Employee Motivation
Article Index
Employee Motivation
Expert Opinion
Research Data
Measure and Evaluate
Example Cases

Research Data

In one of the most elaborate studies conducted on employee motivation, the Minneapolis Gas Company sought to determine what their potential employees desired most from a job. This twenty-year in-depth study (carried out from 1945-1965) involved 31,000 men and 13,000 women. Contrary to common belief the number one motivator of both men and woman was job security, with advancement rating 2nd, type of work 3rd and company (proud to work for) rating 4th. Factors such a money, benefits and working conditions were given a low rating by both men and women.

The purpose of research conducted by James Lindner (1998) Research and Extension Associate at The Ohio State University Piketon Research and Extension Center was to describe the importance of certain factors in motivating employees at the Piketon Research and Extension Center and Enterprise Center. Specifically, the study sought to determine the ranked importance of ten motivating factors. The final ranked order of these factors was:

  • Interesting work
  • Good wages
  • Full appreciation of work done
  • Job security
  • Good working conditions
  • Promotions and growth in the organization
  • Feelings of being in on things
  • Personal loyalty to employees
  • Tactful discipline
  • Sympathetic help with personal problems

Two further studies cited by Lindner returned the following results:

A study of industrial employees conducted by Kovach (1987) yielded the following ranked order of motivational factors (a) interesting work, (b) full appreciation of work done and (c) a feeling of being in on things.

The second study, also on employees and conducted by Harpaz (1990) found the following rankings of motivational factors:

  • interesting work
  • good wages
  • job security

The final conclusions that Lindner draws from his own and others research is that ""The discrepancies in these research findings supports the idea that what motivates employees differs given the context in which the employee works. What is clear, however, is that employees rank interesting work as the most important motivational factor".

A study of employee attitudes undertaken by the Gallup Organisation with more than 100,00 employees in 12 industries using 12 statements, shows employees who have a positive attitude toward their work are 50% more likely to achieve customer loyalty and 44% more likely to produce above-average profitability. Companies whose support of the 12 statements ranked in the top 25% averaged 24% higher profitability, 29% higher revenues and 10% lower employee turnover. The statements included:

  • I know what is expected of me at work
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
  • In the past seven days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development

A study by John Throop (cited in IOMA's Pay for Performance Report 1998) conducted using computer programmers, asked participants to identify the top 10 factors that provided the highest degree of motivation in their jobs. The programmers top three were:

  • Full appreciation for work done
  • Feeling that they were in on things
  • Sympathetic help with personnel problems

When asked what the top motivators would be, the managers of these programmers predicted rather different priorities with the three top ranking items being:

  • Wages
  • Working conditions
  • Fair discipline

The report also revealed research conducted by Greg Smith (2002), President of Chart Your Course International, into the main causes of employee dissatisfaction at work. The factors that de-motivated staff were:

Lack of appreciation


Too much paperwork


Problems with supervisors


Poor pay and benefits


Lack of training


Lack of opportunity




Problems with coworkers




Boring job


The factors that workers thought were the most effective actions a firm could take to improve retention were:

Train managers better


Listen more


Try something new


Pay more


Select managers better


Set the example


Hire better people


Improve benefits



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