Management of Employee Motivation in the UK

Management of Employee Motivation in the UK


Management of Employee Motivation in the UK

The issue of wage demands and consequently, de-motivation among employees creates numerous problems for the management and the overall company production. Studies into the factors responsible for the loss of motivation among employees due to insufficient wages have yielded a wealth of academic material on employee engagement, negotiation, and motivation alternatives. Several of these theories have been implemented in real-life situations with sufficient results. However, it is emerging that there is a critical need for a proper analysis of employee motivation theories to capture recent changes and factors. An article by Christopher Hope featured in the Daily Telegraph discussed the possibility of freezing or at best, capping the minimum wage for most workers in the United Kingdom. In an official statement, the Government advised the Low Pay Commission to consider its negative effect on the economy in their regular efforts to offer pay hikes. This conflict between the State and welfare agencies creates an effect that is felt by employers who encounter demands for wage increases on a daily basis.

Managers Response to Employee Wage Demands

            Most managers in public and private institutions consider wage policy a major aspect of employee relations, motivation, and productivity. In most private institutions, managers have resorted to using wage flexibility as the best approach to preserve most of the workers during the downturn. According to the 2011 WERS statistics, approximately 40% of private sector managers had immediately trimmed their wages in order to mitigate the effects of the UK recession (Hope, 2013). The wage restraint was also planned to commence until the recession was over. Therefore, it was evident that for private organizations, the burden from wage policies was directly transferred to the worker (Carlsson, Messina, & Oskar, 2011). The public sector witnessed higher pay cuts and freezes reaching 60% with this number expected to rise even more with the persistence of the recession.

            Private and public managers have also discouraged civic action among employees through weakening the power and influence of trade unions. Consequently, with the rise in prices, most managers may not necessarily raise their employees’ wages. With the absence of trade unions, the benefit of collective bargaining is absent and consequently, employees have little to protect themselves from employers. David Metcalf in his article entitled British Unions: Resurgence or Perdition argued that within the private sector, trade union activity had little impact on employee wages (Hope, 2013). Lastly, the poor growth in workers’ pay particularly in the business and finance sectors has ensured that workers cannot enjoy sufficient wages and other benefits (Carlsson et al., 2011). With no protection from employers, workers have no alternative but to engage in industrial action with the hope of attracting the attention of key stakeholders.

            It should be understood that motivation in itself is not an issue for low-wage workers. Many young workers appreciate the opportunity to gain work experience and extra income. It specifically affects workers that have their own families to support and this represents approximately 50% of the total workforce population in the UK. According to McGregor’s Theory X, human beings have a tendency of disliking work and must be coerced, threatened, or controlled to provide adequate effort in the workstations. Arguing using Theory X, managers can use accountability tools such as performance appraisals to ensure that productivity levels are constantly high (Hope, 2013; Lerman & Skidmore, 2004). However, in the UK case, the application of McGregor’s recommendation may not necessarily work since most of the workers are already productive. With the living conditions already dismal, most workers would prefer to continue industrial action rather than struggle to meet appraisal targets. In conclusion, running organizations using Theory Y may have negative results on employee motivation and compliance (Hope, 2013).

            Another approach adopted by contemporary managers towards handling the industrial action and dissatisfaction among employees involves introducing policies that ensure basic needs for all employees are considered. Managers within the UK can use the Maslow’s Theory of Needs to understand workers’ behaviors and the consequent actions to be adopted to realize higher motivation and productivity levels (Carlsson et al., 2011). The rationale behind this approach is that all employees have different needs and failure to realize these needs will result in frustration that can be exhibited as aggression, withdrawal, regression, or fixation. In Maslow’s pyramid of needs, physiological needs (food, clothing housing, and medical cover) form the bottom rung. The wage problem in the UK had soared to a level that it was virtually impossible for most workers to realize their physiological needs. Maslow argued that in the event that human beings failed to enjoy their physiological needs sufficiently, they would not be motivated enough to seek higher needs, job security being one of them (Lerman & Skidmore, 2004).

            The key objective for managers is to reduce employee turnover and maximize employee productivity. To that extent, retaining motivated employees in the firm is an important target. Managers have also created opportunities and resources for investing in employee development through training and certification programs that increase their functional literacy levels and consequently, their pay grades. Most workers (approximately 60%) in the United Kingdom were categorized under level 3 in the Adult Literacy Survey and this was directly related to low wage jobs (Lerman & Skidmore, 2004). However, while attaining a high school or university diploma did not guarantee a higher paying job, it increases the chances of achieving one. Managers in Britain have increased the budgetary allocation for corporate-sponsored training programs (Lerman & Skidmore, 2004). Apart from training employees as a method of increasing their earning power, these training programs expose workers to government programs that can assist in sustainability.

Management Skills for Handling Employee Wage Demands

For managers in different capacities, having the proper management skills can mean the difference between a highly productive organization and an inefficient one. People and leadership management are an important group of skills that can handle wage demands by employees effectively (Bagley, 2012). It is the manager’s responsibility to retain, coach, attract, and motivate staff members with the sole purpose of triggering higher performance. Leadership skills are also important in influencing the workforce and can prove useful in quelling industrial action. Efficient managers need to be proficient in goal setting and implementation of different directives to realize the goals. Communication skills are an important part of any manager since failure to relay the opinions and feedback will result in misinterpretation on the demands of each party (Lerman & Skidmore, 2004). Communication skills adopt a two-pronged format. One, skills to have when communicating with the senior management and company stakeholders concerning their direction and expectations and two, skills to communicate with employees and capture their demands and feedback. Communication skills also help in discerning barriers to communication that may cause derailment (Carlsson et al., 2011). Relationship-building ability is an important skill since managers handle people from different levels inside and out of the organization. By being able to engage employees successfully, managers can always be in touch with the worker’s needs (Lerman & Skidmore, 2004). For serious managers, it is imperative that they learn all the current business management skills such as strategy and business decision-making. Other important skills include expertise in project management and finance.


            The current labor environment within the United Kingdom has little to offer to its workers. Employees earning low incomes experience the hardest living conditions caused by a combination of sluggish incomes and perpetually rising prices. In a period of five years, the living standards have risen significantly while the earnings have only risen by a quarter. During the same period, tax credits and real-terms cuts on the employee benefits have worsened the living situations (Hansson, 2009). Government officials have argued that by introducing tax allowance, employees have been able to keep more of their earnings despite the fact that even these tax allowances are insufficient to rectify the wage demand. Households having children suffer the most since they depend on the receding state support. Amid this background, managers need to develop viable alternatives to address employee productivity and motivation and discourage strikes as well as respecting market proven market principles such as the efficiency wage that will increase worker efficiency. It is only through adopting a multipronged approach that raises wages significantly and lowers the cost of living that employers and managers within the United Kingdom can enjoy optimum benefits from employees.


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Bagley, C. (2012). Managers and the legal environment: Strategies for the 21st century. Cengage learning custom.

Carlsson, M., Messina, J., & Oskar N. S. (2011). Wage adjustment and productivity shocks. (Sveriges Riksbank Working Paper Series) Sveriges Riksbank Stockholm.

Hansson, B. (2009). Employers’ Perspectives on the Roles of Human Capital Development and Management in Creating Value. OECD Education Working Papers. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Hope, C. (2013, April 1) Minimum wage could be frozen or cut if it starts to cost jobs or damage economy, Government suggests. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from

Lerman, R. I. & Skidmore, F. (2004). Helping Low-Wage Workers: Policies for the Future. Urban Institute. Retrieved from of Form

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