Consolidated Workforce Motivation Model

Idea / Human Resources

Consolidated Workforce Motivation Model
Warren Willson, Member, Teacher, Australia

A new and easier way to understand what truly motivates your workforce.

Motivation theory isn't a new field of endeavour. There have been many attempts at a simple theory as to what motivates people over the years, but it has always seemed to me that each and every one of the leading theories fell short in some key area or another. It frustrated me to think that there had to be a simpler and easier way to understand workforce motivation just waiting to be described.

Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a starting point, but it needs to be addressed in the context supplied with John Stacy Adam's Equity Theory, which in turn needs to be modified for Frederick Hertzberg's Hygiene factors in his Theory of Motivation. I decided that they all contributed something. What was required was a consolidated model of workforce motivation theory that showed at a glance all of the forces at play and how they impact the end result; employee performance.

My Consolidated Workforce Motivation Model is best explained by the picture supplied. It is not original in its constituent parts, but the consolidation of those parts and their interaction is certainly original to the best of my knowledge.

The scales are drawn from Adams' Equity Theory, but the distinction between discretionary and non-discretionary inputs on the employee input side is important to understand.

Non-discetionary inputs encompass the basics such as time, effort, ability and reliability. These are all the employee believes are offered in return for any given job. Salary, location, conditions of employment and opportunities for progression won't "buy" the employer any more than these.

Discretionary inputs are things like loyalty, tolerance, flexibility, integrity, commitment, self-sacrifice and personal investment in organisational goals. What company doesn't want to be able to draw those Discretionary inputs from each and every employee. Their impact on the company bottom line is potentially astronomical.

On the employee return side are all the things people find necessary as described in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Whether motivators are deficiency-driven or growth-driven, these are what people REALLY expect to get out of their work. After all, for most people work represents where they spend the largest proportion of their valuable time, so it needs to provide for their needs everywhere, and not just at work.

The base of the scales represents what Frederick Herzberg called the Hygiene factors. They are essential to the stability of the system but they don't actually motivate people to excell. If any of them are missing, the scales topple and the employee either leaves or is dismissed for a matching lack of performance. If they are all there and intact, all the employer will get are the Non-Discretionary inputs. Those extremely valuable and important Discretionary inputs will simply be withheld.

So that's the basic model. I have some interesting suggestions for extracting the non-discretionary inputs from the workforce, but those are beyond the scope of this piece.

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