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Intangible Rewards on Employees' Motivation

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Submitted By zephyr77
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1. Introduction
This research proposal aims to provide a viable study investigating the effectiveness of intangible rewards on employees’ motivation level. We propose that age moderates the effectiveness of intangible rewards on increasing employees’ motivation in the workplace. Specifically, we suggest that Generation Y’s are relatively more intrinsically motivated than older generations.
Given the strong positive relationship between rewards and motivation, there are many factors that influence an employee’s level of motivation. Motivation is defined as a person who is "hard" at work, one who "keeps at" his work and one who directs his behavior towards appropriate outcomes (Johns & Von Saks, 2011). Daft and Marcic (2008) has defined motivation as the force or forces that arouse enthusiasm and persistence to pursue a certain course of action. Rewards motivate people both intrinsically and extrinsically. Extrinsic rewards consist of monetary gains and job promotions, whereas intrinsic rewards comprise of meaningful work and work-life balance. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Alderfer's ERG theory suggests that one will be motivated to be able to satisfy personal needs. Additionally, the Trinity Model is another method of classifying people’s needs –namely, into biological, psychological and spiritual aspects (Dahlgaard-Park, 2010).
2. Literature Gap and Importance of Study
Much research conducted in various studies in the past has established the relationship between rewards and motivation. However, very few studies have been conducted with age as a moderator despite the importance of understanding age-related variation in relation to work motivation (Kanfer & Ackerman, 2004). Those few studies that have, however, had limitations which our group wishes to address in this research proposal. A study conducted on the intelligence community in the US was not particularly relevant due to geographical and cultural differences (Leahy et. al., 2012). Furthermore, some of these studies have focused specifically on only certain industries (Bonsdorff, 2011; Moore & Bussin, 2012). We seek a Singapore-specific understanding of the rewards-motivation relationship across generations working in different industries through this research study.
3. Generational Differences
As the generation theory suggests, different generations tend to embody different workplace values. In order to understand these differences, we examined the backgrounds of each generation.
The traditionalists were raised during times of economic and political instability such as the World Wars. As such, these veterans are characterized as industrious, financially conservative and loyal. This group received little or no formal education. The baby boomers, on the other hand, were raised in the abundant, rebuilding post-war era. They were optimistic and collectivists, with large families where education was a ‘birthright.’
Gen X’s witnessed the effects of their parents’ sacrifices for work. They grew up independent and thus became resilient and adaptable to changes. For them, education is perceived as the route to success. Then, the Gen Ys were raised in the ‘empowerment’ years. Family is the safety net, and they were encouraged to make their own choices. Gen Y’s are largely opportunistic, inquisitive and confident people. Constant exposure to the networked world has had a profound impact on their problem-solving approach.
These different backgrounds influenced the value differences at the workplace. In order to stay competitive with the most competent employees, it is pertinent that managers be aware of these value differences and its implications on employees’ rewards preferences and motivations (Refer to Appendix B).
4. Rationale for Choosing Age as a Moderator
Singapore is one of the many countries facing the economic effects of an ageing population, with a significant percentage still gainfully employed. The increasing age diversity in the workforce as more Generation Y’s enter the workforce alongside these veterans makes it challenging for employers to attune a one size fits all reward system that would effectively motivate all their employees. Due to the value differences in the workplace, age is a particularly important moderator to address in this reward-motivation relationship to develop appropriate reward systems.

5. Hypothesis
In light of the above information, the team has decided to explore exactly how motivational levels will change across the different generations when intangible rewards are given. Intangible rewards are chosen, as “they tend to have a long-term effect since they are inherent in employees” (Armstrong, 1998). Thus, our hypothesis is as follows:
H0: “If all employees are given intangible rewards, then the different age groups of employees in Singapore will exhibit different levels of motivation.”
The alternative hypothesis is just a negation of the above.
5. Research Methodology
Information will be gathered through a qualitative questionnaire, which is divided into three parts. The first part aims to understand the demographics of our respondents. The second part is to find out more about the types of rewards that respondents currently receive from their organization, and their corresponding level of satisfaction with these rewards. The third part aims to explore respondents’ attitudes and actions towards receiving intangible rewards. The questionnaires are distributed to employees from different age groups, selected from a list of 30 companies listed in the Straits Times Index. The responses would be classified according to the industry that they work in to eliminate the nature of their work as a variable that affects their preferences for intangible rewards.
6. Limitations
The first limitation relates to some uncontrollable factors like time and the individual’s straits. The target audience of the questionnaire consists of people of different generations who are currently working. As in other published work in the area (Cennamo & Gardner, 2008; Jurkiewicz, 2000), the effects of age and time cannot be untangled i.e. the thoughts of people across generations cannot be compared, and conclusions about generational shifts cannot be made. Only current comparisons are possible regardless of the respondents’ life stage, age and maturity. Managers thus cannot assume that any differences among generations are a result of stable generational characteristics and differences need to be interpreted in light of the present life stage. It is also possible that individuals may not always conform to his or her generation traits. The next limitation relates to the use of options in the questionnaire. Respondents’ best-fit answers may not be included, thus warranting the survey results inaccurate. In addition, every individual defines intrinsic and extrinsic motivation differently. Moreover, factors such as time pressure, respondents’ interest in the study, honesty and willingness in providing information might affect the respondent’s answers. Self-bias such as social desirability may arise as well.

The most challenging limitation thus far is the sample-size of the study. In order to obtain more accurate results, the sample size should be larger in order to get a better representation of Singapore’s employees. As the traditionalist generation consists of veterans aged 68-91 years, it may be challenging to get sufficient respondents from that category.

Limitations of the use of the Likert Scale are also considered. Attitudes of the population for one particular item in reality exist on a vast, multi-dimensional continuum, whereas the Likert Scale is uni-dimensional and provides 5-7 options. Therefore, it fails to measure the true attitudes of respondents.

Finally, the disproportionate sample size of the respondents limits the generalizability of the findings for Singapore’s workforce. However, the sample population does reflect, to some extent, the demographics of the Singapore workforce. Our team proposes to collect data over a time period of 3-5 years, which could result in higher reliability and allow stronger conclusions to be made about the relationship between life and work values, and job satisfaction on employee recruitment and retention.…...

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