Understand how a theory of motivation can be used to improve performance level.

Describe a recognised theory of motivation

There are many different recognised theories of motivation. One such theory is David McClelland’s Needs Theory.

The Needs theory is a motivational model that attempts to explain how three dominant needs affect the actions of people from a managerial context – achievement, power, and affiliation.

This model was developed in the 1960s, McClelland stated that we all have these three types of motivation regardless of age, sex, race, or culture. He also proposed that an individual’s specific need are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences.

You will also see these abbreviations for McClelland’s three motivators: Achievement (nAch), Affiliation (nAff), and Power (nPow).

Achievement (nAch) – People with a high need for achievement prefer to work alone or with other high achievers. Achievers require regular feedback in order to monitor the progress of their achievements. Achievers seek to excel and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations. Achievers avoid low-risk situations because the easily attained success is not a genuine achievement. In a high risk situation, achievers see the outcome as one of chance rather than one’s own effort. Instead high achievers prefer work that has a moderate probability of success.

Affiliation (nAff) – High affiliation individuals prefer work that provides significant personal interaction. They perform well in customer service interaction situations. Those with a high affiliation need good natured relationships with other people and need to feel accepted. They tend to conform to the standards of their team.

Power (nPow) – A person’s need for power can be one of two types – personal or institutional. Those who need personal power want to direct others and this often is perceived as undesirable. Persons who need institutional power / social power want to organise the efforts of others to further the goals of the organisation. Managers with a high need for institutional power tend to be more effective than those with high need for personal power.

You can also use these motivators to build a strategy, to better fit the job around team members. Based on personality and past actions, examine your team to determine which of the three motivators is dominant for each person. Once you have determined in which group each member resides you can then structure your approach based on the driving motivators of each individual.  You can then structure your management style and assign work packages to each individual based on this information. This will ensure that they all stay engaged, motivated and happy in the work they are doing.

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