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How to Motivate to Improve Performance

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How to Motivate to Improve Performance Essay

Table of contents

  1. Define Motivation
  2. Factors that affect motivation within the workplace
  3. Money/Salary
    Interpersonal relationships
     Opportunities for learning and development
    The organisational culture
    Processes & procedures
    Personal life
    Meaningful work
    Describe a recognised theory
  4. IES Engagement Model

Define Motivation

Motivation is the term used to describe the reason(s) behind one’s behaviour. Workplace motivation can be defined as the process by which a manager or leader encourages their team to achieve a pre-defined set of goals. It is the ‘why’ in why we do things.

Dr P.G Aquinas (2006) defines motivation as…

“Those forces that cause people to behave in certain ways. Motivation encompasses all those pressures and influences that trigger, channel and sustain human behaviour”

Managers need an understanding of motivation in order to get the most out of their employees. Within my work area employees are encouraged to develop themselves through a variety courses linked to their role such as this one.

Factors that affect motivation within the workplace

There are numerous factors that may affect individual motivation in the workplace. Hertzberg’s Two factor theory looked at the factors that would cause job satisfaction (Motivation) and those factors that would lead to job dissatisfaction (Hygiene).

To further expand on this, I would summarise those affecting one’s motivation as:


For the most part people generally take up employment as a means of earning a living. They give of their time and skills in exchange for a salary. This is a biological need required to provide food and shelter; it is this need that drives people to acquire it – for their survival. However, managers must never forget that salary on its own won’t necessarily affect performance. However, if the salary is imbalanced this can in turn lead to job dissatisfaction which affects the employee’s motivation.

Interpersonal relationships

Humans have a need for social interaction; this need can be harnessed by managers to build a strong team dynamic however, if the interactions are negative this can affect not just the individual mood but also the productivity of the team. To facilitate strong teams through interpersonal relationships managers can create opportunities for team building:

  • Fostering an environment of open and honest communication.
  • Facilitate team social interactions by introducing social outings at YMCA Birmingham this includes hosting the annual staff Christmas party.

Relationships with the team leader or manager

Good working relationships with superiors helps to build trust and mutual respect. With this as a foundation the employee can feel they are able to address issues, discuss ideas etc which allows the manager access to insights on how best to motivate and support the employee.

Relationships with team members

It is a commonly held belief that we spend more time at work than with our families. It is this belief that lends itself to creating rewarding working relationships. The need for social interaction and belonging means having strong teams with little or no conflict helps to increase productivity, reduce isolation, dissatisfaction and loneliness

 Opportunities for learning and development

According to Maslow (1959), self-actualisation is becoming all that you are capable of being. Providing employees with the opportunity to reach and attain this goal is a sure-fire way of motivating them. Employees who are given the chance to develop and progress are a benefit to an organisation as employees such as this are likely to perform at higher levels, are more engaged and this leads to higher productivity.

The organisational culture

Culture has to do with the values that are held, work environment and goals. It is a set of acceptable behaviours by which employees are expected to work within. For instance, within my organisation the company values are embedded in everything that we do and is closely linked to the company’s Christian heritage, mission and purpose.

Inspire – We are a welcoming organisation that inspires people to belong.

Believe – We believe in people’s potential and have faith in the future.

Exceed expectations – We set high standards and commit to exceed expectations

Do the right thing – We strive to do the right thing, in line with our ethos, even in difficult situations.

Compassion – We show compassion and kindness, listening to and caring for the whole person.

When employees aren’t aligned to the company’s culture or do not understand the value system this can lead to job dissatisfaction and reduced commitment.

Processes & procedures

Where there are efficient processes (employees know what they’re doing and why) employees will become engaged and stimulated to perform. If processes aren’t efficient or indeed are unclear, employees will flounder and this would lead to reduced commitment, poor client interactions and apathy.

Personal life

Effects of personal issues on work may include; loss of concentration, apathy, disengagement, and absenteeism. This is where having clear procedures and process in place is vital. My organisation offers a range of strategies to manage work/life balance i.e.

  • Flexible working can help employees with care responsibilities
  • Compassionate leave for dealing with loss
  • Support systems such as access to counselling to help employees improve mental health.

Meaningful work

Having meaningful work is a motivational driver. Organisations can foster an environment that places emphasis on ethics, corporate social responsibility and doing the right thing (a YMCA Birmingham value)

Employees want to know what an organisation does and why they do it. How does the organisation make a difference?

Explain how individual differences affect levels of motivation in the workplace

No two individuals are the same it is this difference that demands managers tailor their approach to motivation to the employee being managed. Some people are motivated by money, job satisfaction, promotion, bonuses and other incentives whilst some are not. For instance, within my team there are employees who excel in people skills – they know how to make every client feel at home; these employees thrive in that environment and are motivated to giving the best service. Whereas there are employees who have not yet mastered this skill and thus are reluctant to perform this skill.

Other differences that can affect levels of motivation include:

  • Goals – personal versus corporate
  • Stage of life – What motivates a young career starter may be different to what motivates an employee nearing retirement. Oftentimes older generation is viewed as inflexible.
  • Personality – different personalities interact different with colleagues, managers and clients
  • Ethnicity – attributable to cultural differences.
  • Aptitude and ability – individual propensity for learning and the level at which different employees.

Explain the potential impact on organisational performance if employee motivation levels are low

Low levels of employee motivation are a slippery slope as once that cycle begins if left unchecked will spiral causing untold damages to an organisation. From effects on the team, productivity, customer satisfaction to loss of reputation and negative publicity.

Low or reduced productivity

Where employees are unmotivated less pride in taken in tasks assigned and whilst they will continue to perform their duties it may not be to the best of their abilities. They are simply working to earn a living – meeting their basic needs.

Dissatisfied clients

As employees lose motivation, the normal amount of effort placed in completing tasks is reduced. If employees working within our reception department are unmotivated it would mean poor/slow service, less attention to detail which in turn leads to dissatisfied clients.

Poor business performance

As employee productivity levels fall the business will become unable to fulfil its obligations leading to loss of sales, increased customer complaints, increased refund due to poor service or defective products.

Low team morale

Once an individual employee begins to lose motivation this can extend to other employees who must take on greater workloads as their colleague(s) commitment/quality of work diminishes. Like a virus this will extend itself to the team leading to loss of morale and the motivation to complete tasks to the best of their abilities. Reduced morale and job dissatisfaction can lead to conflict within the team which will affect performance levels even more.


Low levels of motivation can lead to employees taking more sick days as they are no longer invested in the organisation – they may no longer understand the corporate objectives or strategic direction of the organisation.

Describe a recognised theory

Managers should recognise that individuals are motivated by different things depending on the stage of their life. One theory which understood and sought to explain and expand on this reasoning is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. The theory was based around understanding what motivated individuals. Although developed over 60 years ago, the principles remain relevant to this day. It sought to separate various needs into levels on a pyramid. Maslow believed that these needs had to be met at each level and we could only move on to the next higher-level needs once these were met. Managers must seek to fulfil the needs that are currently not being met. For instance, an employee who has attained levels 1-3 through securing the job, having job stability and finding their place in the team would require their need for achievement to be met next. It is the manager’s responsibility to recognise this and to offer opportunities for the individual to attain their next level need.

The pyramid is based around five distant levels of need:

Level 1 – Biological & Physiological

These are basic needs such as air, food, drink, shelter, warmth and sleep. Needs required for survival; the reason that employees take employment; to provide for these basic needs. Within my work area there are employees for whom this is the first job. These employees are seeking to meet this level of needs.

Level 2 – Safety

The need for protection, security, order, limits and stability. Managers can define goals and objectives, set the standards and expectations required. Employees who are nearing retirement are seeking the security of a pension and this is what motivates them to come to work and perform.

Level 3 – Belongingness & love

Feeling a part of something, a work group, family, receiving affection and building relationships. A need that can be fulfilled through work and one that the manager has the power to influence through team building and offering opportunities for employees to feedback and voice their opinions.

Level 4 – Esteem

Building one’s self-esteem, achievement, independence, status and managerial responsibility. Offering your employees training and development opportunities to grow and develop their skills further. Offering promotion from within.

Level 5 – Self-actualisation

Realising personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Describe ways in which knowledge of theory can be used to improve performance

There are several motivational theories from which managers can draw upon to improve team performance. These theories look at ways in which managers can recognise needs, how to meet those needs and how to use the knowledge to motivate employees. They give managers insight into how best to improve the performance/productivity of their teams and provide an invaluable set of tools with which to do so. For instance, McClelland’s theory can help managers to recognise dominant motivators the information can then be used to influence how goals are set, how feedback is provided and how team members are rewarded. For example, within my team there is an individual who never speaks up in meetings but is always very helpful in assisting other team members with their duties. I would say this person’s motivator is the need for affiliation. This lets me know that this individual works best in a group setting and prefers certainty of tasks.

Managers can also utilise Hertzberg’s theory to remove factors likely to cause dissatisfaction and improve job enrichment factors.



Providing opportunities for achievement. Offering competitive salaries.

Recognising their contributions.

Ensuring company policies aren’t obstructive

Giving as much responsibility to each team member as possible. Providing effective, supportive and non-intrusive supervision.

Providing opportunities to advance in the company through internal promotions. Creating and supporting a culture of respect and dignity for all team members.

Explain how to use employee engagement to increase motivational levels

An engaged employee is one that shows commitment and a willingness to go above and beyond their role expectations. Engagement is defined as…

‘a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’

Institute of employment studies

McClelland et al Human Motivational Theory proposed that everyone has three driving motivators, the need for:

  • Achievement – the drive to excel, striving to succeed
  • Authority & power – Need to make others behave in a way that they would not have otherwise behaved
  • Affiliation – desire for close interpersonal relationships

According to McClelland et al, these aren’t inherent and are developed through one’s culture and experiences. To motivate one’s team managers, need to ensure that they are meeting one of these drivers. Managers ned to know what motivates their team this is gained through an understanding of the individual including how they respond to feedback and what tasks fit that person. The Institute of employment studies described a model which highlighted the factors that contributed to an individual feeling valued and thus engaged.

IES Engagement Model

Using this model managers can incorporate strategies to ensure that employees feel valued and involved through:

  • Defining what the expectations are i.e. what are the day-to-day tasks of the role, requirements for projects etc.
  • Sharing of information – Yes, some information is sensitive or not suitable for all levels of staff however your team should be aware of the organisation/team goals, objectives, financial performance and strategic direction. This ensures that team members understand the reasoning behind certain management decisions.
  • Being consistent – in terms of
  • Setting an example – Modelling the behaviours that you want your team to exhibit.
  • Encouraging the team’s career expectations – provide opportunities for training, personal development and advancement.
  • Operating an open-door policy where employees feel free to share ideas and to give and receive feedback. This can be achieved through job chats, appraisals and direct conversations.
  • Offering a reward and recognition scheme – whether this is through financial or non-financial incentives.
  • Providing appreciation – employee of the month, customer compliments and in general just saying thank-you for your team’s hard work.

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