One of our 2016 best theses was on understanding the motivators of frontline employee innovation by Mohamed Bhorat

By: Bhorat, Mohamed Firoze



Innovation is widely seen as one of the cornerstones of organisational success and sustainability in an environment characterised by intense competition. The frontline employee is increasingly being seen as a critical component in an organisation’s innovation effort, due to their close proximity to and frequent engagement with the customer. Yet there is a lack of insight into what motivates frontline employees to be innovative. The purpose of this research is to gain insight into the specific motivators that influence the propensity of frontline employees to innovate. This research took the form of a descriptive study using a quantitative methodology, collecting data from 264 respondents through an online survey tool and an existing measurement instrument found in literature. A non probability sampling technique was used at a particular South African bank to obtain the sample. Research questions were formulated around, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and employee engagement factors and extended into determining which specific type of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators were effective in driving frontline employee innovation. A regression analysis revealed that intrinsic motivation was the only construct that was deemed to be statistically significant in predicting frontline employee innovation. However the “financial rewards” attribute, which corresponds to the extrinsic motivation construct, was found to be a statistically significant predictor of frontline employee innovation, albeit an inverse relationship. The findings suggest that frontline employees place more emphasis on their psychological needs being met in order for them to be innovative and that money is not necessarily a good motivator. In fact money as a motivator is seen as controlling and coercive and diminishes an employee’s sense of self determination and therefore may be detrimental to the motivation of frontline employee innovation. Academically, this study contributes to the insights on motivating frontline employees, with an emphasis on driving innovation. These insights may be used in business to inform motivational tactics that leads to a continued propensity to innovate amongst frontline employees, thus ensuring the overall success and sustainability of the organisation.