Bringing Self-Determination Theory to the Forefront: Examining How Human Resource Practices Motivate Employees of All Ages to Succeed

Rick A. Laguerre, Janet L. Barnes-Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-determination theory (SDT) is widely used in human resource (HR) practice studies to explain how HR practices impact work outcomes. However, there is little empirical evidence establishing the complete SDT mediational process in the HR domain, which entails basic psychological needs and motivation acting as mediators of relations between HR practices and work outcomes. The present study addresses this issue with a mixed methods approach. Using an item classification task with subject matter experts (N = 48), HR practices were classified as autonomy-, competence-, and relatedness-supportive. Based on this scheme, we tested an SDT-based conceptual model in a three-wave sample of working adults (N = 818). Results from Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling (MSEM) support the hypothesized model: basic psychological need satisfaction and autonomous motivation mediate the relationship between HR practice perceptions and work outcomes (performance, thriving, affective organizational commitment, and turnover intentions). Autonomy-supportive practices had a positive effect on autonomy need satisfaction, while competence-supportive practices had positive associations with all three basic psychological needs. Counterintuitively, relatedness-supportive practices had negative effects on autonomy and competence need satisfaction, and the relationship between relatedness-supportive practices and autonomy need satisfaction was moderated by chronological age. We discuss our findings in the context of prominent HR studies that utilize SDT and offer a supplemental age-inclusive HR practice scheme for HR managers interested in understanding the benefits of supporting basic psychological needs from both a motivation and workforce retention standpoint.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Age-inclusivity
  • Human resource practices
  • Longitudinal study
  • Motivation
  • Self-determination theory


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