In business, motivated employees make both individuals and companies profitable and successful. Businesses include large groups of diverse individuals, and the study of motivation is important as companies look for insights into what pushes employees to work hard, especially when adversity arises, in order to accomplish goals.
There are two main categories of motivational theories: content theories and process theories. Content theories deal with “what motivates people” while process theories deal with “how motivation occurs.”
One of the content theories is McClelland’s Needs Theory, which categorizes an individual’s needs into three groups: power, affiliation, and achievement. Those driven by their need for power seek high-level positions in order to exercise control over an organization. Those driven by their need for affiliation desire acceptance and love from others. Others are driven by a need for achievement, and these people work relentlessly in order to accomplish goals by taking calculated risks and seeking immediate feedback on their work. These achievement seekers are less motivated by money and instead derive greater pleasure from the accomplishment of a job well done.
One of the process theories is Adam’s Equity Theory, which contends that employees make contributions in time and efforts (inputs) for money (outcomes). An employee is constantly evaluating this tradeoff and will become de-motivated if the inputs outweigh the outcomes. An example of this in the workplace is if two people at the same level who complete the same amount of work are paid unequally, the lesser paid employee will become de-motivated.
Another process theory is Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory, which posits that the behavior of an employee is the function of its consequences, so an individual’s behavior develops as a result of previously performed actions. If an employee completes a task on time and receives positive consequences such as a monetary bonus or praise from a manager, the employee becomes more likely to repeat that behavior.