Motivating Employees: An Exploratory Study on Knowledge Workers

Article excerpt

Motivated human resource is strategically important for corporate competitiveness. As new age employees are involved in complex knowledge processing which requires a particular set of organizational forces traditional means of motivating employees are no more effective. This paper aims to explore factors that determine the level of motivation among knowledge workers. The study is based upon survey conducted on engineers, chartered accountants and management teachers. The model of motivation proposed in the study was tested through correlation and regression analysis. We find that the level of motivation among different groups of knowledge workers is dependent upon one or combination of variables namely perception of job characteristics and importance of job characteristics. This study could not find linear relation between job motivation and satisfaction with job characteristics. Total motivation of an employee is cumulative effect of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Further it is evident that variables taken in the study are correlated to each other.


Motivated employees are strategically important for corporate competitiveness (HarrelCook and Ferris, 1997) . Motivating human resources is a crucial part of being a manager since corporate managers are finding it difficult to compete only on the basis of the usual sources of competitiveness such as access to capital, technology and natural resources. The work environment is rapidly changing within and outside the organization, and the convergence of technology at a global level has redefined the nature of work (Horwitz et al. , 2003) . As new age employees are getting more involved in complex knowledge processing, the traditional means of motivating employees are no more effective and hence we observe a drastic change in the HR practices. Longenecker (2011) has described, 'Motivation is not simply a means to get people to pursue organizational goals; rather, it is a means to get people to buy in and take ownership of the organization's needs as well as their own.' Strategies such as appreciation of achievements, individual attention, empowerment and providing chance of leadership roles can be effective means of motivating knowledge workers who are quite satisfied with their pay package (Dewhurst et al., 2010). This paper intends to explore the dependency of level of motivation on the perception of job characteristics, importance of job characteristics and satisfaction with job characteristics among knowledge workers.


Knowledge workers are involved in non-repetitive, non-routine work, which requires substantial level of cognitive activity (Helton, 1988; and Kelly, 1990). Drucker (1998) has written "the very definition of a knowledge worker is one who knows more about his or her job". For a research and development unit knowledge workers are 'problem solvers' whereas for an advertizing company they are 'problem identifiers' and 'problem brokers' (Reich, 1991). Knowledge workers are involved in the knowledge work such as research and development, advertizing, education and professional services e.g., law, accountancy and consultancy (Beaumont and Hunter, 2002). Knowledge workers are highly qualified and educated professionals (Sveiby, 1997). Horibe (1999) defines "... knowledge workers are people who use their heads more than their hands to produce value". Knowledge workers have autonomy and they are empowered to take decisions that have far-reaching impact on the company in which they are employed (Rowley, 2000; Hunter et al, 2002; Newell et al, 2002).


Knowledge workers are termed as 'gold-collar' and they are "identified by their professional specialty e.g., doctors, programers, lawyers, teachers, scientists and information system designers" (as cited in Brown, 1999). Knowledge workers are engaged in creating, communicating or disseminating ideas or knowledge; teachers, trainers and consultants disseminate knowledge (Asian Productivity Organization (APO), 2004). …