Process and Content Theories of Motivation

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Process and Content Theories of Motivation


There are several process theories of motivation: The Vroom Expectancy Theory, the Adams’ Equity Theory, the Needs-Goal-Setting Theory, and the Reinforcement Theory of Motivation. Here our centre of attention is on helping you make a clear-cut distinction between process and content. Basically, process theories of motivation focus on how workers needs influence their own behaviour. Here our attention goes beyond motivation, our focal point is on giving you a key conceptual tool to help you manage both the performance of your direct reports (management) and the performance of your entire organization (leadership). “Process” is how employees work together, as opposed to the what – the “content,” the task, the issue – they are working on. An example of “process” is the way in which people interact with each other during a meeting; on the contrary, an example of “content” is the decision they make in that meeting.  Process is hiring (the hiring processes that a company practices); content is the selected candidate that becomes the new employee.  Process is the nature in which day-to-day performance conversations take place between the manager and her direct reports; content is what gets talked about, agreed upon, and actually understood.  Process is the way in which people interact with each other in order to solve a problem; content is the actual solution to the problem.

Most executives have the unconscious tendency to focus on content – which is great, that’s what they get paid for – but unfortunately most executives also have the unconscious tendency to forget about the process they are using. However, the quality of the “process” that is used (the type of meeting that is used to make a decision for example), has an impact on the quality of the resulting “content” (if the meeting is poorly designed, the quality of the resulting...
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