Employee Motivation. A Case Study from the Fast Food Chain KFC in Central London

Master's Thesis, 2012
62 Pages, Grade: 60%



List of tables

1.1 Research Topic
1.2 Research Question
1.3 Research Opportunity
1.4 Factors Behind The Research Opportunity
1.5 The Organization
1.6 Aims and objective
1.6.1 Research aim
1.6.2 Research Objectives
1.7 Research Methodology
1.8 Rationale and Expected Benefits
1.9 Dissertation Road Map
1.10 Summary

2.1 Scope of the Research
2.2 Theories of Motivation
2.2.1 Current Situation
2.3 Leadership Theories
2.3.1 Review of Early Leadership Theories
2.3.2 Current Leadership Theories and Practices
2.4 Characteristics of Leadership
2.5 Leadership Attitude and Motivation
2.6 Qualities of a high performing team
2.7 Common Theme of Leadership and Motivation
2.8 How the Research Add to the Literature Review

3.1 Research Purpose
3.2 Research Approach
3.3 Research Strategy
3.4 Generalisability
3.5 Sampling Technique
3.6 Time Horizons
3.7 Data Collection
3.8 Limitations

4.1 Questionnaire Survey Results
4.2 Focus Group
4.3 Research Results

5.1 Research Recommendation
5.2 Research Conclusion
5.3 Future Research
5.4 Self- Reflection


Appendix A:

Appendix B:

Appendix C:


This dissertation would not have been possible to complete without the help of many.

Firstly, I would like to thank ___________, for her guidance as my dissertation supervisor. Your supervision, advice and timely feedbacks were always constructive and showed me ways to improve.

I would like to thank the participating managers and staffs of KFC for their support throughout the process.

I would like to say a big thank-you to my mother and father for constantly being on my side and giving me encouragement to stay focused. They took away all the pressure and let me come to the UK to pursue my dream. They gave me financial support, courage and advice and I never felt alone. I will be indebted to them forever.


Attracting and retaining employees in the current business world has become a big challenge for the organizations. Due to increase in competitors and new entrants, it has become a tough task for the organizations. Globalization has also added a new dimension to the challenge. The workforce is now comprised of people from different countries and different cultures. As a result, keeping them motivated to give a high performance is a big task for the managers. There have been many research and theories of leadership and motivation. However, these are not still fully understood and the relationship between leadership and motivation still needs in depth research. Leaders need to find ways to motivate their subordinates by catering their individual needs and move away from the traditional methods.

The main aim of this dissertation project is to critically examine the chosen organization KFC to study the effect of its leadership on the motivation of its employees. The research question is, “How can management develop their leadership style to motivate staff members to achieving their organizational roles?”

For the purpose of explaining the causal relationship between leadership and motivation, the researcher pursued an action research strategy and followed an inductive approach as the researcher had to work closely with the organization. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected using an employee survey questionnaire and a focus group interview of the managers.

The data analysis gave information about leadership and motivation of KFC. The managers stressed on having clear communication, independence and decision making for them. The staff stressed on communication, recognition, rewards, improved work condition and self satisfaction. The results revealed that KFC should look to employ some new strategies to increase the motivation of its staff. The researcher has made some recommendations at the end of the report. However, as this research was conducted in a small location, it may require further in depth research to come to an exclusive conclusion.

List of tables

Chart 1 Employee’s personal values

Chart 2 Employee’s work values

Table 1 Management

Table 2 Future action


In this introductory chapter, the whole research project will be discussed in brief. This chapter will include research topic, research question, aims and objectives and the overall purpose and opportunity of this report. The research would also include a road map of the whole dissertation from start to end so that it becomes easier for the readers to understand what this report is about. There will be a brief synopsis of the following chapters so that readers have a clear idea of the subject matter.

1.1 Research Topic

The effect of leadership on employee motivation- A case study on five selected stores of a major fast food chain KFC in Central London Area

1.2 Research Question

How can management develop their leadership style to motivate staff members to achieving their organizational roles?

1.3 Research Opportunity

In the current business world, challenges faced by the organizations in terms of employee motivation and retention are different from those of the previous times. According to Hiam (2003), there is greater need for intelligence and alertness regardless of the type of organization. Every organization must move forward to a new direction in an innovative way by embracing the opportunities and reducing threats (Hiam, 2003, P. 4). Organizations are facing a difficult task of finding ways to attract and retain employees in a competitive market. They are struggling to offer innovative incentives besides regular salaries and benefits. Grenshing-Pophal (2002) states that even a small organization can become highly competitive by successfully motivating its employees. Grenshing-Pophal (2002, p. xii) further suggests that an organization must show creativity and move outside the traditional methods of compensating employees to develop a work force high in spirits.

The onerous task of developing and retaining a workforce that is motivated and productive lies with the leadership of the organization. Motivation of employees mostly depends on the leaders’ attitude and how they equip, train and influence the employees (Morse, 2003). Organizations are not only looking to retain employees, they are also looking to get great leaders as they believe that leaders can bring special skills to the organization and eventually improve the bottom level employees (Northouse, 2009).

Therefore, motivation and leadership have become interrelated and a complex subject area. There is a great opportunity to create a clear understanding of motivation and leadership and their effect on organizational performance. This research would be conducted on a major fast food chain, which is very fast paced, to assess the motivation level of the employees and to assess the perception of the leaders.

1.4 Factors Behind The Research Opportunity

“Corporate ownership structures, governance system and incentive programs- despite the enlightened rhetoric of business leaders- are still firmly planted in the industrial age and leaders are still motivating their employees through Pavlovian carrot-and-stick incentives” (Manville and Ober, 2003). Although situation has improved than before where employees have greater independence, in most cases, they still cannot take part in major decisions. As a result, employees “feel estranged from their organization” (Manville and Ober, 2003, para). This is one of the main factors behind this research.

Another important factor behind this research project is to understand the leadership attitudes. According to Morse (2003), “many leaders believe they need to offer bonuses, but money won’t have the desired effect if managers overlook their employees”. Sometimes leaders develop employee motivation strategies for a short term rather than for a long term success and eventually do not contribute to the employee motivation in a meaningful way.

After researching in details through many literatures, it has been found that researchers have given a lot of emphasis on motivation in general. The main target of this dissertation project is to work closely with the chosen organization to identify what actually motivates their employees by studying the uniqueness of the organization and its employees. The researcher will collect data from employees and managers and analyze them to find their viewpoint on motivation. The researcher expects to develop some new ideas on motivation give a road map to the organization to initiate the changes.

1.5 The Organization

The chosen organization for this dissertation project is KFC, a large organization in hospitality-food and beverage services industry. KFC started with the innovation of a 65year old man named Colonel Harland Sanders in 1939. He started selling his original recipe fried chicken from a petrol station he owned. However, he had to move on the roads to sell his chicken due to a construction work that bypassed his town. This resulted in the first KFC outlet being opened in 1952 in Utah and started a great successful journey. KFC started its operations in the UK in 1965 in Preston and currently operates about 700 outlets, both company owned and franchised. In 1997, KFC was turned in to an independent company named Yum! Brands, with its head office in Louisville, Kentucky and its UK head office in Woking, Surrey (KFC Website, 2012).

In 2011, KFC became one of the top 50 great places to work in United Kingdom (KFC Website, 2012) and also ranked as one of Britain’s top employers by CRF Institute (Telegraph, 2011). KFC got this award for having great HR practices of international standard and ensuring a great work environment and development opportunities.

1.6 Aims and objective

1.6.1 Research aim

The aims of the research are:

- To critically examine the organization to explore what motivates its employees based on its current leadership style.
- To investigate current opinions, ideas and insights on leadership and motivational factors of the managers and staff at KFC.

1.6.2 Research Objectives

The main objectives of this research have been listed as following:

- Work closely with the chosen organization to identify what motivational technique it uses.
- For this objective, the researcher would mainly depend on the observation and discussion with the managers in a focus group.

- Investigate how these techniques work to motivate the employees. In particular, the researcher would like to examine what the employees think about management and the way they are managed.
- For this objective, the researcher would mainly depend on the survey using a questionnaire with a sample of 25 employees of KFC.

- After analyzing the data, make specific recommendation to KFC about its leadership and employee motivation and also develop strategies to implement them in the organization.
- For this objective, the researcher would analyze the data to develop a common trend on employee motivation and leadership and match them with the current situation to find areas of improvement.

1.7 Research Methodology

This research is about examining the causal relationship between leadership and motivation. The nature of the research effectively makes it an explanatory research. As the researcher has to work with the members of the organization, it will be an inductive study. The research strategy pursued by the researcher is an action research which is particularly important as the researcher has to communicate and collaborate with the chosen organization KFC. The researcher will collect data using qualitative and quantitative methods such as focus group and survey questionnaire. While collecting data, the researcher will communicate with the participants and observe them to gather more information to develop an outcome on the research subject matter. This is why action research was a more suitable strategy. The researcher collected samples from 5 central London KFC stores from 40 participants. This is a cross-sectional study due to limitation of time and money. However, the researcher took necessary steps to collect data as accurately as possible and reduce the reliability errors. The limited coverage of five central London stores can be seen as a limitation of this research. The researcher believes that it represents the London area quite well and the outcome can be tested further in wider settings. The researcher has no previous experience in conducting a formal research. With more experience, the researcher could shed more light on the subject matter. However, within the given time frame, the researcher has learnt a lot and has made the best effort to conduct this research.

1.8 Rationale and Expected Benefits

The main focal point of this report will be to find out a relationship between leadership and motivation. This is a great chance for the researcher as well as the organization to find the effectiveness of its leadership and the motivation level of the employees. This research has valuable academic, business and individual benefit for the researcher.

- Commercial Benefit

This dissertation project will not only give a clear idea about the chosen organization, it will also give an overall snapshot of the industry. It may help the companies to take valuable decisions in terms of defining its leadership and employee motivation. It will help KFC and other companies in the same industry to find the loop holes in its employee management system and device a better way to negotiate the problem to enhance the relationship with the organization. It will also give a real world scenario to a new entrant based on a present leading company.

- Educational Benefit

This dissertation has some important academic benefits. It will give a reader good knowledge on theories of motivation and leadership and their connection. It will also give a good idea about motivation techniques used by a large company in the food and beverage services industry. The survey and focus group analysis will give a student some important information about the current situation and may also work as a basis for further research in the same field.

· Personal Benefit

This research has great individual benefit for the researcher. Firstly, it has given the researcher in depth idea about conducting a formal research which will be highly beneficial in the future career. The researcher is from a developing country from South-East Asia where KFC is a dominant company along with other large companies. Therefore, it presents the researcher an opportunity to pursue a long term career by taking forward this research experience along with the work experience. This research has also played an important role in developing reading, writing and analytical abilities of the researcher. The researcher has also developed a great writing skill in English which is particularly important as the researcher is from a non-English speaking country.

1.9 Dissertation Road Map

This section will describe the whole dissertation in brief so that a reader can gather some idea what this research is about and what the following chapters discusses.

Chapter 1- This chapter introduces the research title, question, aims and objective of this research. It also discusses about the chosen organization KFC followed by the expected benefits of the research.

Chapter 2- This chapter discusses all the relevant theories of motivation and leadership and how they are linked to this dissertation. This chapter also discusses how leadership effects motivation and the qualities of a high performing team. This chapter is very important as it forms the basis for research design and research analysis. The aim of the researcher was to build on the current theories and shed some new light on the subject matter in a real life situation.

Chapter 3- In this chapter, the researcher has discussed all the relevant research strategies to answer the research question properly. This chapter gave the researcher in depth idea about different research methods and the importance of choosing the right one.

Chapter 4- This chapter is on research analysis where all the data collected through the survey of KFC staff member and focus group interviews will be analyzed using appropriate technique.

Chapter 5- In this chapter, the researcher will make some recommendations about KFC’s leadership and motivation based on research findings followed by a conclusion.

Chapter 6- In this chapter, the researcher will write a reflective learning statement which will reflect the researcher’s critical thinking and self-awareness about this research.

1.10 Summary

This research is on effectiveness of leadership on employee motivation which is conducted on KFC. This chapter gives a background of the overall research. The main aim is to find how effective the management of KFC in motivating their employees and make some recommendations to improve the situation.


2.1 Scope of the Research

For an organization, that serves its customers through face to face interaction, it is crucial that the employees’ level of motivation is high to ensure great service. According to Hiam (2003, p. 7): “Today’s fast-changing, challenging work environment is more likely to create negative feelings, such as stress and frustration, and therefore poses a constant threat to healthy work attitudes”. So it is very important for an organization to ensure that such barriers to employee motivation are removed to have a happy workforce who would uphold the organizational values at every stage of operation.

2.2 Theories of Motivation

The study of employee motivation has got a long history. It is one of the most examined areas in the business world. Many renowned theorists have developed different theories of motivation which are still popular in the current world. Theories developed by Maslow, Hertzberg, McGregor and Vroom are very important in the research and understanding of motivation.

- In the research of human motivation, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is one of the most important and popular theory (Huitt, 2002). This theory explains that a human being has five levels of needs: physiological, social, safety, self-esteem and self actualization needs. According to Grenshing-Pophal (2002, p 9), this theory suggests that a person moves to a higher level of need only when lower level needs in the hierarchy have been met. Bowen (2003) states that people who are on minimum wages, money is a far more an important issue to survive rather than a motivator. Bowen further explains that motivation comes from insight while money can influence an individual’s external behaviour.
- In the light of Maslow’s need hierarchy, McGregor developed a theory where he divided the employees in two categories and named them Theory X and Theory Y. Employees in the first category will work hard if there is substantial reward. On the other hand, employees in Theory Y are more self-driven. They are always looking for new ideas to work on (Grenshing-Pophal, 2002, p. 10). The theory developed by McGregor suggests that different level of employees needs to be managed in different ways.
- Herzberg’s research during 1950’s and 1960’s produced another remarkable idea in the studies of employee motivation. Herzberg found that employees are motivated by factors which are totally different from the factors that de-motivate them (Herzberg, 2003). Herzberg categorized employee motivation in to two categories: motivators and hygiene.
-Hygiene factors are extrinsic factors such as money, policies, work environment which may create dissatisfaction among employees if they are not adequately addressed. On the other hand, motivators include intrinsic factors like challenge, responsibility and creativity. Herzberg suggests that if an intrinsic factor meets the need of an employee’s need for esteem and achievement, it can motivate an employee to work harder (Herzberg, 2003).
- Expectancy theory developed by Vroom, in 1964, was specifically designed for work places. This theory was developed to examine whether employees are intrinsically motivated or not motivated. According to this theory, an employee will work hard in a particular direction when he sees an opportunity to achieve his goals. This theory advocates that an employee will choose to work hard towards something that will result in a desired outcome such as salary increase or a promotion. An employee will actively choose the action to perform from different alternatives that will result in a more valuable outcome (Lawler et al. 2009).

2.2.1 Current Situation

Following are the two recent theories of motivation which are CPT and TMT.

- Cumulative Prospect Theory (CPT)

CPT, developed by Tversky and Kahneman in 1992 is very close to traditional expectancy theory which examines how value is drawn (Steel and Conig, 2006). It is crucial in the understating of motivation. If the value system of employees is understood, that it will become a lot easier to understand their motivational needs. This theory is often related to decision making as managers make decisions as to how to motivate employees. According to this theory, employee values are determined by their status quo and losses or gains are important to them. Therefore, managers should weight the values incrementally.

- Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT)

TMT is the latest development in the study of motivation. It is developed by Piers Steel and Cornelius J. Konig in 2006 and they published an article in the Academy of Management Review. The main goal of developing TMT was to integrate the different theories of motivation and develop a common theory for the academics and businesses.

The early theories of motivation were different as they were developed from different point of views. For example, Maslow’s need theory advocated that people have five different categories of needs where as expectancy theory discusses about the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of employees. TMT wants to develop a common platform for motivational research.

TMT was built on CPT, expectancy theory, need theory and economics. This theory is still under development and requires further research. However, this theory discusses different dimensions of motivation which are (Steel and Conig, 2006):

- Communication and collaboration
- Expectancy and value
- Need for achievement
- Sensitivity
- Rewards and incentives
- Efficient response to multifaceted motivational problems

None of the current theories deals with all the above. Therefore, TMT, if developed fully, can be the answer to address the subject matter of motivation.

Most of the research that is carried today is based on those old theories and therefore, they have not lost their relevance. Kotter (2011), suggests that attracting and encouraging people to move on the right track, even with some hindrance can be achieved “by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values, and emotions” (p. 4). However, it can be a critical task as Koestenbaum (2002) suggests that every employee wants to be in control of their own motivation and fostering such an environment would be a great challenge for today’s leaders. It means that it is very crucial for managers to acknowledge that every employee is a different person and reliance on a set of external incentives many not work to motivate them to work at their best. It works as a big barrier for leaders to learn what really motivates the employees and ensure a fit with the organization.

There is further argument for the conception that people are motivated more when they are intrinsically motivated. Thomas (2009) supports the theory of Maslow’s higher needs as he suggests that when employees have a meaning of what they do give them a strong sense of purpose, direction, choice, competence and progress. It is very important to acknowledge an employee’s time and energy that he has spent towards something to motivate him. According to Britt (2003), employees will lose their commitment if they think that they will not be successful in what they are doing and it will cause a rapid decrease in motivation.

From the above literature discussion, it can be determined that identifying factors that can motivate employees in the workplace is a critical task. Studying the early theories of motivation is crucial to today’s knowledge and research on motivation as they provide a solid basis on the subject matter. All of these theories suggest that every human being is different and has developed ideas to motivate them. However, all of them are different and is not appropriate for all organizations. This is why the study of motivation has been a key area for leaders.

2.3 Leadership Theories

2.3.1 Review of Early Leadership Theories

Since the early part of twentieth century, different theories on leadership started to evolve as the scholars and organizations became interested in understanding the subject in more details (Burns, 2004). A study of these theories revealed that the early leadership theories mainly focused on the behavioural qualities of the leaders where as the later theories focused more on the role of followers and other situational factors. A brief classification of these early theories is as follows:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

2.3.2 Current Leadership Theories and Practices

In this section, recent research and theories on leadership will be discussed which will start with Authentic Leadership and its development. It will be followed by another new development known as New-Genre Leadership.

The main goal of studying the recent theories is to see how the theories have moved from the previous theories which were mainly focused on individual leaders. In the recent theories, emphasis has been given on followers, environment, politics, culture, type or organization etc. Leadership is no longer seen as an individual characteristic. It is rather seen as more relational, collective and tactical (Avolio, 2007).

- Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership is one of the most recent developments in the field of leadership. The concept of authentic leadership was developed on the basis of transformational leadership (Luthans and Avolio, 2003). Luthans and Avolio introduced this concept to combine their individual works such as pototive organizational behaviour (Luthans, 2002) amd life-span leadership development work on Avolio (1999). The main purpose of this theory was to examine components of leadership and find which one of them actually worked to develop leadership and how the process can be accelerated.

According to Luthans and Avolio (2003, p. 243), “authentic leadership is a process that draws from both positive psychological capacities and a highly developed organizational context, which results in both greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviours on the part of leaders and associates, fostering positive self-development”. Authentic leadership is a multi faceted development that includes leader, follower and the context very clearly.

According to Luthans and Avolio (2003), there are four defining factors of authentic leadership:

1. Balanced Processing: it refers to analyzing data precisely using appropriate technique before arriving at a decision.
2. Internalized moral perspective: it refers to the importance of one’s moral behaviour to automatically guide one’s behaviour in an ethical way.
3. Relational Transparency: it refers to a person willingly sharing information and knowledge in appropriate situations and avoid showing negative display of emotions.
4. Self-Awareness: it refers to a person demonstrating his or her strengths and weaknesses in a way which is make sense to others.

An authentic leader should have the qualities to analyze the environment around them and develop an appropriate behaviour style to share information openly with others while displaying their own qualities in an ethical way. This theory is still under development. It will require further testing to confirm the validity of its structure. It also needs to be tested in different situations and in different cultures to find if it is acceptable universally. Therefore it requires further research based on evidence.


Excerpt out of 62 pages


Employee Motivation. A Case Study from the Fast Food Chain KFC in Central London
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
employee, motivation, case, study, fast, food, chain, central, london
Quote paper
Salamun Adnan (Author), 2012, Employee Motivation. A Case Study from the Fast Food Chain KFC in Central London, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/477497


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