s attention is turned to satisfying this higher need’. This hierarchy consists of different levels of needs where at the bottom, there are the simplest needs that can be easily achieved, then followed to the top where there are needs which can be achieved only if each lower need is satisfied. First, there are physiological needs that include the need for oxygen, food and water. Then, there is safety and security which simply means the need for protection against danger. The third is a social need – the need of love and acceptance as belonging to a group. Next comes esteem needs that include recognition, status, and appreciation. The last one is self-actualisation need which is the need to develop potentialities and skills. Maslow also raises some issues connected to his hierarchy of needs. For example, do humans have the same needs? Furthermore, can anyone’s needs be fully satisfied? It is hard to answer to these questions, but we have to consider them to make the best conclusion from this theory.
There are many examples of these needs used in today’s businesses. One particular business where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used is Tesco. Under physiological needs Tesco provides a place of work, regular monthly pay and essential facilities such as a restaurant or lockers for personal belongings. For security needs, Tesco provides the security of formal contracts of employment as well as pension and sickness schemes and the option to join a union to give people a sense of belonging. It ensures health and safety in the workplace too. Under social needs, Tesco promotes team and group working at various levels. For esteem needs it has 360 degree feedback and appraisal systems that help recognize individuals’ contributions and importance and celebrate achievement. For self-fulfilment needs Tesco offers Personal Development Plans, recognition of skills and talents, opportunity for promotion and a career progression programme. This example of Tesco clearly shows that this theory is