We all know that any and all companies want to become more efficient and stop wasting resources to improve profitability which increases shareholder wealth. Research was carried out to find the best way to control the hemorrhaging of human resources in the construction industry.
Improvement in employee satisfaction could lessen the turnover rate therefore, reducing money and time spent to acquire replacements. The theory is if employee motivation can be improved then company production would increase (increasing profitability) and less resources would be spent (also, increasing profitability) in the hiring/training of new workers. So, then the question becomes what concrete steps can be taken to increase work force motivation.
In my experience one of the most difficult tasks that a construction manager faces is how to keep workforce motivation up. It is often said that a construction worker starts to work themselves out of a job from day one. Normally workers are paid by the hour so the longer they take to accomplish a given task the longer the project duration therefore it extents their length of employment. In addition, once the workers see the end of the job is near moral drops further accentuating the problems. As you can see the incentive to increase efficiency is not innately part of the system.
Here are the major costs associated with a high turnover rate.
• The cost of hiring a new employee including the advertising, interviewing, screening, and hiring.
• Cost of onboarding a new person, including basic training and management time.
• Lost productivity—it may take a new employee one to two years to reach the productivity of an existing person.
• Lost engagement—other employees who see high turnover tend to disengage and lose productivity.
In the research completed of existing literature we find many theories concerning motivation and how they can be applied to the construction industry.
Hewage 16 provided a review that outlined the origins of motivation theories as applied to the construction industry. Each of the six theories mentioned are listed and explained concisely in the following. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory 17 suggests that humans have a hierarchy of needs that can be prioritized. The needs of the lowest-order must be satisfied before individuals become concerned with higher-order needs. Herzberg motivational theory 18 explains that a person’s satisfaction with the work is credited to the job itself, while on the other hand dissatisfaction is credited to the work environment. Adams’ equity theory 19 explains that people are motivated based upon whether or not they believe equitable treatment is offered. A judgement if an inequity exists is based on a comparison of colleagues. Vroom’s expectancy theory 20 suggests that behavior is a result from conscious choices among alternatives whose resolution it is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Reinforcement theory 21 discusses that reinforced behavior will lead to repetitive performance. Reinforcements are factors that can motivate individuals. Alderfer’s ERG theory 22 categorizes Maslow’s hierarchy into three separate groups of existence needs, relatedness needs, and growth needs. ERG theory also suggests that the hierarchical order of needs will be different for each individual, and it is possible to have multiple levels of need fulfilled simultaneously.
In addition to the literature research two interviews were conducted with HR managers of construction companies. Five ways to improve were consolidated from the interviews:
• Show employees that you have a good attitude
• Recognize employees’ good work
• Challenge your employees to improve
• Provide clear expectations
• Explain the big picture
2. How Industry Can / Is Inclined to Respond to the Changes 10 – 15% of the paper.
How the Industry Can Change
A meaningful change in the way employee motivation is handled would reap large benefits for the company. However, the construction industry if mostly project based with only short term goals being a priority. Therefore, historically the industry had been resistant to change especially when it comes to changes to long term plans. Although, the industry as a whole may not change one company could make a significant transformative change how it manages its human resources and have a competitive advantage in this area.
There has been a large amounts of data gathered concerning motivation and productivity however, there has been very little studied about the construction industry in particular. While productivity has increased in most other industry sectors construction has lagged behind the trend. Over the past four decades the upward trend has been suggested to have motivation as one of the key factors impacting the change.
The lack of motivation can directly contribute to costs of a project and affect a construction company’s profitability. Part of these costs consists of low productivity while the rest relate to turnover costs. The turnover directly relates to the problem of finding and recruiting enough qualified human resources
Motivation can be defined as “providing a drive to act to satisfy needs or desires” 11. When looking at the motivation for work, Pinder 12 stated that work motivation is a set of energetic forces that originate both within and beyond an individual’s being, to initiate work-related behavior and to determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration. According to Jenkins 13, motivation is intangible, a hypothetical construct that is used to explain human behavior. Motivation is commonly sourced from intrinsic or extrinsic motives 14. Intrinsic motivation involves people doing an activity because they find it interesting and derive spontaneous satisfaction from the activity itself. Extrinsic motivation, in contrast, requires an instrumentality between the activity and some separable consequences such as tangible or verbal rewards; hence, satisfaction does not come from the activity itself but instead from the extrinsic consequences that follow the activity 15.
Motivational models can provide a structure for developing, communicating, and managing worker motivation. We can look to previous research on how models can be applied. In 1968, Porter and Lawler developed a motivational model based on Vroom’s expectancy model. Porter and Lawler developed a motivational model considering interrelated variables. The variables considered in Porter and Lawler’s model included a motivational force predictor comprised of effort reward expectancies and reward prediction, job effort and performance, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, and job satisfaction 23.
Maloney 24 conducted a literature review in construction worker motivation. At that time, he found no published work on construction worker motivation and encouraged that rigorous program should be undertaken to enhance knowledge in this area. Maloney 25 stated that specific theories for construction worker motivation had not been developed. Subsequently, the same researcher suggested 5 areas for further research: (1) expectancy issues—data needed to be collected based upon a “worker’s perceived probability that his expenditure of effort will result in his attaining the desired level of performance;” (2) instrumentality issues—these are issues defined by a worker’s understanding of the relationship between performance and reward or punishment; (3) valence issues—the anticipated satisfaction that an individual associates with the receipt of specific outcomes; (4) organizational constraints—management faults which negatively affect worker motivation; and (5) satisfaction—the level to which a worker’s needs are met, by their job. Maloney 25 believed that these areas are the starting points for the development of motivational theories/frameworks for the construction industry. The same researcher linked Vroom’s expectancy theory to construction worker motivation, suggesting that Vroom’s model could be a possible tool for future evaluation of construction worker motivation. Maloney 25 also suggested that worker’s level of motivation is influenced by either positive or negative factors. Increase of positive factors and the decrease of negative factors will ultimately increase productivity.
Maloney and McFillen 38 presented an article that stressed contractors to make factors with high valences contingent upon performance in order to make the work experience more rewarding and satisfying to workers. In a later article, Maloney 49 expanded by providing a simple principle to be followed by construction managers; that is, link what is desired by the organization to what is desired by the employees.
Maloney 41 presented a five-part framework from which performance can be analyzed. Worker motivation was addressed to be one of the major factors in this framework. The same researcher defined individual motivation level to perform a task as a function of three variables: (1) likelihood that if an individual exerts the effort, he will be able to perform the task; (2) likelihood that if an individual performs the task, he will receive a specific reward or outcome for that performance; and (3) anticipated satisfaction that an individual associates with the reward or outcome. Maloney 41 used this definition to link motivation to performance. The flow chart proposed by Maloney 41 enables to assess the performance of an organization considering multiple criteria. If the worker performance is unsatisfactory, the proposed flowchart enables identifying organizational issues based on available data and taking sequential actions. As an example, if the work environment is not free from organizationally imposed constraints, the flow chart is proposed to improve the job management. Additionally, this method assesses work environment considering whether the workers possess necessary skills, ability, and knowledge, whether the workers possess the necessary motivation, and whether current estimates for the performance levels are realistic to determine which actions are necessary.
Thomas 42 analyzed Vroom’s expectancy theory model in the context of construction. Expectancy theory explains variations in performance, in terms of the effort, which a worker is willing to exert to complete a task. Therefore, if a worker is willing to exert a determined attempt, has the capability, receives correct direction, and removes all obstacles, the work will be accomplished well. Furthermore, according to Thomas 42, the resulting performance could be observed based on effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, profitability, innovation, and quality of work.
The expectancy theory model for motivation introduced by Hewage and Ruwanpura 1 was developed based upon the theories of Maslow 17, Adams 19, Vroom 20, and Smithers and Walker 21. This model is represented graphically in Figure 1. Hewage’s 16 theoretical model for motivation (Figure 1) considers 23 factors (Table 1) that affect the motivation level of a construction worker. Motivation level according to each factor is assessed based on effort to performance expectancy, performance to outcome expectancy, and valence, using a 7-point scale. Hewage 16 used the aforementioned model to investigate the motivation level of construction workers. Data collection for this study was done through a series of questionnaire surveys and interviews involving more than 1000 construction workers.
Possible HR Responses to Improve Motivation
• Recognize employees’ good work. It was said that most employees don’t receive recognition and those who do don’t receive enough of it. It was also stated nothing good comes of this.
• Show them that you have a good attitude. If employees see that you have a good attitude, it is likely to be picked up by them. On the other hand, even if you work hard, if you do not present a good attitude, they probably will not. This will have short- and long-term negative consequences.
• Challenge your employees to improve. You can do this by giving employees increasingly more difficult jobs.
• Explain the big picture. Not only do employees need to understand the big picture, but they have to feel that they are playing a significant role in it.
• Provide clear expectations. People must be told and understand exactly what specific end results you want.
In the literature reviewed there are multiple studies on motivational theories and human behavior, very few are focused specifically on construction worker motivation. There are very limited validated studies examining worker efficiencies, productivity, and the skills of the workers in construction industry.
The articles that did address this topic were tabulated, categorized, and reviewed. The findings show that the body of work regarding construction worker motivation is limited and that no motivational model has been widely used, in the construction industry. After reviewing the literature, this paper concludes that the previous work suggests two primary methods for improving the motivation of construction workers: (1) relevant worker incentives (intrinsic or extrinsic) and (2) improved management practices, specifically regarding communication with workers. The first of these points is directly linked to the second. The majority of key factors that influence motivation can be directed, controlled, or delivered by management. Worker motivation models have been previously presented but lack widespread adoption and implementation by management. Subsequent research should show that practical application of motivation models will not come from the construction worker but from those with authority to set project definition and direction.