Internal Motivation Theories

April 8, 2009 - Tags:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow’s need hierarchy looks at motivating people as equivalent to satisfying their internal needs. Your highest level of motivation will be to do the things that better you as a person—called “self-actualization.” But there are a few steps you have to take before you can get there. Humans can work on higher-level needs like self-actualization only if lower-level needs are satisfied—physiological (e.g., having enough food to eat), safety and security (e.g., feeling safe from harm), and social approval (having others you care about think well of you). These factors are all external to you. There are then two higher-level needs—self-esteem (you feel good about yourself) and the ultimate self-actualization—striving to develop yourself.

When you work for Toyota, your lower-level needs are covered. You are well paid, you have job security, and you are working in a safe, controlled environment. The work group can help satisfy social needs along with a myriad of social activities at work and after work. Toyota’s culture emphasizes the use of challenging work situations to build self-confidence in their people for experimenting and accomplishing exceptional feats that can move in the direction of self-actualization.

Herzberg’s Job Enrichment. Frederick Herzberg’s theories are similar to Maslow’s, but they focus on characteristics of work that are “motivators.” He said that what Maslow called lower-level needs are really “hygiene” factors. Their absence will cause dissatisfaction, but providing a person more and more of them will not positively motivate. For example, a clean and bright work environment, nice eating facilities, and good pay and benefits can help keep people in the job, but more hygiene factors do not make people work harder. If you really want to motivate people, you have to go beyond the hygiene factors and enrich jobs so they are “intrinsically” motivating. People performing the work need feedback on how they are doing. They need to perform a whole piece of work, one in which they can identify with the product of their work. They also need a degree of autonomy.

Toyota has done a good job of providing for the hygiene factors through job security with safe and attractive work environments. Nevertheless, on the face of it, an assembly line is anything but enriching. People do the same mindless task repeatedly and are responsible only for a tiny piece of an overall product. However, TPS adds a great deal to make the tasks more intrinsically motivating and Toyota has specifically worked on designing assembly lines to improve job enrichment. Some of the features that make the job more enriching include job rotation (which gives the work group ownership over a subsystem of the vehicle), various kinds of feedback on how workers are doing at their jobs, the andon system (which allows the worker to be proactive in solving problems), and a good deal of work group autonomy over the tasks. Toyota became interested in job enrichment in the 1990s and redesigned its assembly lines so that parts that make up a subsystem of the vehicle are installed in one specific area on the assembly line. Rather than a work group assembling electrical systems and then putting in floor mats and then door handles, a work group might focus almost exclusively on the electrical system under the hood. For white collar workers, Toyota organizes teams around complete projects from start to finish. For example, the design of the interior of the vehicle is the responsibility of one team from the design phase through production. Having the responsibility of participating in the project from beginning to end enriches and empowers the employee.