Theories of Motivation
Theories of motivation provide a detailed framework to understand the various factors that drive the performance and behaviour of people. There is no shortage of models, strategies and tactics for motivating employees; as a result, firms constantly experiment with new motivational programmes and practices. By understanding and applying these theories to the real world in the workplace, managers can create a positive environment that encourages employees to reach their full potential.
Motivational theories can be classified into the following categories:
1) Content Theories
Content theories attempt to explain those particular things that truly motivate a person at work. These theories are concerned with identifying people’s needs and their relative strengths, and the goals they seek to satisfy the needs. Content theories emphasize the nature of needs and what motivates them. There is the assumption that everyone reacts in much the same way to motivating pressures and that there is, therefore, one best way to motivate everyone. These theories provide a prescriptive list that managers can follow in an attempt to increase productivity. The most common content theories of motivation are Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory, Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene Theory, and Alderfer’s ERG Theory.
2) Process Theories
Content theories of motivation try to answer the question ‘What motivates people?’ while process theories attempt to answer the question ‘how motivation takes place within an individual?’. Process theories change the emphasis from needs to the goals and methods by which people are motivated. These theories identify the processes by which internal factors influence motivation. These theories are cognitive, i.e., they are based on the premise that motivation is a function of employees’ perceptions, thoughts, and beliefs. They attempt to describe and explain how people sustain, start, and direct behaviour aimed at the satisfaction of needs or reduction of inner tension. The most common process theories of motivation are Vroom’s Valence – Instrumentality Theory and Equity Theory.