Drawing on older theories of motivation such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Herzberg's two-factor theory, and newer theories such as expectancy and equity theories, HR managers can gain insight into what might motivate employees to do their best work. Read this section to see how these theories can be used.


Learning Objective

  1. Define motivation and describe several theories of motivation.

Motivation refers to an internally generated drive to achieve a goal or follow a particular course of action. Highly motivated employees focus their efforts on achieving specific goals; those who are unmotivated don't. It's the manager's job, therefore, to motivate employees – to get them to try to do the best job they can. But what motivates employees to do well? How does a manager encourage employees to show up for work each day and do a good job? Paying them helps, but many other factors influence a person's desire (or lack of it) to excel in the workplace. What are these factors? Are they the same for everybody? Do they change over time? To address these questions, we'll examine four of the most influential theories of motivation: hierarchy-of-needs theory, two-factor theory, expectancy theory, and equity theory.

Creative Commons License This text was adapted by Saylor Academy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensor.