Using Discretionary Effort Memory To Motivate Employees

Motivational theories are an important part of Management theory, as employers seek new ways to improve their employees’ performance to drive competitive advantage. Whilst there is significant research in this field, I believe there is more to explore.

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Recent research suggests that positive emotions in the workplace are highly sought after, as it typically results in higher productivity and an improved organisational culture (Christina N. Armenta et al, 2017). Organisations invest large sums into employee engagement and motivation and in this research, I will discuss these modern phenomena and analyse its impact on businesses overall performance. I will then suggest how organisations can use a more practical, less costly approach, to create discretionary memory, impelling employees to feel as though they need to go above and beyond, without the need for businesses to expend significant capital.

My hypothesis is that, rather than the existing motivational theories focus on the specificity of acts or leadership style, these theories sit within a broader framework.  Regardless of how they motivate, I would argue that these motivators result in the employee, over time, gaining a discretionary effort memory – a feeling of needing to give back and increase work effort as a correlation to ongoing motivational actions from their employer.

My desire to research the specific area of motivational theory was piqued when I studied motivational theories in the ‘Behaviour In Organisations’ module of my Business Management degree. Whilst I believe that existing motivational theory models are valid, I also believe that real-life leaders do not always motivate in a way that readily fits into existing models, because of the complexity and constantly changing environments of contemporary business.  Therefore I wanted to explore whether there was a way to easily activate employee motivation economically through psychological actions.

This project aims to add to this important area of research and help aspiring leaders who do not believe they can be successful in leadership because they do not conform/fit the stereotypical inspirational leader image. It attempts to prove that by managing and operating with employees symbiotically, discretionary effort memory can not only save an organisation money, but also assist them in understanding their employees, in turn making them feel valued.

My plan for conducting this research is; 
• Conduct research into how to measure discretionary effort.
• Conducting general research surrounding motivation in the workplace, and how employees reacted to actions which motivate, from their employer over time and its impact on the discretionary effort.
• Conduct primary research (ethnographic research through a placement or overseas expedition) where I can interview managers and employees to establish the key drivers for discretionary effort, 
• This would be done both qualitatively and quantitatively, through interviews and questionnaires. 
• Analyse the results and how they fit within my proposed model, as well as the existing motivation theories.

Dane Longden

Scholar, University of York

Hello! I am a Business Management undergraduate at the University of York. I make weekly content on YouTube & LinkedIn surrounding the student experience, entrepreneurship, and personal financing.