Motivating Employees to Create Value

Topic(s): motivation
Publication: Academy of Management Review
Article: Heterogeneous Motives and the Collective Creation of Value
Authors: F. Bridoux, R. Coeurderoy, R. Durand
Reviewed by: Neil Morelli

In a world where resources are becoming scarcer, firms should be looking to boost any kind of competitive advantage they can. Bridoux, Coeurderoy, and Durand (2011) suggest that one such competitive advantage is having its individual members work cooperatively to create “collective value” (i.e. effectively using firm resources). In their theoretical summary, the authors pose that a firm can encourage collective value creation and outperform the competition by ensuring its mix of individual employees’ motives and its motivational system are aligned. This alignment must take place at both the between-individual and the within-individual level.


The researchers first describes how individuals differ between their personal motivational dispositions: they are generally either self-regarding or reciprocator (a “me” attitude versus a “we” attitude). These mixed motivational types across individuals react differently to a firm’s motivational system. Of the three “ideal” motivational systems, individual monetary incentives (assumes all individuals are self-regarding), benevolent cooperation (assumes all individuals benevolently create value), and disciplined cooperation (assumes a mixture of motives exists), disciplined cooperation (involves rewards and punishments imposed by reciprocators when sanctions from an authority are absent) was recommended as the most effective when a firm is made up of both motivational types and involves work that is rarely observed by a direct authority.


While understanding that this motivational system may be the most effective at accommodating motivational between-individual differences, the authors stressed that firms aligning their motivational systems to account for within individual differences is also important. The within-individual motivational difference was described as the tension between the motivation to make sure the firm is successful (i.e., creating collective value) versus the motivation to make sure “I” am successful. The authors suggested that relieving this tension by adopting motivational systems that fill economic and relational needs. For example, the authors mentioned motivating employees by giving stock options. In a sense, this creates a congruency between the mixed motives of wanting to serve the firm while also serving oneself by creating an attitude that says, “When the firm succeeds I succeed.”

Managers who pay attention to these conflicting motivations are poised to make sure their employees are working cooperatively with one another and with their firm to maximize their collective value to the company.


Bridoux, F., Coeurderoy, R., & Durand, R. (2011). Heterogeneous motives and the collective creation of value. Academy of Management Review, 36(4), 711-730.

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