What motivates employees according to over 40 years of motivation surveys

Carolyn Wiley (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Publication date: 1 May 1997


Explores past and present attitudes of employees concerning work‐related motivational factors. Understanding the factors that employees consider motivating lends insight to the rewards to which they more positively respond. Compares the results of four motivation surveys conducted in 1946, 1980, 1986 and 1992. The comparisons reveal that employees’ motivational preferences vary over time. In addition, the results of the 1992 survey indicate that the factors that motivate today’s workers are more extrinsic than they used to be. Although employees differ on how they rank these factors, they overwhelmingly selected “good wages” as the top motivator. A good wage is an extrinsic reward with intrinsic potency. On the surface “good wages” seem to be purely extrinsic. Yet, at a deeper level, monetary rewards communicate what the company values and affect employees’ emotional and familial wellbeing.



Wiley, C. (1997), "What motivates employees according to over 40 years of motivation surveys", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 263-280. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437729710169373

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Copyright © 1997, MCB UP Limited

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