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.

Key Takeaways

  • Motivation describes an internally generated drive that propels people to achieve goals or pursue particular courses of action.
  • There are four influential theories of motivation: hierarchy-of-needs theory, two-factor theory, expectancy theory, and equity theory.
  • Hierarchy-of-needs theory proposes that we're motivated by five unmet needs – physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization and must satisfy lower-level needs before we seek to satisfy higher-level needs.
  • Two-factor theory divides work factors into motivation factors (those that are strong contributors to job satisfaction) and hygiene factors (those that, though not strong contributors to satisfaction, must be present to prevent job dissatisfaction). To increase satisfaction (and motivate someone to perform better), managers must address motivation factors.
  • Expectancy theory proposes that employees work hard to obtain a reward when they value the reward, believe that their efforts will result in acceptable performance, and believe that acceptable performance will lead to a desired outcome or reward.
  • Equity theory focuses on our perceptions of how fairly we're treated relative to others. This theory proposes that employees create contributions/rewards ratios that they compare to those of others. If they feel that their ratios are comparable to those of others, they'll perceive that they're being treated equitably.