Continued from the previous blog post, Motivating Hourly Workers (Part 1). 

by Rob Marchalonis.

Illustration of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Our last blog post indicated how hourly work-groups present unique challenges. Toyota, the car company, has found several ways to overcome hourly work-group challenges and succeed as the most profitable automotive producer worldwide.  One way that Toyota has found success is by benchmarking traditional motivation theories, and embracing the best parts of each, in their own unique way!  Here are a few motivation theories studied by Toyota, as described in the book, The Toyota Way:

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  2. Herzberg’s Job Enrichment Factors
  3. Taylor’s Scientific Management
  4. Behavior Modification
  5. Locke’s Goal Theory

Maslow’s Hierarchy.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that employees are motivated progressively based on a hierarchy of needs.  Often illustrated as a five level pyramid, at the bottom or base level is the need to satisfy basic physiological requirements like water, food, and shelter.  Next, moving up the pyramid, are additional basic needs for safety and security.  Maslow’s thinking was that as lower level needs are fulfilled, people will strive to satisfy their next level requirements and desires. Above the physical needs are basic psychological needs for belonging, friendship, relationships, and love.  Continuing upward, people will seek accomplishment and the respect of others which results in self-esteem and confidence.  At the highest level, employees strive to self-actualize, reach their full potential, and be “all they can be”.  In Toyota’s case, the base needs of employees are well covered, offering a good employment package to employees along with the security and fulfillment of a well-run company that cares about their employees. Work group organization helps satisfy social needs and the assignment and accomplishment of challenging work goals helps satisfy self-actualization desires.

Herzberg’s Factors.  Frederick Herzberg identified workplace “satisfiers” based on two factors, hygiene and motivation. Herzberg considered lower level needs to be hygiene factors.  If hygiene factors like good working conditions, nice facilities, fair policies, good management, base wages and benefits, and reasonable job security are not in place, then employees will be “dissatisfied”.  Increasing the level of hygiene factors will typically not result in employees being more productive and satisfied, but their absence will certainly undermine it.  Above hygiene, motivating factors include autonomy, responsibility, regular feedback, personal development, career advancement, and recognition both financial and otherwise.  When both factors are weak, employees will be dissatisfied and demotivated.  With only one of the two factors addressed, employers risk having employees who are not dissatisfied but also not very motivated. When both factors are strong, employees are often both satisfied and motivated!  Toyota facilities are typically clean, bright, and inviting, but assembly line or warehouse work can become routine and boring.  One way Toyota overcomes this is by cross training employees, rotating job assignments, and empowering employees to learn and grow through TPS.

Taylor’s Scientific Management.  In 1911, F. W. Taylor published the Principles of Scientific Management. Soon after, Taylorism became popular within mass production factories at the beginning of the last century. Taylor believed that the most effective way to work was by following scientific methods.  Have “managers” divide labor, select specific workers to do specific jobs and train them to maximize efficiency.  Management “experts” should study, plan, train, and supervise work so that individual laborers can do the tasks they are assigned for optimized production.  Output is the driver, money is the reward, and the more you make the more you earn.  In contrast to some of Taylor’s beliefs, Toyota organizes tasks and labor by workgroups.  Groups, not individuals, assume responsibility and work as teams to accomplish goals resulting in benefits for the entire team.

Behavior Modification.  Very simply, behavior modification refers to the use of both positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, and other intervention techniques.  Feedback is often quick, and conveys a clear message like, “You just finished the project on time and under budget so ‘way to go’. We just got free pizzas to celebrate in the lunchroom.”  Or alternatively, “You just had an unexcused absence for the second time this quarter so we will have to let you go.”  One behavior modification approach that Toyota had used in the past was a high profile award for perfect attendance.  Because adequate staffing is critical in a Lean working environment, reliable attendance by everyone is imperative. Toyota employees who logged perfect attendance (zero unexcused absences) were put into an annual lottery where about a dozen new Toyota vehicles were awarded.  Toyota considered this a small price to pay for the resultant 60% – 70% membership in the perfect attendance club!

Locke’s Goal Theory.  Locke believed that challenging but attainable goals motivate people.  Measurement and progress toward goals enhances motivation, much like game playing. Employee participation in goal setting enhances buy-in and makes goal achievement more likely.  When left to set their own goals, employees will often set them at a level that is high but attainable with extra initiative and effort.  Goals set by others that are rarely achieved or perceived to be unattainable often result in decreased motivation over time.  For Toyota, the company collaborates with workgroups to set specific goals which are communicated visually, often in real-time, at or near employee work cells.  As a result, teams are always aware of their performance to goals.

Vroom’s Expectancy Theory.  While not referenced in The Toyota Way, Victor Vroom is a business professor at Yale who wrote Work and Motivation. Vroom (what a great name!) believes that motivation is driven by the expectation of desired outcomes. Motivation = (Effort x Performance x Reward) which could be interpreted to mean “how much of my effort will be required, to what extent will my effort impact results, and will the resultant reward be worth the effort and risk?”

How motivated are your workgroups?  As a leader, can you envision a better future and do you have a plan to get there?  How high are the stakes?  What parts of your plan will you be able to accomplish on your own, and what will require the effort of others?  Consider your own motivation and what it will take to motivate others. Identify benchmark examples or organizations, like Toyota, from which you can learn and gain inspiration.  Consider both new and classic motivation theories, and identify which parts of them best fit your situation and objectives. Finally, embrace both the art and science of motivation to engage your employees so you can avoid most flops and fly much higher.

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of IncentShare and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at 

Liker, Jeffrey K. The Toyota way:. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
“Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) Fact Sheet.” Toyota. Accessed March 20, 2017.
“Employee motivation.” Wikipedia. March 13, 2017. Accessed March 20, 2017.