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Thursday, April 1, 2004

Motivating Mechanics, Part 2

Bob Haines

In the February issue, we discussed intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivation and the benefits of each. This time, let's discuss the measurement of motivational levels, how to determine them, and what they mean.

One of the concepts introduced in general psychology classes is that of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow's theory states that for an individual to pursue higher goals–goals of self-actualization or of an existential nature–the basic needs for survival, security, and belonging must first be met. Therefore, if employees do not feel that they are receiving a living wage, or are not being compensated equally for job responsibilities similar to other employees, their more basic needs are not being met.

The levels of Maslow's hierarchy are somewhat paralleled by Alexander Hiam's thoughts on motivation (1999). Hiam looks at productivity and its relationship to motivation as a U-shaped curve. Production is high at the threat/survival extreme of the motivational spectrum (motivation by threat of bodily harm or survival) and the intrinsically motivated extreme of the spectrum (intrinsic or internal motivation). However, the majority of workers fall into the trough of the U, where (according to Maslow) belonging, security, and the like reside, and where motivational levels typically reside for employees. While workers are not being threatened with injury or death, they are not internally motivated to perform either, resulting in mediocre production levels.

Does this mean that middle-of-the-road levels of motivation equate to a near-impossible task of improving production? No. The first step in increasing motivation is to identify the areas that need the most work and focus on them. As conditions improve, you can reevaluate your needs and determine the proper course of action.

It may seem difficult to measure something like motivation unless you have a tool that is designed specifically for this purpose. It just so happens that you are in luck. A survey used to measure the motivational levels of your employees can be found online at http://proamt.com/motivation.html. This survey can show you what areas may need improvement in the motivation of your workforce. However, before you complete the survey, you must seriously ask yourself if you know the answers to these questions. If you don't, the first step in determining the motivational levels of your employees may be to establish lines of communication that will enable you to objectively answer the survey questions. Each part of the survey measures the different facets of motivation, like job satisfaction, perceived compensation equity, etc., while the overall average gives a glimpse of the "Big Picture" of motivation. Armed with this information, you can determine what areas of motivation are the most needful in your organization and focus your attention on them first. When motivational levels begin to rise, productivity naturally increases. In the next installment of our series on motivation, we will discuss strategies for increasing the different areas of motivation and, ultimately, increasing job satisfaction and productivity.

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