Process-Based Theories of Motivation

Cite this article as:"Process-Based Theories of Motivation," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 29, 2020,


What are Process-Based Theories of Motivation?

Process-based theories use the mental processes of employees as the key to understanding employee motivation. Unlike needs-based theory, it sees motivation as a rational process.

Some of the most common process-based theories are as follows:

  • Goal-Setting Theory – Goal-Setting theory states that certain types of goals (mainly SMART goals) motivate individuals. Leaders are able to motivate individuals by employing goal setting and allowing individuals to participate.
  • Reinforcement Theory – Reinforcement theory posits that individual behavior is a function of the consequences resulting from the behavior. As such, five aspects can increase the motivating potential of a job: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. This theory states that behavior is a function of Consequences (Reinforces)
  • Equity TheoryEquity theory concerns how employees are motivated (or rather demotivated) in the workforce. Specifically, it says that employees are demotivated by unfair reward systems. It introduced distributive justice, procedural fairness, and interactional fairness.
  • Expectancy Theory – Expectancy theory proposes that employees are motivated when they believe that their efforts will result in the desired level of performance (expectancy), that it will lead to the desired outcome (instrumentality), and the outcomes of the performance are desirable (valence).

Was this article helpful?