Motivational theory in practice at Tesco
A Tesco case study

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Page 4: The Mayo effect

Internal or external factors may motivate a person to change or develop their actions. For example, an internal factor may be the desire to learn a new skill. This would reward the individual. External factors include, for example, sales targets and incentives. A more negative motivator might be no pay rise if targets are not achieved.

In the early 1930s the theorist Elton Mayo suggested that motivation at work was promoted by such factors as:

  • greater communication
  • good teamwork
  • showing interest in others
  • involving others in decision making
  • ensuring the wellbeing of others
  • ensuring work is interesting and non-repetitive.

Mayo based his assumptions on research undertaken with workers at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company in Chicago. His work resulted in the Hawthorne theory. He suggested that boredom and repetitiveness of tasks led to reduced motivation. He believed that motivation was improved through making employees feel important, giving them a degree of freedom to make choices and acknowledging their social needs.


At Tesco the Mayo theory is seen to be operating throughout the company. Communication is an extremely important factor in motivating employees. This may be through 1-to-1 discussions with managers, through the company intranet or newsletters or through more formal structures such as appraisals.

Line managers hold a daily Team Meeting to update staff on what is happening for the day and to give out Value Awards. These awards can be given from any member of staff to another as a way of saying “thank you” and celebrating achievements.

Motivation from training and development

Tesco also promotes motivation through its many training and development opportunities. Everyone has access not just to the training they need to do their job well but also to leadership training to grow within the company.  Tesco offers strategic career planning to help staff 'achieve the extraordinary'.

In 2009 Tesco appointed 3,000 managers 80% internally. As well as an annual career discussion with every employee, the company also emphasises the development of the whole person and has implemented a system of 360 degree feedback. This is a personal development tool which provides feedback from a selection of people with whom the employee works. This helps employees to understand their behaviour, strengths and weaknesses within the workplace as others see them. The idea of the programme is to 'Take People with You' and 'To Gain the Hearts and Minds of Others' in order to improve individuals and get things done efficiently.

Personal development plans

All Tesco employees have a Personal Development Plan which they build through their 360 degree feedback and other tools. This enables Tesco managers to offer meaningful feedback to employees to help provide opportunities for continuous personal development. This personal approach helps employees to reach their full potential by encouraging self-assessment and providing advancement through ongoing training. It also enables individuals to take responsibility for their development.

This two-way relationship ensures that the employee is committed to the values of the company, that he or she works in partnership with others and helps improve the business for customers.

Tesco | Motivational theory in practice at Tesco