The Relationship between Employee Motivation and Performance

The Relationship between Employee Motivation and Performance

The human resources in an organization is a significant determinant of the success of an organization. The way an organization perceives and treats its employees has a direct or indirect impact on their productivity. Motivated employees are happy, committed, and are continually looking for ways to improve their performance (Dunham, 1984). On the other hand, demotivated employees often have low productivity and high turnover rates. Many organizations today recognize the importance of motivating their staff as a critical means of attracting and retaining employees. This paper analyzes the relationship between employee motivation and job performance by exploring different author’s views and motivation theories and presenting a personal perspective on employee motivation.

Motivation refers to the arousal or drive to follow a particular course of action or achieve a specific goal. When employees are motivated, they focus their efforts on the achievement of set goals. Different research studies such as Wright (2001), Chaundry & Sharma (2012), and Owusu (2012) have indicated that there is a direct positive relationship between worker motivation and job performance. Motivated employees are more productive and have a good attitude towards co-workers and customers. Therefore, managers have a crucial role to play in encouraging their employees to perform optimally in the workplace. There are different motivation strategies including the provision of a favorable working environment, reasonable remuneration, respect, independence, and involvement in the decision-making processes of the organization. Other than financial resources, human resources are essential to an organization and managers must, therefore, look for ways to motivate their subordinates to achieve maximum productivity.

Sharma & Sharma investigated the relationship between employee motivation and performance of employees working in the retail sector in Jaipur, India. They postulated that employee performance depends on factors such as compensation, training and development, organizational structure, job security, motivation, and satisfaction (Sharma & Sharma, 2017). They sampled one hundred employees of retail stores in Jaipur and sought to find out the impact of different forms of motivation on employee productivity. The forms of motivation included trust and respect, salary increases and bonuses, staff development, intrinsic rewards, perquisites, incentives, appreciation, and the scope for learning new things. The study found out that regardless of the form of motivation, employees perform better when they are motivated. Employees perform at an optimum level if they are respected, appreciated, and recognized by the management if they perform well (Sharma & Sharma, 2017). Therefore, building relationships with employees and making them feel valued is essential for boosting performance and reducing staff turnover.

In his paper titled “Employee motivation and organizational performance,” Ovidiu-Iliuta Dobre also explored the impact of employee motivation on organizational performance. According to Dobre (2013), there is a direct relationship between motivation and employee performance. The most important motivating factor for employees is financial rewards. Employees who earn a reasonable salary have a higher level of commitment, diligence, and output (Dobre, 2013). However, money is not the only motivating factor. Non-financial such as social recognition and rewards improve the job satisfaction of employees, which has a positive and direct effect on their performance. For salary to be used as an effective motivator, organizational managers need to structure salaries based on job importance and individual performance. Dobre (2013) also notes that employees are also motivated through appropriate leadership. The leader should create a relationship with their employees so that they can gain trust and become motivated. Proper communication and involvement of workers in the decision-making processes increase worker enthusiasm and motivation, leading to higher productivity (Dobre, 2013).

The relationship between employee motivation and job performance was explored further by Zaidee, Said, Zahari, Ali, & Salleh (2015). In their study, the authors identified skill, motivation, and aptitudes as the determinants of job performance, with motivation being the most important predictor of employee productivity. They identified individual needs, personal preferences, and work environment as the influencing factors of employee motivation. Workers who can meet their individual needs, perform tasks that they are interested in, and work in an environment that inspires and entices them are better motivated and perform better (Zaidee, Said, Zahari, Ali, & Salleh, 2015). They state that increasing employee motivation makes workers feel more satisfied with their jobs, and are familiar with the desired outcomes from performing those tasks. Management should offer individualized support and encourage their employees by understanding their personal preferences and individual needs, and also by providing a favorable working environment (Zaidee, Said, Zahari, Ali, & Salleh, 2015).

There are several theories of employee motivation. They include the hierarchy of needs theory, the expectancy theory, the two-factor theory, and the equity theory. The hierarchy of needs theory was proposed by Abraham Maslow and suggests that people are motivated by the desire to fulfill their unsatisfied needs, and that lower-level needs must be satisfied before higher-level needs can be fulfilled (Dunham, 1984). At the bottom of the hierarchy are life-sustaining or psychological needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Once psychological needs are met, a person then seeks to satisfy their safety needs such as freedom from harm and financial stability. They then experience social needs such as having friends before developing esteem needs. Esteem needs include the desire for recognition, status, and self-respect. Once esteem needs are satisfied, a person then experiences self-actualization needs which is the need to reach their full potential. The hierarchy of needs theory provides a framework for managers to identify the different needs of their employees and develop individualized ways of motivating them. For example, an employee with esteem needs may be motivated by their manager’s recognition of their accomplishments while an employee with psychological needs may feel gratified by a salary raise. For the organization to have a highly motivated workforce, managers must, therefore, make an effort to satisfy the needs of each employee (Dunham, 1984).

Another theory is the two-factor theory proposed by Frederick Herzberg. The theory categorized factors that lead to employee satisfaction into two, that is, motivation factors and hygiene factors. Motivation factors are those factors that strongly contribute to job satisfaction. They include exciting tasks, responsibility, recognition, and growth (French, 2011). Hygiene factors are weak contributors to satisfaction but are necessary to prevent dissatisfaction, and they include working conditions, safety, salary, and company policy. For optimal performance of employees, managers must provide greater responsibilities and growth opportunities for their employees and provide a working environment which allows subordinates to accomplish tasks.

The equity theory was suggested by Stacy Adams and holds the view that human beings are motivated by fair and equitable treatment. Based on the social exchange theory, the theory suggests that employees compare their input-output ratio to that of co-workers. They are motivated when they receive equal treatment to co-workers they perceive as having the same input-output ratio (Dunham, 1984). Therefore, equity is key to motivating employees. Another motivation theory is the expectancy theory proposed by Victor Vroom. The rationale of Vroom’s theory is that a person’s decisions directly affect the desired outcomes. Employee motivation is determined by expectancy that greater effort will result in better outcomes, instrumentality that good performance attracts rewards, and valence or the degree of satisfaction with the reward an employee gets from performing a given task. Highly motivated workers, therefore, are those who can establish a connection between effort, performance, and reward. Managers must, thus, establish a performance-based reward framework that recognizes good performing employees.

The evidence gathered from various studies shows that employee motivation is directly positively related to performance. Many executives believe that the level of employee performance solely depends on the compensation package the organization offers them (Dunham, 1984). However, this is not the case. While financial rewards are useful extrinsic motivating tool for employees, it is not the only influencing factor of employee motivation. The working environment, empowerment, recognition and employee involvement in decision making also encourage employees to perform better. Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic (French, 2011). Intrinsic motivation entails the satisfaction or enjoyment that comes from completing a task, or the desire to achieve a particular goal. It comes from within. Extrinsic motivation is externally induced and arises from financial and non-financial rewards as well as encouragement by managers. Employees drive organizational performance, and it is essential that they are motivated through different systems and strategies. Managers must establish an integrated approach of motivating their employees. This entails comprehensively understanding of the individual needs of their employees, personal preferences, and creating an environment that encourages them to perform better. Employee training, respect, and merit-based promotions are also crucial in the workplace, to encourage employees make decisions and take suitable actions that contribute to the achievement of organizational goals.


Dobre, O. I. (2013). Employee motivation and organizational performance. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Getty/Downloads/R5_5_DobreOvidiuIliuta_p53_60.pdf

Dunham, R. B. (1984). Organizational Behavior: People and Processes in Management. Homewood, Ill.: Irwin.

French, R. (2011). Organizational Behaviour. John Wiley & Sons.

Sharma, N., & Sharma, A. (2017, April 2). Relationship Between Employee Motivation And Performance Of The Employees Working In Retail Sector In Jaipur. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Getty/Downloads/JMEITFEB0402002%20(1).pdf

Zaidee, A. S., Said, N. S., Zahari, A. S., Ali, S. R., & Salleh, S. M. (2015, July). Relationship between Employee Motivation and Job Performance. Retrieved from

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