The relationship between employee motivation and performance

Motivation can be a key-contributing factor in employee performance. It is of great importance to an organization to recognize ways in which it can use employee motivation to positively affect employee performance. The methods used by organizations to motivate its employees are essential in determining how they affect employee performance. There are both positive and negative motivational tools that may be explored. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between motivation and employee performance.

“Motivation is generally defined as the psychological forces that determine the direction of a person’s level of effort, as well as a person’s persistence in the face of obstacles.” When a person has an increased level of effort and persistence in the workplace they tend to be highly motivated and this more often leads to a higher level of performance. However, the reason for an employee’s motivation may not necessarily be attributed to the organization. It is possible for an employee who is highly motivated to have low performance and the opposite for a lower motivated employee to have high performance. Although possible, most research studies show a higher correlation between higher motivation and higher employee performance.

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There are both positive motivators and negative motivators that can be utilized by the organization. Positive motivators as employed by organizations may include employee benefits such as increased compensation, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and other such rewards. Employees may be motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Intrinsic rewards may be the ability to work autonomously, acknowledgement, and an interest in the type of work they are doing. Extrinsic rewards may be employee recognition, monetary benefits, and other such material rewards. Negative motivators may include a bad performance review, verbal and written warnings, suspension, and termination warnings. An employer may use these various methods in which to motivate its employees.

“Performance is an evaluation of the results of a person’s behavior: It involves determining how well or poorly a person has accomplished a task or done a job.” High employee performance leads to greater organizational success. In order for an organization to try to acquire higher levels of employee performance via increased employee motivation they must have a strategy to do so effectively. The strategy must ultimately focus on achieving organizational goals while maintaining ways in which to influence motivation, which then inspires employee performance.

From the organizational standpoint, there are key factors that impact motivation and its effect on employee performance. One such factor is setting goals for employees that incorporate the vision of the organization. When goals are set for the employee it provides an incentive for the employee and also benefits the organization upon completion relative to the organization’s goals as well. Another factor is employee engagement. Employee engagement and input allows for a level of commitment from the employee and may serve as an organization’s way to be in tune with employee concerns. It is also extremely important to recognize the treatment of employees as a factor of motivating employees and their performance. Employees that are treated well by their organization in turn feel that they are a valued member of the team and essentially its employer.

This contributes to the level of trust that the employee has in the organization and can positively impact how well they perform for the company. Also, it is important to have a clear sense of leadership demonstrated for employees so that they are able to learn from these qualities displayed by successful leaders in the organization. Great leadership helps to motivate employees to perform at high levels and achieve organizational goals, which provide employees with the opportunity to develop within the organization.

There are several theories based on motivation provide support for the relationship between motivation and performance. These theories include: Expectancy Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory, McClelland’s Needs for Achievement, Affiliation and Power, Equity Theory and Goal-Setting Theory. Expectancy theory suggests that motivation is high when employees believe that high levels of effort lead to high performance and high performance leads to attaining desired outcomes. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs says that five basic needs must be met by people in the order from bottom to top with each higher level upward leading to motivated behavior.

Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory focuses of two factors attributed to the workplace: 1) meeting basic expectations 2) leading to increased performance. McClelland’s Needs for Achievement, Affiliation, and Power identifies three needs for a person 1) achievement 2) affiliation 3) power; of which all three pertain to a person’s desire to perform well, have positive interpersonal relationships, and the desire to influence others. The Equity Theory is one’s perception of fairness relative to their work outcomes and work inputs. Goal-Setting Theory focuses on motivation of workers in order to contribute to overall performance of organization based on goals set. All these theories provide explored background information for employee motivation and its relationship to performance.

An employee’s performance isn’t solely based on the level of motivation but has an enormous amount of potential to have the greatest influence. There has been consistent empirical evidence to suggest that motivated employees means better performance. Due to motivation being linked to employee engagement, satisfaction, commitment, and an employee’s intention to quit, it can be said that these major factors also contribute to performance. Their contribution to an employee’s performance can be directly linked therefore the way in which they serve as components of motivation shows linkage to employee performance. These indicators play a major role in an employee’s overall performance.

An organization and its management’s focus through the utilization of employing ways in which to motivate its employees as a performance enhancement should be a primary focus. There are countless ways in which they are able to do so ranging from both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards and employee recognition. However, these are valuable for leaders and their organization to know and actively participate in these activities as the idea of motivating employees is not only of beneficial importance to employees but also to an increased level of performance for company employees and the overall organization.

“Motivation in Today’s Workplace: The Link to Performance,” SHRM Research Quarterly: Second Quarter-2010

Owen E. Richason IV, “Motivation & Employee Performance,” Small Business Houston Chronicle

George, Jones. Understanding and Managing Organizational Behavior Sixth Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc., publishing as Prentice Hall, 2012.

Nohria, Groysberg, Lee, Employee Motivation: A Powerful New Model, Harvard Business Review

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The relationship between employee motivation and performance. (2016, Jun 17). Retrieved from