Handy’s Motivation Theory

As a business owner or manager, you always want your employees to be excited about the work they are assigned. Of course, in the real world, that isn’t always the way it plays out. Instead, you will often find that your team members are ‘less than enthused’ about the work they have been asked to do.

Handy’s Motivation Theory

Of course, when they aren’t excited, they aren’t going to be motivated – and the work is likely to suffer in the end. So, what are you to do? Perhaps, you can use Handy’s Motivation Theory in order to move your team members in the right direction from a motivation standpoint.

Motivation is a complicated topic. One of the biggest issues with motivation is just how individual and fleeting it can be. What is motivating for one person might not be motivating at all for another. Also, what is motivating for someone today might hold little or no motivation power for them at a point in the future. As a manager, you have to keep your finger on the ‘pulse’ of your team members to ensure they are as motivated as possible at all times.

If you decide to use Handy’s Motivation Theory in order to better motivate your employees, you will find that the theory includes three important factors –

  1. Needs
  2. Expectation
  3. Results

It is these three factors that are going to come together in order to determine the amount of motivation that a particular individual has when working on a project or task.

Needs, Expectations and Results

By understanding how these three factors play into motivation, you should be able to tailor your approach in such a way that you get the best possible results. The content below will quickly take a closer look at the three pieces of the motivation puzzle as laid out in this theory.


If you have spent any time studying various motivational theories previously, you have certainly seen the topic of needs come up before. When people have their needs met, they are more likely to work hard on a given task. Those needs can range from quite basic – things like food and water – to things that are harder to quantify like self-actualization and achievement. Some of the needs of your employees will not be able to be met by you as a manager, but you can help them to fulfill their need to feel satisfied or accomplished in the workplace.

One of the topics that often comes up within the needs category which can be addressed in the workplace is the need for affiliation. People naturally want to be associated with other people, especially if those people are successful or desirable in some way. So, when you are organizing the structure of your business, make sure you give your employees a chance to work with those around them. The friendships that develop from those working relationships are likely to be just as important as the work that is produced.


What does the person in question expect to receive in exchange for their effort? Put another way, how much are they going to be willing to invest in the project that you have laid at their feet? The expectation and expenditure are going to be closely tied, as people are naturally going to be willing to work harder to obtain things that they see as more valuable. For example, if you offer up a monetary bonus for a job well done, your team members are likely to work very hard to succeed. On the other hand, if the only expected reward is a handshake and a ‘thank you’, the effort put out is going to pale in comparison.

This behavior is human nature, and it is unavoidable. Even the best employees are going to subconsciously work harder for things that they see as more valuable. While it would be great to live in a world where everyone simply gave their best effort all of the time regardless of expectations, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. If you want to get the most from your employees, you will have to give them the expectation of reward.

Expectation of Reward


Of course, you are going to have to follow through on the expectation of reward with an actual payoff when a job is completely successfully. There are any number of ways that the results of a project or task can be rewarded, and they don’t all have to be related to money. Sure, money is always going to be the top priority for most of your workers, but there are other rewards that can be valuable in important, emotional ways. For instance, being singled out in front of the rest of the staff for the job that has been done will help an employee to feel empowered, accomplished, and appreciated. Social recognition is a powerful tool, and it is one that many people will work hard to receive.

Think carefully about the logical results that you can offer for the work that is done within your company. Assuming that the standard paycheck which is received by your employees is going to be enough to keep them motivated is a mistake. Your staff can likely continue to receive their paycheck by doing just enough to get by – but you obviously want them to do much better than that. When you work hard to ensure that they have the proper motivations in place to strive for greatness, the whole organization can benefit in the end.

- Handy’s Motivation Theory

It isn’t easy to keep your employees motivated – but it is worth the effort to do your best to make sure they have the drive they need to complete even the toughest of tasks. Use Handy’s Motivation Theory, along with some of the other leading motivation theories available, to make smart decisions about how you are going to motivate your team. Rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, you will likely need to tailor your decisions to each individual to give them the encouragement and drive they need to succeed.

You can read more about Handy’s Motivation Theory in our free eBook ‘Top 5 Motivation Theories’. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • Handy’s Motivation Theory implies that motivation is driven by more than ‘needs’ alone, that is, our own interpretations and assessments form additional layers determining and determined by our response to our own needs and the effects of those responses.
  • Needs: Maslow Hierarchy of Needs factors, personality characteristics, current work environment, outside pressures and influences.
  • Expectation: What does the person in question expect to receive in exchange for their effort?
  • Results: We must be able to measure the effect of what our additional efforts, resulting from motivation, will produce.
  • You can use this theory to understand people’s needs, link them to desirable results and make sure that their expectation of rewards is realistic.

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