Tools and methods organizations apply to motivate technical experts

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Tools and methods organizations apply to motivate technical experts

Abstract:

A lot of studies have been conducted previously to evaluate various theories of motivation, and more particularly the way of motivating technical experts in today’s’  companies. Through a survey conducted on 376 development engineers, recognized as “knowledge professionals” by their organization managers, this work identifies the methods applied in the sector to motivate such persons, what applies and what does not apply. Though a number of reward systems and standard incentives applied to motivate technical experts as whole are also inspiring for technical visionaries, these findings suggest that they are motivated by other elements not generally explored in this study.

Introduction

A lot has been written on different tools and methods organizations apply to motivate technical experts, the faction that is frequently the foundation of innovation within the firm. More particularly, three major classifications of motivational methods and tools applied to motivate technical experts are emphasized in the literature: a) rewards, recognition and incentives; b) formal structures; and c) techniques for information management.

Efficient reward systems for the technical experts comprise a couple of factors, crossing one another of the three motivational classifications. Previous study has established that various kinds of tools are more desirable depending on whether the person is oriented professionally (for example a scientist) or organizationally oriented (for instance an engineer).

Motivational frameworks are formal written procedures and policies that companies put in place. They state the manner in which a firm is formally organized or arranged. In general, four major types of frameworks are identified in the studies to be motivating technical experts in the sector: a) third career orientation; b) dual ladders; c) prestigious societies; d) internal project funding. These frameworks are viewed to be more efficient in motivating scientists as oppose to engineers.  A dual ladder a different job progression route for technical experts motivates them through provision of upward job growth, while they are retained as technical component in the organization. This method, (technical ladder) has been assessed and reported in various organizations, including Procter and Gamble (Badawy 1988). General Mills (1987); Allen & Katz (1989); and Nicholson (1998). Though projected to be motivational, study indicates that a lot of companies experience a great deal of hardship implementing this framework and that this technique by itself is sufficient to motivate technical input. Esptien (1985); Griffin (1997); and Allen (1990). Due to the shortcomings of the dual ladder method, study into other structural alternatives was carried out developing what is referred to as “third career orientation” Griffin (197). The third career orientation is a corporate framework which permits people to shift from one challenging project to the other rather than moving along a more conservative managerial or technical upward ladder. Studies of technical experts have shown that huge percentage (more than a third) of those surveyed were keen on undertaking third career orientation, in a situation, they would be able to shift from a one challenging task to the next and not grow upward on the ladder (Shlaes 165). (Mickinnon 267) points out that “in-house funding of creative concepts) structures is the approach of the future, because it offers the creative workforce the money and time to develop and implement truly creative ideas. Lastly, a number of organizations have established a prestigious group or society to celebrate their best technical experts. Some of the examples of such organization include, the Fellows program in IBM, the Society of Victor Mills at Procter and Gamble and the 3Ms Brunner (2001). However, little has been documented regarding these societies and whether the technical experts really find them useful in motivating them.

The next category of motivational approach comprises organizational recognition, incentives and rewards, the conservative approach for human capital for motivation.This category entails all nonmonetary and monetary rewards, incentives and kinds of recognition applied to motivate workforce. Organizational recognition and reward systems are suggested to highly motivate engineers compared to the scientists Brunner (2001). Reward methods hearten excellent technical providers to innovate Badawy (1988). Nonetheless, reward structures have to fit within the structure and system of a company to be efficient and for the company to be innovative (Saleh & Wang 1991); and (Agarwal 1993). If the reward system is not implemented appropriately or the fit is not in place, the workforce needs are not fulfilled, resentments are likely (Conolly 1983). Ellis (1999) suggests that extrinsic recognitions and rewards are minimally motivating to the technical experts compared to the intrinsic rewards. This study implies that “cash for what it is able to purchase it not significant to engineers or scientists as cash for what it is able to mean Connolly (1983). Irrespective of this, some studies (Sankar et al. 1991 and Badawy 1988) emphasize that extrinsic rewards are highly motivating, improve innovation and are greatly valued compared to the intrinsic rewards.  Therefore, despite the contradicting opinions on this subject, the general thread is that the material needs of people have to be fulfilled first.

Lastly, the third group of motivational techniques is the formal mechanisms applied by managers and some other leaders. This category comprises all informal approaches which are not component of the organization policy, yet get implemented by the mangers or the general management as an effort to motivate the technical experts. The larger proportion of the study, on managing technical experts implies that people cannot be motivated to innovate, but rather be encouraged and equipped through the establishment of the environment in which they operate (Badawy 1983). This study indicates that motivating innovation is majorly intrinsic in nature, and thus, it is the work of the managers to ensure that they develop an environment whereby such innovation may flourish. Scientists are highly motivated by massive freedom while engineers are greatly motivated by more challenging tasks. Both these professionals are motivated when the managers give then more resources to conduct their assignments.

Irrespective of all the study done on motivating the technical experts comprising surveys examining the motivation and work effect that some elements have on the technical workforce (Sankar et al. 1991), there are still unattended issues: all technical experts are not similar, and not each group is motivated by similar elements.

After establishing a job expectation profile of engineers and motivational methods, some of the misconceptions and myths in the contemporary motivational styles will be explored. Lastly, some strategies for enhanced motivation and deployment of engineering workforce will be presented.

In summary, the aim of this paper is to analytically identify the challenging elements related to current organizational practices in motivating employees and assess their relative comparative contribution to the general levels of employee satisfaction particularly the engineers

In conclusion, the study explores some of the insinuations and proposes course of actions to the management t for better utilization and motivation of the engineering workforce.

Conceptual model:

Following the above argument, a conceptual model has been developed upon which this study is founded. The motivational elements linked to managerial functions which have effect on the engineer’s fulfillment comprise:

-supervisory practices and managerial practices

-suitable  managerial standpoint of engineer’s role and status with the company;

-work related motivational structures

Supervisory practices and managerial policies do not generally depict sufficient understanding of the employee’s expectations and because of that are viewed to be the first area of the problem. An illustration is the managerial functions of administrative engineers managing engineers. The other source of the problem is the system applied for career advancement and promotion.  Currently, focus has been directed to the likely inequality between R&D employee career orientations and the existing employment opportunities Ellis (1999). In the research by Hesketh et al. (1998), fulfillment was linked to the intended fit between job path choices and intended job path opportunities between the trainee engineers and the senior engineer managers. The senior participants’ actual job paths (technical, managerial, or the individuals waiting to be promoted on one or the other path) were not properly matched to their choices, with the individuals on path that were less properly matched being least satisfied.

The other source of potential conflict and tension between technical experts and management is the perception of the management to the engineers and more precisely its failure to distinguish between non-knowledge and knowledge workforce (Elli 1998).

Managerial actions linked to this aspect comprise; the unfortunate use of conservative methods and authority systems and bureaucratic controls. Therefore, the management’s minimalist perception of the technical staff originates from failure to distinguish between engineers as non-knowledge and knowledge employees. These actions are dysfunctional and result to the fading of engineer’s good judgment of professionalism. In this field, the engineers’ movement to the management may be positioned. This shift is illustrated as cumbersome both for the individuals who make it and for the persons who do not (Canainn 1995). The engineer’s perception as managers originate from the approach an organization describes the profession by its needed qualifications and the limitations developed between it and some other technical staffs (Biddle 1994).

The complexities of the transition to the management have been viewed from diverse angles. (Howard 1993) has examined the fundamental characteristics that are needed for fruitful later transition of technical workforce to the management. A basic characteristic is the administrative skills, especially in the fields of decision making, planning and organizing.

Interpersonal skills likewise, are equally significant; these comprise elements such as verbal communication skills, face to face leadership, and developing a likeable and forceful personal effect. Intellectual abilities are also vital, and study has indicated that both quantitative and verbal skills connect to success. Lastly, motivation for advancement is a great variance for afterwardprogress; individuals who intend to succeed are highly likely to comply. As concerns managerial expertise, one overage, technical workforce appears a little shorter in relation to other units.  Posner and Munson (2001) have examined the disparities in individual value orientation between the managing engineers and engineers. Individual value illustrated important predictive and discriminative validity in differentiating managing technical professionals from non management technical workforce. The findings from the research imply that information regarding individual values could play some functions in corporate decision concerning promotion, job placement, establishment of special groups, and in the strategizing of staff motivation and incentive initiatives.

The other leverage to boost engineer’s motivational latent is by the task itself. The failures by the managers in this respect are apparent, as indicated above, the obvious signals that engineers as whole are misutilized and underemployed. It would be anticipated that all the three fields have an effect on engineer’s fulfillment. Employment satisfaction has numerous angles that may vary from employment satisfaction to job involvement and organizational commitment. Focusing on this conceptual model, a practical study was carried out in eleven companies operating within food machinery industry so as to:

  • Operationalize and refine the conceptual model, and to examine the comparative impacts of various elements considered on work fulfillment of development engineers.

Data Collection:

Table 1

The demographic features of the sample:

Gender

Male

96%


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