Bartol 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 Maslow (Maslow, 1970) and it is known as Maslow’s motivation theory of hierarchical needs. The hierarchy includes five basic levels of needs, which should be satisfied consecutively. Alderfer (1972) proposed an alternative to Maslow’s theory known as ERG theory. He consolidated five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy into three levels: existence (E), relatedness (R), and growth (G). Existence needs include 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 Maslow’s last two levels, i.e. self-esteem and self-actualization. Herzberg et al. (1959) developed the 2-factor (motivators and hygiene factors) theory in employee motivation. Herzberg (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, McClelland (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. Vroom 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 not 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 (Carrell and Dittrich, 1978). First, the theory holds that people develop beliefs about whatconstitutes 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 theantithesis of cognitive theories in the sense that the theories do not relate with human thought process. According, to the reinforcement theory, our behaviour 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 behaviours having pleasant or positive consequences are more likely to be repeated and behaviours having unpleasant or negative consequences are less likely to be repeated (Bartol and Martin, 1998). The theories mentioned above continue to provide the foundation for a significant amount of organization and managerial development practices. In addition to the above theories, during the last decade, numerous studies have been made on employees’ motivation of which a brief account has been provided below.


…Further explanation refers to the source below…



Source: Employee Motivation: A Malaysian Perspective by Rafikul Islam and Ahmad Zaki Hj. Ismail from Emeraldinsight Database