Employees as a human resource are one of the key success factors of the
company and the main competitive advantage nowadays. But how to get the best
out of this valuable resource? There are so many various factors that have
influence on employee performance – political and economic situation in the
country, legislation restrictions, technological progress, and environmental
factors. Therefore, it is not an easy task for Human resources managers
together with the company management to search for the best ways to enhance the
This is the question that the employers and researchers have for
centuries and still did not find the gold receipt.
In this work we will give a brief overview of the main motivation
theories and will narrow the analysis to how the following social factors –
different generations, globalization, and culture; influence on employee performance.
Employee performance is often determined as a
combination of abilities and motivation. So, one of the primary tasks facing a
manager is motivating employees to perform to the best of their ability
(Moorhead & Griffin, 1998). Actually, motivation has been described as “one
of the most pivotal concerns of modern organizational research” (Baron, 1991:
And what is work motivation? Pinder (1998) describes it as the set of
internal and external forces that initiate work-related behavior, and determine
its form, direction, intensity, and duration. Work-related behavior is effected
by both environmental forces (e.g., organizational structure, reward systems,
the nature of the work being performed) and forces intrinsic to the person
(e.g., individual needs and motives). And what are the bad news is that we
can’t actually see motivation or measure it directly. Therefore, we have to
rely on the existing theories to find our way to the most effective motivators
with consideration of the specific conditions within which our company
Maslow theory of motives and needs (Maslow, 1943) defines
five steps of employees needs
that could be motivating for employees
only if the lower are satisfied: physiological, safety, social, ego, and
Equity and justice theory introduced by Adams (1963) examines how
employees perform when they can compare themselves with their peer group.
Researches learned that underpaid employees had decrease in their performance
(reduced their impact) (Greenberg, 1982). Inequity comparisons result in a
state of dissonance or tension that motivates an employee to engage in behavior
designed to relieve tension (e.g. raise or lower work efforts to re-establish
equity, leave the situation that is causing inequity). (Lee, 2016)
Expectancy theory (Vroom, 1964) suggests that motivation is a
multiplicative function of three constructs: expectancy, instrumentality and
valence. It is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to
performance and performance will lead to rewards (Vroom, 1964, Lee,
2016) – negative or positive. The higher reward is the more motivational effect it has on employee.
Motivation-hygiene theory (Herzberg, 1966)
categorizes motivation into two
factors: motivators – as intrinsic factor and hygienes – as extrinsic factor (Herzberg,
Mausner & Snyderman, 1959). Intrinsic factors such as achievements and
recognition provide the employee job satisfaction while extrinsic factors such
as compensation and job security give job dissatisfaction. In other words, if
managers want to motivate employees and have them interested in their jobs they should not use the money
(for sure, in case when the basic payment is at appropriate level). Promoting
the culture of payments and focusing employees on job security brings the
companies to escalating expectations and therefore constant increase of HR
costs. Most important, managers will increase employee intrinsic motivation and
long-term job satisfaction by providing psychological growth opportunities
Cognitive evaluation theory (Deci, 1971) concludes that money is not a
motivator, on the contrary – money can demotivate. It defines two motivational
subsystems – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsically motivated individuals
attribute the cause of their behavior to internal needs and perform behaviors
for intrinsic reward and satisfaction (Ambrose & Kulik, 1999).
Goal setting theory (Locker, 1996) says that setting the specific
difficult goals to employees lead to their better performance. Goal setting is
especially effective when feedback is provided that permits the individual to
track the progress relative to the goal (Ambrose & Kulik, 1999).
There are many traditional theories that emphasis on specific elements
that empower workforce motivation. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs refers to the payment
as one of the levers of motivation. Adam’s equity theory specifies the fairness
and justice among employees, whereas Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristic
theory stresses the essentiality of work design for high performance. And Skinner’s reinforcement theory refers to
reinforcement of positive employee behavior. There are more recent researches
as for example the comprehensive motivation theory by Lawrence and Nohria
(2002) et al. that incorporate many researches fields.
HR is constantly working to combine and incorporate these numerous
theories in each day practice by creating multiple motivation schemes for
employees. With each year, it becomes more and more challenging as the work
environment has high level of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity
(VUCA environment) and is impacted by the
other PESTLE factors.
Globalization of business activities brings different cultures together
into one company. The managers have to find the way to motivate their
subordinates even when they work all over the world. The rapid development of
technology of course helps but this is not enough. This has to be taken into
consideration when we educate our leaders and of course while introducing
incentives for employees. Soon we will have four generations working at the
same time as a workforce due to increased pension age and workforce scarcity.
Therefore, the motivation schemes have to be adjusted to the different values and
perceptions of different generations.
Therefore, it is a great challenge for the organization leaders to support
the multicultural environment that manages multi-generational differences.
Going back to Mannheim’s sociology of generations people are grouped
into cohorts based on the experiencing the same significant social and historical
events within a given period of time. So, based on the events that took place
during the period of ageing, generations develop their values and attitudes.
Many researchers advocate the close attention to the multi-generational
workforce including their stereotypical behaviors (Salopek, 2000a; Smola &
Sutton, 2002; Tulgan 2004).
Going deeper into characteristics of generations that are the current
workforce brings us to the necessity to pay attention to different personal
values, approaches to psychological contract, desirable communication styles,
different perceptions of how they see the world. All these points can bring the
conflict in the organization if not treated the right way. These differences
have to be understood to get the best out of available workforce and to bring
our organizations success.
We need to understand what the motives of each cohort are, so their
competences and abilities can be used for strong commitment and work engagement
within the changing organizational strategies and goals. Indeed Salopek (2000)
argues that organizations that create environments which are value-based and
which support divergent views and values of each of the cohorts create a
positive outcome for both the organization and its employees.
This paper outlines and evaluates the main characteristics and main
motives of behaviors of each generation.
generation that was born before Baby boomers prior to 1946) represent very small percentage of current work
force. They are influenced by the World War II and period of the Great Depression.
They are patriotic, loyal, conservative, value stability and commitment.
Seeking for the long-term job security, they are loyal to the organizations and
Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) were influenced
by after war recovery and cold war. According to Gursoy, et al. (2013) although
they work hard and believe their work defines them, they tend to work for their
own recognition or development rather than to improve the company. They could
be described as optimistic workaholics, who value the health and well-being,
value oriented. Boomers have technological disadvantage compared to younger generations
that might create tension and together with high ambition may lead to burnout.
Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979)
(Al-Asfour&Lettau, 2014) makes the second biggest generation in the
workforce 33% (Brown, 2012; Lyons&Kuron, 2012). Lewis & Wescott (2017)
describe them as the first generation to enter the workforce after corporate
downsizing and grew up as latchkey kids with both parents working or divorced.
Xers grew up at the beginning of the so-cold “Information age” and experiencing
social, economic and political upheavals (Gursoy et al., 2008; Smola &
Sutton, 2002). They are skeptical, independent, entrepreneurial. So, they seek
constant feedback, autonomy, though expect the organizations to provide them
the opportunities for the skill development. Employees generation X lack
employer loyalty and will use the opportunity to challenge the hierarchical
decision-making structure. If they are
not satisfied with the job they easily change it. They are also well
appreciated for their thinking globally.
Generation Y – Millennials – are the children of Baby Boomers
(born between 1980 and 2000) (Al-Asfour&Lettau, 2014). According to Smola
and Sutton (2002) they are the first generation to be born into a
technologically based world. They were bombarded with various information
through all types of media, have experienced the job loss in their families, lived
through 11th of September. Whereas they grew up with a focus on
family and had relatively scheduled and structured lives, at this point, Dawn
(2004) suggests that Millennials are looking for challenges and learning
opportunities in their lives. In addition, industry experts have suggested that
Generation Y employees value work-life balance and place significant importance
in finding meaning at work, as well as in their personal lives (Moritz, 2014;
Williams, 2011; Trunk, 2007). According to Bersin by Deloitte research on
Millennials, two-thirds of them state their organization’s “purpose” is the
reason they choose an employer. The Survey conducted by Lewis and Wescott (2017)
shows that the most important job satisfaction factor for Y-er is “having
things well explained”.
Summarizing the abovementioned, we see that the workforce is changing
drastically. Long-term relationships seem to be “passe”, as employees in Tulgan’s (2004) study tended
to favour short-term rewards, wanted immediate pay increases rather than
waiting; and sought incentives which contributed toward better morale, higher
productivity levels and retention of employees. The average duration of
employment has decreased in the recent years as well. To ensure a long-term
organizational success managers have to be real leaders and spend more time to analyze
the various motives for performance for different categories of employees and
find the right approach to varied needs of different generations.
Using the information on generations and diverse theories of motivation
companies do surveys and get constant feedback to find out the particularities
of their employees’ motivation and needs. Based on these surveys strategies are
set to carry the business forward.
While creating the motivators for desirable performance in our
organizations we have to take into account not only the generation differences
but due to the globalization the culture differences as well.
As from the nineties with increased globalization of business appeared
more and more researches on cross-cultural particularities of motivation
drivers. Some countries are more individualistic in goal achievements as the
USA for example; China employees will be more motivated by team goals. Yamauchi
and Li (1993) found out the Chinese students reported stronger motives and
attitudes toward achievement than the Japanese, whereas Japanese students
reported stronger work ethic. Frese, Kring, Soose and Zempel (1996) revealed
lower personal initiative in East Germany than in West Germany. Niles (1994)
reported that Sri Lankans have scored less the work ethics as a need for
mastery than Australians. Pennings (1993) noted that Dutch and French
executives were more skeptical about long-term incentives in comparison to
their US colleagues, so, they (the first ones) have reported less correlation
between the company results and their performance. The study of Dubinsky,
Kotabe, Lim, and Michaels (1994) examined the effect of culture on expectancy
theory perceptions. As the result, the U.S. salespersons were more dependent on
the extrinsic motivation instruments as pay increases, job security,
development than Korean and Japanese samples. So, I suppose that Deci’s Cognitive evaluation theory is more
useful in Asiatic cultures than in U.S.
All these differences in beliefs, values, pay practices reflect the
cultural differences in finding the way in uncertainly avoidance and
individualism (Penning, 1993).
To summarize, most of the motivational theories concentrate on
particular motivator and the theories changes together with the change of
generations and their basic values.
Therefore, it is very important to monitor our
personnel motivation, to track regularly the changes, to adapt our current
practices to the quickly changing VUCA influenced business surrounding. And the
most important is to constantly educate our employees and especially our
leaders on how to manage the cultural and generation diversity and thus create
the culture of fun, collaboration and creativity.