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Employee Motivation and Reward: Google case Study

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Updated: Jul 29th, 2021


Employee motivation is considered as one of the factors that enhance organisational performance. Motivation is the process of satisfying the inherent needs of employees. Without employee motivation, it is hard for an organisation to achieve its goals. Employees should have the knowledge, skills, and capabilities critical in realising organisational goals.

Nevertheless, they need to have the will and desire to work towards realising the organisational goals. According to Lee-Ross (2002), the level of employee motivation depends on their willingness and commitment to organisational goals.

From the Google case study, it is evident that financial rewards do not act as the main sources of employee motivation. The non-financial motivators are the main factors driving employees into committing themselves to a company.

Organisations come up with varied reward systems to attract and retain competent employees. Some of the systems include incentive systems, base pay systems, and indirect compensation (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009). One of the biggest mistakes that most institutions do is to undermine the role played by non-financial motivators in attracting and retaining qualified employees.

Employees’ psychological and emotional wellbeing are two entities that determine if they will remain in an organisation or not. These entities are not met through financial rewards. One of the factors that make most of the employees wish to work with Google Company is that the company offers an environment that promotes employee growth and development.

Besides, the company has a flexible rewarding system that allows employees to receive rewards based on their needs. Consequently, they feel that the company is conscious of their emotional and psychological needs.

Literature review

Herzberg came up with the Two-Factor theory of motivation as an attempt to identify the main factors that contribute to employee motivation. He classified the employee needs under two groups, viz. motivators or satisfiers and dissatisfiers. According to Herzberg, some factors contribute to employee motivation while others inhibit employee motivation and have little influence on productive job attitudes.

He referred to these factors as hygiene factors meaning that they are environmental and thus preventative. In his study, Herzberg realised that certain factors tend to be continuously associated with job satisfaction. Inherent factors like recognition, achievement, responsibility, the job itself, growth, and advancement tend to be associated with employee motivation and job satisfaction (Nel et al., 2001).

Herzberg posited that whenever employees were asked to give some of the factors that contributed to their motivation, they gave the inherent factors as their main sources of motivation. Conversely, whenever they were dissatisfied, they attributed the dissatisfaction to external factors like supervision, organisational policies, and administration.

According to Herzberg’s theory, for an organisation to motivate its employees effectively, it should work on eliminating all the factors that demotivate them. Hygiene factors like supervision, financial rewards or salary, and working conditions can do little to motivate employees. No matter how good an organisation pays its employees, it would be hard to motivate them if it does not meet the motivators.

Other factors that Herzberg classified as hygiene factors include job security and poor employee relations (La Motta, 1995). Addressing the lower level of employee needs does not amount to employee motivation. Nevertheless, if such needs are not met, they may contribute to employee demotivation. He posited that true motivation only occurs when organisations meet the higher-level needs of their employees.

According to Nel et al. (2001), motivators are those factors that lead to employees devoting themselves to organisational goals and giving their best in all their operations. These factors are entrenched within the work itself and they include factors like personal sense of achievement, working conditions, degree of responsibility, recognition, personal growth and development, and feedback.

Additionally, Nel et al. (2001) posit that employees commit themselves to an organisation whenever they realise that the management acknowledges their contribution at the work place. Acknowledging employees whenever they do something great helps in boosting their confidence, thus making them go a step further to enhance their performance.

Employees feel motivated when working in an organisation that promotes their growth and development (Lindner, 1998). Institutions that give their employees the freedom to try new things and make decisions on matters affecting their operations enjoy a productive workforce.

Employees are motivated whenever they are given responsibilities to manage issues within a firm for such a move allows them to be part of the management team. Hence, they feel obliged to ensure that the organisation meets its goals (Lindner, 1998).

Whenever an institution fails to meet the set objectives, motivated employees take the blame and work towards correcting their mistakes. Assigning employees a single task for a long period demotivates them by discouraging them from giving their best. Employees like making progress in their workplaces. They need to have that sense of achievement to ensure their commitment towards organisational goals (Lindner, 1998).

Barling et al. (2005) support the two-factor theory by claiming that hygiene factors like financial rewards or salary are short-lived. Hence, it is hard for such factors to contribute to long-term employee motivation; they are only used whenever an organisation wishes to achieve a short-term goal.

Immediately after achieving the intended goal, employees go back to their initial state. Hence, salary and other financial rewards are not true motivators. Instead, they assist in reducing negative factors at the workplaces.

For an organisation to motivate its employees, it has to ensure that it meets the true motivators, which include recognising its employees, assigning its employees to different responsibilities, and promoting employee growth and development among others.

Douglas Hall came up with a theory postulating that employee motivation based on one’s age and financial rewards does not actually contribute to employee motivation. According to Douglas, money and other financial rewards only act as motivators at the early career stages (DeMicco & Olsen, 2006).

At the age of thirty years, employees consider “good salary” as one of the motivating factors. Nevertheless, as they continue growing older, this factor loses precedence. At the age of fifty years, employees consider “interesting jobs” as the most motivating factor. Hence, as employees continue growing older, the factors that motivate them continue changing.

Curran (2004) posits that equipping employees with diverse experiences contributes to their motivation than financial rewards do. Currently, most of the institutions are diversifying their operations to exploit the global market. Consequently, they are in need of staff members that have experience in dealing with diverse target markets. Currently, employees are finding working overseas as more motivating.

The number of employees undertaking training programs and joining business schools to acquire skills on overseas operations indicates that overseas assignments are continuously becoming motivating to employees. Lindner (1998) posits that acknowledging employees’ efforts motivates them more than rewarding them financially for acknowledgement stirs their creativity leading to innovations.

Moreover, recognition boosts employees’ spirit, thus enhancing their performance. According to Lindner (1998), an institution that acknowledges employees’ role in decision-making leads to their motivation.

While financial rewards have short-lived effects on employee motivation, acknowledgement makes employees feel valued by the organisation. It helps them understand their value to the organisation thus motivating them to work hard towards attaining organisational goals.

Contrary to the two-factor theory of motivation, Vroom came up with the Expectancy Theory, which holds that employees are motivated whenever they realise that their efforts will lead to some tangible rewards. According to Vroom, employees make decisions relative to their expectations.

Hence, he claims that employees are driven into doing something only if they are sure that it will lead to a desired outcome (Nel, et al., 2001). In institutions, employees opt to deliver at a level that they perceive it will lead to the highest returns. Consequently, they only work harder if they are sure of getting rewards in return.

In most cases, the rewards are in the form of money like salary increment or bonuses. Based on Vroom’s assumptions, Nel, et al. (2001), posit that for firms to motivate their employees, they should link employee performance with financial rewards. Expectancy theory suggests that employees are cogent decision makers.

Hence, they thus perceive their acts and actions in terms of self-gratification. In other words, the theory argues that people are motivated if they are sure of getting rewards after achieving a certain goal.

Vroom supports his argument by introducing the issue of instrumentality. As aforementioned, he claims that people work hard if they learn that their effort will be rewarded. According to Vroom, instrumentality refers to the perceptions by individuals that if they work hard, the results would lead to them getting rewards in terms of salary increment (DeMicco & Olsen, 2006).

In a bid to justify his assertions, he gives an example of a manager who worked in a consultancy company. The manager was promised that if she worked hard, the management would reward her by raising her salary. Hence, the manager worked harder; unfortunately, the management did not keep to its promise. Eventually, the manager got demotivated and lost trust in the management.

Daft (2003) opposes the Two-Factor motivation theory by claiming that, in as much as money may act as a hygiene factor, it may also act as a motivator. Hence, he postulates that financial rewards also act as motivators. To support this argument, Daft (2003) gives an example of an instance where an employee is devoted to seeing that his or her salary goes up.

In such an instance, if the organisation decides to increase the employee’s salary after s/he performs to its expectation, the salary increment would result in the employee developing a sense of achievement. In return, it would lead to her motivation since she would feel to have achieved her goal.

Simons and Enz (1995) posit that employees from different industries prefer different motivators. While in one organisation employees may prefer factors like employee growth, development, and recognition, in other places employees may prefer extrinsic factors like financial bonuses and salary increment.

Hence, financial rewards also act as motivators. Simons and Enz (1995) give an example of the hospitality industry where most of the employees prefer extrinsic motivators like salary increment and other financial rewards in the form of bonuses and commissions.

As evidenced by the Google case study, it is evident that money is not the ultimate motivating factor in companies today. From the company, it is clear that employees nowadays go for intrinsic motivators like responsibilities, employee growth, development, and recognition rather than extrinsic factors like money.

The main reason why most of the employees yearn to work for Google Company is the chance of advancing their skills and experience. The company allows employees to pursue their dreams by helping them work on the projects they feel comfortable working on.

Recommendation and Conclusion

For a long time, institutions have used varied strategies to motivate their employees. The belief by some organisational leaders that money acts as the best motivating factor lead to organisations coming up with reward systems that award money to performing employees.

In spite of the reward systems, organisations have not managed to enhance employee performance. A research conducted by Herzberg and other scholars proved that intrinsic factors like employee growth, development, and recognition contribute more to employee motivation compared to extrinsic factors like financial rewards. This research refuted Vroom’s claims that extrinsic factors like salary are the main motivators.

In the current competitive global market, institutions should come up with strategies to motivate their staff. As it is clear that extrinsic factors like salary do not motivate employees for a long time, organisations ought to work on intrinsic factors of employee motivation.

Just like Google Company, companies should ensure that they establish an environment that promotes employee growth and development. Additionally, they should empower their employees and assign them to diversified responsibilities.


Barling, J., Fullagar, C., & Bluen, S. (2005). Behaviour in organisations: South African Perspectives. Johannesburg, SA: Lexicon Press Ltd.

Curran, C. R. (2004). Rewards: Respect, responsibility, relationship and recognition. Nursing Economics, 22(2), 57-59.

Daft, R. L. (2003). Management (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.

DeMicco, F., & Olsen, M. (2006). The relationship of job attitudes to retirement intention of older foodservice employees. Hospitality Education and Research Journal, 11(2), 275 – 286.

Griffin, R., & Moorhead, M. (2009). Organisational Behaviour: Managing People and Organisations. London, UK: Cengage Learning.

La Motta, T. (1995). Recognition: The quality way. New York, NY: Quality Resources.

Lee-Ross, D. (2002). An exploratory study of work motivation among private and public sector hospital chefs in Australia. Journal of Management Development, 21(8), 576-588.

Lindner, J. (1998). Understanding Employee Motivation. Extension Journal, 36(3), 123-145.

Nel, P. S., Gerber, P. D., van Dyk, P. S., Haasbroek, G. D., Schultz, H. B., Sono, T., & Werner, A. (2001). Human Resources Management. Cape Town, SA: Oxford University Press.

Simons, T., & Enz, C. A. (1995). Motivating hotel employees beyond the carrot and the stick. The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 36(1), 23 – 27.

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