A question often asked by first-line supervisors and managers is “How do we motivate our employees?” Effectively motivating employees to achieve a desired outcome is one of the most important functions as a supervisor or manager. There is evidence to show organizations are facing challenges retaining employees due to limited opportunities for advancement and the current competitive labor market. It does not appear things will get any better in the future. The loss of employees represents a loss of skills, knowledge, and experiences and can create a significant economic impact and cost to corporations as well as impacting the needs of customers. Managers who can motivate employees assist the organization by improving employee retention and reinforcing positive behaviors (Ramlall, 2004).
What is motivation? The word motivation originates from the Latin word “to move” and is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as an “act or process of a motivating force, stimulus, or influence.” Motivation is known to be a predictive variable which influences employee job satisfaction (Pool, 1997).
The subject of motivation is a well-researched topic and many motivational theories have been written over the years. One in particular developed by Victor Vroom in 1964 still has application in today’s business environment (Quick 1988). His expectancy theory on motivation is a mathematical model based on three factors: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. . All must work together to be highly successful, and all three together can have a powerful affect. The formula is Motivation = Expectancy * Instrumentality * Valence as illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1 – Expectancy Theory
Managers should be aware of factors that can influence employee expectancy perceptions such as a: strong self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, personal effectiveness and efficiency, successful completion of tasks, pleasurable work environment (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2007). On the other hand, factors which may likely reduce an employee’s expectancy perception may include: boredom with the job, poor performance, lack of training, dislike of the supervisor, manager, or co-workers, family responsibilities, or lack of adequate work. A manager’s leadership style can have a positive or negative impact on employee motivation (Halepota, 2005). A manager or supervisor can influence individual employee behavior. Vroom’s theory is a thought process that workers (employees) are driven by complex internal processes of varying types of motivating factors that influence a person’s actions.
The “expectancy theory holds that people are motivated to behave in ways that produce desired combinations of expected outcomes” (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2007, p.246). It is used to measure work motivation, because individuals who put forth their best effort believe it will lead to good performance, and their good performance will lead to potential positive outcomes (Ramlall, 2004). An employee might want to know what his or her reward will be for their efforts.
The expectancy theory is a good predictor of employee motivation and behavior when two or more factors are involved. For example, it can predict anything from what type of job you will have, whether to quit or stay at a job, to the type of courses you will take in graduate school.
“An expectancy represents an individual’s belief that a particular degree of effort will be followed by a particular level of performance” (Kreitner & Kinicki, 2007, p.247). Expectancy is a factor where one has a belief he or she has the capability, and if effort is put forth, it will lead to performing well. The factor of instrumentality is a belief if one performs well, he or she will receive various rewards or outcomes. The third factor is valence; value attached to a reward. Effort to Performance Link (E – P)
When employees utilize Vroom’s expectancy model, the steps they follow may...
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Isaac, R. G., Zerbe, W. J. & Pitt, D. C. (2001). Leadership and motivation: the effective application of expectancy. Journal of Managerial Issues, 13, 212-226
Kreitner, R., & Kinicki, A. (2007). Organizational Behavior (7th ed.). New York: The McGraw Hill Companies.
Pool, S. W. (1997). The relationship of job satisfaction with substitutes of leadership, leadership behavior, and work motivation. The Journal of Psychology, 131. 271- 283.
Ramlall, S. (2004). A review of employee motivation theories and their implications for employee retention within organizations. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 5, 52-63.
Quick, T. L. (1988). Expectancy theory in five simple steps. Training and Development Journal, 42(7), 30-33.
Quick, T. L. (1989). The best kept secret for increasing productivity. (Motivation). Sales & Marketing Management, 141, 34-39.
Wang, P. (2004). Teacher as leader and student as follower: the implementation of e expectancy theory in English classes in Taiwanese College. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 5, 418-422.
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