Herzberg Theory of Motivation in the Workplace

Finding out what people want from their jobs, what motivates them to keep working, was the basis for a study by Fredrick Herzberg during the 1950’s and 60’s. He wanted to find out how attitude affected employees motivation. He did this by asking people to describe work situations that made them feel really good about their jobs and situations in which they felt bad about them.

His findings showed that those who felt good about their jobs gave very different answers than people who felt bad or didn’t like their work. He wrote about the results of his study in an article called “One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees” and his findings have been the foundation of business motivational practices for over fifty years.

The Herzberg-Hygiene Theory

His study led to the Herzberg-Hygiene Theory, which is also known as the Herzberg Two Factor Theory. He found that there are certain characteristics that can be aligned with job satisfaction and other characteristics that are consistent with job dissatisfaction.

Some of the characteristics present when people were satisfied with their jobs included recognition, achievement, advancement and growth. For people that were dissatisfied, the consistent attributes were company policies, supervision, salary and work conditions.

Herzberg came to the realization that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction were not opposite each other, because resolving the causes of dissatisfaction didn’t necessary mean that employees became satisfied with their jobs. He concluded that even if the conditions that recreated dissatisfaction were eliminated, they didn’t necessarily motivate employees to improve their job performance.

Motivating Employees

The characteristics of job dissatisfaction are called hygiene factors. Even when they are eliminated or remedied, people will not necessary be motivated to do better at their jobs. To motivate your employees, you should focus on the factors of satisfaction like recognition, responsibility and achievements.

According to this theory, there are two steps to motivate employees. The first step is to eliminate job dissatisfaction and the second is to create conditions that lead to satisfaction. Poor company policies should be eliminated along with ensuring competitive wages and job security. Employees should be given opportunities for advancement, be recognized for their work and give more responsibilities to help motivate them.

While the theory has its detractors, it has been used successfully in developing employee motivation in companies for over half a century. Applying this theory systematically can help create motivated employees that will help a company succeed.

How to Motivate Employees