Research Method for Business
Research Proposal: INVESTIGATE THE WAYS IN WHICH EMPLOYEE’S MOTIVATION CAN BE IMPROVED

Introduction

In the recent decades, China had grown very fast economically. Due to the emergence of many new local businesses as well as the entrance of foreign investors and corporations into China, the business environment had become highly competitive. Under such competitive business environment, many of the businesses are forced to bankruptcy or to restructure to stay fit in the competitive marketplace. This is particularly true in the consumer electrical industry. As competition intensifies, it is found that companies operating in the industry are forced to close down the manufacturing plants, retrench workers, as well as to restructure the business. This is particularly true for small and medium scale manufacturer in the consumer electrical industry. Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances is one of the companies being affected by such a trend. In the last two years, the companies had been involving in restructuring and reorganizing the various departments in the company. Employees were cut down from an approximately total of 300 workers to current level of 200 workers. After the restructuring process, the company turned around and become profitable again. However, it is found that the employees’ morale had fall to a low level as compared with the situation before the restructuring process. In this study, the reasons of the low morale as well as the strategies to improve the workers’ morale will be presented.

Problem Statement

The key problem in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances is that employee motivation is currently at a very low level. Such a situation must be corrected as soon as possible. Thus, the key issue in the organization is to understand why the motivation level of employees had decreased. It is necessary to understand the factors leading to such a low morale situation in the organization. Then, strategies to enhance the motivation level of workforce in the organization must be implemented. The best and effective methods to enhance the workforce motivation must be known.

Research Objectives

Following the arguments presented above, several research objectives can be outlined as follow. Firstly, this study will be required to investigate the reasons or factors that had been causing low employees’ moral in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances. Secondly, after the specific factors are identified, the methods or strategies to improve motivation of workforce in the organization will be presented. Those factors identified to have caused low morale in the organization will be targeted individually, by forming relevant corrective actions and techniques to handle these factors respectively.

Research Questions

Thus, from a discussion presented above, several research questions can be formulated. The first question is about what are the factors responsible to creating low employee morals in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances? The next question is about how to formulate effective strategies to mitigate or eliminate those factors that has been creating low morale among the workforce. Specifically, what are the best strategies that can be implemented to increase the workforce motivation in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances?

Importance of the Research

There are several reasons/ rationales on why such a research is important. Firstly, the management does not know exactly what is creating low morale scenario in the organization. Currently, only the impacts from low morale (such as absenteeism, late to work, poor working habits or quality, slow to react to problems, workers not proactive in improving company performance) are observable. There is no good and objective research to understand why the workers are losing motivation to work and perform after the restructuring process. If the reasons causing low morale situation can be identified, the relevant solutions can then be formed. This will definitely enhance workplace morale, and in the long run, is definitely required to bring Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances to better performance and profitability.

Review of Literature

In the every challenging business environment, competition among corporations had been evolve from competition for natural resources, customers, financial resources, business networks, technology and until the recent decades, competition for human talents (Vilma & egle; Agarwal, 2010). In fact, there are various evidences that competition of human resources, or talented and high performing employees are increasing significantly in the past few years. Such a trend is pressing employers to focus more on managing employees, as it is ultimately human talents that will lead a firm to success or failure (Jindal-Snape & Snape, 2006). In fact, under the literature of human resources management, employees’ motivation and satisfaction are two popular topics widely debated by researchers. Both practitioners and academicians acknowledge the important of employee motivation and satisfaction towards organizational performance. In this writing, the focus will be concentrating on the ways to improve employees’ motivation in workplace.

There are many theories in the context of workforce motivation, among them, include: Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy Theory, the Four Drive Theory (i.e., drive to acquire, drive to bond, drive to learn and drive to defend), Expectancy Theory of Motivation, Goal Setting as Motivator, Equity Theory of Motivation (i.e., inequity can de-motivate employees), and Herzberg Theory of Motivation (Joseph, 2010; Jeffords et. al., 1997; Prasada-Rao, 2006). Each of the theories has respective pros and cons, and contributes differently to the literature and comprehension of motivation in workplace (Dewhurst et. al., 2010). In this review of literature, it is not the objective to review and discussed all these theories, but rather it is to outline and research the critical factors available in the many researches in recent years that can enhance employees’ motivation level. As such, in the following paragraphs, the various factors asserted by researchers to have significant impacts to employees’ motivation will be presented.

Effective organization system to enhance workforce motivation. One useful idea on enhancing employees’ motivation is through programs or system to affect employees’ behaviors. According to Joseph and Dai (2010), the organization system can motivate or de-motivate workforce. If the organization system is well-defined and structured, it will provide motivation for employees, to move forward, to grow, to learn, to excel, and to attain success together with the company. In this context, organizational reward system is most crucial, as the properly structured reward system will motivate workforce towards the attainment of goals prescribed by the management.

Relevant organizational culture to enhance workforce motivation. Apart from that, organizational culture can be an effective mechanism to affect workforce motivation. Mahal (2009) asserted that there are eight dimensions of organizational culture that are positively correlated to motivation, according to his study. He concluded that the eight factors/ dimensions of organizational culture that can enhance workforce motivation include (a) positive environment, team work, management effectiveness, employee’s involvement, proper reward and recognition culture, a focus on competency, and a culture of commitment and determination.

Suitable level of monetary rewards to enhance workforce motivation. Matheny (2008) asserted that money is not happiness, and that employee motivation cannot be improved in the long run with monetary methods only in an organization. Perhaps that is true. However, without sufficient level of monetary compensation provided to the workforce, the employees will be working with minimal motivation as well (Joseph & Dai, 2010; Vilma and Egle, 2007). It is also argued that monetary compensation must be fair, or at least comparable to those offered by other companies in the similar industry, or the workforce can easily get de-motivated in an organization (Whitaker, 2010; Dewhurst et. al., 2010). This is not hard to understand, as the main reason people are work hard is to obtain money to fulfill their desires, personal objectives or obligations. Particularly under the materialistic world, to work with little money is simply de-motivating, if not depressing.

Recognition of the employees’ contribution and performance to enhance workforce motivation. It is critical that employees should appreciate and recognize the work done by the employees, and to praise them openly and frequently when any of them are doing something right or good for the company. This is because it is human nature to seek recognition from others, to feel that they are contributing and to understand that their works are being valued (Whitaker, 2010; Laurence, 1973).

Goal setting and constant performance review to enhance workforce motivation. Goal setting is a very important technique to be taught to employees to enhance their motivation in workplace. For this, it is important for the workers to set their career goals, to track their improvement, to get their work performance and advancement progresses in career being reviewed from time to time. This is because as people track something, they tend to focus on the goal, and when that happens, they get more involved in achieving those goals, and eventually get more excited in completing and achieving the goals. Not only that, people can also get more excited, fulfilled and passionate when that goals are achieved, which ultimately further enhance their motivation level in performing or improving in workplace in the future (Joseph & Dai, 2010, Brown & Huning, 2010; Orpen, 1997).

There are also researches on how to enhance motivation level in a team setting, as contrast to the single individual context that had been discussed above. Jiang (2010) performed a research and found four key methods to enhance motivation level in a team. According to him, team motivation can be enhanced through objective-based team training, voluntarily formed team, team-oriented leadership, as well as improvement to the communication system and structure (Jiang, 2010).

Research Methodology

Population

There are four key departments in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances, namely: operation, marketing, human resources and finance & accounting. All of the workers from all of these departments will participate in such a research. As the population size is small, sampling techniques will not be used, or required. This will enhance the accuracy of the research findings.

Overview of Research Methods

In this research design, a 10-scale Likert rating questionnaire, consisted of a total of 14 items will be used to investigate the factors or reasons causing low motivation scenario among the workforce in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances. As the factors are rated accordingly by all of the employees, the respective rating will be collected and tabulated into Excel software. The average of the score from the rating will be calculated. The top five items with the lowest rating (i.e., the most important factors creating low motivation to work and to perform in workplace) will be identified. By understanding the crucial top five items leading to low morale in the workplace, corrective actions, specifically designed to target and solve these low morale created by these factors, will be formulated and implemented. In such a way, the employee motivation level can be further enhanced in the organization.

In this research design, only quantitative questionnaires will be used. The reason of having a quantitative survey is because it is more objective, and it is simple to be implemented. Subjective judgment of the researchers or senior management interpreting the research findings can be mitigated. Besides, such a survey can also zoom down the scope of the research, as when the top five reasons/ factors creating low morale are identified, management can then link their understandings of the workplace to the findings. Only when they require further information or insights on these factors, further research (probably qualitative in nature) will be needed.

Description of the Instruments

The instrument used in this research designed is adapted from McShane and Von Glinov, 2010, page 160. According to McShane and Von Glinov (2010), in order to identify the factors (including needs, desires or aspirations of workers) that are responsible to affect motivation of workers, researchers can research it from 14 points. In the research design employed by McShane and Von Glinov (2010), the fourteen possible factors affecting workers motivation include: autonomy and independence; workplace benefits; career development opportunities; communications between workers and management; compensation issues; personal safety, flexibility in workplace; job security; availability of job training; recognitions fro management; opportunities to employ skills and abilities; professional development opportunities; relationship with immediate supervisor; or the nature of the work itself. Readers can refer to the section ‘construction of questionnaires’ below to understand more on the instrument used.

The instrument is selected because the 14 items are pretty comprehensive, and intuitively sound. These are factors widely argued by many researchers as the possible factors affecting a person motivation in workplace. Secondly, the list is not too long, and the survey will not likely to cause fatigue among the employees being interviewed. Thirdly, as the instrument is employed in popular Textbook on organizational Behaviors, it is reasonable to believe that the instrument is valid and reliable.

Data Collection process

Each of the employees will be asked to perform the research by a third party (i.e., external consultant) in a room. It is informed that the research results will only be used at the macro level. The name of the employee participated in the survey will not be recorded. Then, the workers are allowed a total of 30-45 minutes to think deeply on how he will rate the relative importance of the items presented in the questionnaire in sequence.

Construction of the Questionnaires

In order to enhance ferret out the most critical and influential factors creating low morale situation in the workplace, questionnaires as follow will be used. Firstly, the workers will be asked to fill in the specific department they belong to. Then, they will be asked to rank the following questions (adapted from McShane and Von Glinov, 2010) accordingly. The questionnaires are presented here.

 

Department: __________

Job Title: __________

 

Please rank the following items accordingly. Which are the most issues causing you to have low motivation to work hard and perform in the company? (Please rank these items in sequence, by writing 1 as the most important issue causing you not motivated to work hard or perform in workplace, while 14 as the least important issue).

  • Lack of independence of autonomy.
  • Lack of employees’ benefits (e.g., health care, dental and etc).
  • Gloomy prospects on career development and opportunities.
  • Bad/ Poor communication between employees and senior management.
  • Low wages/ compensation.
  • Personal safety is ignored/ threatened in the factory.
  • Lack of flexibility/ hard to adjust for work-life balance.
  • Not feeling sufficient job security.
  • Insufficient job training provided.
  • Senior management never recognizes the work performed by the lower level employees.
  • No opportunities to use my skills or abilities.
  • Organization is not committed to my professional development.
  • Bad/ poor relationship with my immediate supervisor.
  • The nature of work is poor/ tiring/ de-motivating.

Research Findings

Data Analysis Methods

Data collected will be entered in to SPSS software. SPSS will be used to analyze the research findings. Statistical variables for each of the items will be computed. The mean value will be used to rank the relative importance of the items used in the research. As the top five factors are identified, senior management, with a lot of time spent in managing the workplace, will have meeting sessions to discuss why these factors are creating low morale among the workplace. Viable strategies can then be implemented to solve these issues.

Data Representation

Data will be presented in table format. The mean value, maximum, minimum and standard deviation of each of the items will be presented. The ranking, as arranged according to the mean value computed, will also be presented. The top five factors leading to low morale in workplace will be used to formulated strategies and techniques to enhance workplace motivation.

Discussion of Research Findings

To be discussed only when data is available.

Limitation of the Research

The main limitation of the research is that it is assumed that the 14 items used in the research is exhaustive and complete. It is assumed that no other factors may create de-motivating forces among the workers. Besides, the study is also lacking in terms of measuring the motivation level of the workforce before and after the survey/ strategies are implemented. The study can be improved if a research on the motivation level of workers before the strategies to enhance motivation are performed, and to check it again after the strategies are implemented. Thirdly, the nature of this study is definitive, but not exploratory in nature. Exploratory research may be able to allow researchers to gain greater or unexpected insights into the situation. For this, a combination of both quantitative and qualitative research question may present more accurate answers to how to improve morale in workplace (but at the expense of longer time, requiring more financial and human resources).

Conclusion

Overall, the 14 items instrument is useful to identify the root causes of low morale in Cheong Hin Electrical Appliances. When these root causes are identified, very specific, concentrated and targeted solutions can be formed. If that is done, moral on the company can be enhanced.

Bibliography and References

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