Employee Motivation a Malaysian Perspective Essay

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Employee Motivation a Malaysian Perspective

The survey questionnaire consisted of two parts: respondents’ personal Information were obtained through Part A and In Part B, they ere asked to rank the ten motivating factors in terms of their effectiveness. The motivating factors were compiled from the existing literature and refined through consultation with human resource professionals. Findings – An ordered set of motivating factors for employees working In Malaysian organizations. Demographic factors like gender, race, education, etc. Were found to have impact on the ranking of the factors.

Originality/value – The findings are expected to provide useful guidelines to managers while developing employee motivation programs. Keywords Motivation psychology), Employee Involvement, Job satisfaction, Malaysia Paper type Research paper Introduction The term motivation Is derived from the Latin word “mover” which means to move. Motivation is what moves us from boredom to interest. It is like the steering wheel of a vehicle that directs our activities. Motivation represents those psychological processes that cause the arousal, direction, and persistence of voluntary activities that are goal oriented (Mitchell, 1982).

Bartok and Martin (1998) define motivation as a force that energize behavior, gives direction to behavior, and underlies the tendency to persist. This definition recognizes that in order to achieve goals, individuals must be sufficiently stimulated and energetic, must have a clear focus on what is to be achieved, and must be willing to commit their energy for a long enough period of time to realize their aim. Since, a leading function of management involves influencing others to work toward organizational goals, motivation is an important aspect of that function.

Stewart (1986) cites John Harvey-Jones, chief executive of ICC: “the real purpose of management is motivation of the group to use Its energy to achieve objectives. ” Steers and Porter (1983, p. 32) write: Managers have he responsibility to create a proper climate in which employees can develop to their employee frustration and could result in poorer performance, lower Job satisfaction, and increased withdrawal from the organization. The authors express sincere thanks and gratitude to all the respondents for their participation in the survey. International Journal of Commerce and Management Volvo. 8 No. 4, 2008 up. 344-362 q Emerald Group publishing Limited 1056-9219 DOI 10. 1108/10569210810921960 In today’s highly competitive labor market, there is extensive evidence that organizations regardless of size, technological advances, market focus, are facing attention challenges (Randall, 2004). Fit-NZ (1997) stated that the average company loses approximately $1 million with every ten managerial and professional employees who leave the organization combined with the direct and indirect costs; the total cost of an exempt employee’s turnover is a minimum of one year’s pay and benefits.

Mad and Baker (2003) mention that voluntary turnover is a major problem for companies in some Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, etc. Job- hopping has become so rampant in these Asian countries that it has, in part, become culture. Randall (2004, p. 52) writes: Given the large investments in employee retention efforts within organizations, it is rational to identify, analyze and critique the motivation theories underlying employee retention in organizations.

Employee motivation 345 Motivation constitutes a central element when going through the process of human learning. If the organization does not possess the ability to motivate its employees, the knowledge within the organization is not practically used to a maximum. Therefore, it becomes the aim of every learning organization to find the factors that enable it to motivate its employees to continuous learning and to take advantage of this knowledge to ensure its living (Starker, 1999).

In today’s business environment, the future belongs to those managers who can best manage change. To manage change, organizations must have employees committed to the demand of rapid change and as such committed employees are the source of competitive advantage (Desire, 1993). It is unlikely that employees will be committed if they are not sufficiently motivated. During the last 70 years, many psychologists and management gurus have conducted extensive research on various aspects of employees’ titivation.

For completeness of the paper, here we provide a brief account of the pioneering works. Theories of employee motivation Bartok and Martin (1998) have classified the major theories in motivation into three categories: needs theory, cognitive theory, and reinforcement theory. The most popular needs theory is owing to Abraham Mascot (Mascot, 1970) and it is known as Mascots motivation theory of hierarchical needs. The hierarchy includes five basic levels of needs, which should be satisfied consecutively. Alder (1972) proposed an alternative to Mascots theory known as ERG theory.

He consolidated five levels of Mascots hierarchy into three physiological factors such as food, shelter, clothes, good pay, fringe benefits, good working conditions, etc. Relatedness needs address our relationship with others such as families, friends, work groups, etc. Growth needs are associated with Mascots last two levels, I. E. Self-esteem and self-actualization. Herbert et al. (1959) developed the 2-factor (motivators and hygiene factors) theory in employee motivation. Herbert (1968) argued that eliminating the cause of dissatisfaction (through hygiene factors) would not result in a state of satisfaction.

Satisfaction (or motivation) would occur only as a result of the use of motivators. On the other hand, McClellan (1985) studied three types of needs: achievement, affiliation, and power. One of the best known cognitive theories, known as expectancy theory originally proposed by Victor H. Broom argues that the strength of a tendency to act in a certain way depends on the strength of an expectation that the act will be followed by a given outcome and on the attractiveness of that outcome to the individual (Robbins, 1993).

Equity theory recognizes that individuals are concerned to only with the absolute amount of rewards they receive for their efforts, but also with the relationship of this amount to what others receive. Based on one’s inputs, such as effort, experience, education, and competence, one can compare outcomes such as pay, recognition and other factors. When people perceive an imbalance in their outcome-input ratio relative to others, tension is created. Equity theory rests upon three main assumptions (Carrel and Dietrich, 1978).

First, the theory holds that people develop beliefs about what constitutes a fair and equitable return for their contributions of their Jobs. Second, the theory assumes that people tend to compare what they perceive to be the exchange they have with their employers. The other assumption is that when people believe that their own treatment is not equitable relative to the exchange they perceive others to be making, they will be taking actions that they deem appropriate. According to the goal-setting theory, if people are provided with a goal followed by a reward, then they will be motivated.

The goals should be specific and measurable, challenging but attainable, relevant to the organization and must be accomplished within a specific period of time. It is usually considered as a powerful motivational tool. The reinforcement theories (originally proposed by B. F. Skinner) are actually the antithesis of cognitive theories in the sense that the theories do not relate with human thought process. According, to the reinforcement theory, our behavior can be explained by consequences in the environment, and therefore, it is not necessary to look for cognitive explanations.

Instead, the theory relies heavily on a concept called the law of effect, that states behaviors having pleasant or positive consequences are more likely to be repeated ND behaviors having unpleasant or negative consequences are less likely to be repeated (Bartok and Martin, 1998). The theories mentioned above continue to provide the foundation for a significant amount of organization and managerial numerous studies have been made on employees’ motivation of which a brief account has been provided below.

Literature review Lord (2002) contends that retention and productivity of workers is a function of their motivation. The author examines the responses from 29 engineers over the age of 55 regarding factors in the workplace and their effects on the attention and productivity of senior engineers. In his study, the main motivators are found to be accomplishment, Job responsibility, recognition, etc. The author concludes by saying that successful application of motivators improves Job satisfaction and therefore increases productivity.

In a separate study, Wright (2001) does not find any convincing evidence in support of the following two assumptions: (1) The characteristics of public sector employees in working environment are different to the private sector. (2) Those differences have a meaningful impact upon work motivation. The author concludes that public employee perceptions of weak relationship between reward and performance, greater procedural constraints and goal ambiguity may have a detrimental effect on their work motivation. Rowley (1996) seeks to identify issues that have impact on the motivation of academic staff in higher education.

In referring to the hygiene factors of Herbert, the author mentions that frustration may develop from dissatisfaction which prevents staff from doing a good Job, including poor timetable organization, inadequate maintenance of educational equipments, or too many assorted demands on their time. Peterson and Quintillion (2003) link intrinsic motivation to solicitation into social work values and norms with respect to the main organizational applications of intrinsic motivation, namely cognitive evaluation theory and Job characteristic theory.

They suggest that individual acceptance of societal values and norms that support productive work behavior contribute to intrinsic work motivation beyond what these theories would predict. Main (2002) surveyed four types of employees namely, ground workers, library clerks, patient relation representatives, and medical record assistants working t East Carolina University to know their motivation. The author found that good pay and recognition were the most effective motivators.

On the other hand, benefits, working environment, co-workers also have effects on motivation but not as strong as the previous two. Milliken (1996) has described the Eastman Chemical Company way to motivate and retain its employees. The programs adopted are Job security, performance-based appraisal system, extrinsic recognition through employee suggestion system, giving performance feedback, training in problem solving, etc. Jehovah (1995) discusses the ranking of ten motivational factors made by the employees and their immediate supervisors.

The author finds that the rankings made by the supervisors are significantly different to those made by the employees. He concludes that managers make mistakes by thinking that what will motivate them will also motivate the employees. In the context of international marketing channels, Meat, Dubbing’s and Anderson (2003) have examined the linkages among various leadership styles, motivation, and performance on data drawn from a sample of adopted leadership style and motivating factors should be in congruence with the national culture.

Ross (2002) assessed the motivation of chefs in seven New South Wales (Australia) hospitals by comparing the perceived presence of Job dimensions and motivational outcomes (private and public). He found that chefs employed in smaller private sector hospital kitchens appear satisfied with their work, but this is not the case for public sector hospitals. Kaufmann, Davies, and Schmidt (1994) have described the motivation gap among the East German employees immediately after reunification with West Germany.

They also describe the measures taken by the government to address the issue. Skilled, Christensen and Westbound (2004) studied he differences in intrinsic work motivation and Job satisfaction among employees with different characteristics working in Nordic countries. The authors found that Job satisfaction and intrinsic work motivation have a nearly linear relationship with age and that the employees with higher education reported higher level of intrinsic work motivation.

Sari and Thoroughly (2005) have investigated the personal characteristics and motivation of female Greek entrepreneurs 347 in order to assist Greek policy makers in their future attempts to devise programs to support women entrepreneurs in the start-up phase. The study confirms that female entrepreneurs in Greek are motivated to undertake entrepreneurship mainly by factors that relate to economic reasons and self-fulfillment, including the needs for creativity, autonomy, and independence.

In addition to Greece, Sari and Thoroughly (2005) have also reviewed the case of some other European countries’ female entrepreneurs. The authors mention that even though motives differ depending on the country, time period, and group of women, the prevalent trend in most European countries is pull factors as opposed to “no other choice. ” In Italy, female entrepreneurs tend to fall within the “life style entrepreneurs” category, meaning they are motivated by being in control of the choice of the kind of work they undertake in order to apply their knowledge and develop their expertise.

A survey designed by Household van Amsterdam (1994), reports that the most frequently cited motives for women to start a business are: economic independence (47 percent), combining work and family (17 percent), and wanting to be one’s own master (16 percent). In Portugal, “personal achievement” was found to be a women’s driving force for starting a business. During the last decade, China has attained homeland growth in economy. Establishment of foreign companies has significantly contributed to this growth.

However, there has been an issue of motivation of Chinese workers in these foreign companies. Lu et al. (1997) reported managers without knowledge of the Chinese environment and the second highest cause being different management style. Jackson and Back (1998) write: “It may be that Western concepts of motivation are not relevant in a socialist China, where people have been motivated perhaps only to do what was the best for the country with little overlap in practice to industrial productivity.

The authors reemphasized Katz and Khan’s (1978) model of “rule enforcement”, “external reward’, and “internalized motivation’ for Chinese workers. In another paper, Bookmaker and Lu (1997) reported that at a recent round table discussion with the government of China, 59 percent of participants from foreign invested enterprises (HE) concluded that recruiting and retaining managers (a significant input into human resource management) was the most significant problem facing FEES in China.

Lung and College (2001) have found that the younger executives working in the public sector in Hong Kong have higher bevel of career motivation and are striving to attain additional responsibility and authority in work assignment, while senior executives are concerned with holding their previous accomplishment and competence in their occupational role. The authors have also found that the more the ambiguity and uncertainty exist in the government offices, the lesser is the level of career motivation.

In an exploratory study, Kobo and Kaka (2002) identify the three factors: monetary incentive, human resource development, and Job autonomy that play as motivators to the knowledge workers working in the Japanese financial sector. In the past 20 years, there has been an 80. 3 percent increase in women entrepreneurs in Singapore compared to 65. 6 percent increase of male entrepreneurs. Lee (1997) has investigated the motivation behind female entrepreneurs and found four factors namely, achievement, affiliation, autonomy, and dominance behind this motivation.

Mad and Sings (2001) have identified key challenges faced by Malaysian managers working in various companies. They have also provided guidelines to the Malaysian managers to motivate their subordinates. Amid (2001) has discussed the moon observations on how managers belonging to different ethnic groups, biz. , Malay, Chinese, and Indians make decisions and motivate employees. Further, the author examines the impact of cultural values of the above ethnic groups on the leadership and motivational practices of Malaysian companies who employ Malay, Chinese, and Indian workers.

Referring to a number of published works on leadership and motivation, he mentions that (p. 84): [.. Most of the studies with the exception of one by Assam Abdullah are either general or specific to one country and are not applicable to the Malaysian context. Such human resource management and leadership theories may lead to practices which are not directly transferable to other countries like Malaysia, owing to cultural differences. 349 Mad and Baker (2003) have explained the relationship between training and five hypotheses, the authors tested the relationship between motivation to learn in training and organizational commitment.

The authors concluded that motivation to learn in training was found to be significantly and positively related with affective, narrative, and overall organizational commitment. All the research findings that were applicable to the workers working in the Western countries may not be valid for the Malaysian workers. For example, Mad and Baker’s (2003) findings on Malaysian employees for the relationship between age and tenure with the organizational commitment contradicts the findings on the Western workers (Look and Crawford, 2001; Mathieu and Jack, 1990). The authors say (2003, p. 81) that: [.. .] Malaysian have different attitudes towards organizational commitment. The older they are and the longer they stay within an organization do not imply that they will be committed towards their organization. This can be mainly attributed to the uncertain business environment in Malaysia. Research methodology If an employee lacks skills, appropriate training can be employed. If there is an environmental problem, altering the environment to promote higher performance is the key. However, if motivation is the problem, the solution is more complex and more challenging (Wiley, 1997).

For motivational problems, the best source of information is the employee himself/herself. Employees must be asked on a regular basis what sparks and sustains their desire to work. Their responses may lead the employer to redesign Jobs, increase pay, change the working environment, or give more credit for the work done. The key is, however, that managers avoid the assumption that what motivates them motivates their employees as well (Wesley, 1984). One of the first surveys on employees’ motivation was conducted in 1946 on industrial employees by the Labor Relations Institute of New York (Hershey and Blanchard, 1969).

The respondents were asked to rank factors in terms of their perceived effectiveness to motivate them. The factors were: . Full appreciation of work done.. Interesting work. 350 Feeling of being in on things. Good working conditions. Good wages. Sympathetic alp with personal problems. Personal or company loyalty to employees. Promotion and growth in the organization. Job security. Again in the US context, the survey was repeated in 1980 (Jehovah, 1980), in 1986 (Jehovah, 1987) and in 1992 (Wiley, 1997). The 1992 survey consisted often factors; tactful discipline was added with the previously quoted nine factors.

The objective of Malaysian employees. This is to see whether or not difference exists between the two sets of ranking. To know the preference level on these factors, a survey was conducted in which 505 employees working at over 96 various Malaysian organizations participated. The survey questionnaire was designed in consultation with two professors in Human Resource Management from the authors’ department. Subsequently, the questionnaire was pilot tested on 15 employees. The questionnaire had two parts. In part A, the respondents were asked to furnish their demographic details, e. G. Ender, race, age, education level, marital status, type of employment (public or private), type of work (executive or non-executive), etc. In part B, the respondents were asked to rank the ten motivating factors in terms of their effectiveness. The exact statement in the questionnaire was, “Please rank the allowing motivating factors in terms of effectiveness from your point of view. Most effective motivator[l], rank h 1, second most effective motivator, rank h 2, etc. The least effective of the ten factors will receive the rank 10”. In the pilot survey, we observed that some respondents used the same rank for more than one factor.

To avoid the problem in the actual survey, we added the following line with the previous statement: “Please do not use same rank for more than one factor. One sample is (assigned at random): 5, 1, 8, 10, 4, 3, 7, 6, 2, 9 ” Despite this additional guideline, in he actual survey, 12 completed questionnaires were not useable. The number of useable questionnaires is, as stated before, 505. Table I provides the demographic information of the respondents. In part A, respondents were also asked to write the name and address of the organization where they were working.

But to keep the responses absolutely anonymous, writing the name of the company was kept optional. Among 505 respondents, only 273 respondents wrote the names of their companies. We obtained 96 names of companies, but actually, the number of companies for all the respondents in this survey was certainly more than 96. The types of companies/organizations obtained were: academic, airlines, automotive, banking, construction, financial, government agencies, insurance, various types of manufacturing, petroleum, retailing, telecommunication, transportation, utility, etc.