An Examination of Employee Culture-Based Perceptions as a Predictor of Motivation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

As worldwide competition continues to increase, corporations are feverishly seeking ways to increase productivity. A critical element to increasing productivity is employee motivation. This task of understanding and influencing the employee's motivation is often made easier, if the company attempts to select employees with specific values, beliefs and needs that align with those of the company. This study explores the relationship between the Hofstede cultural dimensions (as a predictor of values) and Vroom's expectancy theory (valence, expectancy, instrumentality) for the purpose of determining whether Hofstede's instrument can be used to predict an individual's motivation potential in a given organizational environment. A variety of hypotheses were tested using a web-based survey of US and German workers. Although the hypotheses concerning the relationship between culture-based perceptions and expectancies and instrumentalities were not heavily supported, several of the relationships between an employee's cultural values and valences were supported. This suggests that motivation, to some extent, can be predicted by knowledge of an employee's culture-based values. Additionally, this research presents some interesting findings on motivation across various demographic categories (e.g., nationality, gender) and suggests some issues for future research on selecting for motivation.

INTRODUCTION

As worldwide competition continues to increase, corporations are feverishly seeking ways to increase productivity. A critical element to increasing productivity is employee motivation. Most researchers believe that to enhance employee motivation, one must understand the motivation process. In other words, one must understand how an employee processes his or her environment to make choices. The most popular of the motivation process theories is Victor Vroom's Expectancy Theory (1995). The Expectancy Theory suggests that a person's motivation is based on the product of his or her valence (the value of an individual goal), expectancy (probability of successfully accomplishing a task), and instrumentality (probability that the successful accomplishment of the task will result in achieving a desired goal). In practice, a manager should attempt to understand an employee's valences, expectancy, and instrumentality for each task in order to influence his or her motivation. This task of understanding and influencing the employee's motivation is often made easier, if the company attempts to select employees with specific values, beliefs and needs that align with those of the company. In other words, a good "cultural fit" may be an important prerequisite for motivation. More specifically, a company should consider the candidate's perceptions of expectancies, instrumentalities, and valences against the organization's environment for the best "motivational fit."

The most popular method used to select for productivity focuses on matching an individual's traits or characteristics with those required of the job (Cook, 1998). For example, many companies use all or portions of the "Big Five Personality Test Model" (McCrae & Costa, 1997) to screen applicants for extroversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, openness to change and conscientiousness. Another approach to screen for productivity, however, may be to assess an applicant's perceptions or value system. Recent research indicates that a person's perception (i.e. interpretation of environment) of an organization's operation (e.g., policies and procedures) is thought to be a major contributor to one's motivation and an excellent predictor of behavior (André et al., 2003; Henle, 2005; Hubbell & Chory-Assad, 2005). The perception construct is based on an individual's attitude, personality, values, beliefs and norms (Allport, 1955; Freud, 1963). While values, beliefs and norms are normally reserved to describe the culture of a society, organization or group, one can see that they might serve to describe an individual's culture or culture-based perceptions. …