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Motivation and Job Design


1. Introduction

Employee performance is a function of the interaction between ability and motivation (Corbett, 2001).  One of the major challenges of contemporary organizations is to motivate employees to perform to the best of their ability (Ambrose, 1999), as it is pivotal to organizational success in the dynamic and competitive business world.  This paper is to analysis the symptoms of low morale, high absenteeism rates and poor quality in a large lawn mowers and garden maintenance vehicles manufacturer, and to outline the options available to the management.

2. Analysis of symptoms

.Work motivation refers to a person・s willingness to exert effort to the achievement of an organizational goal, conditioned by the effort・s ability to fulfill a personal need・ (Corbett, 2001).  The symptoms in the case are conformed to the argument from Stone (1998) that motivation manifests itself through employee morale, output, absenteeism, effort, labor turnover, loyalty and achievement, hence affecting the quality of work.  A recent survey (Skoien, 2001) of 1,516 employees has showed that motivation is one major concern of employees in which job performance is managed in their organizations.  More than half of the employees believe that their supervisors do not know what motivates them to do their best work.  It is because motivation is extremely complex for many interacting factors such as the culture of the organization, management・s leadership style, the structure of the organization, job design, HR policies and practices, as well as the employee・s personality, skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes (Stone, 1998).  Therefore, to diagnose the symptoms and to maximize the motivational impact of rewards, Schermerhorn (1996) suggests to respect diversity and individual differences, clearly understand what people want from work and allocate rewards to satisfy interests of both individuals and the organization.   

2.1 Literature review of motivation theories

The basis of most motivation theories is formed by the interaction between the situation and needs and motives of the individual (Rosenfeld, 1999).  None of them sufficient in themselves but they are complement to each other (Handy, 1999; Corbett, 2001).  The literature review is focused on content and process theories.

Content theories

The human needs identified by Maslow・s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg・s Duel-Factor Theory and McClelland・s Acquired Needs Theory help to understand how people with different needs may respond to different work situation, which is compared in Figure 1 (Schermerhorn, 1996; Stone, 1998).

Maslow・s theory is helpful in identifying needs or motives.  The theory assumes that people are motivated to satisfy five basic types of needs in a predisposed and logical order and are only driven by needs that remain unattained (Rosenfeld et al, 1999).  It implies that the management should identify the most important needs of their employees and create an environment which encourages employees to reach their maximum potential.  Management who does not address these matters are likely to suffer employee frustration, labour turnover and decreased performance (Stone, 1998).  The theory is criticized by Hersey et al (1996) and McCarthy et al (1997) that in reality, most people tend to be partially satisfied and partially unsatisfied at each level, and try to fulfil a set of needs rather than just one need or another in sequence.  Freud・s Theory of Motivation also argues that people are largely unconscious of their needs and wants (Hersey et al, 1996), which makes it more complicated to understand individual motivation. 

Herzberg・s theory provides with insights into the goals and incentives that tend to satisfy human needs.  The theory concludes that the presence of motivators can produce employee satisfaction and performance; the presence of hygiene factors merely prevents employee dissatisfaction (Stone, 1998).  This suggests that paying attention to hygiene factors will reduce staff turnover and absenteeism but will not necessarily increase productivity, while building motivators into job content can maximize opportunities for job satisfaction (Handy, 1999; Schermerhorn, 1996).  Corbett (2001) argues that this theory recorded the result of fundamental attribution error, which people have tendency to blame external factors for their poor work and attribute good performance to their own abilities.  It brings out that the management has to avoid generalization with one theory; rather they should try to use different approaches to diagnose the motivation problems.

In contrast, McClelland・s theory argues that each person has needs for achievement, affiliation and power to some extent that vary over time and as a result of life history, though only one of these needs dominant and tends to motivate an individual at any given time (Rosenfeld et al, 1999; Corbett, 2001).  In addition, McClelland is also convinced that the need for achievement can be taught and developed in people (Hersey et al, 1996; Corbett, 2001).  Hersey et al (1996) also argue that people with high achievement and power needs tend to be interested in the motivators; while people are more concerned about hygiene factors if these needs are low.

Process theory

Process theories help to understand how people give meaning to rewards and the work opportunities available to achieve them.  It is assumed that the workers in the case are treated fairly and no inequity occurs in the situation.  The discussion here focuses on Vroom・s Expectancy Theory, which argues that performance is the multiplier effect of expectancy (effort-performance link), instrumentality (performance-reward link) and valence (attractiveness) (Stone, 1998; Corbett, 2001).  In other words, motivated behavior is further increased if there is a positive relationship between good performance and rewards (Hersey et al, 1996).  Kilduff et al (Timpe, 1986) stress that different people prefer different outcomes which relevant to their needs.  Therefore, the organization should recognize and appreciate individual differences, and try to maximize individual expectancies, instrumentalities, and valences in ways that support organizational objectives.  Schermerhorn (1996) supports this argument as shown in Figure 2.

2.2 Application of motivation theories to the case

To apply the theories discussed to the case, it is assumed that the workers are satisfied with physiological (reasonable pay) and safety needs (safe and healthy workplace, job security and guaranteed benefits) so these two levels of needs are no longer motivators.  The social need (or a higher need of affiliation) is activated because the semi-skilled and highly repetitive work requires constant attention so the shopfloor allows limited social interaction.  On the other hand, esteem need is likely occurred due to the lack of praise and recognition from the direct and autocratic supervision.  Some workers might also unaware that they have self-actualisation needs.  Hence, the hygiene factors such as interpersonal relations and supervision lead to dissatisfaction from workers.  The management needs to correct hygiene factors and satisfy workers・ needs through motivators and development of higher needs of achievement.

In addition, the workers perceive high performance as a path leading to the attainment of their personal goals or needs.  The effort-performance link suggests that they have to work harder to meet the performance standard set by the organization.  The performance-reward link makes them to expect their rewards to be maximized or minimized in accordance to the effort they have put.  However, the rewards they receive are irrelevant to their perceive goals or needs (social, esteem and self-actualization needs).  This analysis is demonstrated in Figure 3, which is modified from Schermerhorn・s model (1996).

3.  Options available to the organization

Job design, the system of rewards, management style, organizational culture, organizational structure and change management all affect on employee motivation.  Stone (1998) suggests that better job design is one way of rectifying the symptoms, because both productivity and quality of work life are tied to job design.  Due to the word limits, the discussion is focused on the options provided from job design. 

.Job design is the deliberate, purposeful planning of the job, including any or all of its structural or social aspects・ (Corbette, 2001).  Armstrong (1999) emphasis that job design satisfy the requirements of the organization for productivity, operational efficiency and quality of product or services, as well as the needs of the individual for interest, challenge and accomplishment.  Stone (1998) argues that there is no one best way to design a job as the different approaches to job design emphasize either efficiency or employee satisfaction.  Tradeoffs inevitably occur because job design is influenced by numerous factors such as management philosophy, organizational culture, government regulations, union requirements, economic conditions and employee numbers and availability (Stone, 1998).  Hence the management needs to consider carefully the technical, social and financial implications of each before implementation.

3.1 Analysis of current job design

The organization adopts job specialization for its job characteristics and supervision style.  Job specialization holds the assumption that workers are viewed as being typically lazy, often dishonest, aimless, dull, and mercenary (Steers et al, 1996).  To get workers to produce efficiency, job specialization involves using standardized work procedures with tasks designed to be semi-skilled and highly repetitive.  It uses time and motion study to design the job in an efficient pattern of movement with less fatigue (Stone, 1998).  The supervisors are guided by McGregor Theory X assumptions (Handy, 1999) so they are direct and autocratic to ensure that the workers meet the quality and quantity adhered to company rules. 

Technical implication

The uniformity of the jobs is easy to implement and the management can determine the one best way of doing the job in the production (Stone, 1998).  The standard procedure allows the organization to hire workers according to their qualities which best matched the job requirements.  The standard pay rates and performance measures reduce effects to the supervisors and the other department.  The workers require little training for the semi-skilled jobs so the work can be interchangeable.  Production quality and quantity are easily controlled.  Hochgraf (1998) argues that the workers tend to feel put upon and not valued when they are over-controlled under such work situation.  

Social implication

The semi-skilled and highly repetitive of the jobs are boredom and lack of challenge.  The work itself is lack of intrinsic reward and job content.  The workers find that they are not producing any identifiable end product so develop little pride or enthusiasm in the job.  Limited social interaction reduces satisfaction, increases tardiness and absenteeism that may cause a high error rate (Schermerhorn, 1996).  The direct and autocratic supervision make the workers lack of involvement and autonomy, which decreases job satisfaction and develops powerless and dependent workers (Stone, 1998). 

Financial implication

On the positive side, the job specialization benefits with cost saving from economies of scale and learning curve.  In contrast, Stone (1998) argues that the organization may also suffer high costs for two reasons.  The workers frequently dislike highly specialized jobs, so they tend to quit or absent themselves.  Absenteeism and high labour turnover increases the costs of recruitment, selection and training, and pressure employers to pay higher rates to try to keep employees on the job.  In addition, problems associated with poor quality, poor customer service, sabotage, employee stress and grievances appear, adding to costs.

3.2 Other options of job design

The discussion is focused on some other options of job design, including job enlargement with occasion job rotation, job enrichment and autonomous work group.

3.2.1    Job enlargement with occasion job rotation

Job enlargement increases task variety by combining two or more tasks that were previously assigned to separate workers, while job rotation increases task variety by periodically or occasionally shifting workers among jobs involving different task (Schermerhorn, 1996; Stone, 1998). 

Technical implication

Job enlargement with occasional job rotation requires fewer changes and re-structuring in the production line so it is easy to control and predict result.  However, the new jobs are often only a marginal improvement in terms of the degree of repetition, the skill demands and the level of responsibility, as a result workers have not always responded positively to such change (Accel-Team.Com, 2000).  Stone (1998) argues that job rotation may cause disruption to the work group.  It also increases supervisory time spent answering questions and monitoring the work of rotated employees.

Social implication

Task variety is assumed to offset some of the disadvantages of job specialization, thereby increasing employee performance and satisfaction (Schermerhorn, 1996).  Stone (1998) emphasizes that if job rotation is used to place employees in more challenging jobs, it can be effective for improving job satisfaction, helping workers develop a generalist perspective, increasing skills and work force flexibility.  Job rotation also helps to improve workers social interaction.

Financial implication

Fewer workers are required as the skills of the workers are more diverse.  However, workers often expect higher payment to compensate for learning these other jobs and for agreeing to changes in working practice (Accel-Team.com, 2000).  Job rotation also increases training costs, lower productivity when an employee is moved into a new job where he/she is less efficient (Stone, 1998).

3.2.2    Job enrichment

Job enrichment involves making basic changes in job content and level of responsibility.  This approach is primarily focused on Hackman and Oldham・s Job Characteristics Model in evoking psychological states that results in positive individual and organizational outcomes (Ambrose, 1999).  Stone (1998) suggests that skill variety, task identity and task significance can be done by vertical loading (opportunity to experience greater achievement, recognition, responsibility and personal growth) and horizontal loading (increases the complexity of work to promote interest).  It includes combing tasks, creating natural work units and establishing internal customer relationships, which allows the workers to experience meaningfulness of work.  In addition, the workers can experience responsibility for work outcomes by increasing autonomy in planning and controlling of their work, usually with less supervision and more self-evaluation (De Cenzo et al, 1994).  The workers are also motivated through opening feedback channels to correct their own performance.

Technical implication

Job enrichment is more complicated and requires a significant redesign in existing production line and rearrangement of manpower of whole organization.  Wider scope of skills is required from employees and therefore extensive training is required.  The implementation requires a changing emphasis in the manager/supervisor・s role to a supportive leadership rather than an autocratic style (Armstrong, 1999).  Leidecker et al (Timpe, 1986) emphasize that the management needs to be sensitive for any resistance from the managers and supervisors, which eventually affects the effective implementation of the program.

Social implication

Hersey et al (1996) argue that even at lower levels in an organization, people can respond in responsible and productive ways to a work environment in which they are given an opportunity to grow and mature.  People begin to satisfy their esteem and self-actualisation needs by participating in the planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling of their own tasks.  As the motivational value from enriched jobs is derived from the rewards associated with performing well (Timpe, 1986), the worker will only receive intrinsic rewards such as feelings of accomplishment, achievement, and competence through effective performance.  Hence job enrichment can significantly reduce turnover and absenteeism, improved job satisfaction, improve quality of products, improve productivity and output rates (Steers et al, 1996).

Financial implication

Job enrichment results higher costs such as additional training cost, redesign of layout and rescheduling.  Leidecker et al (Timpe, 1986) emphasizes that job enrichment requires rewards for extra effort and successful completion.  Stone (1998) argues that this approach allows greater productivity, improved product quality, reduced absenteeism and labour turnover means lower costs.

3.2.3    Autonomous work group

Autonomous work group represents job enrichment at the group level (Stone, 1998).  The group・s jobs has been designed to create a high degree of task interdependence and who have been given authority to make many decisions about how they go about doing the required work.  The autonomous work group is held collectively accountable for performance results, has discretion in distributing tasks and scheduling work within the team, is able to perform more than one job by training one another to develop multiple job skills, evaluates one another・s performance contributions, and is responsible for total quality of group products (Schermerhorn, 1996).

Technical implication

In addition to the technical implication from job enrichment, the movement of personnel between work groups with high levels of autonomy may be difficult.  So the organization has to change to be innovative and decentralized to allow for a more flexible and matrix organization.  The whole workforce in the organization has to be retrained for such changes.  Armstrong (1999) emphasizes that the reward systems have to change also to be related to team performance (team pay), but with skill-based pay for individuals. 

Social implication

Autonomous work group should result in greater degree of flexibility for individual jobholders within the work system and allow for their personal development through increased involvement in decision-making relating to the control and regulation of the work system (Accel-Team.Com, 2001).  It helps to build the sense of responsibility, autonomy, teamwork and high level of morale.

Financial implication

Management are often not prepared to take the risk of introducing this radically different approach for its disruption and associated risk (Accel-Team.com, 2000), as it requires additional training and implementation cost.  However, Stone (1998) argues that autonomous work group improves quality of output, lower absenteeism and labour turnover, eases in covering absent workers, reduces numbers of supervisory personnel, so reducing costs.

4.   Conclusion

The stress in today・s organization comes from the pressure to create ever-higher quality products, to be more productive, and to keep up with other competitors.  The success of an organization relies on the performance of their workforce.  It is evidence that satisfied employees perform their jobs more effective and efficient than dissatisfied employees.  Management needs to be able to balance the needs of employees and goals of the organization, and makes every effort to create jobs and work environments that encourage motivation from within. 

Poor designed jobs result in lower productivity, employee turnover, absenteeism and sabotage.  Job design is only effective when the design fits organizational goals with employees・ participation.  Hence, the organization should consider carefully the technical, social and financial implications of each design to ensure that it achieves high quality of work life and meet the change environment.


Reference List

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