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Understanding Employee Drives and Motivations - The First Step Towards Motivation at Work

Copyright 1997 Claire Belilos
CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services
Terms: For reading only. Not to be sold, reprinted,re-written, distributed, re-broadcast,
uploaded, or used to conduct training by others without written agreement

However large or small a company or business is, it is employees at all levels that can make or break it. This holds true not only for the people we hire on a regular basis, but also for temporary and contracted workers. It is as important to research and study the needs, drives, and expectations of people we hire or employ, and aim at responding to and satisfying those, as it is with regard to customers.

In actual fact, considering the role each "employee" plays in a company's success, analyzing and planning an adequate response to employees' motivations deserves first place in the order of business.

Before going any further, let us shift our approach from grouping people under the generic category of "employee" to individual human beings and term them as "hired workers" or "working partners". This is what they are. We must acknowledge them as human beings with individual needs, drives, characteristics, personalities, and acknowledge their contribution to the business success.

Though each person has specific needs, drives, aspirations, and capabilities, at varying degrees of intensity, people's basic needs are the same, as illustrated by Abraham Maslow in the following model:




Social Needs

Safety Needs

Physiological Needs


Maslow explains the Hierarchy of Needs as applied to workers roughly as follows:

Physiological Needs

basic physical needs:  the ability to acquire food, shelter, clothing and other basics to survive

Safety Needs

a safe and non-threatening work environment, job security, safe equipment and installations

Social Needs

contact and friendship with fellow-workers, social activities and opportunities


recognition, acknowledgment, rewards


realizing one's dreams and potential, reaching the heights of one's gifts and talents.

It is only when these needs are met that workers are morally, emotionally, and even physically ready to satisfy the needs of the employer and the customers.

Worker motivation must also be viewed from two perspectives:

  1. Inner drives
  2. Outer (external) motivators.

A person's inner drives push and propel him/her towards an employer, a particular job, career, line of study, or other activity (such as travel or recreation). It is these drives that Maslow delineates in his hierarchy of needs, and which we must understand and internalize, use as guidelines in our efforts to help employees feel motivated.

The outer (external) motivators are the mirror image the employer or outside world offers in response to the inner drives. In order to attract the "cream of the crop" of available workers, same as in his/her dealings with customers, the employer not only tries to satisfy these basic needs, but to exceed them - taking into consideration additional extraordinary needs individual workers have.

Most workers need to:

  1. Earn wages that will enable them to pay for basic necessities and additional luxuries such as the purchase of a home, or travel
  2. Save for and enjoy old age security benefits
  3. Have medical and other insurance coverage
  4. Acquire friends at work
  5. Win recognition
  6. Be acknowledged and rewarded for special efforts and contributions
  7. Be able to advance in life and career-wise
  8. Have opportunities for self-development
  9. Improve their skills, knowledge, and know-how
  10. Demonstrate and use special gifts and abilities
  11. Realize their ideal(s).

The employer responds to those needs by offering and providing:

  1. Employment
  2. Adequate pay
  3. Assistance to workers for their special needs (such as child care arrangements, transportation, flexible work schedules)
  4. Job security (to the degree possible)
  5. Clear company policies
  6. Clear and organized work procedures
  7. A stable, just and fair work environment
  8. A safe work environment
  9. Medical coverage and other benefits
  10. An atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation
  11. Social activities
  12. Reward and recognition programs
  13. Incentive programs
  14. Open lines of communication (formal and informal)
  15. Systematic feedback
  16. Training and development programs
  17. Opportunities for promotion
  18. Company/ business information
  19. Information on customer feedback
  20. Sharing of company goals and objectives
  21. Information on the market situation and industry
  22. Future expectations
  23. Plans for the future
  24. Guidance and mentoring.

It is important that the employer discover other extraordinary needs applicants have before hiring them and know beforehand whether he/she can satisfy those needs or not. An employee may have:

  • Family responsibilities and be unable to work shifts, overtime, or weekends
  • Heavy financial responsibilities which he/she can meet only by working at two jobs, leading to exhaustion, "sick leave", and deficient work performance
  • A desperate financial need for additional overtime and weekend remuneration
  • Premature expectations of swift promotions.

Some other needs the employer can expect, for which company policies should be planned accordingly:

  • If the company is in a remote location, all employees will have a need for more social activities
  • Many single people look for dates and spouses at work
  • Some women may not be ready to work late shifts unless the employer provides transportation back home
  • Some workers may have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse.

In addition to needs and drives, adult workers have expectations from their employer - they expect:

  • A knowledgeable, experienced, expert employer
  • Clear and fair policies, procedures, and employment practices
  • Business integrity
  • Clear job descriptions
  • Two-way communications
  • Effective management and supervision
  • Positive discipline
  • Good company repute
  • Good customer relations
  • Company survival
  • Opportunities for personal growth
  • Company growth
  • A share in the company's success.

Business owners and managers are under constant scrutiny by the people they hire. Adult workers care beyond the salary - they care to know to whom they entrust their fate, reputation, and security. They consider their work as a major factor that shapes their lives and the lives of those dear to them. Hence the scrutiny. Once they feel confident that the employer and their place of work is what they wished for and expected, they are ready to contribute above and beyond "the call of duty".

Most of these needs, expectations and aspirations are unexpressed - it is up to the employer to develop a good system of company communications, employee relations, training and development that will lead to an environment of openness, cooperation, teamwork, and motivation that will benefit all the parties involved.

Thank you for visiting. We hope you will find value in the free online information provided in our "how to" articles.

Copyright 1997 Claire Belilos - All Rights Reserved

This article is not to be sold or distributed in any form or manner without the author's written permission

Further articles on employee motivation at http://www.easytraining.com:

How Can I Motivate My Employees? - The Eternal Question
Beyond Training:  Focusing on the Human Factor
Cross-Training as a Motivational and Problem-Solving Technique
Conducting Effective Employee Orientations
Managers and Supervisors Expected to Create a Motivated Team
and the famous article by the late Mr. James Lavenson, Hotelier,
Think Strawberries

List yourself at http://www.easytraining.com/motivationbooklist.htm
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Claire Belilos, CHIC Hospitality Consulting Services, Home page: http://www.easytraining.com specializes in Hospitality, human resources strategies, organizational training and development, Customer Service and problem-solving. Workshops offered: "Quality Service" and "The Design and Delivery of Training". Evaluations, policies, manuals, job, and training tools are customized to fit the specific needs of an organization.  

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