It's not just the money, honey
The folks at Google have the best of all worlds — apparently. The pay is among the highest, given that it is a large organisation. (Smaller companies can afford to pay more as they don’t have too many others to take care of.) As for startups, the promoters can reach for the moon. Even if you aren’t a founder-employee, you can expect the benefits of stock options.
The benefits at Google are the sort people dream about. You want to go for a movie show, the company will organise the tickets for you. For the HR people at Google, it makes sense. Time wasted in getting tickets can be used for productive work. Small wonder that productivity at Google is among the highest in the country.
But despite so much going for it, there are certain to be needs unfulfilled in an organisation that has so many top-class performers. The theory of organisational behaviour has several constructs to explain this.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was first propounded in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” published in Psychological Review. A further layer was given by his observations on the innate curiosity of human beings. Maslow puts physiological needs at the bottom of the pyramid. This is the first thing that all human beings aim for. It is, in that sense, a fundamental need. You can’t have ideology without bread, despite what the Leftists might preach.
The second layer of Maslow’s hierarchy is safety. Basically, after filling your stomach, you need to fulfil your sense of security. A caveman being chased by a Tyrannosaurus Rex (excuse the anachronism) wouldn’t be in the right frame of mind to discuss philosophy. The other three levels in Maslow’s needs are love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.
Self-actualisation means reaching your true potential. That in itself is an unclear expression: nobody really knows what he can do unless he tries to do it. Several Olympic gold medallists have started out late in life with their talents hidden under a bushel in their early days.
Another need theory, also known as Three Needs Theory, was propounded by David McClelland. This has three prime movers — achievement, power, and affiliation. The need for all three can vary from person to person and it affects what sort of manager or employee you can be. These three Faces of Eve, in some combination or the other, dictate the personality of every human being, from the warlike Zulus to a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court. Achievement is self-explanatory.
Affiliation depends on a person’s desire to interact with the society around him. This should have got a leg up with the arrival of social media today. People with affiliation needs tend to fit into the workplace. Need for power puts a high premium on discipline. CEOs generally score high on this need.
Another well-known theory is the Two-factor proposition put forward by Frederick Herzberg. He postulates that job satisfaction is controlled by two factors — hygiene and motivation. This could be somewhat puzzling. Under this, job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction act independently of each other.
The motivators are challenging work, recognition for achievement, responsibility and personal growth. Hygiene factors include status, job security, salary and fringe benefits. These do not lead to higher motivation but their absence results in dissatisfaction. Herzberg often referred to hygiene factors as KITA factors, which is an acronym for “kick in the ass” — do, or else... Obviously high hygiene and high motivation is the best combination. With a low hygiene-low motivation situation, employees are perpetually complaining, they want more but are not prepared to put in any extra effort. (Does it remind you of an Indian public sector
So the boys and girls at Google may be motivated, but they are not necessarily happy. After all, salary is a hygiene factor as are fringe benefits. At the end of the day, how much peace of mind can you get if the office vet takes your dog for a walk?