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Motivating and rewarding employees

To get started…

…revise the motivation theories that appear in chapter 10 of your textbook.  Take special notice of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, McClelland’s three-needs theory, McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, Expectancy theory, Goal setting theory, and Equity theory.  Then read this article about the next generation of automation and its effect on jobs and employability.

So, to summarise…

Humans keep getting better at making things better – more efficient, more effective, quicker, better customized… they build machines to take over jobs.  First they took over dangerous and dirty jobs, then they took away boring jobs, and now – so we think – the will take away decisions.  Decisions which can be made if criteria are spelled out, even if they are complex.

When machines take people’s job, the people end up jobless – and that can be scary.  For many reasons Malsow has listed.

But machines taking human jobs doesn’t have to mean that humans no longer have jobs.  It can just mean that humans now need to have other jobs.  More… human jobs.  The article explains that rather than asking the traditional question—What tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done more cheaply and rapidly by machines?—we ask a new one: What better achievements people may have, if they had better thinking machines to assist them?

In some cases these machines will allow humans to take on tasks that are superior—more sophisticated, more fulfilling, better suited to our strengths—to the jobs taken over.  In other cases the tasks will simply be different from anything computers can do well.  In almost all situations, however, these new jobs will be less codified and less structured, because computers will take those elements –codified and structured – over to them.


The article lists five approaches to making peace with smart machines taking over your job: stepping up, stepping aside, stepping in, stepping narrowly, or stepping forward.  Let’s check them out.

Stepping up means seeing the big picture while the computer takes care of the details.  One interpretation of the success of today’s ultrarich Wall Street investment bankers is that they have stepped up above automated trading and portfolio management systems, and by seeing the big picture, they make better investments.

To step up, the employee would need to head for still higher intellectual ground.

Stepping aside means that machines would perform numerous ancillary tasks that would otherwise encroach on the ability of professionals to do what they do best.  It also means that humans would need to do what machines simply cannot do.  Hospice care is an extreme example of a situation requiring the human touch.  But empathy is valuable in any setting that has customers, co-workers, and owners.

If stepping aside is the chosen strategy, the employee would need to focus on their uncodifiable strengths, first discovering them and then diligently working to heighten them.

Those capable of stepping in know how to monitor and modify the work of computers.  They would need to change software so that it can provide further augmentation.

To step narrowly, one would have to find a specialty within their profession that wouldn’t be economical to automate. 

And finally, stepping forward means constructing the next generation of computing and AI tools.  This means thinking of what else can be automated, and how it can complement human knowledge work.

For augmentation to work, employers must be convinced that the combination of humans and computers is better than either working alone.  The authors sum this up by saying that the strategy that will work in the long term, for employers and the employees, is to view smart machines as partners and collaborators in knowledge work.

Some issues to notice and pay particular attention to here are…

  • The hierarchy of needs
  • McClelland’s three-needs theory
  • McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
  • Equity theory
  • Expectancy theory
  • Goal setting theory

Consider the following questions for discussion…

  1. How would engaging in augmentation fit in with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  What needs would it address and what needs may it create?
  2. How does augmentation fit into McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y model?  Does it apply to employees of both categories?
  3. What would be augmentation’s impact on equity theory?  What impact would you expect it to have?
  4. How would expectancy theory and goal-setting affect someone who is interested in engaging in job augmentation?