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What is the expectancy theory of motivation?

I am the owner and director of a small company of about 30 employees. We are trying to create a motivation system that will help our employees increase their productivity and guarantee their overall satisfaction.

As an entrepreneur, I am of the view that motivation and reward work closely together in improving employees’ performance and therefore should be considered in any company relations with its workers.

I am looking for a better understanding of the expectancy theory of motivation to know whether it will help me build a better workforce for my business.

Samantha Stevenson

in Self Improvement

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Victoria Fowler on March 7, 2018

The Motivation Expectancy Theory is a management theory that all entrepreneurs should be familiar with. It began with Edward Tolman and then was completed by Victor H Vroom. However, most people are either not too familiar with it or have never heard of it altogether.

In simple terms, it attempts to explain why people chose certain things over others. It states that a person will be motivated to accomplish a certain task if they are convinced it will lead to a favorable outcome or reward. If an individual believes that putting effort in meeting a particular goal will bring a desired result, that person will most likely be motivated to accomplish that specific goal.

The theory has three important components:

  • Expectancy: this is the relationship between the effort that a person puts into a task and the expected performance.
  • Instrumentality: this explains a person’s belief that he/she will gain a particular reward if the desired result is achieved.
  • Valence: this refers to the value a person has placed on the reward for his/her expected performance.

So, how can this theory help you increase your human resource output?

By understanding how this theory works, you can build a system of motivation that attached a reward with good or improved productivity. To make this system practical, effective and efficient:

  • Ensure that rewards are known and properly understood by your employees. Reward and motivation correlate. You cannot expect to motivate your employees if they have no idea there is a reward or do not understand how the reward affects them.
  • Make sure that the rewards are only given to workers that deserve it. If employees have the slightest suspicion that a reward has been given to a not so well performing worker, they will feel cheated and view the rewarding system as unfair.
  • Set rewards that your employees desire or want. You will need to understand your employee needs, expectations, desires and goals in order to understand what to set as a reward for excellent performance.
  • Link your expected performance to your company’s goals and objectives. To understand if your business is doing well, check if the employee performance is aligned with your short-term and long-term goals. If not, try to bridge this gap.
  • Provide training forums to help your employees understand how and why they should improve their productivity. Such training will also help your workers to understand that actually working hard rewards.

Larry Warrena year ago

The Expectancy Theory of Motivation is a simple way of understanding how to exploit the human resource potential in an organization. I believe this response pretty much explains how you can use the theory practically in your business. However, I would like to point out that there are limitations to this theory that you should consider before you apply it.

  1. Its assumption that employees have all requisites to perform. These include the company resources, employee skills and time to improve output. In a practical scenario, one or more of these may not be present therefore affecting performance.
  2. The theory also assumes that employees know the rewards that they desire most. People are not always aware of what rewards best suits their needs.
  3. It is based on the grounds that outcomes and rewards do not change. However, in the real world, employee beliefs will change every so often.

Jordan Soto11 months ago

Contemporary organizations acknowledge the importance of employee motivation in the success of the organization.  For instance, it helps in improving efficiency among employees making them deliver the best of their abilities and hence contribute to increased productivity of the organization.  With this in mind, many modern managers have in place effective motivation systems that reward their employee's based on various theoretical understanding.

The systems put in place by the organization to reward employees are often based on  various theoretical understandings of motivation. Motivation expectancy theory, for example, is employed by many to develop motivation systems that tie rewards closely to performance. Organization managers ensure that rewards are wanted and deserved by the employees. 


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