The increasing level of competition in the business environment has made people management an important area to be observed by organisations and is considered to be essential for their survival (Panda, Pradhan and Mishra, 2014). This, in effect, gives rise to the need of devising motivational tools for employees (Salmela-Aro and Nurmi, 2004) as they are regarded as the most valuable asset for organisations (Shaharuddin, 2013). Since employees belonging to different groups are influenced by different motivational factors, managers face the challenge of developing separate motivational tools for each group which suit their requirements (Ozlen, 2014).
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The motivation level of graduate trainees in influenced by the ease of integration (Harvey and Mason, 1996), opportunity to exercise the skills learnt (Regan, 2010) and the degree of importance of the work assigned to them (Davies and Hertig, 2008), while that of single parents is influenced by the convenience (Crawford, 2009) and financial independence (Wel and Knijn, 2007) they get, the opportunity to socialize (Peacey, 2009) and pursue higher education (Gingerbread, 2012). Older workers are instead motivated by factors such as job and physical security (Kanfer and Ackermann, 2004), interesting and creative work, and a sense of accomplishment (Lord, 2004). The HR department is thus entrusted with the responsibility to devise motivational tools for all employees, which will then lead to higher productivity and outputs.
The concept of motivation at work is not new and has been studied by many researchers; Kreitner and Cassidy (2011) provide the simplest definition according to which, motivation can be defined as the psychological process which drives the purpose and direction of one’s behaviour. Of all the responsibilities of a manager, employee motivation is perhaps the most complexed one (Cong and Van, 2013). The reason behind this is the continuous change in the factors which motivate workforce (Podmoroff, 2005). Many factors underpin employee motivation at different hierarchical levels, among which pay is the common motivator which works for all age groups (Linz, 2004). In the highly competitive job markets, devising motivational strategies for employees has become a part of employer branding for organisations, through which they intend to be the employer of choice for job seekers and work towards retaining the existing employees (Jain and Bhatt, 2015).
Considering the kind of learning and experiences they have had while pursuing their degree, fresh graduates tend to develop leadership skills, whereby they gain the capability of meeting deadlines and producing good quality work with little supervision (Coleman and Glover, 2010). This leads them to an expectation of being empowered at their workplace to do their work on their own, either individually or in groups with in-depth guidance, but little supervision (Wiata, 2006). There are different viewpoints about the work attributes of graduate trainees; while some researchers talk about their enthusiasm to perform their best in their first job (Hogarth et al., 2007), there are others who state that performing a full-time job role in a professional environment may prove to be stressful for a recent graduate, resulting in lower levels of productivity (Jusoh, Simun and Chong, 2011).
A critical factor influencing the motivational level of graduate trainees is the speed at which they are integrated into the organisation and are given the chance to effectively contribute towards achieving their career goals (Harvey and Mason, 1996). Another important aspect is the opportunity which graduates get to exercise the skills they have learnt throughout their degree (Regan, 2010); if they are provided with work that is irrelevant to their career aspirations, they may be demotivated since the beginning. Because of their enthusiasm and willingness to perform their best at work, the importance of the work given to them greatly influences their motivation to continue working (Davies and Hertig, 2008). Therefore, if they feel that the work in which they are putting too effort is not very important, their commitment to work may fall.
Managers supervising graduate trainees must ensure that they inform the graduates well about the objectives and value of the work assigned to them, so they have a higher sense of responsibility in completing it, and will also feel valued (Clarke et al., 2015). The HR procedures must include a comprehensive orientation session for all graduate trainees, whereby they would feel welcomed to the company and would also get a chance to know about the broader goals of the organisation as a whole and their relative departments (Williams, 2010). This session should also include an overview of their rotations in different departments during the traineeship program and its purpose (Wiata, 2006); when they are informed that they are hired to be the future leaders of the organisation, they will feel motivated to reach that position from their first day at work. Messmer (2011) suggests that during the first three months, the HR department can take the initiative to assign mentors for all graduate trainees, who can be approached whenever the trainees have concerns regarding understanding organisational culture or deal with other related issues; this would make them feel valued and cared for, and would help them adapt to the organisational work environment quickly.
In the literature, there are hardly any contradictory views about the reasons behind employment undertaken by single parents; most researchers agree that the main underlying reason is the financial support they want to provide to their children (Gingerbread, 2012). Single mothers, especially are not only faced with a difficulty in managing the job along with looking after children, but also struggle in obtaining employment; this happens because of the cultural stereotype that women can either be good mothers, or good employees, but cannot be both at the same time (Miller, 2012). Hoggart et al. (2006) further support this view through their theory, which explains the work orientations of single parents; according to that, single parents are more interested in their child-care focused role when their children are too young, whereas they are more inclined to be interested in career progression when their children grow older. This may also impart that single parents may be good workers as they experience the art of prioritising things in their personal life, and Reeleder et al. (2006) identified that setting priorities has become one of the greatest challenges being faced by managers in the competitive business environment.
Perhaps the most important thing that influences the work motivation of single parents is convenience (Crawford, 2009). Other job aspirations may include getting personal benefits, such as more opportunity to socialise as opposed to staying isolated (Peacey, 2009). Pertaining specifically to single mothers, Wel and Knijn (2007) pointed out that their motivation is also derived from their financial independence. Peacey (2009) explains that the huge number of responsibilities makes single parents lose their passion for work, which can be brought back if a part of their responsibilities is shared. Since the wage rate and promotion prospects are higher with better educational qualifications, Single parents also aspire to receive higher education but cannot do so because of their personal and professional commitments (Gingerbread, 2012). Creating such an opportunity for these workers may boost up their motivational level to a great extent.
In order to ensure that single parents working full-time are motivated at work, the HR department needs to devise policies which help them in their work-life balance (Harkness and Skipp, 2013). Sims et al. (2010) suggest the introduction of a financial support system that will work well to motivate single parents, which may include benefits schemes such as in-work credit and emergency discretion fund. On the basis of these policies, employees will be relieved from the stress they would have due to their financial problems, and would be able to contribute better in terms of job performance. Since single parents are mostly anxious about a childcare center which is affordable and accessible, organisations should offer this service within their premises (Gingerbread, 2012) along with separate breastfeeding rooms (Kosmala-Anderson and Wallace, 2006), which would in turn make the employees feel motivated, thus resulting in higher productivity. Managers should also make it a point to place them in work teams with people having similar interests as them. Because of the two-fold responsibility of single parents, an ideal strategy would be to provide them with flexibility in choosing their work hours as per their convenience (Gingerbread, 2012). The training personnel in HR department may also identify the training needs required for specific staff and may suggest to grant them some time off and send them for company-sponsored training sessions (Summers and Ford, 2012); this will help to boost up the confidence and motivation of single parents, and their new skills will also prove to be beneficial for the organisation.
Understanding older workers who have passed the state retirement age is a difficult task and an even complex task is to motivate them, as there are contradictory opinions about their job characteristics. Some researchers found a negative relationship between age and job performance, stating that older employees are less productive and do not show any motivation to learn new skills (Park and Gutchess, 2000). On the other hand, another research suggests that older workers are characterised by positives work traits, which include reliability, devotion and cooperation (Gonyea, 2013).
The research conducted by Sinclair et al. (2005) depicts that strong organisational commitment among employees helps them deal well with difficult situations at work, and that older workers with higher levels of commitment towards the organisation perform better than or equal to young employees. Kanfer and Ackermann (2004) found that older workers are greatly motivated if they have a job security along with physical security, as they would not like to be financially dependent on anyone at an old age. Furthermore, older workers remain active and motivated to work as long as they enjoy their work, are satisfied with the usage of skills for performing the tasks, feel accomplished by performing their job, and get a chance of involving into creative work (Lord, 2004).
With the increasing age of employees, work becomes boring for them, which mostly includes routine tasks; in such a situation, the best motivational tool is involving them in the work that interests them (Leberecht, 2015). The HR should introduce a discrimination-free policy, whereby older workers are given an equal opportunity for training and development which will help them enhance their competencies and learn new skills (Iun and Huang, 2007). Another way to increase their motivation could be to improve their prospects for promotion (Bal, Kooij and Rousseau, 2015). If older workers are not healthy enough to perform all their job roles on their own, their expertise and skills may be used by the organisation to gain optimum benefit, whereby they can be asked to train junior employees (Iun and Huang, 2007). This will make them feel valued and will boost up their morale, and will also be helpful for the organisation as younger workers would then be able to share their workload (Kooij et al., 2008). Even within the same age group, some old workers may be seeking to fulfil the needs in the first two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943), while others may be looking forward to have their higher level needs fulfilled (Shea and Haasen, 2006). In that case, respect is one thing which will motivate older workers belonging to either of these groups (Bal, Kooij and Rousseau, 2015). Even if these workers are not at the highest level of hierarchy in their department, they must be treated with due respect pertinent to their age, which will motivate them to a great extent. Several studies portray the health issues older workers may face due to which they are discriminated against (Jones, et al., 2011), however little research has been done to devise a solution to this problem. The easiest of all could be to introduce specialised health insurance programs for older workers which covers the general health problems they may face (Tishman, Looy and Bruyere, 2012).
Motivating employees has become challenging since the time the expectations and needs to employees have started changing. Just like other functions in the organisations, this function also needs to undergo continuous improvement, as what motivates one group of employees, may not be a strong motivator for another group. Among graduate trainees, the intrinsic motivation can brought by a thorough orientation session and assigning mentors, which will facilitate their ease of integration into the organisation. Single parents may be very well committed to the organisation if they are provided adequate financial support, flexibility in working hours and childcare facilities at work, whereas the motivation level of older workers may be improved by increasing their prospects for promotion and training, and giving them an opportunity to mentor others to make them feel valued. An organisation may not be able to go far if its workforce is not motivated; managers should therefore use such tools as a means of retaining their valued employees.
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