Motivating Technical Staff

Motivating Technical Staff

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Motivating employees is essential to retaining staff. Due to the high costs and time invested in training technical professionals, it is crucial that a company can inspire staff and develop a company culture that promotes a team environment. There are various motivational theories that can be used to guide companies in constructing a strategy to motivate their technical employees.

Motivating Technical Staff


Motivating employees is a company’s key to success. High turnover rates due to dismal morale levels are a sure sign that the company is doing something wrong. Technical professional staff is especially crucial to companies as the cost of training them is much higher than other employees. A company that understands how to motivate technical employees has a much better chance of retaining high-quality employees.

Motivational Theories


Throughout history, theorists have attempted to formulate a technique on how to motivate people. There is no one formula that will be entirely successful in every situation. Managers must find the proper mix of each theory to develop their own methods of motivating employees. Managers may have to continuously adjust their approaches to enthusiasm to successfully motivate their workforce. It is vital for a manager to be aware of the various motivational theories to widen their understanding of how people are motivated (Accel-Team, 2005a). Some of the most well-known theories will be discussed.

Theory X

In 1960, a psychologist named Douglas McGregor described two theories of employee motivation in his 1960 book, The Human Side of Enterprise. McGregor dubbed these theories Theory X and Theory Y. Both models start with the idea that management’s responsibility is to bring together the dynamics of production, as well as people, for the financial profitability of the organization. However, the two theories drastically deviate beyond this point (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Theory X presumes that the typical worker detests work and endeavors to evade it. This theory continues to state that most employees have no aspiration, desires no accountability, and would prefer to follow than to lead. Moreover, a worker is self-centered and therefore does not have a concern about organizational objectives. Workers oppose any change. According to the theory, they are easy to fool and not predominantly intellectual. Theory X assumes that people work merely for money and security. This is a pessimistic view of employees within an organization (Accel-Team, 2005a).

This rigid approach to motivation relies on oppression, implicit intimidation, close observation, and tense controls, basically an atmosphere of command and control. If this approach is extreme, this technique of motivation frequently results in opposition, intentionally low-output, and eventually hard-line union demands or mass exits. McGregor asserts that any intensity of Theory X is not suitable because the notions of Theory X are not accurate (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Theory Y

McGregor stated that Theory Y concept is based on the belief that higher-level needs of admiration and self-actualization are ongoing desires in that they are in no way entirely satisfied. It is through these higher-level needs which employees can best be motivated. Theory Y assumes that workers will be self-directed to meet their job goals if they are devoted to them. Work can be as enjoyed as much as play and rest. Theory Y maintains that workers will be devoted to their objectives if rewards are given that addresses high desires such as self- gratification. Under these circumstances, workers will seek out responsibility (Accel-Team, 2005a).

According to McGregor, Theory Y gives an opportunity to line up individual goals with organizational goals by means of the employee’s personal search for achievement as the motivator. Under this theory, the organization can do numerous actions to exploit the motivational liveliness of its workforce. If correctly executed, such an atmosphere would produce a high level of enthusiasm as workers labor to gratify their higher level individual desires through their work (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Theory Z

Abraham Maslow, another psychologist, introduced a third motivational theory. He dubbed this Theory Z. Theory Z is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory which claims that people are motivated by unfulfilled needs, and those lower desires need to be satisfied before higher desires can be satisfied. Theory Z assumes that workers desire to construct two-way and friendly working relations with those that they work for and with, as well as the people that work under them. Furthermore, Theory Z workers have an elevated need to be backed by the organization, and highly cherished a working surrounding in which such things as family, cultures, and traditions, and social organizations are looked upon as similarly significant as the job itself. These kinds of workers have an exceptionally well-developed essence of order, obedience, ethical duties to work hard, and a sense of unity with their colleagues. Lastly, Theory Z employees can be counted on to do their responsibilities to their greatest capability, if the organization can be entrusted to support them and pay attention for their welfare (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Two Factor Theory

The Two Factor Theory was proposed by Frederick Herzberg, a professor of management at the University of Utah. The theory claims that people are influenced by two factors. These factors are hygiene factors and motivation factors (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Hygiene factors are required to make certain an employee does not turn out to be dissatisfied. They do not lead to higher stages of motivation, but the lack of them there is dissatisfaction. Common hygiene factors are working conditions, quality of supervision, salary, position, job security, company, occupation, organizational guidelines, management, and interpersonal relationships (Accel-Team, 2005a).

Motivation factors are desired to be able to motivate an employee into elevated performance. These factors are products resulting from internal generators in employees. The most noted motivation factors are achievement, acknowledgment for achievement, responsibility for task, appeal of the job, advancement to higher level responsibilities, growth (Accel-Team, 2005a).

According to the theory, bringing together the hygiene and motivation factors can bring about four situations. These are as follows (Accel-Team, 2005a):

  • High Hygiene/High Motivation: The model condition where employees are extremely motivated and have little grievances.
  • High Hygiene/Low Motivation: Workers have a small amount of grievances but are not highly motivated. The job is perceived as a paycheck.
  • Low Hygiene/High Motivation: Employees are motivated except they have plenty of grievances. This is a circumstance where the job is stimulating and challenging but wages and the work environments are not up to standard.
  • Low Hygiene/Low Motivation: The worst condition. Unmotivated employees with plenty of grievances.

Expectancy Theory

The expectancy theory of motivation has developed into a universally established theory for rationalizing how persons formulate decisions concerning a variety of behavioral alternatives. Expectancy theory submits the proposal that when choosing between behavioral choices, people choose the choice with the utmost motivation forces (MF). Furthermore, the motivational force for a behavior, act, or assignment is a function of three discrete observations which consists of expectancy, instrumentality, and valance. The motivational force is the product of the three assessments: MF = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence (Wren, 1994).

Expectancy is that person’s endeavors will guide them to the desired level and is built on prior experience, self-assurance, and the superficial complexity of the performance objective. Instrumentality is the idea that if a person does meet performance demands, they will be given a better reward. Valence is the assessment the person individually places on the rewards or incentives. Since motivational force is the product of the three aspects, if any one of their values is zero, the entire equation will be equal to zero (Wren, 1994).

Equity Theory

The equity theory claims that employees evaluate their job inputs and outputs with those of others and then react to eradicate any disproportional unfairness. Inputs are what a worker puts into their job such as time, effort, ability, loyalty, tolerance, flexibility, integrity, commitment, reliability, heart and soul, and personal sacrifice. Outputs represent what workers get in return: pay, bonus, perks, benefits, security, recognition, interest, development, reputation, praise, responsibility, and satisfaction. Workers become de-motivated, decrease input or search for change at any time they sense their inputs are not being adequately rewarded when compared to others. Equity theory acknowledges that people are anxious not only with the complete sum of reward for their hard work but also with the correlation of this sum to what others are given (Wren, 1994).

Goal Setting Theory

The goal setting theory states that employees are greatly motivated to perform while specific goals and objectives are instituted and where adequate feedback on progress is presented. Goals inform a worker what must be completed and the amount of effort is required to be successful. A specific goal that is clearly understood and received by the employee operates as an internally driven motivation. Specific goals generate a superior intensity of output than does the generalized goal (Wren, 1994).

Theory in Practice

Pay as Motivation

With many technical professions, employees have endured lengthy formal education and on the job training to be successful in the job market. This can be an enormous expenditure to the employee. Furthermore, the employee may have to undergo periodical training to be kept up with the most up to date technology. This is not only a great investment by the employee but in many cases, specific job-related training is sponsored by the employer. With the potential costs on both the employer and the employee, it is important that the employee turnover ratio is as low as possible. A company must be able to offer proper compensation as a motivation tool to retain technical employees (Kinni, 1998).

Often management may be enticed to use various tactics illustrated in common motivational theories to boost employee morale and reenergize the company. In this eruption of new enthusiasm building policy, a company may overlook an oblivious motivational change, pay and other monetary incentives. Many may believe that the logic behind motivational theories is devoid of financial incentives because of the emphasis placed on higher psychological needs. Using this logic, employers convince themselves that money is not a successful motivator to increase productivity. However, a simple clarity of the term higher needs based on popular motivational theories can point out that equitable pay is, in fact, a higher need (Kinni, 1998).

People work first and principally for money. Money is what pays mortgages, groceries, utility bills, car payments, insurances and other basic needs that are required in today’s modern society. As these costs are mounting higher costs percentages due to inflation or other means, the employee may be finding that their salary no longer is efficient for survival. A simple non-financial motivational tactic will be not seen by the employee as a solution to their requirements. This can be especially true for technical employees who take pride in their talents (Kinni, 1998).

In Theory Z, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory states that people are motivated by unfulfilled desires and that lesser desires need to be satisfied before higher desires can be satisfied (Accel-Team, 2005a). An employee may have the view that the company does not value the employee if they are not receiving adequate compensation. Work is no longer an answer to their finical woes and they may be spending a lot of energy worrying about their problems at the workplace. Their productivity may continue to fall as they slip into a deeper melancholy as the employee believes that his current employer does nothing to meet their needs (Kinni, 1998).

As Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory is examined, it reveals that compensation is a hygiene factor (Accel-Team, 2005a). Regardless of any non-financial motivational tactics used, an employee that feels a deficiency in salary will have a low hygienic factor (Kinni, 1998). According to the theory, at best the employee will have a low hygiene/high motivation condition which would speculate that the employee takes pleasure in the job but feels that the work environment is not meeting their basic needs (Accel-Team, 2005a).

The expectancy theory suggests that employees believe that their hard work will direct them to the desired level. If the employee feels that they should be rewarded with additional pay and they are not achieving this goal, their expectancy factor will be very low. Since MF = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence, their total motivation will also be low (Wren, 1994).

As technical employees take pride in their talents as well as professional knowledge, the equity theory is a good argument that an employee is dissatisfied with their pay. Technical employees may feel that their inputs such as experience, knowledge, and hard work deserve a proportional amount of output when compared to others. For example, if an employee senses that they are contributing more or equal to another employee but not receiving the same recognition may be demotivated. This absolutely includes salary as one determines their own value by their paychecks. If an employee discovers that another employee of equal or lesser perceived value is getting more pay, they may feel betrayed by the company. As a result, that employee may decide to reduce their contribution to the company as if to compensate for company shortcomings (Kinni, 1998).

Organizations that are cash-strapped and unable to increase wages directly may opt to offer a profit sharing program. This program would offer employees additional pay that is proportional to the company’s profits. This may convince employees that they all can be successful by working together and profit equally as the company is thriving as a result (Kinni, 1998).

Money is not the only motivator, but it cannot be ignored if there is a perceived discrepancy. Cash-strapped organizations can make adjustments to avoid many superficial or real deficiencies in pay. These are to emphasize job security, above average compensation based on organizational performance, extensive training, reduced grade distinctions and wage differences. These practices also hold up Manslow’s theories of needs (Kinni, 1998).

Devising a Company Culture

Innovative organizations must fashion a culture in which workers are able to gain satisfaction from their jobs. Employers can be instrumental in developing procedures that can assist in improving employee motivation. A company should strive to create a culture in which workers can’t wait to arrive at work each day where every employee has a desire to grow and improve. A company culture like this can be an invaluable intangible asset. This intangible asset can quickly produce tangible results when employees are highly motivated and generating phenomenal productivity results. Creating this culture can be achieved by various practices that include the following (Leland, 1999):

  • Providing recognition to commendable employees.
  • Persuading employees to take the initiative.
  • Offering an open-book management policy.
  • Encouraging employees to give feedback
  • Performing frequent performance reviews.
  • Providing positive reinforcement.
  • Furthering skills development.
  • Delegating responsibilities.
  • Managers remaining visible and accessible.
  • Maintaining a positive work environment.

An essential element in the creation of a potent company culture is to establish a powerful organizational vision and be able to give employees’ capability to align with that vision. In a sensational company, everybody is devoted to the same desires and directs their enthusiasm dedicated to a universal objective. Motivated employees can be enabled to work in harmony, where each worker is adding their abilities and contributions to each other. The outcome can be a company able to accomplish many great things (Hunter, 2002).

An efficient organization empowers its employees to enable them to bring results. Empowerment encourages individual aptitudes and promotes employees to mature individually and professionally. Empowered companies set high ambitions and hold their staff responsible for the results. During this time, they allow employees to have an elevated level of independence and devote resources toward achieving organizational goals. An empowered organization persuades workers to take chances, permitting them to cultivate and thrive (Boyadjs & Merkel, 1990). Technical employees desire to be empowered. They yearn for the freedom and power to evaluate problems and decide on the ways for resolving them (Barnard, 1997). Workers are motivated knowing that they have ownership of the company (Boyadjs & Merkel, 1990).

Technical workers yearn for commendation and appreciation to heighten their confidence and make them enthusiastic about their hard work. Technical workers are smart enough to recognize when they are being patronized, so managers should be very specific and sincere when addressing special accomplishments. Managers can be creative in the methods of recognition with various motivators to boots productivity (Leland, 1999). Managers should reward both the team and individual members. Technical workers insist that a high-performing team ought to be rewarded; nevertheless, credit for their own accomplishments was imperative as well (Barnard, 1997).

It is important for a company to actively solicit feedback and suggestions from employees. Technical staff can be creative thinkers and can contribute ideas to an organization to vastly improve productivity. This will make the workers feel like that they are truly an integral part of the organization. Shunning ideas from encouraged workers can lead to a negative impact on employee motivation (Leland, 1999).

Open-book management enables employees to believe like they are trusted and cherished associates of the company. Open-book management is open-book policy to employees. This indicates that nothing is kept from employees, taking into account information about sales, earnings, plans and so on. This is a crucial technique for replacing distrust and halfhearted levels of commitment with reciprocal trust, empowerment, and participation. The goal of this is to get all employees to act and think like owners and acting accordingly (Leland, 1999).

Performing frequent evaluations helps provide a direction for an employee to move towards. Employees desire to be aware of how management perceives how they are performing on the job so they can improve. Supervisors should not wait until the employee’s annual review to give them feedback. Feedback should be given all through the year to enable workers to feel as though they are important and connected with management (Leland, 1999).

Technical employees these days are starving for support and positive feedback, however, few believe they are receiving it. Supervisors fall short of giving commendation and recognition when staff members do things like making good decisions, taking wise business risks, making significant contributions during meetings; or coming up with pioneering ideas. To create and maintain a positive culture, management must give recognition to employees that have worked hard to make a difference in the organization. This can contribute greatly to motivating employees (Leland, 1999).

Employees frequently grow to be more content as their duties become increasingly boring, so it is imperative to present the adventure of fresh opportunities. Employees crave the possibility to cultivate within the company, becoming progressively more important to the organization. Companies that are big on promoting from within, enable employees to develop more skills and loyalty for the company (Leland, 1999). Technical employees desire challenging tasks, independence, and accountability, and deem that their proficiency is vital to an organization and can make a significant contribution. Additionally, technical professionals should be offered training and development opportunities. Technical workers realize that their skillfulness grows to be outdated unless they are thoroughly updated (Barnard, 1997).

Managers must be visible and accessible to employees. They must exhibit awareness in others, their interests, their efforts, their families. Make sure everyone in the plant senses you regard them as a person worth knowing personally. This personal touch can translate that the company has concern for workers beyond the work that they do for the company and can result in higher morale (Leland, 1999).

A manager that is not always somber and can expound humor alleviates team stress and can breed an enjoyable surrounding where workers want to return to the next day. It is important to keep in mind that attitudes are contagious whether they are positive or negative. Employees often tend to follow the emotional lead of their supervisors therefore, constructing an atmosphere that reflects the culture of the company (Leland, 1999).


Organizations must be able to understand how to motivate their employees to increase efficiency and retain highly trained personnel. They must identify the benefits of maintaining a well reputable culture to magnetize top-performing technical professionals to their company. Preserving and motivating technical professionals is essential to compete in a constantly changing and sophisticated high-tech market.


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©2018 Michael A. Hartmann

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Usage permitted with proper citing with author and source location.

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