February 28, 2010 in History of Motivation
Elton Mayo (1880 – 1949) discovered that workers were not just concerned with pay but were also motivated by having social needs met at work. Mayo conducted a study on worker productivity at Western Electric, at the time one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities employing 29,000 workers producing equipment for AT&T.
He started out by trying to identify the relationship between productivity and working conditions. Mayo played around with lighting in the work place to see if changing the lighting conditions impacted productivity. To his surprise, both more and less light created higher productivity levels. Mayo realized that the workers chosen for the experimented were accorded higher status by their co-workers. The increased performance was due to their increased motivation. Productivity was related to social effects, not the level of lightning. Mayo called such social behaviour the ‘Hawthorne Effect’. Mayo concluded that the workplace was above all, a social system of interdependent actors in which workers are influenced more by the social demands of the work place, by their need for recognition, security and a sense of belonging, than by their physical working environment. It was starting to become clear that motivation was a complex topic with no one sliver bullet that employers could shoot to keep their employees constantly motivated.
Mayo also concluded that:
- job satisfaction leads to higher job productivity;
- pay alone is a relatively low motivator;
- management is only one factor affecting behavior;
- The informal group exerts a strong influence on motivation.
January 31, 2010 in History of Motivation, Motivation
There are many different theories as to what motivation is and what motivates each of us. These theories have developed over time and had three main influencers on the evolution of our understanding of motivation and motivating the workforce. Over the next few blog entries I am going to quickly review the basic principles of motivation believed by each of the three fathers of early motivational beliefs.
1. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1917) believed that people did not intrinsically enjoy working and would only be motivated by pay. Taylor suggested that workers would need very close supervision and that production should be broken down into small but measurable tasks. A company needed to provide the right tools and training in order to insure the highest possible output from workers. Workers were then paid in accordance to their output, the more widgets you made, the more you got paid and there is your motivation to turn up, work hard and work fast. Of course with the promise of increased productivity levels and lower widget unit costs companies quickly embraced and implemented Taylor’s theories. Henry Ford took Taylor’s theories as literally as one could and created the world’s first production lines. A well trained, well paid and motivated workforce had arrived. As with the never ending ascending stairs of human needs, once one need is taken care of, we are quickly looking to take care of the next.
Over time workers got bored with the mundane nature of their repetitive tasks and started to feel like they were being treated like machines. Workers wanted something more than just pay. Frederick Taylor was right at the point he started but wrong on where he believed the need for motivation stopped.