Applied research methods in employee motivation

Applied Research Methods in Employee Motivation.

Literature Review

Gary Hamel

"The diversified corporation is a large tree. The trunk and major limbs are the core products, the smaller branches are business units; the leaves, flowers and fruits are end products". (Prahalad and Hamel 1990)

Here the Gary Hamel and C.K Prahalad have used the term 'core competencies'. Core Competences are the collective learning in the organization and they are based on the specific attribute or the distinguishing factors whether its production, technology or culture.

Gary Hamel professes the importance of employee motivation by suggesting the following aspects concerning employee motivation and its importance:-

People will become robots if organization is treated as an oiled machine. This goes against aspects of business management where employees are routine managers and develop capacities that are their routine and aren't expected to involve or evolve creative ideas. This makes an employee commonplace occurrence and a necessary evil eventually leading to discontent, union actions and loss of competency in this area. There is rise of knowledge worker; the 21st century is involved in making the base for information systems management and idea management for furthering prospects for operational efficiencies. It does not necessarily come from company's core competencies or changes in corporate future history. This clue is very important and signifies to the manager where the motivation and employee can become resourceful by not linking core competency and corporate history in motivation management. Studies show that engaged employees are more likely to innovate. In return, organizations with employee innovation programs provide a platform for employees to engage. It is a win-win partnership. There are various companies that study employee engagement and in brief engagement of employees is by sharing knowledge and giving them a voice. This necessarily clears the air for the proper meaning of engagement of human resources in motivation theory and lends credence to the belief that the employees have rights and duties within the organization. A workforce coming to office for attendance with assurance that they do as you say will not lead to sustained profits.

Engaging a workforce implies allowing their creativity and initiative to flow in a way they are passionate about and only 50-55% of people's capabilities are engaged. Feature of employee's who are motivated:

  • Excited and encouraged
  • resist distractions
  • Ponder current challenges even
  • Identify with the activity

Everybody wants to attract the best talent. The best talent goes to and stays, where they feel their skills are used best. Create a platform for employees to engage with your organization and the good people will stay longer. Gary Hamel compiled hierarchy of employee capabilities. The lowest 3 levels of capability have become commodities and that is where employees are least engaged


(Gary Hamel employee capability hierarchy).

C K Prahalad

Adherents of the resource-based view generally agree that the most strategically important resource is knowledge. First, tacit knowledge is a crucial source of sustainable competitive advantage because it is difficult for competitors to imitate. Second, the contribution of a particular employee's unspoken knowledge to a team output cannot be measured and paid accordingly. This has important motivational consequences. A core competence area shall definitely provide potential access to wide variety of markets. It shall also lead to enhancing the perceived benefits of end product to the consumer and is difficult for competitors to imitate. Cost of losing a core competence area can only be calculated in advance partly. They are built through a process of continuous improvement and enhancement that may span a decade or longer a company filing to invest in core competence will find it difficult to enter a market. Building a strategic architecture is pertinent in identifying core competence areas and their technologies core competencies are the corporate resources and as such they can be redeployed only by the corporate management reward systems that do not have other than product line criteria for deciding core competence will definitely lead to destructive competence if career paths aren't aligned or which do not have linkages with the corporation's planning.

Michael Porter

There are two basic factors highlighted by Michael Porter in his article which determines a firm's choice of competitive strategy. These are the attractiveness of an industry for long-term profitability and the competitive position of an organisation in the industry. He suggests that both the factors are equally important for each for organization's overall profitability and none can work in isolation. Porter than further elaborates that there are five different forces which determine an industry's profitability but also argues that, firms can influence these five forces through their strategies (Porter 1985).

Following aspects of Michael Porter strategy for motivation and capabilities are important:

Strategy does not necessarily provoke personal motivation. Leadership can encourage motivation but only if it understands what makes people passionate. Leaders doing the right thing are often not the same as having a fired-up workforce. Passion is based on more than simple ideas. The structure of organization rarely motivates employees as also the quality of products and services. Re-engineering of the corporation is not the same as re-engineering people's motivation. Team psychology is almost irrelevant to question of personal passion and aims in life. "Company-wide quality management" is not the same as connecting with what people feel strongly about. Global branding does nothing to motivate. There is more to motivating people than having great style.

Motivation is only a secondary link in the chain represented by management. Both motivation and market evolution are evolving in a linked relationship. This is called the Contingency Theory. Motivation is influenced by the following factors:- Elementary physiologic needs, like the necessity for food, shelter, clothes, or other things vital for survival- Security and safety including the protection against threats, or other dangerous situations that can be faced during work- Social contacts including love, affection, and respect- Social status; gaining trust in own power of succeeding, self confidence and obtaining a position in the society corresponding to the real capacities possessed by the employee - Self achievement; a powerful feeling of doing the right thing in the best possible way. Maslow creates a pyramid including those necessities and he considers every stage like a new step forward in order to achieve the wanted success. Generally people prefer a constant environment without changes and adapting efforts, and sometimes the employees are selfish, ignoring the common values that should be well understood in the organization. Internal promotion can be used to prove that performance is rewarded, but that should take place with extreme precaution because it can lead to internal conflicts.

Jay Barney

In employee motivation J Barney first indicates what is meant by employees as a source and applies the definition to resources only. Firm resources include all assets, capabilities, organizational processes, firm attributes, information, knowledge, etc; controlled by a firm that enable the firm to conceive of and implement strategies that improve its efficiency and effectiveness .resources are intended to be the following characteristics:

Valuable - a resource can deliver by reducing competition and by reducing weaknesses. He compares this to a value adding financial investment wherein the present value of future generating income capacity is discounted and compared for its probability of a worth while investment avenue.

Rare - the resource if is valuable then is also scarce and is the discount factor for future earnings when compared for present worth and value calculations

In-imitable -considering the fact that a valuable resource is under control of an organization it could be source of competitive advantage. If this strategic asset is not duplicated then the resource becomes sustainable .another related feature is causal ambiguity which implies the occurrence when source of competitive advantage is unknown. If the resource is knowledge based and socially complex like human resources then it is implying causal ambiguity even more.

Non sustainable: this aspect relates to the lack of substitutability, If competitors are able to counter the firm's value-creating strategy with a substitute, prices are driven down to the point that the price equals the discounted future rents resulting in zero economic profits.

A competitive advantage can only be created for human resources if it is not already being applied by current or future competitors. A competitive firm can enter the market with better an superior resource and lead to the resource losing its competitive rents. Thus a competitive advantage is sustainable only when the competitor's actions on it have finish. When the imitative actions have come to an end without disrupting the firm's competitive advantage, the firm's strategy can be called sustainable.

The following literature review has been made considering the most important thinkers for the generation and we need to apply the interpretation of J Barney's definitions of what is competitive advantage for a resource and here it is human capital and in motivation. We need to assess the aspects of what is meant by motivation, what or how can one ascertain the ability of motivation in human capital to be a source of competitive advantage.

Research Questions

The research based questions that are helpful in bringing about the salient aspects of motivation in employees needs too consider whether there are any linkages between the motivation and skills, retention, engagement, quality of work, reward systems and culture and ethics. Therefore the questions to think about are the following;

  • * Is there a motivation inherent in the job design?
  • * Does employee motivation play an integral role in an organization? If yes then why?
  • * Do employees consider employee motivation as work enhancing?
  • * Whether the employer is having a policy for employee and manager feedback on job design and quality of work?
  • * Whether there is any measurement techniques being applied for assessing motivation levels of the employees.
  • * Whether there is a policy for rewards and compensations to the employees that work better and longer with the organization?

Such and other questions are relevant to be asked from the research so as to throw light on the motivational aspects of work in the organization and theory. Is the motivational theory as discussed in the literature review is furthering our confidence in analysis of job motivational factors, interlinkages between motivation, job, work environment, competitor action, sustainability, rarity etc.

Philosophy of Research

The research questions and research is intended to serve the benefit of organizations that employ human capital. It is intended to look into deeper to the interactions in organization, policy adopted for motivation, and competitor actions. It does not intend to sacrifice the sanctity of organization by asking further sensitive questions. Only those aspects related to research on employee motivation need to be asked which are prudent enough so as not to impinge upon the privacy of the manager. It needs to be kept in mind that the research is short and time consumed should not be long otherwise there might be suspicions. The research should be kept secret from the employer vis a vis the employee and the employee's declarations from the employer. There are other aspects of the research which hint upon the sampling which needs to be done through stratified sampling of employees of the organization. Total in all the organization size and number of organizations need to be clarified. Feasibility and access of the research shall be limited in application due to sensitive nature of declarations from the employees and employer both. The research should be able to consider the aspects of motivation as define by J barney in his research and answer the question whether the recommendations and relations are indeed found as in the theoretical aspects' founded by J Barney. The research philosophy indicates whether the employees are motivated through reward systems to develop as a core competence area for organization and also whether the employers can ascertain that the motivation is a tool to bring out the best in their employees.


The pattern of research should in fact be phenomenological Qualitative data, in depth analysis, subjective observations, high validity is achieved. The drawback is accuracy and reliability. This research needs to be applied since there are factor s that are similar with the type of research and quality of the research. Both exhibit the same subjectivity of data from interviews as well as questionnaires as the data is personal and also has restricted access for the organization and people interested in reading it. Also it requires in depth analysis a simple skimming of facts cannot bring about the critical aspects in employee - employer relation and whether the needs and expression of motivations are sufficient can only be found through this research.

Methods of data collection

Questionnaire; interviews (in a variety of formats including unstructured, structured and semi-structured); observation; gathering of documentation and artifacts. Triangulation is an approach intended to increase the quality and validity of the qualitative research methods.

Interview considerations:

  1. Long /short
  2. Time frame to be adhered
  3. Size of interview group
  4. Language issues
  5. Use of recorder and documentation

Research methods shall also include the research on secondary sources of data from organizational memos, journal, newsletter, files and magazines, websites etc.

Types of data to be used (It can be qualitative or quantitative).

The data have to be both qualitative and quantitative. Here since the employee and employer are both subject to questionnaire as well as interviews the data could be taken as subjective most of the times and objective for a few questions. The data should be such that it lends itself to more qualitative and quantitative analysis. Thus the data has all these features are primary or secondary data.

An explanation of methods of data analysis

Data so calculated from theories of motivation, to empirical investigations in the nature of motivation and its standing between employer and employee relation needs to be explained thoroughly using cross examination, proper assimilation and representation using bar diagrams and charts. The analysis should be focusing on following aspects: External business environment, Business strategy and operations, Knowledge management strategy and operations, Knowledge sharing and storytelling activities. These are the research based answers from the qualitative and quantitative research that has been carried out. The analysis should be incorporating the aspects of patterns that are evolving out from both the theory and as well as the patterns of work relations and how they are being influencing motivation out of the multitude of factors like retention, nature of work, type of company ,industry sector, organizational structure and industrial relations. Thus all these factors directly or indirectly influence decision making and cloud out the relation between motivation and employee on the one hand and between employer and motivation on the other.

Ethical issues and limitations of research approach

Normally the issues of personal boundaries come into forefront whenever an employee or employer interview or questionnaire is conducted .Therefore the relevant aspects of secrecy, wrong hints/suggestions, and improper language should be defined as intentional use of interview /questionnaire to bring out the sensitive and personal details rather than focus on theoretical relations among employees and employers. The relevant interview shall need to be cleared of all such issues before going ahead. Also the interview needs to be free of bias and prejudice against a particular relation, company strength etc. Challenging the employer's position in regards to employee behavior and motivation can be detrimental as also the employee's hard work and commitment. Neither area is safe ethically. In most of the places the interviewer or correspondent will find shackles on employees not revealing details on perceptions and also the employer not divulging related information on employee veracity and quality of work lest it tarnish the image. Objectivity of research cannot also be proved outright .These are hindrances to research. Also the further hindrances come from inability of employer to divulge details due to company policy. Questionnaire length and total time spent can become a hindrance to research if not chosen correctly. Thus on one hand is the hindrances and on the other there are further ethical constraints.


In conclusion it can be said that though there are few instances of employer and employee deliberately planning on core competence for organization through team work even then the forces of competition would have compelled the organization to take up the issue and develop motivation as a tool. Also as Jay Barney has indicated in his research that the tool of employee motivation is no lesser than the other aspects of the management yet it does not lend itself the same interpretation as these other factors do but more like a financial instrument. The core competence areas can be destroyed by competitor action if not taken care off. Also the research should be mindful of ethical considerations which are stringent and might lead to scant results if not adhered to properly .The employee reward systems are the best possible source of such details and information. Research methodology is clear and should be congruent and simple, the application of such concepts need to be relevant and clarified in the beginning itself. The most important aspect of the research and also the one to bring success is the data analysis because there are relevant attributes of marking employee motivation on the one hand and bringing about the relationships on the other. The research design must be completed under the decided time frame, data in both ways primary and secondary may be assembled and represented using normal tools and techniques of mathematics.

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