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Employee Motivation: A Critical Examination

Since the age of the Industrial Revolution, psychologist and social scientists have been trying to decode this extremely complicated specimen called the 'employee'. What makes the employee motivated to work hard? Is it money? Is it social status? Till today, there is no clear consensus on what motivates employees. This subject continues to baffle analysts as more and more data is generated on employee motivation.

There have been several studies done to understand motivation. Some of the leading motivation theories focus on employees as a social being with a complex set of needs. Some of these needs are tangible material needs. But most other needs are intangible, abstract, or illusionary. Does that mean we can ignore the intangibles and focus only on material benefits?

Role of Money in Employee Motivation
It is said that money makes the mare go. Some researchers believe that money solves most employee needs as it meets tangible and intangible requirements. Money meets basic physiological needs and other needs such as social status, recognition, power, and lifestyle. The fatter the paycheck, the higher are the levels of motivation.

Other experts deny the influence of money on motivation levels. After a certain level, money and all material benefits fail to motivate individuals. Employees seek job satisfaction, personal growth, self worth, recognition, and excellence, in addition to money.

What we need to understand is the underlying principle behind employee motivation. It is clear from the motivation theories that intrinsically the employee is capable of competent work. People may have generic needs or specific needs, but they definitely have needs. While the basic employee needs remain the same in every organization, specific employee needs vary from company to company. It is therefore important for organizations to recognize the nature of employee needs in their organization and work towards fulfillment of these needs.

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