How Managers Perceive Factors That Impact Employee Motivation: An Application of Pathfinder Analysis


  • Al Williams
  • Sam Lankford
  • Don DeGraaf


Work motivation, motivation theory, nominal group technique, pathfinder analysis


Work-motivation research has a long and established tradition in the field of leisure services. Building on that tradition, this exploratory study attempts to reach beyond the existing research database by combining new methodology with more traditional decision-malcing strategies. It is, in essence, a means of heuristic inquiry where the researchers were guided by their respondents, in this case, managers in the field of leisure services. The purpose of this study was to explore how managers perceive factors that impact employee motivation. It specifically focuses on how managers cognitively organized  those factors believed to impact employee motivation. Data for this study were gathered using a nominal group technique (NGT); data were further reviewed by an expert panel, and were eventually analyzed using Pathfinder Analysis. The use of Pathfinder Analysis afforded the researchers an opportunity to "see" or "view" how respondents organized the factors under study. In effect, it allowed the development of a network which is representative of how the respondents structure factors related to work-motivation knowledge.The results of this study suggest that managers both identified and organized the factors believed to impact employee motivation in a manner that is representative of more than one theoretical approach to understanding work motivation. Most traditional work motivation research in the field of leisure services has utilized a content or needs approach, most specifically, Herzberg's motivation/hygiene theory, to motivation as a theory base. This study suggests that managers not only identified factors representative of both content and process theories, but that to some extent they also cognitively organized them in a similar fashion. Although limited by their exploratory nature and reliance on managerial perceptions, the results may prove useful in future research. The results suggest that understanding and using an approach that blends existing motivation theory may better explain motivation in the work place. Additional analysis and research are needed to further develop this approach and to operationalize and apply these findings. Implications for managers drawn from the study are presented and discussed.





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