Employees working at a Production Plant
Provision of up to date and comfortable work environment is one of the determinants of employee motivation and performance in the present day business context. Organizations strive to improve the physical work environments to enhance employee satisfaction leading to enhanced overall organizational performance.
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Failure to provide conducive work environment will lead to employee dissatisfaction increasing the employee turnover. In this context, this research undertakes to examine the impact of improvements in the work environment in the production plant of a multinational firm.
Semi-structured interviews among the selected employees of the organization were conducted to draw in-depth information on the actual and perceived difficulties faced by certain classes of employees together with suggestions to improve the work environment.
The findings of the research offers several suggestions with regard to the improvements in the canteen, provision of a proper resting place, extension of all welfare measures to the female employees working in the production plant, appointing mentors, improving communication between the managers and employees and among the employees and educating managers to deal properly with the expatriate employees, which have large implications for the management and which will go a long way in improving the productivity of the production plant by improving the motivation of the employees.
The present day corporate management faces a new challenge of creating a work environment that can attract, retain and motivate its workforce. It is the responsibility of the management to ensure the employees enjoy a conducive work environment, which will enhance the employee satisfaction and lead to improved productivity.
Businesses are expected to step outside the traditional roles and provide maximum comfort in the work environment, as work environment has a direct impact on the employee retention. It is important that the organizations strive to create a work environment in which employees enjoy what they do and enhance their work potential.
Costa and Holland (1984) assert that people select their employment matching their personalities. Judge and Cable (1997) observe that job applicants choose organizational environments, which suit their individual preferences.
According to Hurtz and Donovan (2000), it is of greater significance in the context of organizational performance that the relationship between personality characteristics and specific work environments will have strong influence on the employee performance. The workplace in today’s context is diverse and is subject to constant changes.
Therefore, quality of the workplace environment is one of the major determinants of employee motivation and performance.
The extent to which the employees feel committed to the organization, especially in the context of the fitness of the workplace has a large influence on the mistakes committed by the employees, the ability to innovate, the extent of mingling with co-workers, away from duty and finally the chances of their staying with the organization.
Apart from improving the retention level of the employees, improvements in workplace environment also reflects on the employee productivity. Many of the organizations consider the skill levels of the employees as the only factor to improve productivity. However, it is observed that at least 86 percent of the problems can be mitigated by improving the work environment within the organization.
It has been widely accepted that better workplace environment can lead to better results. Mostly the workplace is designed in consideration of the nature of job and individuals, which are going to work using that workplace. Employee performance is measured by the output produced by the individual and the performance is often related to productivity.
At the corporate level, there are a number of factors, which have strong influence on the productivity of the employees such as skill set of employees, technology used and the business objectives of the organization.
Productivity is also dependent on the physical working environment and its influence on health and performance of the employee. In this context, this study examines the need for bringing suitable modification/improvement to work environment for improving employee engagement with the ultimate objective of enhancing employee productivity and employee retention.
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Background of the Study
The research is undertaken with the specific objective of studying the modifications and improvements required in the production plant of the organization in which the researcher is employed as administrative in charge for improving the employee satisfaction leading to employee motivation.
Even though the organization has provided for many welfare systems, they are found to be inadequate not meeting the actual requirements of the employees. Many of the employees find it difficult to utilize the facilities because of various reasons.
The main objective of the study is to examine the reasons for the difficulties and to pinpoint the areas require improvement so that the ultimate objective of enhanced employee satisfaction can be achieved. The setting of the research is a manufacturing plant located in a remote area away from the city.
A Japanese company designed and constructed the manufacturing plant, before the multinational company Proctor &Gamble (P&G) acquired the plant about thirty years ago. Although P&G is a multinational firm, the company has maintained the supportive welfare systems and benefits for Japanese people.
However, there are some difficulties for the employees to utilize it especially by shift workers and female workers at production plant. One other problem to be addressed is the difference in the quality of facilities provided for workers at headquarters and for the workers at the production plant.
The research is to explore and deeply understand the reasons for such difference and the possibility for extending the same work environment in both the head quarter and the production plant.
There are difficulties faced by different classes of workers such as the shift workers, female workers, and expatriate workers because of inadequate facilities provided within the plant.
The researcher is of the opinion that understanding the real needs of the employees and making small and simple improvements in the working environment will go a long way to improve the employee satisfaction leading to increased motivation and productivity.
Even though the organization may not be in a position to fulfill the needs of every employee, it is important for the management to understand the real needs of the employees and bring improvements wherever possible.
This examination leads to the study of the relationship between work environment and welfare systems and their impact on the employee health and motivation. The researcher also observed significant difference in the work environment at the headquarters and the production plant.
Such variation may amount to unfairness and providing a differential treatment to the employees on the part of the organization, which will affect the motivation of the employees at the production plant. Therefore, the study focused on exploring the difficulties in providing the same work environment as that of the head quarters in the production plant.
To impress upon the need for improving the work environment in the production plant, the researcher used the strategic human resources theory as the theoretical base. From the organizational standpoint, it is imperative that the organization retains all trained and skilled employees who represent important human capital for the company.
Research Objectives and Research Question
As outlined in the earlier section, the aim of this study is to examine the relationship between improved work environment and employee satisfaction and its impact on employee motivation and performance.
In this context, the research will study the application of strategic human resources theory of employee satisfaction and its influence on employee retention. In achieving the above central aim, this research attempts to achieve the following other objectives.
- To study in-depth the relationship between work environment and employee motivation
- To study in-depth the relationship between employee satisfaction and employee retention
- To study in-depth the impact of employee satisfaction on employee motivation leading to improved employee performance
- To suggest suitable improvements in the work environment of the chosen organization to ensure improved employee motivation and retention
The study has used theoretical support as well as the support from the findings of interviews conducted to find a plausible answer for the following research question.
Is there a relationship between the improvements in the work environment and employee motivation and the resultant performance?
The following sub questions have been structured to collect further supporting data for further analysis.
- What is the impact of the relationship between work environment and employee satisfaction?
- Does employee satisfaction lead to employee motivation?
- Do improvements in work environment motivate employees to stay with the organization?
Justification and Importance of the Study
Brenner (2004) is of the opinion that the employees within an organization are capable of bringing out their performance provided they have conducive work environment to motivate them to perform better.
However, it is observed that many of the organizations do not fully leverage their work environment to improve the work effectiveness of their employees. Moreover, the quality and level of comfort that the employees can derive from the work environment is a major determinant of employee satisfaction and productivity. According to Clark (2009), “one thing that employers can do is create an environment that is motivating.”
In the recent period, employee motivation has become one of the important topics in various organizational research studies. Employee motivation has direct associations with the job satisfaction and the organizational environment.
In view of the fact that satisfied employees remain highly motivated and create additional positive working environment for organizations, it is worthwhile to do a research on the employee job satisfaction in the organizations (Shell & Duncan 2006).
Available literature has proved that satisfied workers tend to be self motivated, self-motivated behaviours exceed the formal requirements of a job (Schnake 1991; Organ and Revan 1995). On the contrary, the employee dissatisfaction results in show an increased probability for undesirable attitudes like abandonment, exhaustion, and restlessness (Spector 1997).
Further Everts (2001) argues that the behaviour of dis-satisfied employees is certain to influence negatively their own performance, as well as the performance of those around them. Whinghter and Balzer (2005) are of the opinion that knowledge; understanding and improving job satisfaction can contribute positively towards improving the employee motivation and thereby can help in achieving the organizational goals.
A higher level of employee motivation is important in any organization, as it contributes to the following distinct advantages to the organization. Several organizational research studies have focused on the issue of employee motivation in the recent past. Employee motivation has direct associations with the job satisfaction and the organizational climate.
In view of the fact that satisfied employees remain highly motivated and create additional positive working environment for organizations, it is worthwhile to do a research on the employee job satisfaction in the organizations (Shell & Duncan 2006). According to Okpara (2006) job dissatisfaction leads to negative job attitudes i.e. absenteeism, poor performance and low productivity.
This view is supported by Al-Ajmi (2001) and according to him, the job dissatisfaction leads to lesser employee motivation and poor employee morale, which in turn result in low productivity and lesser profits.
Moreover, Barrie (2001) has also found that the lack of personal satisfaction as one of the prime reasons for the employees leaving their jobs. Since the work environment has direct impact on employee satisfaction and motivation, the study on improving the work environment and thereby contributing to enhanced employee satisfaction and motivation becomes significant.
This qualitative research engaged the method of semi-structured in-depth personal interviews to identify the improvements required in the work environment in the chosen organization, where the shift workers and female employees found it difficult to use the facilities provided in the production plant.
The research was also extended to the difficulties faced by Japanese expatriate workers and the improvements needed in the facilities from their perspective. This study searched for the reasons for the differences in the quality of welfare measures and facilities offered to employees at the head quarters of the organization and its production plant located in a remote place.
The investigation was conducted to discover the impact of the lack of facilities on the satisfaction level of the employees and whether improving the work environment would act to enhance the motivation of the employees leading to increased productivity.
This semi-structured personal interview explored the causal link between the improvements in work environment and the employee retention level in the organization and asked for suggestions from the interviewees as to what are their expectations of them in terms of improvements in the work environment so that they would remain motivated.
The interviewees were selected as purposeful samples to represent a complex contextual problem. According to Patton (1990), in circumstances where there is a contextual necessity, the researchers may as well choose purposeful samples instead of selecting the samples on a random basis.
The interviewees for this study were selected from certain section of the employees of the organization so that they would be able to provide valuable information for exploring the answers for the research questions framed under this study. The responses from the participants followed a pattern as they were exposed to similar circumstances.
According to Patton (1990), the samples should be able to provide meaningful information rather than meeting the required sample size. In-depth interviews were helpful in deriving relevant information on the research inquiry as well as the solutions and suggestions on improving the work environment, and thereby to enhance the employee satisfaction to result in higher level of employee motivation.
The interviewees were able to provide diverse views on the research issue of improvements in work environment and the resulting enhancement in job satisfaction. The study also undertook a review of the relevant literature, which contributed to a broader understanding of the settings including the influence of employee satisfaction on the employee motivation and ultimately on organizational performance.
The respondents for the interviews were selected purposely. They included representative samples from shift workers, female employees and expatriate workers, who are the major classes of workers affected in the absence of a proper working environment.
Before the commencement of the interviewees, the participants were advised about the purpose of the study. The participants were also informed about the confidentiality of their responses and about their right to decline and opt out of the interview.
The analysis of the data and information collected from the participants used different interpretations and the analysis was based on the theoretical support provided by the literature reviewed rather than following statistical methods.
The study followed the four steps recommended by Janick-Bruckner, (1997), which are
- assimilating the meaning of the key issues from the responses to the interviews,
- using the theoretical support provided by the literature to assess the validity of the key issues and based on evidence provided by the responses from the participants,
- incorporating other perspectives and opinions collected from interviews from their own position
- discussing the different dimensions and arriving at the conclusions.
Organization of the Study
This section presents the structure of this research report.
Chapter one while introducing the research issue lays down the objectives of the research and outlines the method engaged to pursue the research. The background and justification for the study is also presented.
Chapter 2 presents the review of the literature addressing major issues relating to improvements in work environment and its impact on employee motivation. The researcher attempted a critical review of the necessary improvements required in work environment and suggested necessary initiatives to the management for improving the overall organizational performance.
While searching for evidences to correlate the improvements in work environment and employee job satisfaction, the researcher will review literature, which discusses the influence of job satisfaction on employee motivation and retention.
Chapter 3 explains the research method and designs used to collect and analyze information to answer the research questions. This chapter discusses several methodologies and explains the approach that is used in the study.
The chapter constructs the conceptual framework based on the review of the literature and develops upon the research questions for the study as to the relationship between work environment and employee satisfaction.
Chapter 4 presents the information collected from the interviews about the major issues dealt with by the research.
Chapter 5 discusses the analysis of the information and presents the findings with practical implications of the findings. This analysis presents broad potential for in-depth exploration of relationships of patterns, which shall suggest various improvements in the work environment of the chosen organization.
Chapter 5 will present a discussion on the finding along with implications for management, recommendations for further research and limitations experienced in conducting the study.
Conclusions and Limitations
The objective of this chapter was to introduce the research topic and to present the structure of the research report. This chapter also discussed the background of the research and the
justification and importance of the research among other things. This section highlights certain major limitations of this study. The samples for conducting this study were selected purposefully and therefore the findings may not represent all organizations and industries having similar issues.
The selection of participants from shift workers, female employees and expatriate workers enables the researcher to examine the impact of improvements in enhancing employee satisfaction; however, the findings of the study may not be generalized to all organizations, in which there might be different cultures prevailing.
Even though there is no evidence that this situation is typical only to the Japanese expatriate workers, there is the need for further research and cross-comparison with other expatriate workers undergoing similar experiences in their work environments.
Information collected from the participants to the interviewees is likely to be biased because of their own involvement. The interviewees may be over expecting and express their views to have idealistic work environment. They may not understand the difficulties and costs involved in providing additional facilities to meet their expectations. This would affect the validity of the finding.
Nevertheless, because of the experience of the researcher, the findings will be analyzed for a meaningful presentation. This research project provides the scope for further research in the area of workplace improvements and employee satisfaction.
Some of the employees of an organization demonstrate a high level of energy to achieve target goals while others remain passive. Similarly, some employees choose to continue to work with the same organization for a longer period while some others leave in search for other opportunities.
Although there are number of factors that drive the employees to choose different options motivation are one single factor that has a significant impact on the employee turnover and retention. Motivation is a complex phenomenon that it varies between individuals at different points in time (Shah and Shah 2007). One of the major contributors to employee motivation is the work environment provided by the organization.
The word motivation is derived from the Latin word movere, meaning, “to move”. In the present context, motivation represents “psychological process that cause the arousal, direction and persistence in achieving goal” (Kreitner and Kiniclei 2001, p.205). Being a psychological process, many organizational factors influence motivation and one among them is the organizational setting represented by the work environment.
Although motivation may seem to be a simple process, practicing motivation of others has always been a difficult task. With the changes in time, the theories of motivation also have changed to different dimensions.
It is true that the theories of motivation adapt continuous changes and as long as people require motivation, management and human resource practitioners employ newer methods to achieve higher levels of motivation (Sussan). Presently, with the high competition among businesses, holding on to employees who remain motivated is one of the difficult tasks facing the management.
“The art of motivation starts by learning how to influence the behavior of the individual. This understanding helps to achieve both the individual as well as organizational goals and objectives,” (Shah and Shah 2007). Therefore, motivation is critical for retaining qualified employees as well as achieving success of the organization.
One of the avenues open to the management for retaining the employees and for improving the motivation is to provide an acceptable level of work environment, which makes the employees feel at ease while at work.
Especially in a production plant, where the workers have to exert them physically more, it becomes all the more important that the organization takes care of the requirements for a proper working environment to retain good employees.
This literature review includes writings, researches and scholarly opinions concerning the evolution of theories and studies on work environment and employee motivation. This chapter outlines different theories of motivation and discusses the implications of each theory.
This review discusses the relationship between work environment and motivation and motivation and organizational performance together with the role of managers and supervisors in achieving high employee motivation.
In order to make clear why optimized work environment and welfare system is important for all employees, this review will focus on how job satisfaction, equity and fairness and work environment relates motivation.
Motivation theories assume a set of assumptions about the nature of people and about the factors that drive employees to perform action. These assumptions, and the theories that follow from them, are considered as falling along a descriptive continuum ranging from the mechanistic to organic theories (Deci and Ryan 1985). Mechanistic theories viewed man as a “rational economic animal” that will work like machines.
Frederick Taylor of USA, Max Weber of Germany and the French theorist Henry Fayol developed these theories, also known as machine theories. These authors viewed people as being resembles of machines, and that they worked only for the sake of earning money and that the main motivating characteristic was punishment or fear of job loss and encouraged by incentives such as better pay.
This means that the kind of management employees had are tough, exercise a lot of control, keep close supervision, as they perceived workers who will try to earn the money with as little effort as possible (Blacksacademy 2003).
However, according the book authored by Stone (2001, p.401) employees are not machines as they have needs and feelings, feelings of satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction. The boredom and dissatisfaction may result in increase of staying away from job, employees leaving the organization and strikes. Even money has proved to be ineffective as a universal panacea to overcome low employee motivation.
This is when the Organic theories arise in favor of a more humanistic approach. This theory also known as human relation advocated a completely opposing view from mechanistic theories. It recognized that employees seek more than financial rewards from their jobs. Money can only be an effective motivator when it facilitates and not opposes the satisfaction of employee needs.
This dramatic shift in management thinking resulted from a series of studies conducted in the early 1920s through to the mid-1930s at the Hawthorne Works of Western Electric involving Australian sociologist Elton Mayo, Chester Barnard in 1938.
In addition, there was more literary contribution to the subject, when Roethlisberger and Dickson’s in 1939 who studied how productivity was affected by rest pauses, financial incentives, friendly supervision, informal group norms and humane leadership (Reis & Pena 2001; Stone 2001, p. 401).
Burns and Stalker (1961) compared these two theories and concluded that the mechanistic system is a rigid structure and more appropriate to stable condition, whereas the organic system is structurally more fluid appropriate to changing conditions. Kast and Rosenzwieg (1974), on the other hand enumerated the features of the mechanistic and organic structure.
The mechanistic type is straight line, rigid as also described by Burns and Stalker (1961), hierarchical and very efficient for operating in a stable environment. These characteristics have several advantages such as control system is easily applied because the organization gets the hierarchical line; the career path system is easy to be arranged and cost efficiency is possible to be reached because of jobs standardization
However, the mechanistic type has several disadvantages such as limited degree of freedom among employees to innovate or to create their way in doing their jobs; when the conflict occurs it tends to bring up the informal leader and the job is routine because of specialization, which tend to decrease employee’s motivation (Daryanto and Daryanto).
In contrast, the organic type is always changing according to changes in the environment, continually making itself effective to arrive at the appropriate shape. In other words, the organic organization is appropriate to unstable or changing conditions that give rise to problems, which cannot be broken down or distributed automatically to the functional roles defined within a hierarchical structure.
In addition, it is more appropriate when the environment is relatively uncertain or turbulent, the goals are diverse and changing, the technology is complex and dynamic, there are many non-routine activities in which creativity and innovations are important.
However, the organic type also shares its disadvantages, namely lack of cost efficiency because employees carry out the jobs by trial and error and career path is difficult to develop because of a flat structure model of the organization (Daryanto and Daryanto).
Therefore, the type of structure present in the organization affects the employee motivation largely. The evolution of theory from mechanistic to organic introduces the different theories of motivation pertinent to various organizations.
Impact of Job satisfaction on Employee Motivation
Employee satisfaction represents the attitude of the workers – the attitude towards the organization, the job and the co-workers. Other psychological factors affecting the work environment also have effect on the employee satisfaction. A favorable and positive attitude of the workers towards these factors indicates employee satisfaction.
Job satisfaction can be viewed as one important type of achievement affect of the employee aided by various internal organizational elements. Intuitively, employees who remain highly satisfied are most likely to exhibit superior job performance in the workplace.
“By assigning internal causes to job performance, the individual takes personal credit for job success and personal responsibility for future job performance. Such attributions may foster a more positive affective reaction to the job as the individual experience a greater sense of control over job outcomes” (Ullah, 2010).
This is what is called job motivation and when employee remain satisfied, he/she becomes motivated to perform better by assuming the responsibility for future performance.
Several organizational research studies have focused on the issue of employee motivation in the recent past. Employee motivation has direct associations with the job satisfaction and the organizational climate.
In view of the fact that satisfied employees remain highly motivated and create additional positive working environment for organizations, it is worthwhile to do a research on the employee job satisfaction in the organizations (Shell & Duncan 2006).
According to Okpara (2006) job dissatisfaction leads to negative job attitudes i.e. absenteeism, poor performance and low productivity.
Al-Ajmi (2001) supports this view and according to him, the job dissatisfaction leads to lesser employee motivation and poor employee morale, which in turn result in low productivity and lesser profits. Moreover, Barrie (2001) has also found that the lack of personal satisfaction as one of the prime reasons for the employees leaving their jobs.
Importance of Employee Motivation
Available literature has proved that satisfied workers tend to be self-motivated. Self-motivated behaviours of the employees enable them to exceed the formal requirements of a job (Schnake 1991; Organ and Revan 1995).
On the contrary, dissatisfaction among the employees results in the employees showing an increased probability for counterproductive behaviours like withdrawals, burnout, and workplace aggression (Spector 1997).
Further Everts (2001) argues that the behaviour of dissatisfied employees is certain to influence negatively their own performance, as well as the performance of other employees around them.
Whinghter and Balzer (2005) are of the opinion that knowledge; understanding and improving job satisfaction can contribute positively towards improving the employee motivation and thereby can help in achieving the organizational goals. A higher level of employee motivation is important in any organization, as it contributes to the following distinct advantages to the organization.
Reduced Employee Turnover
Employee motivation is an influential factor on reducing the employee turnover. It is important that the employees should remain highly motivated as otherwise there is the potential danger of losing efficient employees which affects the performance of the company.
Such loss of employees, results in losses to the company, as companies invest large sums of money on the employees directly or indirectly (e.g. recruiting cost and training cost).
There are several studies, which focused on the influence of employee motivation on employee retention. With a higher level of motivation, the organization will be able to provide a higher level of satisfaction to the employees making them decide to continue working with the organization.
Enhancing Job Performance
By increasing the employee motivation, it is possible to ensure a high level of employee job performance. If employees remain motivated, they will prove to be better workers. According to recent research, employee motivation has a large influence on job performance. Hence improving employee motivation will result in tangible improvement in job performance.
Improved Employee Attitude
Motivation is one of the important factors, which has a strong influence on the feeling of the employees towards their organization. Highly motivated employees develop a sense of belonging towards their organizations, which leads to higher performance of the organization itself. Therefore, organizations in order to engage the employees thoroughly with them, must ensure
that they take all the efforts to keep the employee motivates. Management must consider intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors affecting employee morale and try to include such factors in the organizational systems and procedures. It is more the function of the human resources division to help management in keeping employees motivated and show the right attitude towards their work and engagement with the organization.
Higher degree of employee motivation will enable the employees to contribute more towards their work by taking active participation in their jobs. This creates an environment for the employees to perform fully.
Motivated employees will take active part in the furtherance of the organizational objectives, by taking additional interest in their job areas. Such employees will always try to improve their skills and knowledge so that they can be of more proficient in their job and contribute to the success of the organization.
Employees with low motivation tend to show withdrawal behavior such as absenteeism, lateness, passiveness and the like which may eventually lead to high employee turnover. So long as the employees with low motivation remain in the employment of the company, their attitude will affect the performance of the co-workers also.
Motivated employees, who have a helping tendency, may contribute towards a healthy organizational atmosphere by helping co-workers to complete their work on time and in that way contribute towards achieving the organizational goals effectively. Only highly motivated employees will render any help to the fellow workers and therefore, employee motivation can enhance the overall organizational performance.
From the foregoing discussion, it is relevant to mention that, employee motivation is an important factor in organizational growth because motivated employees create a more positive work culture in the organizations, which is at the root of the efficient and smooth running of any organization.
For achieving high motivation among the employees, it is imperative that the organization takes care of their physical comfort within their work area, by adding facilities, which will increase their efficiency and make them feel comfortable while they are working.
As employee motivation is one of the important factors for improving the performance of any organization, it is necessary to analyze the factors affecting employee motivation.
Factors Affecting Employee Motivation
Many studies have focused on the identification of the factors affecting employee motivation. However there are several factors that affect employee motivation and there is no consensus among researchers about the factors affecting employee motivation. Barrie (2001) researched on the following question, ‘what can a manager do to develop job satisfaction in employees?’ and thereby motivate them.
According to him, there are many things, which when done would provide satisfactory working conditions, which leads to employee motivation but there is no hard and fast rule that working conditions will lead to employee motivations.
Researchers and authors like Spector 1997, Reiner & Zhao 1999, Ellickson & Logsdon 2001 went over two major groups of variables which have been identified -from the large volume of research that had been conducted- regarding the importance of determining job satisfaction, that lead to employee motivation, which are ‘Job characteristics’ and ‘Organizational characteristics’.
Since job satisfaction of the employees is the basis for improving the motivation and performance, it is essential to study the salience of these characteristics.
Herzberg et al (1959) and Hackman and Oldham (1975) found that employee motivation is related to the content and the nature of the job itself. Previous research has identified some important job related factors that influence employee motivation.
According to Hackman and Oldham (1975), a change in mental activity as well as changes in body movements, and postures can provide task significance to the employee, thus employees find their work meaningful and as a result remain motivated largely. While Spector (1997) proposed that allowing individual freedom and autonomy within their jobs has a positive impact on the employee motivation.
Bedeian and Armenakis (1981), identify employees who have clear understanding of the job roles are at ease and more likely to have less errors within their jobs, which affects positively towards motivation of an employee; on the other hand role ambiguity decreases employee motivation and results into stress and burnout .
Organizational factors are associated with the relation between the employees and their organization. These factors either assist or hinder employees from performing their jobs (DeSantis & Durst 1996). Researchers have identified some important organizational factors that affect employee motivation.
Ting (1997) identified promotional opportunities are positively related to employee motivation and the resultant job satisfaction. Adams (1963) proposed fairness in the job environment has an important role in improving employee motivation and improves job satisfaction and job performance.
Inadequate organisational resources like lack of training, insecure work environment, unfair workload distribution among colleagues may affect employee’s motivation, performance, attitude and satisfaction (Peters, O’Connor and Eulberg 1985; Peter and O’Connor 1988; and Fosam et al. 1998).
Ting (1997) highlighted that employees experience a high level of motivation because of their positive relationship with their immediate supervisor. The relationships between colleagues are very important to improve employee motivation, attain job satisfaction, supportive attitude among colleagues and from the supervisor has positive effects on their motivation as reported by Price and Mueller (1981).
Work related stress is also reported to be related to the levels of motivation and job satisfaction (e.g, Kahn et al. 1964; House and Rizzo 1972; Bateman and Strasser 1983; Rosin 1990).
Ellickson and Logsdon (2001) proposed a positive relationship between performance appraisal outcome of an employee motivation and the resultant job satisfaction; on the other hand, Reiner and Zhao (1999) looked at the feedback about job performance of an employee to be the strongest factor for attaining motivation.
If the employee is recognized for good work, his motivation automatically improves. (Spector 1997; Herzberg et al. 1959) Moreover, as reported by Spector (1997) employee motivation will increase by contingent awards. Jacob and Solomon (1977) reported that employees would remain motivated, if organization will reward job performance, which is above average (i.e. rewarding the good job leads to higher level of motivation).
Khaleque and Chawdhury (1983) define job security as one of the most important factors contributing towards employee motivation, which is supported by Herzberg (1968).
These play an important role towards employee motivation; if unclear, it can be a great source of dissatisfaction and frustration. Javed, Maqsood and Durrani (2004) proposed that effective communication within job environment plays a positive role towards increasing employee motivation and job satisfaction.
Workplace Environment and Employee Motivation
Staren (2009,P74) states “there are a number of assumed provisions staff expect to be in place so as to maintain even a baseline level of satisfaction let alone provide an environment where they are motivated.
These include fair compensation (e.g., salary plus incentives) and adequate benefits (e.g., health insurance, etc.)”. According to Staren (2009, P74) it is the basic expectation of the employees that the organizational human resource policies and procedures ensure levels of fairness with respect to the provision of adequate and usable work environment.
In addition, an environment will not only influence their ability to enhance staff motivation but will most likely impact on the organizations very viability. McNeese-Smith & Donna (1999, P243) introduced, “Motivation creates the energy which incites, inspires, impels, influences, urges and moves one to action” (Hellriegel and Slocum, 1992; Guralnik, 1984).
According to Henderson (1987), motivation is a psychological process that stimulates and sustains behavior. Primary motivation is derived from physiological needs such as sleep, hunger and pain avoidance. Secondary motivation is ‘learning’ and includes higher-level needs such as those obtained within a profession.
Paterson and Beard (2004) are of the opinion that one of the ways in which organizations could enhance their competitive advantage is by implementing innovative strategies aimed at improving human performance.
However, situational factors, which are part of an organization’s workspace, can cause increase or constraint on such competitive advantage. Workplace environment can comprise of both physical and behavioral components. For the purposes of evaluation and analysis, it is possible to further divide these components into major attributes and operationalize them in the form of different independent variables.
The impact of these independent variables on other dependent variables can be considered for analyzing the level of organizational performance. It is a common proposition that the physical design of workplace and the environmental conditions present therein are important determinants of organizational performance.
Study by Stallworth (1996) concluded that when organizations consider the human needs in terms of physical work environment, the employees exhibit superior performance. Survey conducted by Brill (1992) suggested that improvements in the physical design of the workplace are expected to result in an increased productivity of about 5%.
Lansgston & Song (2008) observe that employees in commercial buildings appear to be more satisfied with their physical work environment than employees, who work from buildings of other types. They also found that employees working from educational buildings show highest degree of satisfaction with most of the variables applied in the design of the workspace.
The study found considerable differences in the satisfaction levels of people working from commercial buildings and from government buildings. The physical environment component of workplace consists of elements associated with the ability of the occupier to connect physically with their workplace environment.
“The behavioral environment consists of components that relate to how well the office occupiers connect with each other and the impact of the office environment can have on the behavior of the individual.”
According to Haynes (2008), office layout and office comfort are the two main categories, within which the physical environment with the productivity of its occupants fall. Interaction and distraction are the two main categories of the behavioral component of workplace environment.
Workplace design is one of the situational factors, which can be subjected to some control of the organization. Workplace design determines the efficiency of the employees working from the workplace. According to Peterson & Beard (2004), workspace is an area within the organization, which can be organized in such a way to achieve a specific organizational goal.
It must be remembered that there is the need for different workplace arrangements for achieving different organizational goals.
“If the future function if work continues to require the combination of both collaboration and individual concentration at work, then the new form will have to combine private workspace with collaboration workspace. If this does not happen, organizations will be both less effective and less efficient,” (Amir & Sahibzada, 2009).
According to a study conducted by Roelofsen (2002), improving working environment would lead to a reduction in the number of complaints. The improvements in working environment also reduce absenteeism and increase in productivity.
The indoor environment has a large impact on productivity in relation to job stress and employees’ dissatisfaction over their jobs. Govindarajulu et al., (2004) observe that present day’s businesses are adopting a strategic approach for managing the work environment for enhancing productivity through bringing improvements in the performance level of the employees.
The research findings of Patterson et al., (2003) suggest that with more number of satisfied workers, the organization is likely to perform better in terms of subsequent productivity and profitability.
Motivation and organizational performance
“Motivation is an internal desire and force that drives us to accomplish tasks and goals. In the ideal situation, we learn, develop skills, and grow as individuals as we move towards these goals.
So, as leaders, the growth and development of employees should be a major part of the planning process as we set goals with team members. But to do it effectively a leader needs to understand what motivates each team member. When a leader is able to motivate a team member and help them feel involved, positive results will begin to unfold” (Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness, 2010).
However, motivation and job performance are not synonymous. Just because someone does, a job well does not mean that he or she is highly motivated. This person actually may be very skillful but not putting forth much effort at all. For example, a mathematical genius may breeze through calculus class without trying.
By contrast, someone who performs poorly may be putting forth a great deal of effort but still be falling short of a desired goal because he or she lacks the skill needed to succeed. For instance, a bank employee tried to learn a new program or system but found that he/she could not get the hang of it no matter how hard he/she tried (Greenberg and Baron 1997, p. 143).
This in turn demonstrates that motivation does not necessarily correlate to job performance. However, motivation does help individuals improve the performance.
In addition, motivation is multifaceted. This implies that people may have several different motives operating at once. Sometimes, there may be a conflict among these motives. For example, a word processing operator might be motivated to please his boss by being as productive as possible.
However, being too productive may antagonize one’s co-workers, who fear that they might be looked at as bad. The result is that the two motives may pull the individual in different directions, and the one that wins out is the one that is strongest in that situation (Greenberg and Baron 1997, p. 143).
These examples clearly show that motivation is a complex and important concept in the fields or organizational behavior. In fact, many observers of American business trends have attributed problems of sagging production to a general lack of motivation within the workforce. However, to claim that today’s employees are poorly motivated would be misleading.
Although monetary gains are of critical importance to employees, they are encouraged to achieve a number of other objectives. Because of technological advances that took the drudgery out of many jobs, today’s workers are motivated by the prospect of performing jobs that are interesting and challenging, not just jobs that pay well (Greenberg and Baron 1997, p. 143).
“A leader should keep in mind that motivating factors will change. If leaders are in tune with the current needs of their team members, they can more effectively motivate others. It becomes a win-win relationship when the organization can meet its own goals and tasks and the motivating needs of employee” (Center for Management and Organization and Effectiveness, 2010).
Among the factors, which helps motivating the employees is providing better facilities for rest and removal of fatigue is one of the important factors.
Unless the organization takes care of the welfare of the employees by enabling them to take proper rest in between shift changes or after performing physically straining jobs, the employees may face health issues, which in turn will increase absenteeism, apart from the hardship to the employees.
In that situation, the workers may become de-motivated and many of them might look for alternative job opportunities, which will be a loss of good and skilled workers to the organization. When the workers suffer from fatigue and lose their energy because there is no place to rest, they may be able to perform much below their actual capabilities, which again is a loss of productivity to the organization.
With no proper rest, the employees may become tired and therefore, may not be in a position to deliver quality performance. This will affect the quality of the goods and services produced by the organization and when supplied to the customers, the organization will earn a bad reputation in the market.
Role of managers and supervisor in motivation
Supervisors and managers are on the front line in the battle to retain qualified employees. Leaders at all levels need to focus their efforts on creating interesting work opportunities, delivering good feedback, providing sound guidance, and modeling the right behaviors.
However, not all these may be sufficient to for high employee retention rates. It requires an extraordinary effort, especially when you consider that leaders also have to deliver business results and this can be achieved by providing quality workplace environment for the workers.
The impact of the managerial relationship on employee retention is even more important for top performers than for other employees, because of the changing nature of the relationship itself. For a top performer, the manager is much more than just a supervisor doling out tasks is and appraising performance is.
The top performer will see the manager more as a mentor and a coach than a supervisor, who helps the worker with personal and career growth as well as managing his or her job responsibilities. The top performer will also expect the workplace environment to be conducive for his continued stay with the organization.
Every employee needs great managers who understand the employee needs and react in time. An employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world class training programs. Nevertheless, the physical working environment of the organization will determine how long that employee stays and the extent he would remain productive, while he is working with organization.
The loss resulting from the parting of talented employees costs more than money. It tends to impair the organization’s memory, dilutes the ability to perform, and compromises the will to win. Overall, it reduces the vitality of the organization (Kepner-Tregnoe 1999, p.5). Therefore, it becomes imperative that the organization considers the physical comfort of the workers and the facilities they need to perform better.
There is no specific recipe or theory, which can guarantee motivation among the employees. However, some managers are more effective in developing working environment in which employees are consistently motivated.
These managers use motivational strategies by understanding and satisfying employee needs in a more practical way, compensating fairly, making it possible for employees to do their jobs with minimum frustration and treating employees equitably (Erven 2005).
Therefore, the role of a manager or supervisor is very critical in employee motivation to accelerate the success of business organization, as far as they could understand the basic needs of the employees in the area of physical working environment.
Research Methodology and Design
The objective of this chapter is to provide an outline of the methodology and design engaged by the research. The chapter describes the research philosophy, the chosen research method, research design and limitations of the study. The chapter discusses the ethical considerations involved in the study.
The research presented in this paper was based on a positivist epistemology and an objective ontology. The reason for the above-mentioned philosophical stance is that data collected in this research will not contain any of the researcher’s personal perceptions.
The required data for the thesis were obtained from information on the improvements in the workplace environment and its impact on employee performance, so an objective ontology is appropriate for this research.
Ontological position: objective
Ontology is actually an orientation or set of assumptions about the nature of reality that has a role in a hypothetical zone (Neumann 2002). Two competing ontological positions are common.
The first of the two approaches is related to the conceiving of problems, phenomena, and methods in objective terms i.e., the perspective is being held through an external viewpoint. The second approach depends on subjective terms, while conceiving of the problems, phenomena and methods with an internal perspective (Denzin and Lincoln, 2000).
This research undertakes an objective perspective research. Objective research is based on information, not biased by personal beliefs or feelings (Neuman, 2000). An objective ontology is based on the search for the regularities and causal relationships that can be observed and described objectively without interfering with the phenomenon being studied.
It is distinguished from other forms of explanation because of its requirement for systematic experimentation (Laresgoti et al.1996). The main reason for the choice of objective approach presented in this research is that this research is being conducted in a manner where data are collected without bias.
Epistemological Position: Positivist
The epistemological aspect of the research method is the way of working for getting knowledge for the research inquiry. The basis of the research of this type is the information retrieval being done from the set of data, which have been gathered for further analysis and information generation.
Epistemological positivist refers to the grounds of knowledge in the research work done to develop the thesis (Remenyi, Williams, Money, and Swartz, 1998). Furthermore, positivist research uses deductive reasoning to discover existing universal laws that can be used to predict general systems of human activity (Cavana et al 2001). In American research, 97 percent corresponds to a positivist paradigm (Orlikowski and Baroudi, 1991).
Ridley and Keen (1998) found that 88% of Australian research also conforms to a positivist epistemology. Therefore, this research approach can be considered as the dominant research approach worldwide.
Two main advantages are identified for researchers who engage positivist research techniques. One benefit is that positivist research is always easier to carry out and it expends less time.
The other benefit is that it is easier for researchers in defending their approaches and methods because positivist research is widely accepted by readers and editors (Deetz, 1996). From the above discussion, we can see that this research is positivist, as it will treat reality as independent of the researcher. It will seek to understand causal relationships and it will use precise measures to investigate the phenomenon.
The table shows the main characteristics of a positivist paradigm.
Table: Comparison of the Positivist paradigm underpinning business research
|Assumption||Objective world which science an measure and ‘mirror’ with privileged knowledge|
|Aim||To discover universal laws that can be used to predict human activity|
|Stance of researcher||Stands aloof and apart from research subjects so that decisions can be made objectively|
|Values||Value free, their influence is denied|
|Types of reasoning||Deductive|
|Research plan||Rigorous, linear and rigid, based on research hypothesis|
|Research methods and types of analysis||Experiments, questionnaires , secondary data analysis, quantitatively coded , documents statistical analysis|
|Goodness or quality of criteria||Conventional benchmarks of ‘rigour’, internal and external validity, reliability and objectivity|
Source: Adapted from Lincoln and Guba (2000), Gephart (1999) cited in Cavana et al. (2001)
The researcher considered several research methods for pursuing the qualitative approach of this research.
First was the case study method. The case study enquiry deals with an existing happening within its actual life setting and location. Case study depends on different sources of data and makes use of existing related sources to form authoritative decisions on different research issues.
Anderson (1993) finds case study facilitating a widespread assessment of related realities and focuses on the reasons and impacts of social events. The essence of case study method is to distinguish between the expected actions and the actual happenings in respect of those plans.
“Case studies become particularly useful where one needs to understand some particular problem or situation in great-depth, and where one can identify cases rich in information” (Noor, 2008). This is not the case with the research inquiry of the current study. Therefore, the researcher did not choose the case study method for conducting this research.
Denzin and Lincoln (1998) advocated the research method of emerging grounded theory. There is abundance of literature dealing with improvements in workplace environment, which focus on the relationship between workplace environment and employee motivation.
Since this study attempts to approach the area of improvements in workplace environment from a different perspective of employee welfare, grounded theory has not been considered appropriate for the current study.
Focus group is another recognized method of conducting qualitative research. The objective of using focus group interviews is to collect the required data and information, based on the interactions of the focus group members, where the personal interviews may not provide in-depth information about the research issue.
Since the focus of the current study was to gather information about potential improvements on individual employee satisfaction, it was considered appropriate to use semi-structured interviews with individual respondents than to adopt group interviews.
The personal one-to-one interviews were expected to draw open viewpoints. Since there was no need to modify the questions for the interview, which follows the previous one, the method of convergent interviewing was not considered. Moreover, the researcher could lay down the extent of the research through the appraisal of the relevant literature.
This section on research design elaborates on the research design and its implementation including sampling method, interview protocol, and selection of respondents, transcriptions of the interview proceedings and the method of analyzing the information.
The information for this qualitative study was collected from the selected employees of the chosen organization from people who are working in shifts, female employees and expatriate workers from Japan as these are the people who found the facilities inadequate for ensuring better performance. Semi-structured in-depth personal interviews were conducted with the selected respondents (Neumann, 1994; Miles and Huberman, 1994).
The objective of these in-depth personal interviews was to collect the perspectives of the individual experience of the employees and to explore their experiences, feelings and interpretations. The interviews enable the researcher to overcome the likely lack of knowledge about the impact of improvements in the physical work environment on employee performance and motivation.
The interview protocol provided the overall direction in which the semi-structured interviews need to be conducted. English and Japanese were the languages used in the interviews for enabling the respondents to understand the questions in their proper perspectives and to answer them coherently.
The researcher has the obligation to define the target population clearly. Even though there are no define rules for sample selection, the researcher has to rely on his logical ability and judgment. Target sample population has to be established in accordance with the goals of the study. In cases where the total objects to be studied is small the research may cover the complete set of objects to be covered in the study.
When the population to be studied is too large, the researcher can carefully make a selection of samples, which will represent the entire population. The sample should be chosen in a way that it represent the characteristics of the population from which the sample was selected.
Samples may be selected using probability or non-probability sampling methods. Since the objective of the study was, to collect data which are in-depth and of high quality rather than representative data, the research adopted non-probability sampling.
For providing an overall direction of the research a research protocol was used, which ensured that all the research issues were addressed.
The interview protocol also ensured a consistent and smooth flow of the interview (Patton, 1990) and it allowed considerable flexibility to add new questions or modify the existing questions so that the respondents were at ease to provide adequate and quality information. The interview protocol enabled the researcher to gather more in-depth data relating to research issues.
Since the objective of the research was to examine the relationship between improvements in the physical environment of the workplace and employee motivation and performance, the interview protocol contained questions about the perceptions of the participants on the research issue, the understanding on the role and responsibility of management and the likely impact of the improvements sought in the workplace.
At the end of each interview, the researcher allowed time for the respondents to discuss the issue openly and suggest ways of improving the workplace improvement.
The prospective respondents to the interviews were given detailed information on the context and purpose of the interview, sample questions and the procedure for the interview by the researcher in phone and personal conversations. The researcher answered all the questions raised by the respondents seeking clarifications on certain issues.
According to Patton (1990), the information provided to the respondents must be prepared carefully by the researcher so that there is no bias or predetermined direction of the course of interview. The researcher followed this principle in passing the information to the participants on the interview and its contents. The researcher sent in advance a written description of the purpose of the study.
The information passed to the respondents contained an introductory letter confirming the confidentiality, a sample questionnaire showing the key areas to be addressed. In personal meetings with the respondents, the researcher clarified further issues about the study and the clarifications sought by the prospective respondents.
The researcher obtained the consent of all the respondents. Based on the requests of the respondents, the researcher refrained from using a tape recorder although Patton (1990) strongly suggests using tape recording during the interviews.
According to Yin (1994), tape recording is to be considered more a preference instead of a necessary procedure in interviewing. The researcher made elaborate notes during the interview process and expanded the information content immediately after the interviews were over by clarifying the content with the concerned respondent.
Since the research focused on gathering the personal perceptions of the interviewees, the interview protocol was designed in such a way that it offers opportunities to the interviewees a free hand in sharing their experiences and views about the research issues.
The protocol was made not to move questions in a linear direction. The researcher did not expect all the respondents to answer all the questions. The questions on an overall analysis were expected to draw valuable contributions from the respondents to augment the knowledge content of the research.
The researcher used a pilot study for developing the interview questions. In the pilot study, the researcher chose to interview one of the Japanese expatriate workers for shaping the interview questions.
The Japanese expatriate provided insights into the areas to be addressed by the interview including the expected facilities that need to be added to the present physical working environment and the ways in which lack of such provisions affect the morale and performance of the employees.
The interview protocol was finalized and the general direction for the questions for the interview was decided based on the issues identified in the pilot study and the literature review.
The main questions that were to guide the course of the interviews were:
- What major problems have the participants, such as the shift employees, female employees and the Japanese expatriate workers faced, which affects their performing fully?
- What are the specific ways in which the problems affect the motivation and performance of the employees?
- How have the different types of employees coped with lack of the facilities to freshen them or to avoid he fatigue?
- What are the efforts of the employees like representing to the managers and supervisors to address these issues?
- What was the response from the people in positions of authority to address the perceived problems of different classes of employees?
- What are the perceptions of the employees about the facilities compared to those provided in the head quarters of the company or by any of their previous employers?
- What are the alternatives, proposed by the different classes of employees to overcome the problems?
- What specific improvements in the physical environment of the workplace and actions do employees recommend to enhance the employee motivation and performance
The semi-structured interviews designed to draw valuable inputs from the respondents were designed to last for approximately 30 to 40 minutes and in reality, the interviews lasted from 30 to 60 minutes. The researcher commenced the interviews with a brief background about the research specifying the purpose. Only the researcher and the interviewee were present during the interviews.
The interviewees were given the choice of selecting the time and venue of the interview and most of the interviews took place in locations identified and convenient for the respondents. Respondents were given the freedom to talk about their own experiences in relation to the research issue.
“From the rules of good interviewing as suggested by Armstrong (1985), the researcher never introduced his own ideas in the opening in order to avoid bias and manipulation and guided by the interview along the research topics to collect experiences and views by asking questions.”
It was the responsibility of the researcher to gather the data by recording the transcriptions so that the transcriptions reflect the words spoken in reality. The researcher took down extensive notes during the interviews and after the completion of the discussion on a specific point; the researcher clarified the responses with the interviewee before recording them as transcript.
The researcher undertook minor reading to make the transcript readable, to such an extent that the editing did not change the real intended meaning. The respondents were asked to go through the draft transcripts and approve them.
The most important part of any research is analyzing the data collected using the appropriate research design and technique. The researcher used the method of content analysis for analyzing the data gathered and recorded in the form of notes and transcripts.
The process of data analysis involved coding the views expressed in respect of each common issue and arranging them into patterns relating to a particular theme (Miles and Huberman, 1994). The themes included perceived issues relating to lack of proper physical environment in the workplace, perceived effects of such issues, expectations of the respondents and impact on satisfaction, motivation and performance.
There was no elaborate coding undertaken in view of the simplicity of the research issue. The findings from the views on the research issues were compared and contrasted with the findings from previous literature wherever possible.
The individual respondents’ comments and perceptions were analyzed using the knowledge of the researcher on the intensity of the issue and the likely impact on their motivation and satisfaction leading to better or poor performance.
Selection of Respondents
The research inquiry required that the respondents were the actual employees from different categories, who faced the brunt of the problems in the selected organization because of inadequacy of facilities for rest, and to help them to rejuvenate from the work fatigue.
For achieving better comparability of the findings the research, the researcher included participants from the night shift employees, female employees and the Japanese expatriate workers who were the main classes of workers affected by the lack of facilities.
The exploration of the impact of the improvements in physical workplace improvements was selected because the researcher as the administrative in-charge of the organization was aware of the diminishing productivity and employee resentment over the lack of proper facilities. The study being not an attempt to represent a specific industry, there was no limits fixed on the size of the samples.
The researcher selected seven night shift employees, five female employees and three Japanese expatriate workers as participants to the interviews. Most of the selected employees were between 25 and 30 years of age and except the female employees all others were males. 6 of the employees have earlier worked in the head quarters and therefore are aware of the physical working environment in the head quarters.
The employees selected did not have any reporting relationship to the researcher and were having an average experience of more than 4 years with the company. In order not to make the study too complex, the issues to be discussed were advised prior to the commencement of the interview. The participants were encouraged to elaborate the specific types of problems encountered by them.
Validity, Credibility, Reliability
In order to improve the validity of the findings, the draft interpretations of the findings were presented to the original respondents and the researcher invited the comments of the respondents on the findings and encouraged them to discuss the findings. This method was suggested by Yin (1994).
Careful interpretation, evaluation and assessment of appropriate literature and careful structuring of the data to ensure a descriptive evaluation and assessment ensured the credibility, dependability and conformability of this qualitative research.
The analysis will be linked back to the review of the literature to ensure reliability and the transparency of the analysis and findings will further support the reliability. The design and conduct of the research in a manner to ensure that the subjects were properly identified and described ensures high level of credibility (Marshall and Rossman, 1995).
The quality of the findings of this qualitative research is enhanced by the following techniques adopted in conducting the research as suggested by Denzin and Lincoln (1994).
- Interviewees were chosen more because of their relevance than of their representative role
- Depth and intimacy of interviewing in one-to-one discussions
- Research is in the respondents’ own surroundings
- Asking respondents to comment on drafts (such as from the pilot interview) about facts and their interpretations of those facts
The purpose of the research was to examine the impact of improvements in the physical environment of the workplace on employee motivation and satisfaction. The small number of samples does not support the completeness of the views of the total population and the sample does not represent all types of organization.
Dissatisfaction of the participants with the present state of physical workplace environment may make them to provide highly subjective interpretations; but provides for a flow of un-censored information for further analysis.
The researcher being in-charge of administrative functions of the organization might have created an inhibition among the participants to present their views fully. Nevertheless, the results of the interviews did not show this shortcoming.
The study complies with the general requirements for ethical considerations for protecting participant confidentiality. The permission of the company was obtained to select the participants without informing them about the identity of the selected respondents.
The company was also not informed about the employees who accepted or declined to accept the interviews. The researcher forwarded a consent form to all the prospective participants and informed the participants about their rights in relation to the participation in the interviews and their freedom to withdraw from the interview any time they like.
The purpose of this chapter is to present the findings from the in-depth interviews conducted with the employees of the chosen organization on the research issue of improvements in the physical environment of the workplace and the likely impact on employee motivation.
This chapter presents the major issues that the respondents to the semi-structured interviews about their perceptions on the research issues and their suggestions to improve the physical working conditions.
Findings from the Interviews
The responses to the pilot interview conducted with the lone Japanese expatriate worker revealed that all respondents would be able to understand the interview questions on the research issues easily, because the research issues are not complex in nature except that they are subjective and can be approached from different perspectives by the individual respondents.
Since there was no need to revise the questions, the researcher proceeded with the interview questions for drawing information from the respondents for the main study.
The organization has provided for many different types of welfare measures for employees working for it. For example, there is a mentorship system to discuss issues such as career plan, life plan and hardship of their work and life with the employees. However, there are differences between the work environment in the headquarters and the production plant, which is the setting for the current research.
For example, the company has provided break room, vending machine for drinks and dining room for the employees in the headquarters with more comforts and facilities than in the production plant. Second, there are welfare systems like ‘maternity leave’ and ‘child care leave’ for the female employees. However, many employees in the plant do not appear to utilize these systems very effectively.
With regard to the work environment in the plant, more than half of the employees are shift workers. However, the canteen for the employees is open just from 11:30 to 13:00 from Monday to Friday.
Since the plant works on a 7days/week 24hours/day schedule for production lines, the front line employees who are working in production line need to bring food from home or use the vending machine of frozen foods or instant noodles.
The employees will remain healthy, if all employees can consume homemade food. However, the shift workers have different personal situations, in which it might be difficult to cook before work time for shift workers or their families.
As regards the welfare system for working employee who has children, the company does not have long history in the plant to have female shift worker. Although there were contract employees, who are married working in shift and the company did not have regular employees who are married and/or who have child working in shift.
However, presently there are married female employees in shift and there are possibilities that they have kids in near future. Since the plant does not have experience in handling the situation of female employees having kids, it is very important to optimize the system for shift worker.
Because, once they get kid, it might become a difficult situation for the female workers to cope up with shift work. It is important to create a system for employees’ career plan if they need to change to day work. It is not easy to change their role since they were hired as line operators and they only have experience as operators.
The objective of the research was to analyze the employees’ needs and the ways in which the company can fulfill it to ensure employee motivation.
Efforts of the Organization for Improving Work Environment
The selected organization has instituted a volunteer team in the production plant named ‘Work place improvement team’ since the year 2009, of which the researcher is a member. The team has worked towards improving the work environment and has executed some projects in the past. The projects included changing the uniform, refurbishing office desks for office and canteen tables.
The company has also been taking effort for gender diversity activity in recent years. The graph below shows percentage growth of female employees in the organization during last ten years.
Although there were only few female employees for long time even after the acquisition, the number of female employees is gradually increasing after 2005, because of the organization’s effort for proactive recruitment in accordance with gender diversity policies.
It is expected that there will be more female employees hired in the plant. Therefore, it becomes important to understand the needs of female employees, since the plant could offer facilities different from those offered at the head office premises. Despite the increase in the number of female workers, they have been working in the day shift until recently.
In the history of the plant there has not been any female employee working in the night shift. However, the company has started recruiting female employees for working in night shifts for several reasons including gender diversity. Presently the company has one married female working in the night shift and the worker will be in need of maternity leave and childcare leave.
Although this is an advantage of having adopted the diversity activity, this also necessitates speeding up the welfare system for shift workers. Since the company has not handled female workers, working in night shift and their maternity leave the company has to establish a system for employee’s career plan if they need to change to day work.
It is not possible to change their role since they were hired only as line operators and they can perform only that function. Based on the surveys conducted in the past, the company has also implemented a mentor system to educate all the female employees on the systems and procedures of the company.
Difficulties for Female Workers and Shift Workers
Based on the interviews with the selected samples, one of the major issues identified is the lack of a proper place for the employees to have their food. Even though there is one dining room available, it does not have all the facilities as compared with the dining facility at the headquarters office.
The employees at the headquarters are allowed to go out for taking their food, while in the plant the workers cannot go out, as they wear uniforms and have to change the clothing to go out. There will not be enough time because of the shorter break time.
There are number of other differences between the headquarters office and the production plant both in the internal working environment as well as the geographic location, which increases the difficulties of the workers as perceived by the respondents.
As regards, the working one hundred percent of employees in headquarters work on general shift during daytime. On the other hand, the plant has more than fifty percent working in shift. In the matter of geographic location, headquarters office is situated in the city and production plant is situated in the countryside. There are several production plants operated by the country in Japan, working under similar situation.
Another major issue identified by the respondents is the attitude of the managers towards the welfare of the employees in the plant. Although the organization has some managers working in the plant, they would be transferred if they are promoted or if they opt to change their roles.
The managers do not stay in the plant for more than few years and they will move either to the headquarters office or to any other foreign country after some time. Therefore, the managers do not take much interest in the welfare issues of the plant employees. In contrast, line operators would not be transferred to other place.
They would stay in the plant forever as long as they work for the company. Because of the position of the operators to stay with the company, irrespective of any difficulties experiences by them, the company might have decided to use still the old building and dining place.
One more difficulty identified by the Japanese expatriate respondents in working within the plant is the lack of a place to rest after shift working. Especially, in production plant, place to take rest is very important for employees because about fifty percent of employees in the plant are working in shift.
Since production lines are operated with the round the clock system, operators need to drive to their home after work even in the midnight or in the early morning. It is much dangerous to drive than after daily shift without taking rest. There is no separate place in the plant, where the employees after shift working can take some rest before they drive to their homes.
There is the difficulty in communicating by the employees to the managers as most of the employees are Japanese and the managers are from several countries. Japanese workers because of their poor knowledge of English language are unable to communicate effectively with the managers about their difficulties.
With the result, that the Japanese workers feel isolated and are unable to have the necessary motivation for performing their jobs efficiently.
The attitude of the managers poses a challenge to the morale of the workers, as some of the managers working in the factory do not keep up their time. Although the Japanese workers appear to have accepted this behavior, in reality they are not comfortable with this indiscipline in working in the plant.
The next difficulty is related to the Japanese culture, where the position of female employees is too conservative as compared to that of men. According to the Japanese culture, men should go out for work and women must stay at home to take care of the house. This traditional concept of roles of men and women is still considered appropriate by the Japanese people.
This cultural background has affected the motivation of the female employees working in the plant. With the result, there is the potential situation where efficient female workers may leave their jobs, which will affect the productivity of the plant.
Therefore, there is the need for the organization to take “positive steps to assist women so they can better balance the responsibilities of work and family by supporting child care and by allowing flex-time, five-day workweeks, and leaves of absence,” (Gordon, 1998).
Another issued discussed during the interviews with the female employees is that many of the female employees of the company feel that there are sex discriminations at the workplace. Since a there is no formal dual-track employment system in the company, the company still informally tracks women into non-career type positions.
Discussion and Conclusion
Although it is not possible to understand all employees’ needs through the semi-structured interviews, it is important to consider the difficulties expressed by the respondents to improve the welfare systems.
Since, the company cannot keep its business without products, which are produced by the employees’ of the plant the difficulties cannot be ignored, as these difficulties will have serious impact on the motivation and safety of the employees. The findings from the semi-structured interviews with the respondents have led to the following discussion.
Necessity for Improving the Work Environment within the Plant
According to Staren (2009, P74), “one of the most important yet difficult responsibilities of a leader in any organization is motivating staff. Doing so goes a long way toward ensuring a professionally healthy and productive work environment.” Therefore, it implies that organizational leaders who are not in a position to motivate their subordinates expose their organization to greater risk.
They may not also likely to continue in their own position. The fact remains that positively motivated employees perform in much better ways than those who are not motivated enough. Employees who are not motivated enough may perform their job for some time. Ultimately they will become unhappy and will start working towards the ways of leaving the organization instead of working with it.
Employees who feel comfortable on their job and are comfortable in their environment will work a lot harder. In addition, it is important to optimize environment and system to keep trained employees from quitting because employee’s skills and institutional memories are great asset for the company.
It is also relevant to mention here that completely equipped break room and canteen is critical not only for employees’ motivation but also for maintaining the employees’ health.
According to McNeese-Smith & Donna (1999, P243), “Primary motivation is derived from physiological needs such as sleep, hunger and pain avoidance. Secondary motivation is learned and includes higher level needs such as those obtained within a profession”. Atkinson et al (2008) observe that shift work has its effect on human body. Shift work changes food habits.
“Meal frequency is generally reduced but snacking is increased on the night shift. Unavailability of preferred foods in the workplace, a lack of time, and a reduced desire to eat at night explain these findings. ‘Normal’ eating habits with the family are also disrupted” (Atkinson et al., 2008). Shift workers can have health problems because of disturbances to normal physiological functions.
Improvements in Canteen Working
The respondents to the interviews were of the opinion that head quarter office has better facilities to take care of the employees’ welfare than the production plant. For example, several canteen and cafés are functioning in the head quarters office building.
Employees working at headquarter office can take massage service for employees, which is provided at cheap cost in the building and the employees can use the fitness studio open for employees. There are many other facilities, which are extended to keep the employees in good health, and to remain motivated.
In contrast, in the production plant, there is only one canteen, which is open from 11:30 to 13:00 even though there are many shift workers are working at the plant. There are some vending machines in the canteen, which sells frozen foods and instant noodles. However, it is too oily to eat midnight and monotonous.
According to Workers Health Centre Website (2010), it is important that shift workers take three meals a day, at roughly the same time every day. Taking the meals at same times can help the employees keep their energy levels up.
It will also improve sleep of the workers and help the employees to adjust their body condition to the shift work schedule. Shift workers must also consume healthy snacks. They must eat lot of fruits, drink fruit juices and consume large volume of vegetables and cheese to maintain their health.
Clark (2009, P43), states “’Feed your employees’ is one of idea to motivate employees. ‘Everybody appreciates a good meal. People like to eat, they like it more when the food is free or subsidized and even better when the food is good. Picnics, holiday parties, buffet lunches are all good ideas.” Providing proper and healthy foods and drinks is very important for shift worker. In addition, the canteen needs to be improved not only for menu.
The canteen is in the administrative building of the plant, which takes more than 5minuites from the production shop. This means the line operators need to walk 10 minutes in total to go eat and back to operation line in the short break time. This takes away a majority of the time of the employees, which is meant for taking rest in between the shift working.
Since the operators cannot eat anywhere except in canteen for the sanitation of products, transfer the canteen to nearer place would be an effective improvement of work environment for line operators since it is effective to full utilization of their break time to take enough rest.
The volunteer team named “work environment improve team must be encouraged to implement changes in the working of the canteen. There is the need to add to the canteen menu and install 24 hours service so that shift worker can take “warm” handmade foods even in midnight.
However, it may not be possible to execute this suggestion presently. One of the difficulties to install 24 services is balance of Supply and demand in the area.
It costs too much and each price for the foods would be increase almost twice than current menu without the company’s huge financial support. The system must not support one-time but continuously to keep the employees in good health. In this economic situation, cost should be realistic to execute.
Improvements in Benefits and Welfare Measures to Female Employees
‘Diversity’ is one of the strategies and strengths of the company. It is found that in 2007 and 2008, the company was continuously selected as “Women friendly company” by “Nikkei Woman” a business magazine for women based on such factors as the number of female executives and employees, and equality of opportunity for men and women to advance.
The staff composition of the company shows that about 16 percent of senior executives and more than a quarter of section chiefs are women.
According to the company’s website, “Diversity makes our world unique. It’s our style of communication, our own special take on the world around us. To us, diversity covers a broad range of personal attributes and characteristics, such as race, sex, age, cultural heritage, personal background and sexual orientation.
By sharing our unique selves, our knowledge and our expertise, and by continually stretching our wings to embrace something new and unfamiliar, we color our world and bring it to life” (P&G Website).
The company has many kind of welfare for employees. The company has many female managers in the company and there are number of women who are working after they get married and having children even if they have heavy responsibility in their organization.
They have been promoted in the same speed with male managers if they have same level of achievement. The company has some mentors to talk matter such as career plan, life plan and hardship of their work and life balance. They are using the systems very effectible. The following chart exhibits the benefits offered for working women in the company.
- LifeWorks, a family resource program that offers referrals and proactive advice to help manage care for children, older relatives and adults with special needs;
- Extended Reduced Work Schedule, flexibility to manage compelling family care needs; Requests can be made for a reduced work schedule of a minimum 20 hours a week to meet family needs;
- Leave of Absence Policy, offers time off for urgent personal matters for both short and long periods of time;
- Family and Medical Leave, includes unpaid time off for family or medical reasons, up to 12 unpaid weeks in a 12month period;
- Maternity Leave, full pay from two weeks before expected date of birth until six weeks after;
- Child Care Leave, for male and female employees, from as much as six months up to the time a child reaches one year of age. Most importantly, if both parents work, they can split the leave,” (Puhalla, 2002).
It is necessary that all these benefits be extended to the female employees working in the plant. It is for the management to implement these benefits immediately to ensure that the female workers continue their employment with the company.
It is also essential that the company appoint a number of senior female workers and managers as mentors, so that they can advise the junior female staff to handle their work-life situation and continue with the employment.
Not only Maternity leave, there are some policy for child-care and Family care in the company. Family care leave, Exemption from Mid-night work during the period of Child-care and Family-care, Limit of the overtime work during the period of Child-care and Family care are example of these.
These policies are very effective for female employees. However, especially the welfare measure of “Exemption from Mid-night work during the period of Child-care and Family-care”, is an important one, since it is not easy to utilize for shift worker if he/she was hired as Line operator.
In order to optimize work environment and welfare systems, communication between leaders and employees is very critical. There are many foreign managers in the plant. De Mente (1993, P55-P56) states, “The Japanese philosophy is the company with good human relation will succeed, while the company with bad human relation will fail.”
Morrison, (2006, P173) points out “A strong sense of national identity, coupled with group loyalty, was a major factor in Japan’s impressive record of postwar reconstruction and economic development.”
Although the company is foreign afflicted firm, majority of employees in the plant are Japanese. They have Japanese common sense. Since it is difficult to understand every employee’s needs the managers must be educated to communicate freely with the employees.
People who spend time to understand the real situation by feeling the atmosphere can make good relationship with native people. Optimization of environment and system to keep trained employees from quitting and hiring native employees is critical because employee’s skills and institutional memories are great asset for the company.
Promoting effective support system is also important to build good relationship. Since the plant is in countryside, it is more difficult for foreigners to live since few people from other countries are there. Support system should be flexible depends on their needs. In addition, mental support system is also important for them to avoid they feel isolation by different culture. Basic treatment is most important for people.
In addition, creating opportunity for communication between foreign employees (including managers) and local employee’ is effective to improve relationship between them and to avoid isolation of foreign employees and their family.
For example, teach their language each other or introducing own culture to each other lead to adapting themselves to local community. It is much easier to adapt local community if there is support by people who already know.
There are many employees, who are managed by younger managers in the chosen organization. Some of the employees have difficulty to be managed younger managers who do not keep up the timings are the traditional values. Although the company is foreign affiliated firm, most of employees are Japanese.
Japanese employees have difficulty to adapt the situation. It might be trigger the intention of the Japanese employees to quit the company if juniors take the management role to manage them.
The research was undertaken to examine the impact of improvements in the workplace environment on the motivation of the employees and their performance. The study embarked upon semi-structured interviews with chosen employees of the organization as respondents to find out the perceptions of them on the lack in the workplace environments and its likely impact on the job satisfaction and performance of the employees.
There were several issues pointed out by the respondents such as lack of canteen and dining facilities, rest rooms, mentoring, welfare measures for the shift employees and female workers, lack of communication and the proper conduct of managers in relation to the Japanese employees employed as expatriate workers.
The respondents to the interview also pointed out the difference in the qualities of welfare measures provided at the headquarters of the company located in the city and the production plant situated in a remote area.
Based on the suggestions of the employee respondents and the review of the literature, several valuable suggestions were made to the management of the company for improving the workplace environment and thereby increase the job motivation and efficiency of the employees.
Implications for Management
The findings of the study and suggestions made by the research have far-reaching implications for the management of the organization under study. The company has the potential danger of the employees working at the production plant losing their morale and this will not only affect the productivity of the plant but also the quality of the products produced in the plant.
The difficulties identified by the different classes of employees are real and not perceived. It is important that the company maintain the health and safety of its employees, especially in the case of female employees.
Similarly, the company cannot show any disparity between the employees working at the headquarters and those working at the plant.
Suggestions with regard to the improvements in the canteen, provision of a proper resting place, extension of all welfare measures to the female employees working in the production plant, appointing mentors, improving communication between the managers and employees and among the employees and educating managers to deal properly with the expatriate employees, will go a long way in improving the productivity of the production plant by improving the motivation of the employees.
The improvements are very much required to retain the talented employees with the company. If the employees are not motivated properly, they may decide to leave the company for working in organizations having better working environment.
This section provides few recommendations for further research in the area. Study of the changes in the productivity of employees in a particular setting expressed in quantitative terms (in terms of production units or profitability) over a period after the implementation of improvement in workplace will further support the findings of the current study.
A quantitative survey among the employees of different companies operating within the same sector/industry on their perceptions of improvements in workplace environment and employee motivation will enhance the knowledge on the subject. Focus group interviews among the employees of organizations operating in different sector may reveal new ideas for implementation for improving the workplace environment.
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