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Qayyum, A., Sukirno & Mahmood, A. (2011). A Preliminary Investigation of Employee Motivation in Pakistan’s Banking Sector, Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 19(1), 38-52.

A Preliminary Investigation of Employee Motivation in Pakistan’s Banking Sector

Abdul Qayyum, Sukirno & Ayyaz Mahmood


The banking sector worldwide faces fierce competition due to the rapid expansion of the financial community during the last few decades. One of the most important factors that contribute to the success in this sector is the human resources, which is an asset providing quality banking services that are difficult to replicate by competitors. The status of their employment highlights their importance, and, therefore, keeping the employees motivated is necessary in order to achieve the desired results. This study, therefore, investigated the difference in terms of the relative importance and availability of various motivational factors considered as the driving forces for 165 employees in public and private banks in Pakistan. The results of the study showed that a majority of the 12 motivational factors, which employees in public bank considered as important, were not made available to them in their jobs. In terms of importance of the factors to employees in public and private banks, it was noted that a majority of the motivational factors were considered by the employees with almost the same level of importance. The availability of these factors was considered differently by the employees from the two banking sectors. Implications of the findings for contemporary HRM policy and practice are discussed.


The banking sector plays an important role in the worldwide economy and the employees of these institutions are the best resources responsible for delivering good services to bank customers (Khan, Farooq & Khan 2010). The banking sector in Pakistan is one of the fastest growing service sectors (Hanif & Kamal 2009), resulting in fierce competition among the considerable number of banks. The ability to offer a wide range of services with a high level of quality is becoming the most common scheme used by banks to satisfy their customers and enable them to win a niche in the sector surrounded by stiff competition, since in the eyes of bank customers good quality services could contribute to their positive perception as well as ever lasting impression and image of the banks, resulting in the development of a sense of patronage (Khan, et al. 2010). It is, therefore, a challenge for management of commercial banks in Pakistan to motivate their employees in order that quality services are provided, and subsequently to satisfy the needs of their customers. Nowadays, employee motivation is, therefore, used as a key factor to gauge the performance of a particular employee and an organisation (Ghafoor 2011), a fact largely confirmed in the management literature (e.g., Pfeffer 1994, Rainey 1997, Judge & Ilies 2002), asserting that people are the most important organisational resource and the key to achieving high organisational performance.

There is a great deal of evidence that suggests that managers are the most appropriate persons who could maximise the productivity and performance of their employees. An important long known caveat is managers are empowered if they accurately know what could motivate their employees (Cherniss & Kane 1987). Hahn and Kleiner (2002) concluded that a key to effective management is to understand what motivates employees, and for this purpose, managers usually spend a good amount of time for developing various motivational techniques (Hise 1993), but generally, however, they do not have a clear picture of what really keeps their employees motivated (Creech 1995). An early endeavour to understand work related motivational forces was a longitudinal study conducted by Kovach (1995), who investigated the changes taking place in terms of the importance of different motivational factors to managers and their subordinates in the private sector with data of a fifty year period. Kovach (1995) observed that more often than not, managers have varied opinions about the factors believed to be mostly aspired by their employees, while there was a great shift in the wants/ priorities of their subordinates during that time period. Later, Wiley (1997) also asserted that there were certain motivators that employees valued over time, however, their most preferred motivators could change from time to time.

Some techniques used for motivating public sector employees are sourced from business management practices. One example is the system of ‘pay for performance’ that continues to be used in the public sector (Kellough & Lu 1993). A tool, which was developed for the private sector, has been used with the assumption that the employees have the same characteristics, and thus, could be motivated by the same types of reward systems (Houston 2000). However, to assume that public and private sector employees are comparable is contrary to what is known in existing research literature in public administration. In fact, a literature review indicated that work motivation in public sector employees is likely to be different from that of their counterparts in the private sector (Wittmer 1991, Ambrose & Kulik 1999, Rainey & Bozeman 2000, Wright 2001). While in most cases, public sector employees are motivated by strong desire to serve the public’s interest (Perry & Wise 1990, Perry 2000, Boyne 2002) with a sense of service to the community and by an urge to promote public interest (Box 1999), such values and desires are not usually found among the private sector employees (Gabris & Simo 1995, Houston 2000). Crewson (1997) asserted that adopting borrowed tools and reward systems from the private sector for public offices would only be fruitful especially if the supposition is true that public sector employees are more likely to prefer intrinsic rewards over extrinsic rewards. In their study, Jurkiewicz and Massey (1996) found that public sector employees place less value to monetary rewards, but more to social service compared with their counterparts in the private sector. Similar results were found by Buelens and Broeck (2007) in their study of private and public sector employees, which seemed to suggest that the public sector employees were less extrinsically motivated compared with those in the private sector. Other researchers (Cacioppe & Mock 1984, Khojasteh 1993, Karl & Sutton 1998) also argued that employees in the public sector place lower value on economic rewards compared with employees in the private sector.

In order to enhance the understanding of employee motivations, managers are encouraged to recognise the imperatives, concepts, and differences of the motivational factors in terms of individual needs (Kim 2003). Subsequently, managers should also be aware of the various existing motivational factors and the changes in the levels of priority of these factors deemed by employees over time. Consequently, this study investigated the relative importance of the different motivational factors (wants) perceived by the employees and the availability of these factors (gets) to them in their current job in the public and private banking industries of Pakistan. Furthermore, the study also assessed whether the motivational techniques used in private sector could be adapted and used for the public sector. In addition, the study compared the prioritisation and availability of the various motivational factors with respect to the jobs in two sectors. In short, the study compared the relative importance and availability of various motivational factors to bank employees within and between the public and private sectors in Pakistan.

Theoretical Framework

Employee motivation is one of the most intensively studied topics in the field of social sciences (Manolopoulos 2008). Although employee motivation is an intricate and sophisticated issue, contemporary managers must face and address the phenomenon in order to achieve organisational success (Kim 2003) as the strategies of managers in any organisations should aim to enhance effective job performance among workers (Shadare & Hammed 2009). Wiley (1997) suggested that in order to ensure the success of a company, employers must understand what motivates their employees, because such understanding is essential to improve productivity. These suggestions imply that organisational success depends heavily on employee motivation, and managers will be empowered when they understand what motivates their employees (Kim 2003).

Motivation constitutes a central element in going through the process of human learning. If an organisation does not possess the ability to motivate its employees, the knowledge within the organisation would not be practically optimised. Therefore, it should be the objective of every learning organisation to look for the factors that would motivate its employees to acquire continuous learning and to take advantage of the inherent knowledge, to secure their existence in an organisation (Islam & Ismail, 2008). Moreover, motivation is also a process of arousing and sustaining a goal directed behaviour (Shadare & Hammed 2009). As mentioned by Perry and Porter (1982), motivation usually refers to that aspect which energises, directs, and sustains behaviours. Since the term motivation is derived from the Latin word ‘movere’ which means to move the word motivation implies to move, push or persuade towards satisfying a need which is a basic psychological process (Khan, et al. 2010). Kim (2006) also cited that motivation is a force that acts on or within a person causing behaviour in a specific, goal directed manner. According to Rainey (2001: 20), work motivation “…refers to how much a person tries to work hard and well—to the arousal, direction, and persistence of effort in work settings.”.

Although there seems to be no disagreement about the importance of the defined different aspects of motivation, there is certain consensus about some underlying properties of motivation (Mitchell 1982). Three salient items are listed.

  1. Motivation is an individual phenomenon, meaning that the individual is unique where the major motivational theories allow in one way or another for such uniqueness to be demonstrated, considering that different people have different needs, expectations, values, attitudes, reinforcement histories, and goals.
  2. Motivation is usually described as intentional, which implies that motivation could be under the control of the employee. Most behaviours that are seen as being influenced by motivation (effort and job) are typically viewed as actions that individuals chose to do.
  3. Motivation is multifaceted, and the two factors of greatest importance are the arousal (activation, energisers) and direction (choice) of behaviour.

In organisational behaviour and human resource management disciplines, motivation is often described as ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’ in nature (Sansone & Harackiewicz 2000). Of the several work motivation theories, the extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors play important roles in influencing the employees’ work performance (Chowdhury 2007). Extrinsic motivation is concerned about the behaviour influenced by the desire of obtaining external rewards (Shadare & Hammed 2009). Praise or positive feedback, money, and the absence of punishment are examples of extrinsic or external motivation.

In contrast, intrinsic motivation takes place when a person ‘performs some activity for himself’ (Van Yperen & Hagedoorn 2003). According to Ryan and Deci (2000), intrinsic motivation is apparent when an individual’s behaviour is oriented towards the satisfaction of his innate psychological needs rather than to obtain material rewards. In short, intrinsic motivation is the inspiration to do something simply for the pleasure of performing such a particular activity. Examples of intrinsic motivational factors are interesting work, recognition, growth, and achievement (Shadare & Hammed 2009). Perry and Porter (1982) identified the factors that could affect an employee’s motivation, which could include the characteristics of an individual, the job, work environment, and external environment. Kovach (1995) identified in detail ten interesting factors of an organisation that could motivate the employees. These factors comprised interesting work, full appreciation of work done by supervisors, feeling of being part of the organisation, job security, good wages, promotion and growth in the organisation, good working conditions, respect of supervisors to employees, tactful discipline among employees, and sympathetic help with employee’s personal problems.

The expectancy theory of Victor Vroom (1964) was used as the foundation of this study as this theory is the generally accepted as a most comprehensive explanation of an employee motivation. The expectancy theory relates an individual’s increased effort and performance to the deserved and wanted rewards (Hahn & Kleiner 2002). Based on this theory, an individual is inclined to act in a certain manner with the expectation that such act will be followed by a given outcome as well as on the attractiveness of such outcome to an individual (Robbins & Coulter 2002).

The expectancy theory also suggests that people usually join organisations with certain values and expectations (Desimone & Harris 1998, Curivan 1999). A strong premise of the theory is when expectations are met, individuals are motivated and exert a high level of effort to achieve organisational and personalgoals, and usually stay with the organisation for a longer period of time. Otherwise, if there is a substantial gap between what an individual wants from his or her work (i.e., ‘wants’), and what he or she gets from the work (i.e., ‘gets’), such individuals are likely to leave the organisation sooner (Jurkiewicz & Massey 1996). An important assumption is an individual would strive to balance the wants and gets. The actions that an individual usually takes in order to balance the wants and gets could include:

  1. Modifying either ‘wants’ or ‘gets’ to bring them into a certain level of balance.
  2. Seeking other sources of ‘gets’ that would be more closely parallel to the ‘wants’.
  3. Choosing to do little about either the ‘wants’ or ‘gets’, which could result in an individual’s frustration, dissatisfaction or retaliation (Jurkiewicz & Massey 1996).

Motivation remains a difficult factor to manage because employees’ aspirations and targets do not always match with what their employers may provide (Lather & Jain 2005). Moreover, not all jobs can be made as interesting as what the employees would expect and more importantly, what is interesting to one person might not be interesting to another (Kovach 1995). Therefore, organisations and managers should not limit themselves with only one specific motivational factor, but are obliged to consider instead, diverse motivational models in order to realise the different needs of their employees (Kim 2006).


Sample and Site

The study was conducted with the employees of public and private banks situated in the federal area of Islamabad, Pakistan. Currently, there are 39 banks operating in Pakistan including 28 local and 11 multinational banks. Among these 39 banks, only one is a government bank. Of the 14 private banks in Islamabad, three were randomly chosen. From the 200 questionnaires distributed to the bank employees, 165 questionnaires were completed to give an overall response rate of 82.50 per cent. Thus, while the proportion of the total number of banks was low, these institutions were reasonably well represented.

Table 1 presents the demographics of the respondents, which include the type of organisation in which they are working with, gender, marital status, education, experience, and age. As shown in Table 1, out of the 165 respondents, 68 were from public banks (41.21% of the total respondents), while 97 were from private banks (58.79%).

Table 1
Characteristics of the sample % (N = 165)
Variables Type of organisation %
Public (n = 68) Private (n = 97)
Male 51 71 73.94
Female 17 26 26.06
Marital status
Single 39 51 54.55
Married 29 46 45.45
Bachelor 17 30 28.48
Master 51 67 71.52
Experience (years)
Less than 5 27 58 51.52
Between 5 and 10 36 26 37.58
Between 11 and 15 3 6 5.45
Between 16 and 20 1 4 3.03
Between 21 and 25 1 3 2.42
Age (years)
Less than 20 4 6 6.06
Between 21 and 30 57 71 77.58
Between 31 and 40 6 13 11.52
Between 41 and 50 1 6 4.24
More than 50 0 1 0.61

From the 165 respondents, there were 122 (73.94%) males and 43 (26.06%) females. Ninety respondents were single (54.55%), while 75 were married (47.5%). It is noteworthy that 118 respondents (71.52% of the total respondents) graduated with a Master’s degree, while only 28.48% (47 respondents) had a Bachelor’s degree. A major portion of respondents indicated that they had experience in banking system for less than five years, and between five and ten years. There were only a few respondents with experience of more than 10 years. Most of the respondents were between 20 and 30 years of age, comprising 77.58 per cent (128) of the total respondents.


The data used for this study were collected through a questionnaire survey of employees from selected banks in Islamabad. A non recurring ordinal scale was used. The respondents were asked to rank the 12 work related motivational factors in terms of importance by assigning 1 to the most important, 2 to the second most important, 3 to the third most important, and so on, with 12 indicating the least important motivational attribute. These factors were referred to as ‘Wants’. Likewise, the respondents were also asked to rank the same factors in terms of availability in their jobs by assigning 1 to the most available, 2 to the second most available, 3 to the third most available and so on, with 12 to indicate the least available, and these features were referred to as ‘Gets’.


The questionnaire consisted of 12 motivational factors. These factors were assessed with a 12 point, non recurring normative scale. A total of seven factors (high salary, chance to benefit society, personal development/learning, social status/prestige, opportunity for advancement, balanced work and family life, a stable and secure future) were taken from previous research studies (e.g., Jurkiewicz, Massey & Brown 1998), while the remaining five factors were suggested during a consultation with a group of employees working in the public domain and private sector. The seven factors taken from previous research studies could be commonly found in the working environment of every society, while the additional five factors are specifically related to the work environment of Pakistan. The selection of the motivational factors for the study takes into account their suitability with the work settings in Pakistan. The 12 motivational factors selected for the study are presented in Appendix 1.


The frequency of every factor against each rank was determined. This was followed by the separate calculation of the frequency of every motivational factor relative to its importance (wants) and availability (gets) for both public and private banks employees. After counting the frequencies against each rank for all motivational factors, the mean value of each factor was estimated in order to determine its relative importance and availability (Chan & Pearson 2002). Since the data collected in the survey were ordinal, the Wilcoxon rank test was applied to compare the relative importance and availability of the motivational factors within and between the two sector employees (Neideen & Brasel 2007).


The results of the comparison of Wants and Gets motivational factors made by the employees in the public bank are given in Table 2. The content of Table 2 reveal that a significant difference existed in seven factors in terms of their importance by and availability to the employees. However, the two factors which the employees ranked as the most important were also the least available factors provided by the banks. In terms of Wants versus Gets, these factors were high salary (1 vs. 8) and seniority based promotion (2 vs. 12). The other five factors having significant differences in terms of Wants and Gets as assessed by the employees were: 1) a stable and secure future, 2) relaxed working environment, 3) physical working environment, 4) chance to provide benefit to society, and 5) social status. These factors were ranked by the employees as less important, but were highly available for them in their jobs.

Table 2
Mean, standard deviation, and mean contrast of “wants” and “gets” of public bank employees
Motivational factors Wants (W) Gets (G) Contrast
Mean S.D. Rank Mean S.D. Rank
1. High salary 2.44 2.52 1 7.15 4.09 8 W > G ***
2. Seniority based promotion 4.79 3.43 2 8.53 3.53 12 W > G ***
3. Personal development/learning 5.93 3.07 3 5.03 3.01 2 n.s.
4. Balanced work and family life 6.12 2.48 4 6.00 2.99 6 n.s.
5. A stable and secure future 6.35 2.66 5 4.16 3.04 1 W < G ***
6. Relaxed working environment 6.53 3.66 6 5.38 3.58 3 W < G *
7. Fringe benefits 6.84 3.66 7 5.93 3.23 5 n.s.
8. Physical working environment 7.44 2.91 8 5.88 3.06 4 W < G **
9. Benefits after retirement 7.46 3.10 9 6.87 3.05 7 n.s.
10. Chance to benefit society 7.62 3.26 10 8.21 3.27 11 W < G ***
11. Opportunity for advancement 8.00 2.87 11 7.56 2.93 10 n.s.
12. Social status/prestige 8.47 3.29 12 7.27 2.84 9 W < G **

Notes: a. Pu = Public, Pr = Private, and n.s. = non significant.
b. * = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01, and *** = p < 0.001.

The comparison between Wants and Gets made by private bank employees presented in Table 3, showed that significant differences prevailed in only five factors in terms of importance and availability. Thus, in terms of Wants and Gets, one of the factors which the employees ranked as the most important, but less available to them was high salary (1 vs. 5). The second factor, for which the employees had a high preference, but was less available to them, was operating in a relaxed working environment (11 vs. 12). The other three factors which were ranked more available than important included: (a) a stable and secure future (3 vs. 2), (b) personal development (4 vs. 1), and (c) chance to provide benefit to society (8 vs. 4).

Table 3
Mean, standard deviation, and mean contrast of “wants” and “gets” of private bank employees
Motivational factors Wants (W) Gets (G) Contrast
Mean S.D. Rank Mean S.D. Rank
1. High salary 2.53 2.29 1 5.36 3.08 5 W > G ***
2. Seniority based promotion 4.79 2.99 2 4.46 2.87 3 n.s.
3. A stable and secure future 5.35 3.15 3 4.25 2.49 2 W < G *
4. Personal development/learning 5.54 3.33 4 3.71 2.62 1 W < G ***
5. Opportunity for advancement 6.03 2.79 5 6.30 4.93 6 n.s.
6. Balanced work and family life 6.93 2.82 6 7.64 2.50 7 n.s.
7. Fringe benefits 7.13 3.25 7 7.90 3.05 10 n.s.
8. Chance to benefit society 7.29 2.80 8 5.29 3.12 4 W < G ***
9. Physical working environment 7.59 3.17 9 7.76 3.13 9 n.s.
10. Social status/prestige 7.64 2.98 10 7.65 2.57 8 n.s.
11. Relaxed working environment 7.90 3.48 11 9.12 3.02 12 W > G *
12. Benefits after retirement 9.14 3.18 12 8.75 3.55 11 n.s.

Notes: a. Pu = Public, Pr = Private, and n.s. = non significant.
b. * = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01, and *** = p < 0.001.

Table 4 shows the results of the comparison of the differences between Wants of employees in both public and private banks. Since the mean differences were insignificant, this implied that that the level of importance of various factors was the same for the employees from the two sectors, although the employees differ in their Wants only in four motivational factors. The public bank employees ranked two factors as more important for them than their counterparts in the private banks. These are: (a) relaxed working environment (6 vs. 11), and (b) benefits after retirement (9 vs. 12). The employees in the private banks also ranked another two factors as more important, namely: a stable and secure future (5 vs. 3) and opportunity for advancement (11 vs. 5), although this was not the case for those in the public bank.

Table 4
Mean, standard deviation, and mean contrast of “wants” between employees of public and private banks
Motivational factors Public (n = 68) Private (n = 97) Contrast
Mean S.D. Rank Mean S.D. Rank
High salary 2.44 2.52 1 2.53 2.29 1 n.s.
Seniority based promotion 4.79 3.43 2 4.79 2.97 2 n.s.
Personal development/learning 5.93 3.07 3 5.54 3.33 4 n.s.
Balanced work and family life 6.12 2.48 4 6.93 2.82 6 n.s.
A stable and secure future 6.35 2.69 5 5.35 3.15 3 Pu < Pr *
Relaxed working environment 6.53 3.66 6 7.90 3.48 11 Pu > Pr *
Fringe benefits 6.84 3.66 7 7.13 3.25 7 n.s.
Physical working environment 7.44 2.91 8 7.59 3.17 9 n.s.
Benefits after retirement 7.46 3.10 9 9.14 3.18 12 Pu > Pr ***
Chance to benefit society 7.62 3.26 10 7.29 2.80 8 n.s.
Opportunity for advancement 8.00 2.87 11 6.03 2.79 5 Pu < Pr ***
Social status/prestige 8.47 3.29 12 7.64 2.98 10 n.s.

Notes: a. Pu = Public, Pr = Private, and n.s. = non significant.
b. * = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01, and *** = p < 0.001.

The results of the ranking of the Gets by the employees from public and private banks are given in Table 5. The data indicated that the availability of various motivational factors (Gets) to public and private bank employees were significantly different. These differences were found for all motivational factors except in fringe benefits and social status. The factors that were more available to the public bank employees compared with their counterparts in the private banks were: (a) a stable and secure future, (b) relaxed working environment, (c) physical working environment, (d) balanced work and family life, and (e) benefits after retirement. On the other hand, the factors that were more available to the private bank employees included: (a) personal development, (b) high salary, (c) opportunity for advancement, (d) chance to provide benefit to society, and (e) seniority based promotion.

Table 5
Mean, standard deviation, and mean contrast of “gets” between employees of public and private banks
Motivational factors Public (n = 68) Private (n = 97) Contrast
Mean S.D. Rank Mean S.D. Rank
1. A stable and secure future 4.16 3.04 1 4.25 2.49 2 Pu > Pr **
2. Personal development/learning 5.03 3.01 2 3.71 2.62 1 Pu < Pr ***
3. Relaxed working environment 5.38 3.58 3 9.12 3.02 12 Pu > Pr ***
4. Physical working environment 5.88 3.06 4 7.76 3.13 9 Pu > Pr **
5. Fringe benefits 5.93 3.23 5 7.90 3.05 10 n.s.
6. Balanced work and family life 6.00 2.99 6 7.64 2.50 7 Pu > Pr ***
7. Benefits after retirement 6.87 3.05 7 8.75 3.55 11 Pu > Pr ***
8. High salary 7.15 4.09 8 5.36 3.08 5 Pu < Pr **
9. Social status/prestige 7.27 2.84 9 7.65 2.57 8 n.s.
10. Opportunity for advancement 7.56 2.93 10 6.30 4.93 6 Pu < Pr ***
11. Chance to benefit society 8.21 3.27 11 5.29 3.13 4 Pu < Pr ***
12. Seniority based promotion 8.53 3.53 12 4.46 2.87 3 Pu < Pr ***

Notes: a. Pu = Public, Pr = Private, and n.s. = non significant.
b. * = p < 0.05, ** = p < 0.01, and *** = p < 0.001.


The general notion about public sector employees which could be found in the literature of comparative studies of public and private sector employees suggests that one of the objectives of individuals to join the public sector is to get a chance to provide some benefits to society (e.g., Rainy 1982, Perry & Wise 1990, Wittmer 1991). However, this was not demonstrated as the importance given by the concerned respondents as this factor was very low in this study (i.e., at number 10). Moreover, the result about availability of this factor is questionable. Despite the fact that employees in the public bank seem to have more opportunities to be able to provide a benefit to society, this factor was ranked at number 11 (i.e., the second last available factor out of 12). Considering that in Pakistan people are bound, in many cases, to deal with the National Bank of Pakistan (a public sector organisation) due to the government’s rules and regulations, therefore, the chance to provide a benefit to society should be highly available to employees serving in public banks. Although the private bank employees have given comparatively low importance to this beneficial factor (i.e., at number 8) this factor was considered highly available to them (i.e., at number 4). There is, however, one thing common in the ranking given by both sector employees to this factor. Both sector employees considered this factor as among the less wanted motivational factors in their jobs, highlighting the need for managers to advocate to both sector employees the importance of providing a service for the benefit of society considering that all of them are living in the same society with their respective rights especially, in the case of the public sector employees.

A stable and secure future, which is considered as one of the most prevailing reasons for joining the public sector (e.g., Schuster 1974, Bellante & Link 1981, Baldwin 1987, 1991, Jurkiewicz, et al. 1998, Lewis & Frank 2002), was ranked as number five. However, this was also the most available motivating factor to the public bank employees, indicating they perceived they were secure and stable in their jobs. Nevertheless, this factor could also prevent the public bank employees from working hard and competitively. In addition, the absence of extra benefits available to the public bank employees could result in demotivation of the employees, as described by Frank and Lewis (2004:39) that “unlike some managers in private firms, public managers cannot share in profits if their agencies perform well, and they do not lose their jobs if their agencies fail.” As a result, public organisations find less material incentives to extract high performance (Johnson & Libecap 1994). In fact, there should be a proper reward and penalty system (i.e., a check and balance system), so that if employees are performing very well, they have to be recognised and rewarded accordingly. Such rewards could include bonuses, best performer shields, recognition certificates, among others. Conversely, for employees who do not take much interest in their duties and perform below the average, a mechanism should be established that would encourage them to either improve and perform up to standards or leave the organisation. Social status/prestige is considered as one of the most rewarded factors in the public sector job, but in the present research, the public employees ranked this factor as the least wanted aspect in their jobs. This could be due to the economic changes and higher inflation rates, which justified the notion that it is not only a government job, but it is also the money that defines the social status and prestige of a person.

A common perception about public sector employees indicating that they do not want to learn is questionable. In this study this learning factor was ranked amongst the most important (i.e., at number 3). Another notion about the public sector regarding the very few opportunities made available for further learning/personal development also appeared to be false, as this was considered the second most available factor by public bank employees. Since the employees in both sector banks rated this factor as highly important, managers might arrange various training/refresher courses to motivate their employees especially, when some new technologies are introduced to the organisation.

Most of the motivating factors wanted by the private bank employees were available to them. The highest need which was, however, considered lacking by the employees in private banks was the availability of high salary. This feature was considered as their top preference, but was not available to them following the four other motivational factors (1 vs. 5). There was also a notable difference in terms of importance and availability of high salary for the public bank employees (1 vs. 8). The study findings suggest that managers in public and private banks might consider giving special attention to the salaries of their employees. In this regard, the salaries of employees could be adjusted in accordance with the inflation rate and commensurate with the current trends of other living expenses, because a financially satisfied employee is likely to be more productive and innovative.

A widespread perception that private bank employees prefer higher pay (e.g., Wittmer 1991, Jurkiewicz, et al. 1998) was also supported by the present study. Among the 12 motivating factors, the third most important motivating factor for the private bank employees was ‘a stable and secure future’. Surprisingly, however, private bank employees were getting such this privilege more than what they preferred (3 vs. 2). This observation contradicts the general thought that people working in private banks do not have job security and stability, making it questionable to reconcile how employees in private banks feel secure and stable in their jobs. Nevertheless, three reasons could justify such situation. Firstly, it is a fact that Pakistan lacks professionals, therefore, employers usually do not fire any employee unless he or she commits serious mistakes/crimes. Secondly, the consistent delivery of products and services by private organisations in Pakistan prevents them from mass downsizing or rightsizing their companies. Thirdly, maintaining high regards to those in power is prevalent in Pakistan society, where employees have the tendency to show high level of respect and submissiveness to their supervisors and seniors by preventing them from exhibiting or expressing aggressive attitudes and resistance against any decisions made by the upper level of the organisation. Therefore, organisations do not find any reason to suspend employees from their secure and stable jobs, which is a finding in contrast to private sector employees in advanced and developed countries. Accordingly, the employees in the study did not consider getting a chance to benefit society (as highly preferred, although this factor was made available to them (i.e., 8 vs. 4).

The fact that the Wants of public and private bank employees from their jobs are highly similar is verified in Table 4. The three motivating factors high salary, seniority based promotion, and fringe benefits had the same preference level by both sector employees. These were. The general concept found in most literature about public and private sector describes the fact that public sector employees are motivated by intrinsic rewards such as a chance to provide a benefit to society, personal development, and social status; while private bank employees are motivated by extrinsic rewards like high salary, fringe benefits, and bonuses. However, the findings of the present study indicated that the bank employees from both sectors considered high salary as the most important motivating factor by ranking it number 1. This finding translates employees in both sector banks are highly motivated by extrinsic rewards followed by intrinsic rewards. Many employees working in private banks do not just want to be promoted based on their performance. Instead, like the public bank employees they also want promotion based on seniority in their jobs (2 vs. 2). This could be due to the reason that not all employees possess competitive abilities and achieve high performance. These outcomes are used as basis for promotion, and thus, would not qualify for promotion, while such employees would have some chances of getting promoted based on seniority. The public bank employees indicated a low importance for a stable and secure future compared to private bank employees (5 vs. 3). Among the reasons could be due to the fact that this motivating factor already exists in their jobs, but private bank employees still need more security and stability of their jobs. A general concept about public sector employees on their lack of high desires to find opportunities for advancement compared to private sector employees was also supported (11 vs. 5).

The results of this study also supported several previous research findings. However, the findings also seemed to challenge at the same time some long held beliefs. The differences in the findings of this study with those of previous studies could be due to the present diversity in work setting of the socio cultural environment. First, the results of the study about high salary are consistent with the findings of Crewson (1997), and those of Gabris and Simo (1995) which showed that there was a non statistical difference regarding high pay as a motivational factor between employees of public and private sectors. The findings from the study reported in this paper were inconsistent with the results of the studies of Jurkiewicz, et al. (1998), Solomon (1986), and Rainey (1982), where it was established that high salary was the most important reward for private sector employees as opposed to public sector employees. Moreover, these findings also contradicted the observations of Buelens and Broeck (2007) which stressed that employees in the public sector are oftentimes less motivated by money (high salary). The findings that seniority based promotion is the second most important factor for both sector bank employees concurred with the outcomes of the study of McCampbell, Jongpipitporn, Umar and Ungaree (1999). Their study indicated that 65 per cent of employees in the United State of America put great respect for seniority within their organisations, since this alludes to their personal values and behaviour based on moral belief.

As for job security in public banks, the results of this study supported the findings of Crewson (1997), and Newstrom, Reif and Monckza (1976) which suggested that public sector employees give less importance to job security (a stable and secure future). However, these results were different from the conclusions of Baldwin (1987), and Bellante and Link (1981) which indicated that public sector employees place higher importance on job security. One of the most common beliefs about public sector employees is that they are more motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g., social prestige, balanced work and family life, chance to benefit society) rather than the extrinsic factors (high salary, fringe benefits, physical working environment). However, this situation was not fully supported in this study. Instead, one extrinsic factor (high salary) was considered to have the highest priority by the public bank employees. Immediately following high salary, public bank employees ranked five intrinsic motivating factors (seniority based promotion, personal development/learning, balanced work and family, a stable and secure future, relaxed working environment) as their next highest priority. This finding implied that the respondents preferred a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors in their jobs. Nevertheless, the notion that the employees in private banks prefer extrinsic factors to intrinsic was found to be true in this study because the private bank employees ranked ‘high salary’ as the number one priority. Likewise, a want for this extrinsic factor (high salary) was followed by wants of five intrinsic factors (i.e., seniority based promotion, a stable and secure future, personal development/learning, opportunity for advancement, balanced work and family life) also showing a requirement for the combination of both types of motivational factors for private banks employees. The findings of the study also showed that most of the preferences of the employees (wants) in public bank were similar to those of the employees in private banks. This observation suggests that the motivational techniques used in private banks could be borrowed to motivate public bank employees.


The objective of the study was to compare the relative importance of various motivational factors for employees in public and private banks and the availability of such factors in their jobs. In addition, the study made a comparison of the importance and availability of those motivational factors between employees of public and private banks. The findings showed that employees in both public and private banking sectors ranked ‘high salary’ and ‘seniority based promotion’ as the two most important motivational factors.

The other factors such as relaxed working environment and benefits after retirement, were ranked as more important by the public bank employees than those respondents in private banks. In contrast, the private bank employees ranked another two factors, namely, a stable and secure future and opportunity for advancement, as more important than their counterparts in public bank. However, on the overall, the comparison of ‘Wants’ of public and private banks employees demonstrated that most of the mean differences of these ‘Wants’ were insignificant, indicating that the level of importance of the various factors could be the same for the two banking sector employees.

The findings of this study also revealed that except for ‘fringe benefits’ and ‘social status’, the availability of other motivational factors ‘Gets’ is significantly different as far as the public and private banking employees are concerned. The factors that were more available to employees in the public bank than those in private banks included: a stable and secure future, relaxed working environment, physical working environment, balanced work and family life, and benefits after retirement. On the other hand, personal development, high salary, opportunity for advancement, chance to provide benefit to society, and seniority based promotion were considered more available to private bank employees than public bank employees.

A salient contribution of the study lies in implications and consequences for HRM policies and practices in a competitive Pakistan banking industry. A key confirmation was the motivational techniques used in private sector could also work in the public sector due to the relatively similar nature of the needs of two sector employees. However, considering all these findings especially in particular situations as in Pakistan, it should be noted that an individual or group of individuals could have different interests from each other. This observation implies that organisations and managers are to be encouraged to consider better diverse motivational models to realise the different needs of their employees. Furthermore, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the motivational factors among employees in the banking industry, more relevant and important motivational factors could be considered by researchers when conducting similar studies in the future, but the inclusion of such factors should be based on specific contexts. Moreover, an investigation of the different demographic groups and their preferences for specific motivational factors could be a fruitful area for future research. In addition, it would be advantageous to consider the findings of the study which were based on the results of a preliminary investigation in the context of an Asian country and is only exploratory in nature. Therefore, further more comprehensive research investigations would need to be conducted in more depth. Finally, investigators would benefit from broadening the scope of the research by observing not only the banking industry, but also other financial sectors. In so doing, the sampling proportion of public and private sectors will be more representative and in turn, would improve the research reliability and level of generalisation.


Abdul Qayyum is a doctoral student at School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology Thailand. His research areas of interest are in human resource management and quality management.


Sukirno is an assistant professor at Accounting Department, Faculty of Economics at Yogyakarta State University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He obtained his master degree in accounting from Gadjah Mada University Indonesia and doctoral degree on human resource management from the School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand. His research areas of interest are in human resource management, educational measurement and managerial accounting.


Ayyaz Mahmood is an assistant professor at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, Pakistan. His research areas of interest are in human resource management and knowledge management.



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Appendix 1

Respondents are required to rank in order (1 = first to 12 = least) the importance and availability of each motivational factor in their work life.

  1. High salary
  2. Seniority based promotion
  3. Chance to benefit society.
  4. Personal development/learning
  5. A stable and secure future.
  6. Balanced work and family life.
  7. Physical working environment
  8. Opportunity for advancement
  9. Social status/prestige.
  10. Fringe benefits
  11. Relaxed working environment
  12. Benefits after retirement