Employee Motivation

Does the KITA Method of Employee Motivation Work?

 The most difficult dilemma business and organizational leaders face is that of motivating motivationemployees and staff. Sure there are marketing issues and financial issues that are difficult, but motivation seems to be the most difficult one to address. In a January 2003 Harvard Business Review article, One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?  , Frederick Herzberg presents conclusions on this subject. So what is the KITA method of motivation? Does it work? What does work?

 KITA Method of Motivation

 KITA is short for Kick in the A__. This method may be employed either in a negative manner or a positive manner. It can be employed either physically or psychologically. A negative physical KITA can result in retaliation, physical or otherwise, and in today’s society, be looked upon harshly. Not as externally obvious is a psychological KITA, but the internal feeling of the individual may be damaged to the point where motivation is inhibited.

The Positive Physical KITA

Over the years, a number of different approaches have been suggested to motivate employees by external KITA. Here are just a few:

  • Providing More free Time Away from Work The unmotivated employee would, of course, consider this a great reward, but the motivated employee will chose to spend more time on the job.
  • Wage Increases Studies have shown that an employee may have increased motivation for a short period of time after receiving a wage increase. That period can be as short as 3 days. It has also been observed that during a time of economic depression that productivity increases. This might lead to the conclusion that a wage decrease may be more motivating.
  • Increased Benefits fall into a similar category as wages. Benefits are considered by employees not as the reward for accomplishment, but as their right as an employee. Life insurance, a pension plan, and health insurance are basic benefits and cannot be effectively targeted for motivated employees.
  • Job Participation Helping employees understand the “big picture” can and cannot be motivational. It may have little effect on an employee who tightens 10,000 bolts per day to let him know he is building an automobile. It may be motivation to take employees who make heart catheters to see how they are used in a hospital operating room. The history here shows mixed results.

 Motivation vs. Movement

Herzberg uses this analogy to illustrate a primary issue:

motivationI have a year-old schnauzer. When it was a small puppy and I wanted it to move, I kicked it in the rear and it moved. Now that I have finished its obedience training, I hold up a dog biscuit when I want the schnauzer to move. In this instance, who is motivated—I or the dog? The dog wants the biscuit, but it is I who want it to move. Again, I am the one who is motivated, and the dog is the one who moves. In this instance all I did was apply KITA frontally; I exerted a pull instead of a push. When industry wishes to use such positive KITAs, it has available an incredible number and variety of dog biscuits (jelly beans for humans) to wave in front of employees to get them to jump.

This illustrates the concept that motivation from external sources may cause movement which is only temporary. True motivation is from internal sources.

Hygiene vs. Motivators

As the result of analyzing several studies, Hertzberg suggests that the factors involved in producing job satisfaction (and motivation) are separate from those factors that lead to job dissatisfaction. The latter are described as hygienic. The results from his study produced the following:

Motivators- Factors characterized on the job which led to extreme satisfaction in descending order

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • The work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement
  • Growth

Hygienic Factors-Factors characterized on the job which led to extreme job dissatisfaction in descending order.

                      • Company policy and administration
  • Supervision
  • Relationship with supervision
  • Working conditions
  • Salary
  • Relationship with peers
  • Personal life
  • Relationship with subordinates
  • Status
  • Security

 Vertical Job Loading

 A first reaction to the term job loading is to add more work to an existing job. For example, expect production to increase from 1000 units per day to 1200 units per day. It also might be to combine tasks so as to reduce the work team from 10 people to 9. That type of industrial engineering practice is known as horizontal job loading.

 Vertical job loading is different in that it addresses the motivators described above. Here are some of the principles in practice.

Principle Motivators Involved
  1. Removing some controls while retaining responsibility

Responsibility and personal achievement

  1. Increasing the accountability of individuals for own work

Responsibility and recognition

  1. Giving a person a complete natural unit of work(module, division, area, and so-on)

Responsibility, achievement and recognition

  1. Granting additional authority to employees in their activities, job-freedom

Responsibility, achievement and recognition

  1. Making periodic reports directly to the workers themselves, rather than to their supervisors

Internal recognition

  1. Introducing new and more difficult tasks not previously handled

Growth and learning

  1. Assigning individual specific or specialized tasks, enabling them to become experts

Responsibility, growth and advancement

Vertical job loading has proven successful in a number of trials. In each trial, a two groups with similar responsibilities were selected. One group was designated as the control group. This group continued to operate during the trial period without change. Vertical job loading changes were implemented in the second group. Measurement of productivity was recorded over a 6 month period and upon the conclusion the second group outperformed the control group by over 20%.


It is clear from Herzberg’s work that motivation is internal. External forces can produce movement, but not long term motivation. Creating job conditions that involve understanding the motivators have a more dynamic effect on motivation and performance than any of the KITA techniques. Delegation of responsibility and authority, commonly called empowerment, is at the core of employee motivation.