Why It Matters: Motivating Employees

Why explain common motivational theories and apply them to business?

What motivates you to do what you do? How do you motivate others to help you or to accomplish things on their own? You have already learned a lot about business and the role people play, both as managers and employees, in helping the organization reach its goals. As a manager you are expected to lead and manage people. As an employee you are given job specific duties and responsibilities you are expected to perform. Neither leading nor following will happen until people are motivated.

The following video on the motivational strategies used by Zappos is a good place to begin our discussion of motivation in business.  What motivates the employees at Zappos? Is it high salaries? Long vacations? The chance to shave your head at the company picnic once a year?  As you watch the video, pay attention to what really motivates Zappos workers.

Since the 1920s researchers have studied human behavior and developed a variety of theories to explain the driving force behind motivation. These theories range from the need to provide a safe and secure environment for oneself and family to the compelling desire not to experience negative consequences from action or inaction. Understanding the basis for motivation and learning how motivational approaches work in the business environment can be helpful to your professional and organizational success.

Before you begin this module ask yourself the following questions:

  • What motivates me?
  • How have others tried to motivate me?
  • Which motivational approaches have been the most and least successful?
  • When have I been successful in motivating others?
  • How can I use this information to be successful in my personal and professional life?

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the Hawthorne effect, and explain its significance in management
  • Explain need-based theories of worker motivation
  • Explain process-based theories of motivation
  • Differentiate between Theory X, Theory Y, and Theory Z managers
  • Explain how managers can use job characteristic and goal-setting theory to motivate employees