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Factors Motivating Foreign Construction Workers

To analyse whether construction workers in the UK from different countries, have different motivational factors that reflect the diverse cultures currently seen on our building sites.

1.2 Research Background

As the skills gap was filled with the influx of foreign educated workers over the past ten years, they have also brought there culture and lifestyles (London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 2007). Although this we believe to be a positive thing a needs analysis will be conducted to analyse the effects it has on companies, construction projects and construction managers alike. Construction Managers need to understand what motivates individuals to want to work hard to complete the project successfully. Are today’s workers people who want to work and take responsibility within their role or are they individuals who like structure and be told what to do and when? Construction Managers need to understand human relations and their ability to adapt is paramount when running a successful construction project.

1.3 Hypothesis

Different cultures have different motivational factors that influence their work & performance within construction projects.

1.4 Objectives

To achieve this, the study would seek to

  • Analyse what factors motivate foreign workers currently working on a construction project.
  • To examine how management play an active role in managing the on site motivational process
  • Critically review if cultural diversity affects performance on site
  • Investigate demographic shifts to the construction workforce over recent years
  • Analyse the attributions of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to a section of the industry
  • Examine the managerial knowledge held by construction managers by examining the employees perception of motivation against the construction managers knowledge of these motivational needs.

1.5 Scope of Study

The aim of this research is to examine the factors that motivate foreign educated construction workers and British Born construction workers working for a Glazing construction company in London with a workforce of eight three employees.

Ireland and the United Kingdom are known as individualistic style cultures while Eastern Europe and the Far East would be known as collectivist (Workman, 2008). The research will test the widespread assumptions in relation to the differences of individualistic cultures and collectivist cultures between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation across these various cultures currently working on construction projects throughout London.

Additionally, Managers within construction are responsible for the success of the team working on a project therefore the final objective is to examine the individual employee’s perception of motivation and how construction managers address these needs to successfully deliver project objectives.

1.6 The Construction Industry

During the last decade, globalization has been a major phenomenal for both domestic and global companies alike, therefore, changing the dynamics of business operations practiced globally. The international movement towards open markets promoted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the freedom to trade where political borders become increasingly more irrelevant, is and will continue to effect the Construction Industry within the UK. This has evidently forced both small and large companies alike, to fiercely and competitively engage in international business. And as a result has proven to be a crucial element, in order to succeed in to-days ever increasing and challenging environment.

According to the literature, globalization arose particularly during the latter part of the 20th century due to the rapidly and continuously fast pace in which to-days society is changing (Friedman T L., 2000). The literature states that the main challenges faced by international companies are primarily based on the diverse network of countries that exist throughout the globe. Countries are extremely different and therefore it’s essential for businesses to perform an individual assessment on each of these foreign business environments prior to internationalization. Issues a company must assess prior to internationalisation include: a country’s culture, political systems, economic systems, legal systems and the level of economic development. Assessment of these systems is vital in order to successfully prepare a company for internationalization. The level of success a company will achieve relates to the readiness and ability of that company to implement strategies and practices to adapt to these areas mentioned above.

1.7 Skills Shortage

Within the UK we compete on a global scale not on natural resources and low labour costs but on a more service led economy and high value added industry. Our natural resources in the UK our people, if we don’t have the skilled workforce to under take this we will condemn ourselves to a lingering decline in competitiveness, and diminishing economic growth. Having the correct skills in every industry within the UK will in turn enable the UK to compete with the best in the world.

The UK construction industry within recent years have experienced the shortage of skilled workers UK born to fulfil the strong growth which the industry has experienced. The construction skills network report (2006) carried out an analysis of expected skills requirements to meet the predicted growth. It estimated in 2006 that an estimated 87,000 new recruits would be required each year over the next five years until 2011. Prior to the economic decline in 2008/09 the skills shortage was becoming an increasingly fundamental problem.

The construction industry consists of an aging population, however the above skill requirements have taken into account those employees who will be leaving the industry through retirement (Leitch 2006).

The skills shortage however, is not a new phenomenon, as it has been developing for over forty years. Previous governments and training providers have developed a laissez-faire attitude and have only ever dealt with the problem at the tip of the iceberg with little or no regard to the underlying problems the lie beneath (McBride 1998).

The construction industry training board was forming in 1964 (CITB) and has remained in existence ever since. It is a statutory body governed by the Industrial Training Act 1982. The CITB’s primary function is to initiate, improve and facilitate training and develop training standards for use throughout the construction industry.

The conservative government during the recession period in the 80’s found an over supply of labour. To compensate for this they introduced work restart programmes and offered older employees early retirement. They did a radical U turn in the late 80’s as they realised the number of young adults entering the labour force was falling.

The construction industry has shown sustained growth over the last ten years, both output and total employment have grown by 30% from 1994 to 2004 (sector skills agreement 2004). Construction is a huge sector employing 7% of the UK workforce (Construction Statistics Annual Report 2006). In 2006 it provided 2.2 million jobs and is expected to increase to over 2.8million by 2011 (blueprint for construction skills 2007) this figure however is dependant on how well the industry recovers from the recent decline.

The concentration of the UK work will shift from the North to the South and East of England, focusing on London with major infrastructure and building developments such as the Olympics 2012 and Thames Gateway regeneration.

1.8 Filling the Skills Gap

Net immigration – defined as immigration minus emigration from the UK of non British persons trebled from less that 100,000 per year in the early 1990’s to over 300,000 in 2006. Net immigration rather than natural change (births minus deaths), has been the main driver of the UK population growth since the early 1990’s. The UK population is now projected to grown from 60.6 million in 2006 to 71 million in 2031 (House of Lords, 2008).

One in five UK firms has turned to overseas workers to address skills shortages, new research shows. The borderless workforce study, conducted by Manpower UK, reveals that employers in the UK have used foreign workers to fill a range of roles from labourers to finance staff. The survey also reveals that the UK is the second most popular location for people to relocate to for work, second only to the USA.

Migrant workers now outnumber UK builders on most London construction sites.

The dramatic impact of the flood of foreign workers was highlighted at a Government select committee inquiry in January 2008. It was stated that 40% of construction workers in London were migrants in 2006 – up from just 21.5% in 2001. And experts at Ucatt now believe that that number has risen to the point where foreign workers are now in the majority in the capital.

So why don’t companies take on local apprentices to fill the shortfalls to some degree. A study by professor Linda Clarke of the University of Westminster suggests that companies fear the danger of “poaching” by competitors, and therefore skilled migrants are preferred to fill the roles.

The Role of Migrants in the UK

According to Balch et al (2004: 191), “a reliance on relatively cheap source of foreign labour is an embedded, structural feature of the UK construction sector”. Within recent years construction sites have become dependent on foreign labour in order to complete projects on time and due to the economic boom of recent years move government spending met more jobs. This is very evident on large labour intensive projects, where demand is met by workers migrating to “hotspots” of construction activity London being one of them. Traditionally many migrant workers came from Ireland but as the freedom of movement within the European Union since May 2004 this has changed and many workers are from Eastern Europe. The Irish influx has also slowed down due to the recent economic boom in Ireland which as attracted Irish workers back to their own country.

Olympics 2012

Within the current economic climate the largest construction project within the UK would have to be the construction facilities for the Olympic 2012 games. Different host countries have different aims and objectives for the success of their Olympic games but it is attractive to a country in terms of a development tool. However, not all Olympics have brought economic gain as Montreal struggled for three decades to pay off its Olympic debt. While on the other hand when Barcelona hosted the games in 1992 they developed the city including a new ring road, substantial airport improvements, housing, infrastructure and an amazing waterfront development.

The London Olympics has also brought large scale redevelopment to the five Olympic boroughs of East London. This includes new rail links, infrastructure, bridges, roads, housing and academies.

With such vast amounts of work all taking place at the same time for one goal, it is foreseeable that other public funded projects could be put on hold as the money will not be available until after the event. With such a large scale project brings the arrival of workers from all over the world looking for a “piece of the action”. It is believed that one in three workers on the Stratford site is of foreign origin. This is similar to Athens where it was estimated that 30,000 workers were employed in the construction of the Olympics venues with 60 per cent non-Greek. This is similar to the percentages on the Stratford site to-date.

1.9 Cultural Diversity within Construction

There are many ways of defining what is meant by culture but essentially people are seen as being from different cultures if their was of life, as a group, differs significantly from another. The way in which individuals express their culture can be described as “Cultural orientation” and it is this that is significant from a business and management perspective (Alder, 1983).

Due to the complexity associated with various cultures in to-days ever increasing culturally diverse society, the area of motivation has also become more complicated and challenging. Therefore, motivating employees from different cultures is extremely difficult as different cultures function and are motivated in different ways.


2.1 Defining Motivation

However, what exactly do we mean by motivation? There are many different definitions of motivation in the literature however, according to Hellriegel & Slocum (1992) “Motivation creates the energy which incites, inspires, impels, influences, urges and moves on to action.” Motivation influences job performance, and as a result of this is the main source as to why some employees out perform other employees in the workplace. Therefore, employees or job performance is based on two important variables firstly, the employees ability to perform a task and secondly the individuals desire and motivation to perform (Bratton, 2007). Motivation is basically an intrinsic desire to achieve both personal and organisational goals.

Career Motivation builds on this theory by describing career motivation as the employee’s individualistic characteristics which include the three following characteristics: 1) career identity related to the career decisions made by the individual, 2) career insight in relation to factors that mirror the individuals career identity and finally career resilience in relation to undesirable environmental working conditions, situational factors and career decisions additionally influence job performance and motivation within the workplace according to the theory (London M, 1983).

As well as this many studies also exist that have examined and describe the differences and similarities related to motivation within the public and private sector organisations. Research findings state that private managers are more motivated by monetary rewards such as pay and bonuses that public sector, however other motivational factors such as promotion, friendship with colleagues and opportunities for the organisation were similar between both private and public sector organisations (Wittmer, 1991).

Throughout this literature review, I will analyse and explain some of the important theories that explain motivation in the workplace and highlight the factors that contribute to job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction. There are four main theories in relation to motivation firstly Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, secondly Herzbergs motivation theory, thirdly McGregors theory X and Y and finally McClellends need for achievement theory.

2.2 Motivational Theories

Motivation theories consist of both content and process theories and both play a major role in facilitating managers in understanding the complexity of motivation and the challenges associated with achieving motivation in the work environment.

Content theories explain the type of needs that motivate employees so therefore these theories concentrate on internal elements. Examples of these theories are Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzbergs hygiene theory, McGregor’s theory X and Y and McClellands learned needs.

On the other hand process theories aim to explain and understand the behaviour and how the thought process interacts with and influences these behaviours and therefore by understanding these components these theories believe it’s possible to motivate employees adequately. Examples of these process theories include: the expectancy theory, and the equity theory and the goal setting theory. Process theories focus on external stimuli that influence the motivation of employees such as interpersonal relationships with co workers and working conditions (Solomon R L & Corbit J D, 1978).

2.2.1 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was primarily based on a hierarchy of needs in order to outline human motives. The model was established in 1954 by Abraham Maslow, the model outlines five distinctive sets of needs arranged with the lower level needs located at the bottom of the hierarchy and higher level needs that is the optimal motivators are located at the top of the hierarchy.

The five set of needs are described as follows:

Physiological needs; such as breathing, food, water, sex and shelter

Safety needs: such as security of body, of employment, resources, health, family and property

Social needs: such as friendship; love and belonging, family and sexual intimacy

Self esteem needs; such as 1) the need for achievement- the need for autonomy or interdependence 2) the need for status achievement, recognition and respect by others and respect of others, and confidence

self actualisation needs: such as creativity and recognition of ones capabilities to continue to develop their full potential

According to Maslow once the lower order needs are achieved such as food and water, individuals progress up to the next level of needs to safety and security needs. Therefore, as individual’s progress up Maslow’s pyramid of needs, needs become more social and psychological. According to Maslow, basic or lower order needs must be achieved first in order to avoid unpleasant and undesirable behaviour. Whereas higher order needs or growth needs such as self actualisation needs are only achieved after these lower order needs are achieved (Maslow A. H. 1954)

Secondly, Maslow’s theory states that once a set of needs are achieved by an individual, these needs are therefore no longer a motivator of behaviour and as a result an employee will seek motivation from the next level of the hierarchy of needs (Bratton, 2007)

Therefore according to this theory employers must be aware of what stage of the hierarchy of needs their employees are at in order to have adequate motivators in place to successfully motivate employees. The difficulty for managers in applying this theory is based on the complexity associated with establishing the self actualisation needs of individuals as these needs differ from one employee to another

2.2.2 Herzberg’s Motivation Hygiene Theory

Herzberg’s motivation hygiene theory (1959) also known as the two factor theory, is a study of the various factors concerned with an employees work environment that cause feelings of satisfaction (and therefore motivation) and dissatisfaction. Herzberg states that satisfiers are known as motivators and dissatifers are known as hygiene factors these factors don’t provide motivation to employees.

According to Herzberg’s studies satisfiers include 1) Achievement 2) recognition 3) work itself 4) responsibility 5) advancement 6) growth. Herzberg states that dissatisfiers include: 1) company policy 2) supervision 3) working conditions 4) interpersonal relations 5) salary 6) status 7) job security and finally 8) personal life. Herzberg states that the satisfiers that lead to job satisfaction are mainly intrinsic elements and the dissatisfiers that lead to dissatisfaction are mainly extrinsic elements. Finally, Herzberg’s theory believes that managers should create intrinsically motivated environments to optimise job performance as this theory provides managers with an understanding that true motivation occurs due to intrinsic motivation (Herzberg F., Mausner, B. & Snyderman B,. 1959).

2.2.3 McGregor’s Theory X and Y

Douglas McGregor established the famous motivational model known as theory X and theory Y (1960), the theory is still utilized as it provides a basic principle for managers to develop positive motivational strategies.

Basically the model states there are two basic methods of managing employees. Firstly theory X an authoritarian style management which includes a workforce who dislike work, who seek job security and lack innovation and seek direction from management, this type of management leads to low levels of motivation exerted by employees and generally results in poor work performance. Theory Y is a participative style management which is based on the assumption that employees are motivated by self direction, self control, motivation and maturity.

Not all concepts outlined in this theory are valid for applying in practice. However, the basic concept that can be learnt by managers from this theory and that can be applied by managers in practice is that employees will contribute more to the organisation if they are treated appropriately and as responsible and valued members of an organisation (Mc Gregor D., 1960).

2.2.4 McClelland’s Learned Needs Theory

David McClelland’s need for achievement theory also known as the learned needs theory established in (1961) stated that individuals are motivated by a mixture of needs to include the following 1) power 2) achievement and 3) affiliation.

The theory states that every employee has specific needs that are developed and shaped over time by various life experiences. Additionally, the theory continues to state that employees with separate needs have therefore specific motivational needs, firstly employees with high achievement needs seek challenging environments and require ongoing feedback from managers, employees with high affiliation needs require a co operative environment to be motivated and finally employees with high power needs seek opportunities to manage other employees. This theory provides managers with a deep understanding of the types of employees that exist and the importance of adapting these needs to the work environment that employees work in, in order to optimise motivation and therefore job performance of these employees. Training programs are another important variable that can be utilized by managers in order to enhance or modify employee’s needs if required (McClelland, D.C & Witter, D.C., 1969).

2.3 Process Theories

2.3.1 Expectancy Theory

Victor Vroom’s expectancy theory of motivation 1964 is based on the outcomes related to motivation rather than needs unlike the theories mentioned above. Vroom Lawler and Porter believed that the relationship between goals and behaviour played a major role in motivation employees. Additionally, Vroom states that behaviour is a result of employees making conscious choices which avoid pain and maximise pleasure and that employees are motivated by various individual goals. Vroom believed that if the following three factors were present and connected these are effort, performance and rewards that employees could be motivated adequately. Vroom’s theory is based on the following three variables, valence, Expectancy and instrumentality.

Valance is related to the emotional attachment employees place on various rewards it’s therefore a manager’s responsibility to establish what importance they place on various rewards. Secondly, expectancy is related to an employees own self assessment and capabilities and finally instrumentality the view an employee of an organisation as to whether the employee will actually receive a reward, that has been promised by the organisation.

Motivation is then determined by utilizing the following formula Valence X Expectancy (Instrumentality) and can be utilized by managers to determine an employee’s satisfaction with his/her job (Vroom, V.H, 1964).

2.3.2 The Equity Theory

Adams equity theory (1963, 1965) further expands on the individualistic needs sought after by employees which were described in Maslow and Herzbergs theories, in including an equity/fairness element and influence and comparison of other individuals (social comparisons) which according to Adam’s affects motivation in the workplace. Adam’s states that an employee’s inputs and outputs must be fairly balanced in order to motivate employees, where inputs include an employees contribution to a task for example ability, skill, loyalty, commitment and hard work and outputs include what an employee receives from a task for example praise, recognition, job security, responsibility and a sense of growth. According to the theory managers must ensure an equal balance is maintained between the two variables otherwise employees become de-motivated by both their job and their employer (Adams J.S, 1965)

2.3.3 The goal setting theory

The theory of goal setting is a process associated with motivating employees or individuals by determining what exactly employees are expected to achieve at work. Goal setting is particularly beneficial if goals set by management are specific challenging however are nevertheless still possible to achieve and where critical feedback is provided to employees in relation to their progress in achieving their goals.

Generally goal setting is utilized by management in organisations through management by objectives MBO program’s. This is a management programme which applies the goal setting process by breaking down organisational aims into manageable goals for smaller work units and employees to achieve. Where four basic principles must apply, firstly goals must be specific, participative decision making between employees and management must occur, management must cascade the organisations objectives and prepare goals that are achievable within a specific time frame and finally management must provide performance feedback to employees (Bratton, 2007).

2.4 Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation

In organizational behaviour, motivation is essential and motivation is often explained as being intrinsic or extrinsic in relation to an individual’s work or social environment and it is a complex phenomenal influenced by the individual’s individuality of psychological and personal factors (Sansone & Harackiewicz, 2000)

According to Tolman’s theory of purposive behaviourism (1933), intrinsic motivator’s represent internal needs and wants which relate to pleasurable experiences obtained from achieving these tasks in hand and as a result a sense of satisfaction and achievement is achieved creating intrinsic motivation.

Similarly, Ryan and Deci (2000) further state that intrinsic motivation comes from within the person or the actual activity itself and as a result can positively influence the behaviour and performance of an individual.

Herzberg (1966) was the first to categorize intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into distinct categories. The first category outlined by Herzberg highlighted that intrinsic motivation included job content elements these job content elements included factors such as recognition, advancement and achievement. The second category was based on extrinsic motivation and this type of motivation was based on job context elements such as pay, working conditions and job security. Based on Herzberg’s theory he stated that extrinsic rewards are important however intrinsic rewards are fundamental to intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is strongly connected to employees meeting and achieving activities or work related task because they result in attractive outcomes independent of the actual task itself for example external rewards or tangible rewards. Therefore, the behaviour is performed as a one off, unlike intrinsic motivation where an employee is motivated by the task itself (Deci 1972; Lepper et al, 1973; Cameron & Pierce 1994; Gagne & Deci 2005). Examples of different kinds of extrinsic rewards or tangible rewards include bonuses or raises, additional annual leave, credential of an achievement, or perhaps tickets to a major social or sporting event.

Thorndike (1911) was the first to term extrinsic motivation as the “law of effect” which stated that a repeated response to a specific task was strengthened when a reward was offered and a response was weakened when a reward was not offered. Until the 1960’s, motivation was primarily based on extrinsic motivation and its ability to utilize and to control behaviour and performance. However, extrinsic rewards as discussed above have proved less effective in producing generalisation of preferred behaviours when these tangible or extrinsic rewards are no longer on offer. Therefore, despite the historical benefits outlined in the research in relation to extrinsic rewards, various weaknesses in relation to this approach have become visible in practice in relation to it detracting from intrinsic motivation (Deci, 1975).

Additionally, Lepper et al (1973) states that behaviours that solely concentrate on achieving extrinsic rewards highlights that these behaviours neglect interest as an important component of their behaviour and as a result are susceptible to environmental control style environments, which can result in poor implementation of intrinsic motivation in practice.


3.1 Introduction

This chapter aims to discuss the research process selected in this study which aims to successfully achieve the research question:

“To analyse whether construction workers in the UK from different countries, have different motivational factors that reflect the diverse cultures currently seen on our building sites.”

Firstly, the research process adapted in this chapter outlines the main research hypotheses, this is then followed by a general definition or overview of the approach. This is then followed by the research methods chosen in order to successfully achieve this and also the advantages and disadvantages of choosing questionnaires as the main tool for collecting and gathering data are also discussed.

Later in the chapter, the advantages of pilot testing within this study will be discussed

Additionally, the research population chosen, sampling chosen, the response rate to questionnaires that were distributed, ethical issues facing the research and finally research limitations are all discussed in this chapter.

3.2 Research

This dissertation aims to analyse the motivational needs of a cultural diverse population of construction workers currently employed in the construction industry by assessing employee’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

The first aim is to measure the attributions of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to a cross cultural sample of workers employed and active in the construction industry in London.

Secondly by analysing individualist and collectivist style motivational needs of this culturally diverse population of construction workers. The research additionally aims to test the universal assumptions in relation to the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation across various cultures currently employed in the construction industry.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the current theories and findings can be applied to every employee and to every employment sector as a general assumption in relation to these theories is that employees or individuals are inclined to be motivated by similar needs.

Therefore, this research aims to test and to improve the validity of these findings and add to the field of knowledge that already exists in relation to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Thirdly, the research aims to examine the managerial knowledge possessed by construction managers by examining the degree of match between the individual employee’s perception of motivation and the construction managers knowledge of these motivational needs. To summarise, this research will assess how competent construction managers are at determining the determinants of motivation in the eyes of the employee.

This research is vital in order to assess the level of managerial expertise and knowledge construction managers have in the area of motivational expertise. Motivational expertise is crucial in to-days ever increasing competitive environment. Assessment is essential in order to identify where additional training or communication would be helpful for managers in order to minimise the risk of construction site with de-moti

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