Motivation and Knowledge Intensive Workers

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In this chapter the authors describe and defend the methods used within this thesis. A section dis-cussing the data collection as well as a list of the empirical study subjects is also presented. A summary concludes the chapter.

Scientific Philosophy

There are several scientific philosophies within research such as positivism, interpretivism, pragmatism, and realism (Saunders, Thornhill & Lewis, 2009); however, this thesis’ study was conducted using the interpretivist philosophy.


Interpretivism is a philosophy which states that social science, which concerns people, can-not be tested using only data in the same way as natural science can. When basing a study on the interpretive philosophy the qualitative method is often used and empirical data is gathered in a natural setting; however, this does not always exclude the use of quantitative techniques. The main characteristic of using the interpretivist view is that context is con-stantly changing and people are always interpreting it. Interpretivism is about becoming a part of the research subject or subjects and understanding the reality from their point of view. The basic approach combined with this philosophy is the inductive approach which is explained later. Interpretivism is a recommended approach within the fields of organiza-tion, marketing and human resource management due to their complexity and uniqueness in every situation. (Saunders et al., 2009)
The study is interested in KIWs, whom are people, making this study concerned with the social science. The field of study of this thesis is human resource management for which the interpretivist philosophy is recommended. The authors used the qualitative method to gather data in a natural setting through interviews using an inductive approach; not generat-ing any hypothesis. This called for the interpretivist viewpoint to be utilized due to the need to interpret the data gathered from the interviews. What the respondents said during the interviews was interpreted, rather than simply accepted, making positivism inappropri-ate for this thesis. Through the interpretivist viewpoint the authors were able to gain in-sight of motivation from the KIWs point of views resulting in retaining a strong under-standing about the motivation of KIWs.

Scientific Approach

There are two major research approaches in regards to how a research project relates to theory, deductive and inductive. In simple terms, the approaches differ in whether the the-ory or the empirical data comes first in the research process (Saunders et al., 2009). The au-thor’s choice of approach for this thesis was inductive.


The Inductive approach is the opposite of the deductive approach in that theory comes af-ter the data collection has been done. The inductive approach, unlike deductive, allows for alternative explanations other than the content of existing theory to back up the findings. Also, the inductive approach gives greater focus to the context rather than the variables of the research. In inductive research the data collection is carried out first, and the theory comes afterwards and is based on generalized conclusions of the research findings. (Saun-ders et al., 2009)
The way that the research question is composed called for an inductive approach since the authors collected and analyzed the empirical data before making generalizations that con-cluded the research and added to theory. The authors did not aim to produce a theory and hypothesis prior to collecting empirical data and concluding the research. Since the induc-tive approach allows for empirical data to generate conclusions not backed up by existing theory, it is appropriate for this thesis’ research.

Research Method

Furthermore, there are two different research methods, qualitative and quantitative. The methods differ respectively in that one deals with data in word format while the other deals with data in a numerical format (Bryman & Bell, 2005). The method chosen for this thesis’ study was qualitative.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research can be related to the previously discussed scientific philosophy, inter-pretivism, with a subjective focus on understanding factors such as incentives, values, ac-tions, thoughts, and what governs these things, as well as society as a whole. Qualitative re-search explores the how, what, when, who, and/or why in practical study; it is therefore more common for qualitative research samples to be of a smaller size than quantitative. Due to the smaller samples of qualitative studies the findings are usually generalized as propositions (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Qualitative research connects with social sciences seeing as the researcher attempts to visualize the perspective of the studies subject(s) (Bry-man & Bell, 2005).
The research question of this thesis is in the ‘how’ format which the qualitative approach is best suited to answer. Instead of conducting a study featuring a large sample with vague and undescriptive responses, the authors decided that a complex matter such as motivation is difficult to quantify since there are many variables involved, and results will be more in-sightful if the sample is small but supplying extensive information gained from each sub-ject’s perspective. The authors used the qualitative research method in order to conduct in-terviews in which the data was presented in word format unlike the quantitative methods numerical format. Interviews was the most effective approach for the research because in-terviews would provide the most useful and in depth data on the topic of motivation in that it allowed for respondents to express themselves more freely unlike in quantitative re-search. Furthermore, the authors wanted to envision the study subjects’ perspectives in or-der to gain a deeper understanding of the results.

Research Strategy

The outcome of the underlying methodological approach naturally comes down to a choice of strategy. Common research strategies include survey and case study (Saunders et al., 2009); however, the authors decided that working with a case study would yield the most interesting and useful results.

Case Study

The case study strategy can use multiple sources of evidence in order to investigate and un-derstand a social phenomenon. This can be obtained both by various qualitative and quan-titative styles. However qualitative data is the most commonly used in order to get a deeper understanding of the research area; however, it can also be combined with quantitative methods to get a broader perspective and to get a full view. Common techniques are inter-views, questionnaires and observations. The case study strategy is best used when there is little knowledge about how a certain phenomenon occurs, and is less useful when a phe-nomenon is well known. It has been used in both scientific viewpoints: positivism and in-terpretivism. An important part of conducting a case study is to choose a relevant area for the industry the research takes place in (Williamson. 2002). Case study is a suitable method for gaining a deep understanding of the context (Morris and Wood 1991). Research ques-tions answered with a case study are usually of the “why” character but also “what” and “how” questions that in some cases are more connected with the survey strategy. In some cases it is advantageous to use the multiple case study strategy in order to assess the same results in more than one context. (Yin, 2003)
To answer the research question which is of a “how” character the authors decided to use a case study in order to answer the question on a deep level and gain descriptive answers. A case study on IT consultants, as the source of KIWs, was decided upon.
It is possible to distinguish between different groups of workers. In these groups, workers have work roles with sometimes similar features. Depending on the work role, different re-quirements and demands will be presented. The aim of this study is to investigate how the motivating agent’s autonomy, variety in tasks, learning new things, receiving positive feed-back, and the feeling of accomplishment and value creation influence the workers in a spe-cific group differently, in regards to their age. The authors identified this group of workers as individuals with work roles characterized by working conditions much different from most other groups and therefore constitute for a special sub-occupancy group; this claim is supported by Tsai, Compeau and Haggerty (2007). This group works in a rapidly changing environment that place high demands on the ability to adapt and learn. Thus, individuals located in this group experience a substantial threat of professional obsolescence (Ivance-vich, Napier & Wetherbe, 1983). Furthermore, the nature of the tasks of the workers are highly complex and often require cooperation with multiple parties, including individuals external to the organization as well as other companies (D’Mello & Sahay, 2007). The au-thors define this group as ‘individuals that uses their cognitive skills to solve complex prob-lems requiring highly specialized knowledge, in a rapidly changing environment.’
The work role of an IT consultant fits perfectly with the characteristics within the defini-tion, and therefore this is the occupancy the authors choose to incorporate into this thesis’ study. The conclusion that IT consultants are in fact characterized by above mentioned fac-tors is also supported by other studies (see e.g Wallgren & Hanse, 2011; D’Mello & Sahay, 2007). IT consultants are often employed temporarily and are often only desired to stay un-til the specific task or problem is solved (Ivancevich et al., 1983). Their tasks are highly complex and as they are employed at a for-hire basis the customer usually places higher demands in comparison to other IT professionals and other employees working at the cus-tomer firm (Ivancevich et al., 1983). Due to the complicated nature of the problems coop-eration is often warranted (Docherty & Huzzard, 2003). Lastly, development in the IT in-dustry occurs at an incredible pace which requires IT consultants to renew their knowledge frequently (Ivancevich et al., 1983).


Sample Selection

There are several sample selection types that can be utilized in research and they fall under the categories of probability and nonprobability selection. The authors selected the sample for this study using the non-probability sampling methods convenience and judgmental sampling.

Convenience and Judgmental Sampling

In convenience sampling the most accessible subjects are selected; this method is common-ly used despite possible bias. Judgmental sampling is the process of choosing the subjects most suitable for the particular research; this method is commonly used in small samples such as case studies. (Saunders et al., 2009)
The authors decided to utilize the judgmental sampling method for this research as they wanted to select IT consultants of different ages to fit the criteria of the study. An equal amount of IT consultants were selected for each age group, four subjects for the young group aged under 41, and four for the old group aged over 41. One IT consultant project leader was also selected in order to gain a different point of view and perspective on KIWs motivation. The sampling selection can furthermore be qualified as a convenience sample in that the authors already had the possibility of getting in contact with IT consultants from different companies due to previous contact and networking. It is also a convenience sam-ple due to the fact that three out of the nine IT consultants selected were situated in Jön-köping, the same location as the authors. The other six out of nine interviewees were locat-ed in Stockholm where the authors had to travel to conduct the interviews.
The authors anchor their decision behind the specific age group segmentation of the data into two arguments. First, the different generations, known as Generation X and Y (Cou-pland, 2002) have psychological and sociological differences. Generation X is currently aged 39-54 and Generation Y is currently aged 22-38 (Schroer, 2004). Therefore, a case can be made that segmenting the data around the age of 39 is desirable. Furthermore, these age generations have differences in them that impact their psychological and sociological atti-tudes, such as the ability for technology adoption which has a direct impact on work be-havior and performance (Schroer, 2004).
The second argument is related to the technological advancements that have occurred dur-ing the last four decades. The individuals who grew up during this time will be the first generation that possesses the skills required to manage technology since they grew up with it. Especially in knowledge intensive industries and businesses, this leads to a monopoliza-tion of these skills by individuals from this generation. As a result, they will have more lev-erage and require special treatment, as opposed to how the procedure has occurred previ-ously, where the employee enters work and abide by the rules imposed by the manager. (Amar, 2004)
Consequently, the authors judged it desirable to segment the data around the age of 39. However, due to difficulties in constructing an adequate and balanced sample the authors had to adjust the segmentation of the data to the age of under 41, as well as over 41 respec-tively. Additionally, the authors handled the data supplied from subjects located closely to the segmentation point with carefulness and analyzed this data as slightly less representative for the age group.

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Data Collection

Primary data is the data that is of empirical nature collected by the authors through strate-gies such as interviews which was used for this study (Bryman & Bell, 2005). A literature search follows and explains how the authors gathered information for the literature review within the theory section which was used in analyzing the empirical data.

Primary Data

The primary data of this thesis was collected through interviews conducted with eight IT consultants, as well as one IT consultant project leader. Four IT consultants were inter-viewed for each age group; four aging under 41 years old and under and four aging over 41 years old. In order to collect the most reliable and the most representative empirical data while still under the limitations of time and cost, interviews were conducted with IT con-sultants from different companies in order to remove as much bias, such as company cul-ture, as possible. Also due to the limitation of time, a cross sectional study was produced rather than a longitudinal study, which means that the subjects were observed and com-pared at a single point in time unlike the latter approach. Nine interviews were held in total; at this point a sufficient amount of empirical data had been collected in order to conduct a thorough analysis.
Most of the interviews were conducted at the workplace or office of the IT consultants while some where conducted over a phone call. The interviews were each timed at approx-imately 30 – 40 minutes long. All interviews were recorded and transcribed in order to be analyzed most effectively. Due to the authors’ fluency in both the Swedish and English language, the interviews were conducted in Swedish while the data presented within the thesis is in English; all direct quotes from the subject used to strengthen claims within the analysis have been translated directly.

Literature Search

The main literature sources used in developing theory and in discovering the research gap were Besen et al. (2013), Kanfer and Ackerman (2004) and Wallgren and Hanse (2011). The articles were found by using search phrases such as “motivation”, “lifespan develop-ment”, “knowledge intensive workers” and “IT consultants”. Most of the major articles were found by using various electronic search engines such as Google Scholar and the Jön-köping University libraries own search service, Primo, were used extensively. Another source widely used for discovering articles were the reference lists of the main articles. The authors analyzed the selected articles to identify the most prominent and usable references.
Wiley was used as a source for general information and to gain a proper overview of the topics; however, much emphasis was put into using published journal articles as main sources of reliable information. The theory chapter was built on three pillars that related to the research question: motivation, as a part of human resource management, KIWs and lifespan development.
Search phrase examples: IT consultants, motivation, lifespan development theory, knowledge intensive workers, knowledge workers, information technology, human resource management, motivation of IT con-sultants, aging, motivation knowledge worker, lifespan motivation


The three main types of interviews are structured, semi-structured, and unstructured (Bry-man & Bell, 2005). The type of interviews conducted for this study was semi-structured in-terviews.

Semi-Structured Interviews

In semi-structured interviews the respondents have the freedom to answer as they would like as the questions or answers are not strictly set beforehand, rather, some questions are prepared, following no specific order, and there is room for extended impromptu question-ing. (Bryman & Bell, 2005)
For this research the authors decided to utilize semi-structured interviews in order to have a similar line of questioning for each subject so that the data can more easily be compared and analyzed while it still allows for discussion. The semi -structured interviews also allowed for the respondents to express their answers more freely which gave the authors more ma-terial and data to work with in the analysis. At the same time, while discussion of the topic was encouraged, the authors did not conduct completely unstructured interviews because the authors wanted to keep the focus centered on the topic.

Data Analysis

There are several methods to use in analyzing data, some of these include pattern matching, explanation building, time-series analyzing, logic models, and cross-case synthesis (Yin, 2009). Pattern matching was used in analyzing this thesis’ empirical data.

Table of Contents
1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Research Question
1.5 Definitions
1.6 Limitations
2 Theoretical Frame of References
2.1 Introduction to the Theoretical Framework
2.2 Motivation and Knowledge Intensive Workers
2.3 Lifespan Development
2.4 Theoretical Gap
3 Method
3.1 Scientific Philosophy
3.2 Scientific Approach
3.3 Research Method
3.4 Research Strategy
3.5 Sample Selection
3.6 Data Collection
3.7 Interviews
3.8 Data Analysis
3.9 Quality Criteria
3.10 Summary of the Methods
4 Empirical Data and Analysis
4.1 Description of Occupation: IT Consultants
4.2 Autonomy
4.3 Variety in Tasks
4.4 Learning New Things
4.5 Positive Feedback
4.6 The Feeling of Accomplishment and Creating Value
4.7 Summary of Relationship between Findings and Content Theories
5 Conclusions and Discussion
5.1 Conclusion
5.2 Discussion

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