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Organisational Behaviour: Motivation of Knowledge Workers


In the modern business environment, generation of novel knowledge and its application is the major competence a firm requires in the knowledge economy to develop and gain a competitive advantage. It is evident that firms cannot engender knowledge devoid of individuals. Most organisations do not pay attention to motivation of people who generate the knowledge needed to sustain the growth of an organisation. Although knowledge workers are responsible workers, lack of motivation can influence their work performance negatively. Given lack of attention towards motivation of knowledge workers, motivation of knowledge workers is an interesting and intricate issue. This essay focuses on the issue of motivation of knowledge workers.

The commonly accepted economic theory and conventional wisdom propose that employees are rational actors and they make choices that maximise anticipated upshots. In this regard, managers should be in a position to influence workers’ behaviours to attain business objectives through manipulating the anticipations of outcomes. Knowledge workers are a developing section of the workforce. Jalaldeen and Jayakody (2006) define knowledge workers as employees who utilise their brain or head more than their physical efforts to provide value to their firms. Awad and Ghaziri (2004) define knowledge workers as people who change personal experience and business experience into knowledge via capturing, evaluating, sharing and spreading the knowledge within the firm to create value. They are people valued for their aptitude to bring together, analyze, construe and synthesize information within explicit subject areas to expand the overall comprehension of these areas and enable firms to make informed decisions. Knowledge workers are the bloodstream of scores of professions and they are otherwise referred to as brain-workers, new economy workers, professional eclectics or new millennium workers. Therefore, organisations need to help their knowledge workers to attain their full potential through motivating them.

Knowledge workers depict unique skills that include creativity and innovation, personal development and continuous learning, flexibility and collaboration and strong personality. Given these unique characteristics, it is usually hard to motivate them. An article posted on the ‘Professionals Australia’ indicated that managing knowledge workers presents major challenges, particularly to managers who principally centre their hard work on control systems and planning (Professionals Australia, 2012). According to the article, an important aspect of a manager’s role is to ensure that knowledge workers remain satisfied with their roles in the workplace and focused on the expected outcomes that are crucial to organisational performance. However, managing knowledge workers has been a major issue because it is a complicated balance to trust knowledge workers to obtain and apply specialist knowledge in the best way possible without direction. These people must, on the other hand, be given adequate direction and inspiration for them to attain the expected outcomes. Motivating knowledge workers is challenging because managers must make sure that they in-depth comprehension of knowledge is available in their workplace; and how much it can be controlled. More so, managers must acknowledge what knowledge workers require from them to perform effectively. Knowledge workers do not need managers to tell them how they should carry out their roles. In this regarding, managing and motivation knowledge workers is a challenging affair ( Professionals Australia, 2012). An article that defines types of workers and, how to motivate them, places knowledge workers in the expert category. The author of this article maintains that knowledge workers should be motivated through environments where personal growth instigates formal acknowledgement of expertise (Guardian, 2016). Knowledge workers are also motivated through ambitious targets and encouragement to link with other knowledge workers to improve their expertise. An article by Frick and Drucker (2011) claims that, although it is important to motivate knowledge workers, establishing environments that promote high performance among knowledge workers is a field that researchers have neglected.

Motivating knowledge workers is difficult. According to Jemielniak (2012), it is difficult to motivate knowledge workers because their work in progress cannot be closely evaluated and supervised. Sajeva (2007) who maintains that knowledge workers are less interested in conventional employment benefits such as working conditions and security supports this assertion. According to Sajeva (2007), knowledge workers are self-focused. Although, conventional types of rewards may succeed in the retention of knowledge workers, the forms of rewards cannot guarantee high performance and innovation on knowledge work. In this perspective, it is important to comprehend the facets that hold a powerful influence on the job satisfaction and motivation of knowledge workers. According to Sajeva (2009), lack of motivation and inadequate knowledge-friendly culture affects quality of products and services in an organisation. Lack of motivation may direct the efforts of knowledge workers to their individual needs at the expense of a firm’s goals. Kelloway and Barling (2000) confirm that organisational success relies largely on motivation of employees. Therefore, manager must comprehend what inspires their workers.

Motivation is defined as the force external or within a person that drives their actions while a motivational factor is a situational condition, which can inspire workers to perform given tasks with the anticipation of getting something in return (Gambardella & Valentini, 2015). Motivators can include time off, promotion, development, empowerment, work selection, recognition and monetary factors (Petroni & Colacino, 2008). The motivators of knowledge workers include the projects or the assignments they receive. Other motivational factors for knowledge workers include challenging work and establishment of a work culture that allows comparative autonomy. Horwitz, Heng and Quazi (2003) highlights popular knowledge worker motivating strategies and they include top management support, challenging work, freedom to plan and work independently, flexible work practices, cash award, access to leading-edge products or technology and job satisfaction. In this regard, the motivational strategies for knowledge workers include both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

Despite a wide assortment of motivational strategies for knowledge workers, managers are always challenged to loosen their motivational styles across different generations. According to Rowe (2010), individuals in different generations differ in terms of their motivational needs. Therefore, managers must excel at addressing the goals and needs of employees. This is because no one motivational perspective is effective for all. People differ in their desires, rewards, how they try to satisfy their needs and how they consider the fairness of rewards. With regard to generation X, understanding the importance of diversity, self-reliance, informality and work-life balance is paramount. For generation Y, a fair boss, workplace safety, training and learning prospects, flexible work schedules, timely and fair rewards and constructive feedback is paramount (Armstrong & Brown, 2006) . With respect to content theories of motivation, managers must be aware of disparities in needs, goals, desires of employees because every individual is unique. Drawing from Maslow’s need hierarchy, employees’ needs are different and determined by which level one is in the hierarchy.

Although managers focus on transforming their work setting to inspire their workers to get involved in conducts that create value, motivating members of different generations is intricate. For instance, people of generation X hold essential qualities and prefer firms that offer them flexible working schedule, interesting but challenging work and ongoing prospect for professional and personal growth. People in this generation like to work independently and they largely dependent in their skills. Generation Y employees, on the other hand, value teamwork and collaboration, hence their motivation largely rely on good teamwork. These employees are focused on self-career and treasure work-life balance. According to Huang (2011), knowledge workers across all generations are able to carry out jobs that are more complicated and they tend to be more empowered, and in less call for control and direction from their managers. While knowledge workers from generation X are motivated through working independently, those from generation Y are motivated through teamwork (Kumar, 2011). Therefore, it is usually difficult for managers to motivate knowledge workers from different generations as they hold different motivational needs. However, because knowledge workers are more competitive and complicated, they must continuously learn novel knowledge and update their skills. As such, provision of professional growth prospects is a motivational strategy that is applicable to knowledge workers from across different generations. According to Huang (2011), prospects for continued learning should be a crucial novel dimension required for knowledge workers success.


In conclusion, inspired human resource is strategically essential for organisational competitiveness. As new workers are engaged in intricate knowledge profession, which calls for set of organisational factors, conventional means of motivating workers are not fully effective. This is because employees from across different generations differ in their character, desires and needs. Particularly, some knowledge workers prefer to work independently and are inspired to make decisions that hold far-reaching effects on their firms, while other particularly; those in generation Y prefer to teamwork and a collaborative work environment. Therefore, managers are faced with enormous challenges in their efforts to motivate knowledge workers from different generations. They should therefore implement motivational strategies that specific to the needs knowledge workers from different generations


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