Motivation in the work context can be defined as an individual’s degree of willingness to exert and maintain an effort towards organizational goals. Health sector performance is critically dependent on worker motivation, with service quality, efficiency, and equity, all directly mediated by workers’ willingness to apply themselves to their tasks. Resource availability and worker competence are essential but not sufficient to ensure desired worker performance. While financial incentives may be important determinants of worker motivation, they alone cannot and have not resolved all worker motivation problems. Worker motivation is a complex process and crosses many disciplinary boundaries, including economics, psychology, organizational development, human resource management, and sociology. This paper discusses the many layers of influences upon health worker motivation: the internal individual-level determinants, determinants that operate at organizational (work context) level, and determinants stemming from interactions with the broader societal culture. Worker motivation will be affected by health sector reforms which potentially affect organizational culture, reporting structures, human resource management, channels of accountability, types of interactions with clients and communities, etc. The conceptual model described in this paper clarifies ways in which worker motivation is influenced and how health sector reform can positively affect worker motivation. Among others, health sector policy makers can better facilitate goal congruence (between workers and the organizations they work for) and improved worker motivation by considering the following in their design and implementation of health sector reforms: addressing multiple channels for worker motivation, recognizing the importance of communication and leadership for reforms, identifying organizational and cultural values that might facilitate or impede implementation of reforms, and understanding that reforms may have differential impacts on various cadres of health workers.
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