Employee Motivation

Evaluating Employee Motivation

Employee Motivation is a psychological construct that cannot be observed or recorded directly. The study of Employee Motivation raises an important question: how to measure motivation? Researchers measure employee motivation in terms of observable cognitive (e.g., recall, perception), affective (e.g., subjective experience), behavioral (e.g., performance), and physiological (e.g., brain activation) responses and using self-reports.

Furthermore, motivation is measured in relative terms: compared to previous or subsequent levels of motivation or to motivation in different goal states. For example, following exposure to a corporate health goal and motivating benefit  (e.g., gym membership card), an individual might be more motivated to exercise than they were before the goal and the benefit or more than Another person who was not exposed to the same goal and benefit.

In some cases, particular measures of motivation may help distinguish between these different dimensions of motivation, whereas other measures may not. For example, the measured speed at which a person works on a task can have several interpretations. Working slowly could mean that the individual’s motivation to complete the task is low, or that their motivation to engage in the task is high such that she is “savoring” the task. Maybe the slow performance can be attributed to that person feeling sick or tired or that they just do not understand the work in general. Therefore, in most cases, additional measures and manipulations may help tease apart these various potential interpretations. Thus, experimental researchers must exercise caution when selecting measures of motivation and when interpreting the fluctuations captured by these measures.

Following are some measures which evaluate employee motivation.

Cognitive and Affective Measures of Employee Motivation

Experimental social psychologists conceptualize a goal as the cognitive representation of the desired end state. According to this view, goals are organized in associative memory networks connecting each goal to corresponding constructs. Goal-relevant constructs could be activities or objects that contribute to goal attainment, as well as events or objects that hinder goal.

Goal activation: Memory, accessibility, and inhibition of goal-related constructs

Constructs related to a goal can activate or prime the pursuit of that goal. For example, the presence of one’s study partner or the word “exam” in a game of scrabble can activate a student’s academic goal and hence increase her motivation to study. Once a goal is active, How to Measure Motivation. The motivational system prepares the individual for action by activating goal-relevant.

Evaluation, devaluation, and perception

Motivational states influence the assessment of goal-related objects, and these evaluative processes, in turn, promote successful goal pursuit consciously and non-consciously. Specifically, evaluation of goal-relevant objects is more positive for current goals than for inactive ones. Thus, motivation can be measured by the degree to which a goal-relevant object is evaluated positively, using explicit measures (e.g., willingness to pay, liking) or implicit measures such as the evaluative priming task.


Researchers have also measured motivation by assessing an individual’s subjective experience while pursuing a goal-related activity. For example, the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory measures intrinsic motivation by evaluating an individual’s degree of interest/enjoyment, perceived competence, effort, value/usefulness, felt pressure and tension, and perceived choice while performing a given activity

Perceptual biases

Motivational states can also alter something as fundamental as visual perception. So children from lower socio-economic backgrounds and who presumably have a strong motivation to acquire money estimated coin sizes as larger than their wealthier counterparts did.

Behavioral Measures of Employee Motivation

Ultimately, motivation enables goal-directed behavior and is evident through action. However, behavior is not merely the outcome of motivation; researchers often use behavior to infer motivation and capture the strength of motivation to the extent to which one is how to Measure Motivation actions are consistent with a focal goal. Indeed, when describing an individual’s degree of motivation, researchers (and lay people) often refer to the goal congruence of the person’s behavior. Engaging in goal-congruent behavior requires some form of mental, physical, or mental effort. Measures such as choice, speed, performance, or persistence exerted in the course of goal pursuit capture the goal congruence of behavior and can thus assess the strength of one’s motivation to pursue the goal.


In many cases, motivation can manifest itself regarding the amount of time it takes an individual to act in the pursuit of a goal. This duration measure (i.e., speed) can be applied to various aspects of behavior to gauge the strength of motivation. Behavioral measures of speed include how fast an individual completes a task or how fast moves from one task to the next.


Employee Motivation can also be measured regarding level of performance at a goal-related task especially if performance is variable and integral to the goal. Performance measures include accuracy, the amount (i.e., how much has been done), and the highest level of achievement. For example, to demonstrate the effect of priming on motivation researcher measured motivation through participants’ performance at five-word search puzzles and showed that participants primed with achievement found more words than did control participants, that is, they were more motivated to achieve.


You can use the term choice broadly to describe the act of selecting between objects (e.g., apple versus cookie) and courses of action (e.g., donating, exercising). Because of their binary nature, choice measures often seem merely indicative of the direction rather than the strength of motivation. However, a choice can also indicate the power of motivation. For example, when an individual chooses between conflicting goals (e.g., an employee wants to socialize with friends rather than study for an exam), we can infer that her motivation for the chosen (socializing) goal is stronger than her motivation for the (academic) goal that was not selected.

Different Dimensions of Employee Motivation

There are different types of goals: Some have clearly defined beginning and end states, whereas others represent an ongoing motivational state with no particular end point. In the pursuit of these various types of goals, different dimensions of motivation arise to drive cognitions and behaviors. Often, more than one size of motivation is present during the pursuit of a single goal. Furthermore, these aspects of motivation may drive cognitions and behaviors in similar or different ways and hence influence the measures of motivation reviewed above similarly or differently.

Outcome-focused motivation: “getting it done.”

Outcome-focused or extrinsic motivation describes the motivation to attain the desired end state of a goal, such as completing ten out of ten tasks, being healthy, or making money. This dimension of motivation stems from the external benefits (or rewards) associated with achieving a goal and targets the outcomes or consequences of goal-related actions. As outcome-focused motivation increases, cognitions and behaviors become more congruent with the goal.

Process-focused motivation: “doing it happily” or “doing it right.”

Process-focused employee motivation refers to dimensions of motivation concerned with elements related to the process of goal pursuit and stems from the inherent benefits (enjoyment, a boost to self-image) associated with pursuing a goal – with less emphasis on goal completion. There are two types of process-focused motivations: intrinsic motivation and means-focused motivation. Intrinsic motivation focuses on enjoyment and interest during the process of goal pursuit. For example, an employee might be driven by the desire to have a fulfilling experience while working on her project, rather than by the desire to finish the project. Means-focused motivation refers to people’s desire to use “proper” means in the process of goal pursuit. Specifically, means-focused motivation is concerned with “how” actions are performed and emphasizes adherence to the rules, principles, and standards set by the self, relevant others, or society (e.g., completing ten tasks accurately, making money honestly). This motivation can arise for a variety of reasons.

Process- versus outcome-focused motivation

An increase in process-focused employee motivation produces judgments, experiences, and behaviors congruent with an emphasis on process rather than outcome (e.g., doing it happily, doing it right). For example, intrinsic motivation can be captured by an individual’s subjective experience with respect a goal-related activity (e.g., energized, satisfied). Behaviorally, intrinsic motivation can be measured by the amount of time an individual spends on task, such that an intrinsically motivated employee might devote more time to her project overall because she finds this process fulfilling.

While selecting a measure of motivation and interpreting fluctuations researchers should know what dimension of motivation they wish to measure (what?) and which other aspects of motivation or non-motivational influences might be present in the experimental paradigm they designed (what else?). Then researcher should develop models that minimize or eliminate these interferences, before deciding on the measures of motivation (how?) that best captures their research question. If other motivations and non-motivational factors cannot be minimized, researchers should employ (multiple) measures that can help distinguish between these different motivations and influences. In sum, a systematic approach to the measurement of motivation takes a step toward providing more structure around the measurement of motivation and leaves the door open for further investigations on this rich topic of Employee Motivation.

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