Human Motivation theory: McClelland Guide to high understanding Motivation of Employees


McClelland’s Human Motivation theory or three needs theory was proposed by David McClelland. The theory came to light during the 1960s but started gaining immense popularity with the formalization of the workforce in 1980. The popularity of the theory lies in its simplicity and its ability to be used in almost any setting

McClelland has known 3 basic motivating Human Motivation theories, Viz. want for Power, want for Affiliation, and want for action and, in conjunction with his associates performed sizable analysis work on these basic desires.

Human Motivation theory, McClelland's Human Motivation theory
Human Motivation theory

Psychologist David McClelland advocated the necessity theory, conjointly fashionable as the 3 desires Theory. This psychological feature theory states the necessity for action. power and affiliation considerably influence the behavior of a private, which is beneficial to know from a social control context.

The theory should not be confused with Maslow’s law of Hierarchy. Per McClelland, each individual has these 3 kinds of psychological feature desires regardless of their human ecology, culture, or wealth. These motivation sorts area units driven by real-life experiences and therefore the views of their attribute.

Human Motivation theory: Need For Power

The need for power is the want among an individual to carry management and authority over another person and influence and alter their call to his own desires or needs. the necessity to reinforce their vanity and name drives these folks and they want their views and concepts to be accepted and enforced over the views and concepts of others.

These folks are unit sturdy leaders and may be best suited to leading positions. They either belong to non-public or Institutional power rational motive teams. If they’re a private power rational motive they might get to management others Associate in Nursingd Associate in Nursing institutional power rational motive seeks to guide and coordinate a team towards a finish.

Human Motivation theory: Need for Affiliation

The third want elaborated in McClelland’s nonheritable desires Motivation Theory is the want for affiliation.

The need for affiliation presents itself as an Associate in Nursing’s emotional drive towards being liked and accepted. people with a high want for affiliation want to possess agreeable and cooperative operating relationships with others and a harmonious social setting.

For some folks, obtaining on well with others is the most significant factor.

Work Preferences

Individuals with a high level of emotional want for affiliation need to be perpetually operating in an Associate in Nursing setting wherever folks feel welcome, included, harmonious and cooperative. they’re typically socially perceptive and work towards maintaining effective social relationships and making positive environments.

These people usually find themselves with fairly low levels of risk tolerance. Their want for social harmony suggests that they don’t need to “rock the boat” or strive against activities that will upset folks or cause conflict.

Strengths and Risks

Individuals with a high level of emotional want for affiliation will be a true quality for a team. They typically target propulsion folks along, making social links and serving groups kind. additionally, they will be motivating, overenthusiastic, participating, and driving real team delivery. they’re noticeably at their best once operating towards a typical and cooperative goal with others.

It’s vital tho’ from a leadership perspective to assist these people to target their deliverables also as their social relationships and structures. typically these people are going to be willing to scale back the pace or quality of their deliverables if doing thus might produce additional social harmony.

Human Motivation theory: Need for action (n-ach):

McClelland found that some folks have an Associate in Nursing intense want to realize. He has known the subsequent characteristics of high achievers:

High achievers take moderate risks, i.e. calculated risks whereas performing arts are the activities within the management context. this is often opposite to the assumption that top achievers take high risks.

High achievers get to get immediate feedback for the work done to them, thus on grasp their progress towards the goal.

Once the goal is about, the high someone puts himself fully into the duty, till it gets completed with success. He won’t be happy till he has given his 100 percent within the task allotted to him.

A person with a high want for action accomplishes a task that’s per se satisfying and isn’t essentially in the midst of material rewards. tho’ he desires to earn cash, satisfaction within the accomplishment of labor itself offers him additional pleasure than simply the monetary reward.

How will it facilitate understanding the motivation of employees?

Use McClelland’s Theory of must inspires your staff. Follow these steps to use the idea to spot your employees’ primary drivers and increase your employees’ motivation:

Implementing Human Motivation theory 1: Confirm the driving force

  • First, establish what drives every of your staff.
  • Observe your staff
  • Provide a form
  • Have a spoken communication
  • If you choose to possess a spoken communication together with your staff or supply them a form, take into account asking them queries like these to assist you to identify their primary driver:
  • “When you paint a coworker, does one get a compromise to keep up the connection or does one fight for what you want?”
  • “Would you rather receive directions or provide directions?”
  • “Do you relish challenges or does one value more highly to perform tasks you’ve already mastered?”
  • The answers you receive can assist you to confirm that driver motivates your staff.

Implementing Human Motivation theory 2: Establish motivators

  • After learning your employee’s primary drivers, you’ll be able to come back up with effective ways to inspire them:
  • Achievement: make sure you frequently provide achievement-motivated people with new, difficult assignments to stay them happy.
  • Affiliation: For affiliation-motivated staff, guarantee they need many opportunities to figure out with people and build significant relationships at work.
  • Power: provide power-motivated staff opportunities to guide others and delegate to team me

Implementing Human Motivation theory 3: Implement the process

Take what you’ve learned about your employees and implement new practices that directly support their motivational driver. For example, try giving an achievement-motivated person a new research project or presentation to prepare. For affiliation-motivated employees, make sure they have plenty of opportunities to work with others. Even if their job responsibilities are primarily independent, place them in an area of the office where they can interact with others. Finally, for power-motivated employees, put them in leadership or spokesperson positions.

 Implementing Human Motivation theory 4: Refine as needed

You may need to refine your individual strategy for each employee over time. See if your initial approach works to motivate your employee. If you see an uptick in productivity and engagement, your strategy is likely working. If your employee lacks motivation or seems unhappy at work, consider trying a different tactic.

McClelland’s Human Motivation theory: 2 Step Process

Step 1: Identify the Motivational Needs of the Team

Examining the team to determine which of the three needs is a motivator for each person. Personality traits and past actions can help in this process. For example, someone who always takes charge of the team when a project is assigned.

 The one who speaks up in meetings to encourage people, and delegates responsibilities to facilitate achieving the goals of the group. Someone who likes to control the final deliverables. This team member is likely being driven by power.

Another team member who does not speak during meetings, and is happy agreeing with the team’s thoughts, is good at managing conflicts and may seem uncomfortable while someone talks about undertaking high-risk, high-reward tasks. This team member is likely driven by affiliation.

Step 2: Approaching Team According to To Their Need type

Based on the motivating needs of the team members, alter your leadership style to assign projects according to the type of need of each individual. Challenging projects would be a part of a work portfolio of someone who enjoys power while relatively simpler projects go to the kitty of someone derived from affiliation.

This information is crucial to influence while setting up relevant goals for the individual, monitoring, providing feedback, recommending the learning plan, etc. If a particular need type does not fit the position of the individual, he/she can be made aware of the same, so that they can either work in the right direction or accept their fate.


McClelland’s research showed that 86% of the population is dominant in one, two, or all three of these three types of motivation. His subsequent research, published in the 1977 Harvard Business Review article “Power is the Great Motivator, found that those in top management positions had a high need for power and a low need for affiliation. His research also found that people with a high need for achievement will do best when given projects where they can succeed through their efforts. Although individuals with a strong need for achievement can be successful lower-level managers, they are usually weeded out before reaching top management positions. He also found that people with a high need for affiliation may not be good top managers but are generally happier, and can be highly successful in non-leadership roles such as the foreign service

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