International Journal of Business Administration Vol. 9, No. 2; 2018 Published by Sciedu Press93 ISSN 1923-4007 E-ISSN 1923-4015Employee Motivation: A Leadership Imperative Joshua D. Jensen11 Northwest Nazarene University, United States Correspondence: Joshua D. Jensen, Northwest Nazarene University, United States. Received: February 14, 2018 Accepted: February 28, 2018 Online Published: March 2, 2018 doi:10.5430/ijba.v9n2p93 URL: Abstract Employee motivation is a topic that has been studied for nearly a century. Beginning with the Hawthorne Studies in the 1920s and continuing to the current day, researchers have explored the elusive phenomenon of employee motivation. Furthermore, researchers have attempted to understand how leaders can effectively lead their employees in a way that motivates them to reach their full potential. While employee motivation has been, and continues to be, the focus of much research among the social and behavioral sciences on an international scale, leaders today are in need of practical tools that can help them motivate employees more effectively. This paper provides a survey of some of the key research on employee motivation and highlights the important role that leaders play in motivating their employees to achieve high performance. Also included are some practical tools that leaders can implement to increase employee motivation. Keywords: human resource management, employee motivation, employee engagement, organizational leadership, management 1. Introduction Employee motivation has been the focus of numerous research studies over the years. The essence of how to motivate employees is still, to this day, a focal point of organizational behavior experts, business scholars, and leaders alike. According to Robbins and DeCenzo (2007), motivation is “The willingness to do something conditioned upon the action’s ability to satisfy some need for the individual” (p. 217). Therefore, to motivate employees, leaders must identify the needs employees seek to satisfy, and focus their talents in ways that will help them achieve this satisfaction. 2. Literature Review The study of employee motivation traces back as far as the Hawthorne Studies of 1924. In 1924, Western Electric Company conducted a series of studies at their Hawthorn Works plant outside of Chicago (Sonnenfeld, 1985). The initial studies aimed to determine the relation of the lighting in the plant to production output. The research concluded that lighting was only a minor factor in the study of output (1985). However, Elton Mayo and a few others redefined the research to examine the physical factors that cause fatigue and monotony (1985). These studies resulted in a surprising outcome. “As the conditions of work were progressively relaxed, production steadily rose, and when the original, more demanding work conditions were reintroduced, the workers’ productivity dropped only slightly” (1985, p. 112). The research also reported reduced absenteeism during the study (1985).