There’s a whole discipline here – what follows is merely a starting point to follow up. Actually, nothing here should be new to anyone who has studied management and, if it is new, and you do think of yourself as being in management, you probably need to start studying.
I’m going to refer to two people here and briefly outline their approach (as I see it, at least). The first is Abraham Maslow, who documented the hierarchy of needs (I initially wrote “developed the hierarchy of needs” but they already existed – though not formally recognised until Maslow described them). They run, from base to apex (when drawn as a pyramid): physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualisation.
Physiological: the basic requirements of life (breathing, food, water, sleep, shelter, etc.).
Safety: feeling secure, the absence of significant threats and the ability to maintain the above.
Social: feeling part of a group, loved.
Esteem: recognition, by others, of our efforts; feeling appreciated.
Self-actualisation: being all we can be, achieving ambitions, altruism (which, in later writings, Maslow added in a sixth level of self-transcendence).
The key thing to recognise is that lower level factors have to be met before higher ones take on significance. For example, when starvation is the option, we will take risks to get food. It’s possible to relate each level to almost any aspect of life, from personal to work – even to a primitive existence.
The world of work is where Frederick Herzberg comes in with his hygiene-motivation theory.
Hygiene factors: these are the aspects that need to be satisfied to avoid a negative influence on motivation. Pay, job security, safety all come within this category. Get them wrong and demotivation is the result; get them right and they have no positive influence on motivation.
Motivation factors: these are the aspects that can motivate, once the hygiene factors are addressed. Recognition, job satisfaction, interesting work, potential for advancement come into this category.
I like to link Maslow and Herzberg by linking Maslow’s first three needs (physiological, safety and social) with Herzberg’s hygiene factors, with esteem and self-actualisation linking to motivation.
This all begs the question of why do so many businesses focus on pay as a motivator – it’s a vital hygiene factor but that’s as far as it will go.
I’ll also mention a third person here: Charles Handy. I’ve written about him before in this blog. Many of his ideas take the above aspects and applied them to organisations and the people within them, how they relate to each other – and how managers can effectively utilise them. One question he asks is whether money, of itself, is a factor – or whether it’s what we can use it for!