Contemporary Issues in Motivation

Some contemporary motivation issues facing today’s managers include motivating a diversified workforce, pay for performance programs, motivating minimum wage employees, motivating professional and technical employees, and flexible work schedule options. We’ll also look at what entrepreneurs do to motivate their employees.

What is the key to motivating a diverse workforce?

The maximum motivation in today’s diversified workforce, management needs to think in terms of flexibility. For instance studies tell us that men place considerably more importance on autonomy in their jobs than do women. In contrast, the opportunity to learn, convenient work hours, and good interpersonal relations are more important to women than to men. Managers need to recognize that the motivation of a single mother with two dependent children, who are working full time to support her family, may be quite different from the needs of a young, single part time worker or the needs of the older employee who is working to supplement his or her pension income. Employees have different personal needs and goals that they’re hoping to satisfy through their jobs. A diverse array of rewards is needed to motivate employees with such varied needs.

Motivating a diverse workforce also means that managers must be flexible enough to accommodate cultural differences. The theories of motivation we have been studying were developed largely by US psychologists and were validated in studies of American workers. Therefore, these theories need to be modified for different cultures. Take, for instance Maslow’s hierarchy of needs the hierarchy aligns well with the American culture. The Self interest concept is consistent with capitalism as is extremely high value placed on individualism. But in countries where collectivism and uncertainty avoidance characteristics are strong – such as Japan, Greece, and Mexico – security needs would be on top of the needs hierarchy not self actualization. Because almost all the motivation theories presented and are based on the self interest motive, they should be applicable to employees in countries such as Great Britain and Australia was capitalism and individualism are highly valued. In countries with high scores on the quality of life dimension such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Finland social needs would be at the top of the needs hierarchy.

The need for achievement concept is another aspect of a motivation theory with a US bias. The view that a high need for achievement acts as an internal motivator presupposes the existence of two cultural characteristics a willingness to accept a moderate degree of risk and a concern with performance. These characteristics would exclude countries with high uncertainty avoidance scores and high ratings. The remaining countries are predictably such countries as New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, the US and Canada that has large populations influenced by British and US cultural norms.

Although equity theory has a strong following in the US, evidence suggests that in collectivist cultures – especially in the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe – employees expect rewards to reflect their individual needs as well as their performance. Moreover, consistent with the legacy of communism and centrally planned economies, employees exhibit an entitlement attitude – that is, they expect outcomes to be greater than their inputs.

Don’t assume, however from the comments in the past few paragraphs that there aren’t any cross cultural consistencies with respect to motivation. Several studies among employees in other countries indicate that some aspects of motivation theory are, in fact, transferable. However, we should not assume that motivation concepts are universally applicable. Managers must recognize that to motivate employees in any environment they must adjust their motivational techniques to fit the culture.