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Motivation Theories Application in Construction

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Business
Wordcount: 2533 words Published: 25th Jul 2018

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Most concepts of motivation that apply to the workforce begin with the assumption that behaviour, at least in part, is directed towards the satisfaction of needs or motives. Definitions of motivation include:

“Willingness to exert effort to achieve the organization’s goals, conditioned by this effort’s ability to satisfy individual needs” (Robbins & Coulter, 1996).

“An employee’s motivation to work consists of all the drives, forces and influenced- conscious or unconscious- that cause the employee to want to achieve certain aims” (Graham and Bennett, 1998 p60)

“Processes that account for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort towards attaining a goal.” Robbins and Judge (2009, p.209)

There are many definitions of motivation, however the underlying concept appears to be that, “some driving force within individuals by which they attempt to achieve some goal in order to fulfil some need or expectation” (Mullins, 2002, p418). Rudolph and Kleiner (1989) and Armstrong (1999) suggest that it can be divided in to two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is related to ‘tangible benefits’ such as salary, fringe benefits, security, contract of service, promotion, the work environment and conditions of work.

Whereas intrinsic motivation relates to ‘psychological’ rewards such as the opportunity to use one’s ability, a sense of challenge and achievement, receiving appreciation, positive recognition, and being treated in a caring and considerate manner.

The importance of the construction industry in relation to the general economy

The building and construction industry is essential to welfare and prosperity in the UK. In 2011 the Gross Value Added of the construction industry in the UK was £89.5 billion, 6.7% of total GVA (Gross value added).

There were 2.04 million workforce jobs in the UK construction industry in March 2012, 6.4% of all workforce jobs.

The GVA of the industry fell in 2008, 2009 and 2010 both in terms of £billions but also its share of the total economy, 2011 saw a slight recovery but the GVA of the construction industry remained below pre-recession levels.


The importance of motivation

Motivation is extremely important to organisations and companies of all sizes; in a competitive market place such as the construction industry it is vital that staff members are motivated in order to convert physical and financial resources into useful products, ultimately helping to reduce the cost of operations.

According to Sabah Karimi (2010) “Motivation is important in order to be able to attain the organization’s goals and to accomplish long and short term objectives.”

Managers strive to motivate people in organisations to perform at high levels. This means getting them to work hard, to come to work regularly and to make positive contributions to the organisations goals. However job performance not only depends on motivation but also ability and environmental factors.

The relationship of Performance can be stated as follows:

P = M + A + E

With, P = performance, M = motivation, A= ability, and E = environment

To generate high levels of performance an employee must be motivated to do the job, must have the ability to complete the job effectively and must be provided with the necessary equipment/information to do so.

Mullins (2002) refers to work by Krietner et al. who proposes that although motivation is a necessary contributor for job performance, it is not the only one. Alongside ability, motivation is also a combination of level of skill, knowledge about how to complete the task, feelings and emotions, and facilitating/inhibiting conditions not under the individuals’ control.

Performance and satisfaction are areas commonly discussed when talking about motivation. Organisations not only want operatives that are productive, but they also want to ensure that their workforce is satisfied in order to reduce employee turnover.

“Boredom and frustration at work is often the result of an employee’s lack of involvement with the company’s goals and a feeling that their ideas are not wanted or listened to. For the employer, staff turnover increases as employees walk out of the door for more interesting jobs.” (Management today)

Despite being discussed, there has been little scientific research in to the relationship between satisfaction and productivity and whether operatives are motivated so they are satisfied, productive or both.

The importance of motivation is clear and can be summarised in the following quotation:

“Motivation may be defined as the degree to which individuals commit effort to achieve goals that they perceive as being meaningful and worthwhile” Johnson, & Johnson, 2003

However, it is slightly unclear are the factors that motivate operatives, if the techniques applied by management are successful, and what the relationship is between satisfaction and productivity.

Therefore the aims for this research are to:

  • Understand what motivates construction operatives, by ranking their needs, motivators and de-motivators.
  • Establish what site managers perceive motivates operatives, and compare whether they are of the same opinion as the operatives.
  • Compare the findings of this study with previous research, and establish any differences in opinion
  • Discuss the issue of satisfaction and productivity and establish if there is a relationship between the two


There are various theories which endeavour to quantify what motivation is, all which are partially true. However a generalised theory that applies to all individuals in different circumstances has not yet been theorised.

It is not essential to discuss all motivational theories but it is however important to identify that each one is different. This project will be expanding on data analysed from previous research which was collected in relation to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. It also raises key points in regards to issues with satisfaction and productivity, this in which is linked to the work of Herzberg. This chapter will subsequently focus on the work of Maslow and Herzberg; other theories will be outlined briefly.

History of motivation

Motivation theories can be traced back over two centuries ago to the works of innovative theorists such as Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, and Elton Mayo who began to research and implement principles of motivational theories, there be it different models.

Robert Owen believed that by caring and looking after the needs of his employee’s they would be more reliable, efficient and longer lasting. He demonstrated pioneering management and ethical business policies which are now widely recognised and implemented within human resources today. His strategies inspired infant education, the need for safer working practices, the co-operative movement, trade unionism, and garden cities. Jeremy Bentham views are widely known as the ‘carrot and stick approach’, a metaphor relating to reward and penalties. Bentham believed that everyone is self-interested, motivated by either a desirable outcome or avoiding an unpleasant one. Although theories of motivation have been explored extensively since, reward and punishment is still considered strong motivators in our society today. Elton Mayo conducted various behavioural experiments to explore methods of motivating staff, from the research he conducted he concluded that staff were not only motivated by pay, work conditions and moral but also psychological and social factors. He also found that recognition and a sense of belonging are very important and that an individual’s attitude towards work is strongly influenced by those around them.

Outline of theories

It is now possible to divide motivation theories into two categories, content theories and process theories.

Content theories may also be referred to as need theories as they focus on the importance of establishing what motivates us, trying to identify the needs of individuals and thus relating motivation to the fulfilling of these needs.

These theories are concerned with identifying people’s needs, their relative strengths and the goals they pursue in order to satisfy these needs (Mullins 2002). They include:

  • Maslow’ hierarchy of needs model
  • Herzberg’s two-factor theory
  • Alderfer’s modified need hierarchy model
  • McClelland’s achievement motivation theory
  • McGregor’s X and Y theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow introduced a hierarchy of needs in a paper written in 1943, called “A Theory of Human Motivation”. The hierarchy attempts to explain/propose factors that motivate an individual, Maslow suggested that people are motivated to fulfil basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs. The hierarchy is most commonly displayed in a pyramid format show in figure 1.

Maslow believes that we must first achieve physiological needs as they are vital for our survival. They include the need for water, air, food and sleep; these are classed as primary needs as all other steps in the tier are secondary until these needs are met.

Safety needs may also include factors that improve security; they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Once we can sustain ourselves (tier 1) it then becomes essential to ensure our safety/security, examples of this may be protection from weather, health insurance, machinery, vehicles etc.

Social needs include our natural urge to feel accepted; examples of this may be with family, relationships or colleagues at work.

Esteem needs include feelings such as self-worth, accomplishment and social recognition.

Self-actualisation needs represent the highest tier of the hierarchy and are needs concerned with self-fulfilment or personal growth.

Maslow believed that each tier must be fairly well satisfied before the needs of the next tier become important to the individual, however Oldcorn (1989) advocates that individual’s may not satisfy the first need to move on to the next until they reach the top of the hierarchy. He implies that in reality we try to satisfy a mixture of various needs at any one time. This can often be seen when individuals are put under pressure, sleep and food (physiological needs) may be deprived in order to complete an objective or goal (esteem needs).

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This argument coincides with Wahba and Bridwell (1976) who reported that there was diminutive evidence to support the ranking of the needs or the hierarchical order, as his theory was difficult to test empirically; furthermore this meant that there are various interpretations of his theory and the clarity of his work has faded over time due to more recent publications by authors with more current views. Nevertheless the values of the tiers remain, regardless of the overlapping of needs.

Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Dr Frederick Herzberg conducted research in order to gain an understanding of what creates job satisfaction. Herzberg’s to-factor theory states there are certain factors in the workplace that cause satisfaction, and in turn different factors that create dissatisfaction. Herzberg divided these factors into two categories, hygiene and motivator factors. Principally hygiene factors are crucial in ensuring that workers are not dissatisfied, whereas motivators are needed to increase performance.

Motivators are regarded as factors such as challenging work, recognition, responsibility and personal growth; elements Maslow describes as ‘esteem needs’.

Hygiene factors are extrinsic, these include; job security, salary, fringe benefits and company policies; elements of Maslow’s higher level needs. They do not provide positive satisfaction, however if they are not present this will create dissatisfaction.

There has since been criticism regarding the accuracy of the results concluded in Herzberg’s theory,


Alderfer’s modified need hierarchy model (ERG Theory)

Clayton Alderfer redefined Maslow’s hierarchy and re-categorised it into three broader classes of needs. These include:

  • Existence Needs
  • Relatedness Needs
  • Growth needs

McClelland’s achievement motivation theory

David McClelland was an American psychologist who conducted research to further the work of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. McClelland carried out research and experiments to identify the varying needs and motivators in a variety of people. His research suggested that these needs can be categorised into affiliation, power and achievement. Each of these needs influence motivation within an individual, McClelland suggested that these needs or motivators are acquired over time and vary from person to person dependent on their life experiences.

Achievement can be defined as “a recurrent concern to excel, to do better for its own sake, for the intrinsic satisfaction of doing better.” (McClelland, 1961).

The power motive can be defined as a “recurrent preference or readiness for experiences of having impact, control, or influence over others and the world” (McClelland, 1975; Winter, 1973).

The affiliative motive has been defined as “the preference for establishing, maintaining, and restoring a positive affective relationship with another person or persons” (Atkinson et al, 1954, p406).

McGregor’s X and Y Theory

Theory X and Theory Y are theories of human motivation, developed by Douglas McGregor in the 1960’s. The theories describe two opposing models of employee motivation;

‘X theory’ proposes that employees are fundamentally idle and have no interest in meeting the organisations objectives, therefore management and direction is necessary in ensuring that the workforce operates productively. ‘Y theory’ still suggests that management are responsible, however McGregor proposes that management should show confidence in their workforce; giving employees the opportunity to exercise creativity, imagination and ingenuity in order to create a work environment where both management and subordinates share co-operative objectives.

Weinbach, 2008 states that “Most people can handle responsibility, because creativity and ingenuity are common in the population”


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