Analysis of the motivation of Azerbaijani employees during the COVID-19 crisis

Posted on:Jul 6,2021


The first coronavirus (COVID-19) infection was registered in Azerbaijan on 28 February 2020 and the first death on 12 March. The main source of infections were people traveling from Iran to Azerbaijan. As the number of infections increased important and rigorous measures were taken, which also had an impact on the functioning of the economy. As in other parts of the world, the COVID-19 crisis in Azerbaijan will have the greatest impact on the economy, including the labour market. Hundreds of thousands of employees will lose their jobs due to coronavirus. The aim of the present study to analyse the main indicators of the employee’s motivation and expectations during the coronavirus crisis. Based on the results of own research, it can be stated that the predictability and security of the workplace have increased due to the COVID-19 crisis. Employees prefer a safe and stable workplace over motivational factors, such as money and other financial benefits.

Keywords: Azerbaijan, COVID-19, employee, motivation, satisfaction


In the world of today companies are facing with COVID-19 crisis, this feeling can lead to fear, stress, aggression, and emotional disengagement from the work that they once felt passionate about (Buheji and Ahmed, 2020). Nevertheless, management should not forget that every goal of a company can be only reached by the support of human work, in other words, the labour force will always be the source of success. Here comes the concept that is an everyday topic of a successful company: how can we increase the motivation of employees. Motivated employees can help an organisation to achieve the goals, in order to make it successful and competitive (Dhanabhakyam and Umadevi, 2012). Motivated employees are often more satisfied, innovative, and productive. If management can achieve the employees are motivated, the whole work atmosphere becomes positive with happier employees who are committed to the enterprise.

But how can the motivation environment be achieved efficiently and long-lasting? Establishing a good motivation is never easy and it never was either in earlier decades. There is not one single way and strategy to motivate people, every individual in an organization is motivated in some different way. Everyone is unique, with unique values and ideas, and to reach the wanted level of motivation and commitment, the management must find, analyse and implement multiple strategies to fulfil each employee’s demand and get the most of them (Karácsony et al., 2020). However, caring about persons and the way to increase employee motivation level cannot be described as one kind of strategy. Employers must use different ways of communication, a different way of acting, and different kind of rewards for every individual (Dwibedi, 2018; Önalan and Magda, 2020).

The concept of motivation there is no one exact definition to describe it. Many experts approach the concept from different aspects, based on the field they would like to implement it. This study is focused on employee motivation, for this reason: motivation at work has been defined as ‘the sum of the processes that influence the arousal, direction, and maintenance of behaviours relevant to work settings”. Shortly, employee motivation is a mixture of feelings of happiness, commitment, creativity, and willingness that employees feel when it comes to working (Vasa and Mendelényi, 2010; Berulava, 2012).

One of the most known motivation theory is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Suyono and Mudjanarko, 2017). Maslow believed that people are motivated to fulfil their own needs. Maslow’s pyramid of needs is applied in every field of life.

  1. The survival level is the physiological needs of humans. Needs must meet in order to survive, which means employees need a place to live, cloth, and food, and to have all of them they need a satisfying salary that pays the bills and provides these necessities.
  2. Safety means that the person’s surroundings are not threatening to them or their family. Besides employees need to feel that their jobs are secure, there is no financial uncertainty in the future. Employers should not give a feeling of fear to employers when they have to face an important decision.
  3. Belonging or affiliation is the urge to be accepted by others, it plays out in the workplace as the need to be part of a team. It is also important to feel their individual work is useful and pushes forward the company’s success. For this, employees need regular feedback and praise.
  4. Importance, in other words, esteem that includes the employee’s self-respect. Employees need to feel they are engaged in decisions and not a lost part of the system. This level has two components: feelings of self-worth and the need for respect from others. On this level besides praise, employees need publicity for their accomplishments.
  5. Self-Actualization means the person’s talents are being completely utilized. Employees get closer to this level because they have the training they need, the tools they require, and a well-structured environment. After they can make valuable contributions and start to self-actualize.

However Maslow believes that no one is ever completely self-actualized, people are always striving to be better and use their talents in new ways.

There are two main types of motivation that both can be reached in different ways and with different awards. Those commonly defined motivations are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Isoraitė, 2013). The notion of intrinsic motivation is closely related to intrinsic value. Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is animated by personal enjoyment, interest, or pleasure, and is usually contrasted with extrinsic motivation, which is manipulated by reinforcement contingencies. Most usually the manipulation is done by giving physical awards (like financial awards and material perks) or oral recognition (like praise). It is important to emphasize that intrinsic motivation is for self-satisfaction and not for the fear of consequences from the management side. The presence of intrinsic motivation can be seen on willingness to volunteer extra work and self-training. Intrinsic motivation is linked to positive affect, emotions, and attitudes, it helps people to avoid stress and negative emotions. This activity is an enriching experience for them, which offers challenges and opportunities to develop (Vida et al., 2020).

Extrinsic motivation can be the employer’s ‘dream level’ of energy, commitment, and creativity that are brought into the company every day. The first extrinsic motivation that every expert mention is financial reward, in other word money (Karacsony, 2019). As it was mentioned before, the first stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the survival and because most of the people work to provide housing, food, clothing, and entertainment for themselves and their families, money can be the key in many cases. Nowadays many people are willing to spend more time at work and put a bigger effort to perform a task for the opportunity to increase their wages or get bonuses. But the group of financial reward contains also health care support, retirement packages, life insurance, and discounts at the company’s partners. However modern theories say that the motivation an employee feels toward his or her job has less to do with material rewards than with the design of the job itself (Qarri and Fejza, 2018).

There are some so-called non-financial motivators that are not related to money but have a positive impact on the employees (Douglas and Morris, 2006). One of them is flexibility in job. Flexible working hours provide the opportunity for employees to have a satisfying personal life by accommodating family schedules and official administration time. Besides, home-office can be a promising offer especially for people who have smaller children or relatives suffering from illness. This opportunity can be also given as a bonus for hard-work. Employees appreciate being able to have a life outside of the business (Ren, 2010).

With the COVID-19 crisis, the motivation of workers has also changed, and jobs that were previously considered secure have also been put at risk, thus increasing job security as a motivating factor. In our study, we research the first phase of the COVID-19 crisis and try to identify the factors that would have the highest impact on the motivation of Azerbaijani workers. The study is actual and novel, as no one else has researched this topic so far.

Materials and methods

The principal objective of the study was to identify the level of employees’ motivation in Azerbaijani companies. The data collection was realized between June and October in 2020 by the method of online questioning. Participants of the research were Azerbaijani workers. The data collecting was helped by former Azerbaijani students of our university. In the course of the study, we evaluated a total of 114 employees from different enterprises. We used structured questionnaires that have been tested for reliability. The variables used have the Cronbach alpha correlation coefficient above 0.7, it means all the variables in this study is reliable. The questionnaire was designed to include a Likert-type with a 5-point scale.

The following can be said about the demographics of the respondents. 74.59% of respondents were male and 25.41% were female, in terms of age, the majority of the respondents, 52.14% declared themselves to be between 36 and 50 years. The age group with the smallest representation in the sample (17.24%) was the group between 18 and 24 years of age. If we take a look at the educational background of the respondents, most of them have finished their secondary school education (42.43%). Those who finished university make up below 17% of the respondents and are mainly from the leader groups. It was found that 37.14% of the employees had more than 10 years of work experience.

Results and discussion

Two important reasons that employees should be motivated are to achieve their own personal goals and the organizational goals. When motivating employees, there are two main ways: financial motivation and non-financial motivation. When speaking about financial motivators, it means that the employee receives some kind of monetary reward. Financial methods are short-term motivators to employees and are forgotten about later in the employee’s careers. Non-financial method does take more time on the manager, but it has longer lasting effects. If a manager wants to truly motivate their employee, they need to think about the individual and decide what non-financial rewards can be given to a specific employee.
Regarding the Figure 1. most of the respondents (27.3%) came from the manufacturing sector, followed by the business services sector (19.0%) (e.g., professional consulting, financial activities, etc.). The wholesale and retail sector (16.3%) was the 3rd main sector among the respondents, while the IT sector (10.5%) was the smallest one.
When asked how the COVID-19 crisis affected their work, respondents largely (83.6%) indicated a negative impact, followed by nothing changed due to coronavirus (3.7%), while 12.7% of respondents were not yet able to answer the question at the time of the survey (Figure 2). Based on these answers, it can also be stated that the coronavirus had a highly negative effect on Azerbaijani enterprises.
Table 1. shows the motivational techniques adopted by the evaluated enterprises. The result reveals that adequate salary level (87.4%), job security (84.3%), good working environment (79.1%), good working relationship (77.1%), gift and material benefit outside regular salary (75.4%), positive reinforcement (72.7%), and independent decision making (69.1%) were the major motivational techniques used by evaluated Azerbaijani enterprises.

Table 1. Motivational techniques used by Azerbaijani enterprises
Motivational techniques Percentage Rank
Adequate salary level 87.4 1
Job security 84.3 2
Good working environment 79.1 3
Good working relationship 77.1 4
Gift and material benefit outside regular salary 75.4 5
Positive reinforcement 72.7 6
Independent decision making 69.1 8

In order to measure the factors with the highest impact on employee’s motivation, it was used a semantic differential rating scale with a 5 points Likert-type scale format, ranging from ‘very important’ to ‘not at all important’ was used for all factors. Table 2. illustrates the rank of the individual motivational factors.

Table 2. Rank of individual motivational factors
Factors Mean Rank
Job security 4.23 1
Good working environment 4.01 2
Salary 3.97 3
Relationship with colleagues 3.78 4
Training opportunities 3.43 5

Job security as motivational factor had the highest mean with 4.23 from all of evaluated factors, followed by the good working environment (4.01), salary with a mean of 3.97, and the relationship with colleagues (3.78). The lowest mean level (3.43) got training opportunities.

According to both tables, it can be said that, unlike other similar researches, in the current COVID-19 crisis situation, the most important thing for Azerbaijani employees is to have a stable and secure workplace.

In order to analyse the relationship between job satisfaction and each motivational factor, we performed a regression analysis, the results are presented in Table 3.

In Table 3 the R-square value is 0.592 which means 59,2% of variation in job satisfaction is accounted by variation in the motivational factors.

Table 3 show the correlation between motivational factors and job satisfaction in the case of Azerbaijani workers. The results show that there is a significant relationship between job security and job satisfaction (B=0.399, p <0.05) and between salary and job satisfaction (B=0.245, p<0.05). My results are confirmed by the similar results published previously by Wiley (1997), Ramlall (2004) and Dartey-Baah and Harlley (2010).


Managers need to know what motivates employees to increase organizational performance. When an employee is well-motivated and therefore committed to the enterprise, it stays with the enterprise through a good and hard time and does everything for the enterprise to survive the crisis situations.

If management would like to create a safe and comfortable environment for employees, it has to respect the employees’ internal values. A behaviour of a human is highly dependent on background and personality. But besides, the current situation is influenced by the COVID-19 crisis. The present research showed that job security and predictability have become more important than money, which used to be the main motivating factor.

It is not yet known what the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis will be for the Azerbaijani labour market, but it is absolutely important that businesses are already prepared to retain their workers. Thus, is important for managers to communicate that they need their employees in the long run.

The competitiveness of organizations could be only achieved by retaining talents. Well-functioning leadership strategies can be designed and implemented only after understanding the diversity in employees’ characteristics and with respect to the different values.


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Péter Karácsony
J. Selye University, Faculty of Economics and Informatics, Komarno, Slovakia

László Vasa
Széchenyi István University, Faculty of Economics