A Brief Literature Review on Employee Motivation

By John Dudovskiy

Employee MotivationBruce and Pepitone (1999) propose an interesting viewpoint according to which managers cannot motivate employees; managers can only influence what employees are motivated to do.

The role of facilitating quality subordinate-superior communication at various levels effectively employing a wide range of communication channels has been praised by Shields (2007) in terms of its positive contribution in boosting employee morale. Shields (2007) stresses two specific advantages of such a practice that relate to offering employees a chance to raise their concerns and put across their points regarding various aspects of their jobs, as well as, supplying them with the feeling of engagement and appreciation.

According to Lockley (2012) offering training and development programs that effectively contributes to personal and professional growth of individuals is another effective employee motivation strategy. At the same time, Lockley (2012) warns that in order for motivational aspects of training and development initiatives to be increased, ideally they need to be devised and implemented by a third party with relevant competency and experience.

Alternative working patterns such as job-rotating, job-sharing, and flexible working have been branded as effective motivational tools by Llopis (2012). Moreover, Llopis (2012) argues that motivational aspects of alternative working patterns along with its other benefits are being appreciated by increasing numbers of organisations, however, at the same time; many organisations are left behind from benefiting from such opportunities.

An interesting viewpoint regarding the issue has been proposed by Wylie (2004), according to which members of management primarily should be able to maintain the level of their own motivation at high levels in order to engage in effective motivation of their subordinates. Accordingly, Wylie (2004) recommends managers to adopt a proactive approach in terms of engaging in self-motivation practices.

Furthermore, Wylie (2004) recommends concentrating on specific variations of intangible motivational tools such as celebrations of birthdays and other important dates with the participation of whole team

According to Thomas (2009) the main challenge of motivation in workplaces is identifying what motivates each individual employee taking into account his or her individual differences. In other words, individual differences have been specified by Thomas (2009) as the major obstruction for management in engaging in employee motivation in an effective manner.

Lockley (2012), on the other hand, addresses the same issue focusing on cross-cultural differences between employees in particular. Namely, culture can be explained as knowledge, pattern of behaviour, values, norms and traditions shared by members of a specific group (Kreitner and Cassidy, 2012), and accordingly, cross-cultural differences is perceived to be a major obstruction in the way of successful employee motivation.

This point has been explained by Lockley (2012) by insisting that certain practices such as engaging in constructive arguments and dialogues in workplace can prove to be highly motivational for the representatives of Western culture, whereas the same set of practices can prove to be counter-productive for employees from Asian countries due to vast cross-cultural differences.

Llopis (2012) draws attention to the increasing relevance of the work-life balance problem for modern employees and stresses its negative impact on the level of employee motivation. Specifically, Llopis (2012) reasons that unless employees achieve an adequate level of work-life balance in personal level, management investment on the level of employee motivation can be wasted.

This viewpoint is based on Hierarchy of Needs theoretical framework proposed by Abraham Maslow (1943), according to which there is a certain hierarchy for individual needs, and more basic human needs need to be satisfied in order for the next level needs to serve as motivators.


Bruce, A. Pepitone, J.S. (1999) “Motivating Employees” McGraw-Hill International

Kreitner, R. & Cassidy, C. (2012) “Management” Cengage Learning

Llopis, G. (2012) “The Top 9 Things That Ultimately Motivate Employees to Achieve” Forbes, April 6, 2012

Lockley, M. (2012) “The Secret to Motivating a Team” The Guardian, January 6, 2012

Maslow, A.H. (1943) “The Theory of Human Motivation”  Psychological Review, 50(4)6

Shields, J. (2007) “Managing Employee Performance and Reward: Concepts, Practices, Strategies” Oxford University Press

Thomas, K.T. (2009) “Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement” 2nd edition, Berrett-Koehler Store

Wylie, K. (2004) “Managers Get the Staff They Deserve” GRIN Verlag

Category: HRM