An explanation of the Expectancy Theory of motivation from the 1970s as proposed by Victor Vroom, a business school professor at the Yale School of Management. This is still very relevant and an accurate depiction of what motivates individuals in organizations…

According to Vroom, there are three key parameters in motivation:

Expectancy – this is where an employee feels and believes that working harder and expending more effort will lead to a good performance. So a salesperson spends more time visiting prospects than other colleagues in the hope (expectation) that this will lead to better sales.

Instrumentality – this is where people can see that a good performance ensures a reward. In the example of the salesperson, this would be for example an incentive scheme offering a commission on sales.

Valence – this is the employee believing the reward is worthwhile and commensurate with the additional effort. So for example this could mean expecting additional cash not some certificate or a simple thank you.

Vroom states that for people to be motivated, all 3 factors must be present. Conversely, if any of these 3 factors is missing, motivation will be adversely affected.

With Expectancy, if a person is expending a lot of effort and this is not producing desired results – maybe there is a lack of skills or support from the organization or (in the case of sales) the market just isn’t there – this will lead to demotivation.

With Instrumentality, imagine someone producing better results but they are compensated exactly the same as someone operating below par, that will surely lead to demotivation.

With Valence, the employee may have been expecting an overseas trip but got a lunch voucher instead. That can hurt too.

So employers need to provide ample opportunities and support for ensuring staff have the means and ability to succeed, they need to reward those who perform well and the rewards need to be seen to be of tangible value.