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  • Subject area(s): Business
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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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According to (King and Lawley, 2016:293), motivation is “The will and desire that a person has to engage in a particular behaviour or perform a particular task”. Motivation is a fundamental element that is required in the workplace as a driven workforce will enable a business to perform at its best capacity in order to be successful, competitive and to make the most profit.

In this essay, the writer will be analysing the methods that John Lewis uses to motivate and retain its talented staff. The writer will be linking the strategies to theories to show if they are effective in practice. The main motivation theories that I will be using are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), Frederick Herzberg’s Two Factory Theory (1959) and McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. The writer will also be exploring Taylorism to see if it is effective in motivating people in the workplace.

 Motivation can be initiated by three different things: extrinsic rewards – given by the company e.g. pay, intrinsic rewards – sense of achievement and social rewards – originating from work colleagues/friends. There are many challenges involved in motivating employees. This is because each individual will have a distinctive factor that would motivate them which makes it harder for a company to motivate and retain all of their talented employees.

One way in which John Lewis motivates its employees is by operating a slightly relaxed management style. Their employees are given clear guidelines and are trusted to get on with the job. This is an example of a democratic leadership as they involve all their employees in decisions. This type of leadership would motivate talented staff as it will give a sense of belonging to the staff, therefore increasing the production levels in the workforce. This will also allow the employees to become more creative in their work/ideas which would eventually increase the efficiency of the workforce and would also retain more staff as everyone has a higher morale.

John Lewis also makes sure that the employees are interested in the area that they work in. They also make sure that all the staff have the essential skills needed in order to complete the job with ease. The line managers at John Lewis also ‘try to make sure that they get to know each of their subordinates’. This would help them get to know the staff better in order to identify any strengths or weakness. This would make the staff feel important in the company, which in turn would make them work harder in order to help the company that gave respect to them. This is reflected by the staff turnover which dropped by 2.1% to 28.6% in 2016. This implies that John Lewis is being successful in retaining their talented staff. Although 28.6% is slightly higher than the industry average of 15%, John Lewis has had a high percentage of job satisfaction at 71% in 2016. According to a research by The Retail Appointment, “Almost a third of retail employees are under 25 years old”. This suggests that the employees that have left may be part-time workers such as students or they may have staff that want to do more with their skills. This shows that a high staff turnover is not always because of more working conditions or pay.

Another way in which John Lewis motivates and retains their talented staff is by empowering their employees. Their employees are encouraged to think for themselves and to work together to solve problems. This is an example of empowerment as the employees are given more responsibility and power to make their own decisions in some parts of their working career. This would help the staff feel valued which means that they are more likely to stay in the business for longer as they feel respected as they are allowed to have their own opinion.  This is an example of Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory of motivation, which consists of motivators or hygiene factors. He argued that there are certain factors that a business can use to directly motivate staff to work harder, such as giving them more responsibility. He believed that this will improve the motivation levels in the company as long as the company has ensured that the hygiene factors such as working conditions are met to a certain standard.

However, job empowerment may also demotivate employees if not used correctly. This is because if certain employees do not have the right skills or enough confidence to handle more responsibility, it may demotivate them as they may not like the pressure of more work. This could result in a higher staff turnover for John Lewis, which could result other staff becoming demoralised inside the business as the whole working environment will become unpleasant to work in as it may cause too much stress on the remaining employees as there will be more work to complete.

As mentioned before, John Lewis greatly values their employees and focuses on staff contentment as they believe that employees are the biggest assets. According to Michael Savage at the Independent, John Lewis prefer to call all their employees “partners” as each of the partners own a stake in the company. The chairman of John Lewis, Sir Charley Mayfield has said “what matter most to us at John Lewis is the happiness of our people”. This helps them motivate their staff as they make sure that everyone has the potential to develop themselves in the company and also allow them to meet the social needs of each employees which would raise their confidence levels. For many workers, esteem or self-actualisation is the major motivator, providing they have all the basic and social needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need’s (1943) is a theory that suggests that people have five basic needs: physiological – e.g. wages, safety – e.g. job security, social/belongingness – e.g. feeling accepted, esteem – e.g. recognising achievements and self-actualisation – e.g. achieving full potential. He believes that workers will want to satisfy these needs one by one which will lead them to the top of the hierarchy. This theory shows us that different people will have different motivators depending on their place in the hierarchy and that businesses must adapt their motivation style to fulfil the needs of their employees in order to create a driven workforce.

John Lewis motivates their employees by hiring inspirational leaders for their company. Both their chairman and managing director are very passionate about their beliefs and objectives for the company. According to Management Today, John Lewis’s managing director Andy Street, was voted UK’s ‘most admired’ leader in 2014. This would help motivate staff because a good leader will help a company and its staff flourish by setting examples. As well as passionate leaders, John Lewis also has more women on their partnership board – something that is not quite common in other big businesses. According to Ben Chapman at The Independent, “UK companies are recruiting fewer women to boardrooms as gender diversity progress stalls for the first time”. The researcher said that only 29% of new top-level recruits were female. In 2016, 33% of John Lewis’s partnership board was female. This will motivate their staff as they will know that the company believes in gender equality, which would increase the respect the employees have for the company, resulting in a better organisational culture.

The use of financial and non-financial incentives to motivate employees plays a big role in John Lewis. John Lewis offers a lot of rewards to their employees which includes: involvements in clubs and societies e.g. football, surfing, wine clubs and riding, discounts on holiday and leisure facilities, life assurance, pension and more. An example of a financial incentive that they use is that they give their employees a yearly bonus as all their employees are partners of the company. According to journalist Matthew Gwyther at Management Today, “John Lewis gave a bonus of ‘the equivalent of eight weeks’ pay’ in 2014”.  The Vroom – expectancy theory (1964) suggests that individuals will perform certain actions that they expect will take them to a reward. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory is based around three perceptions, which are Valence, Expectancy and Instrumentality.  This implies that pay is an extrinsic reward that motivates certain people to an extent, to which their needs are fulfilled. However, many of John Lewis’s workers are not motivated by the pay as the company gives them more than that in a form of intrinsic rewards/ non-financial incentives. Benefits such as voluntary benefits and charity work can also help motivate workers. This allows workers to work their way up to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in order to reach self-actualisation. Even though self-actualisation can never be entirely met, workers will become highly motivated knowing that all their needs are heard and that they are satisfied with their work life.

Frederick Taylor believed that workers had a ‘natural laziness’ (1911:20). He argued that employees were naturally demotivated and that they were motivated by pay only. Though, John Lewis has showed that pay is not the only motivators for their employees as they believe that staff seek more intrinsic rewards which allow them to become motivated.

In conclusion, I believe that John Lewis has been successful in motivating and retaining its talented staff. This is because John Lewis uses a range of motivation strategies for their employees in order to cater to each of their employees’ needs. As mentioned before, motivation is an essential element in organisations as it is the key to making a business survive in the market as it allows employees and managers to work in union. John Lewis encourages the individual development of their employees in order to motivate them in work which is a great example of helping them reach the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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