Management & Organization

Herzberg's 9 motivational factors: How to motivate your employees

What do we want from our jobs?

Higher salary, security, good social interactions, the possibility of growth and advancement – or is it something else altogether?

This is an important question, because it's the basis of motivation: the ability to engage your colleagues in a way that makes them perform at their very best.

In the 1950’s and the 60’s the American business psychologist Frederick Herzberg began examining well-being and employee satisfaction. His purpose was to investigate what effect your attitude has on your level of motivation. So he asked people to describe work situations where they felt really good and situations where they felt really bad. The results showed that the factors that affect your job satisfaction are very different, when you describe a good or a bad situation.

Herzberg’s work has had a big influence on how leaders handle motivation today. In his famous article: “One More time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” from 1969 he proposed his two-factor theory.

As mentioned, Herzberg divides motivational factors into two categories, which he calls hygiene factors and motivator factors. The hygiene factors can demotivate or cause dissatisfaction if they aren't present, but rarely cause satisfaction when they are present. The motivator factors, on the other hand, often create satisfaction and are rarely the cause of dissatisfaction.

The two factors have their own scales:



The name "hygiene factors" is used because, as with hygiene, the presence will not make you healthier, but the absence can, however, cause reduced health. They don't create satisfaction but are instead used to avoid dissatisfaction.



From the two lists above it is obvious that motivational factors and hygiene factors aren't each other’s opposites. The opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, but instead the absence of satisfaction; nonsatisfaction. The same thing goes for dissatisfaction: The opposite is not satisfaction, but not dissatisfaction.

Both lists contain factors that motivates in different ways, since they fulfill different needs. The hygiene factors have a specific goal, and when they are fulfilled, they don't motivate any further, while the motivational factors are far more open. This is why they also motivate for a longer period of time.

According to Herzberg the hygiene factors are external in relation to your employee's specific tasks. They work only as temporary motivators; for instance a continual pay rise will only motivate somebody to wait for the next one and nothing else. (Salary can however also be demotivating, if the employee thinks it too low or low compared to a colleague’s).

Motivatoional factors work as inner motivators, they motivate long-term and are relevant to the job itself and the shapeing of the job. Think for instance of a maid at  a hotel, she might prefer a small note saying “Thank you for great service” over thoughtless tips.

Be aware, that the two types of factors do not exclude each other and that management should strive to fulfill both, in order to make your employees truly satisfied with their jobs. When hygiene factors are fulfilled, creating more factors won't lead to further motivation. But if you don't fulfill them, they can cause demotivation. It is different with the motivatonal factors: Even though management doesn't fulfill them all, your employees can still be motivated.

One of the perhaps most important ideas that Herzberg produce on account of his studies on satisfaction is the idea of “Job enrichment”. Job enrichment is about examining the indivisual employee’s work assignments and adding assignments that engages and involves the employee.

Follow these guidelines:

  • A job must use the full potential of the coworker and provide adequate challenges

  • Every employee who shows a rising potential should be given accordingly more responsibility

Job enrichment is a continuing management assignment

If a job cannot be designed in a way that allows the full potential of the employee to be used, management should consider hiring one with fewer qualifications or automate the process. If a person’s abilities are not fully exploited, he or she will experience motivational problems.

In order to motivate your coworkers you must begin a process of two phases. First you have to eliminate all causes for dissatisfaction and then help your coworkers become satisfied.

First step: Eliminate dissatisfaction

Herzberg called the reasons for dissatisfaction hygiene factors. To remove them you must:

  • Change bad and destructive company policies

  • Provide efficient, supporting and non-invading supervision

  • Create and support a respectful culture

  • Ensure that salaries are competitive

  • Provide everyone with meaningful jobs

  • Provide job security

All of these actions help you eliminate dissatisfaction among your employees. There's no reason to try and motivate your employees before these challenges are removed.

But just because your emplouees aren't dissatisfied, it doesn't mean that they are satisfied! So, now you have to start building their satisfaction. And this is where you'll begin seeing motivated employees who performes better.

Second step: Create the conditions for satisfaction

To create satisfaction among your employees, says Herzberg you have to work with the motivational factors. You have to begin the process he called “Job enrichment”. Observe your employee's work tasks and locate areas where it can be done better and more satisfying. This could for instance be:

  • Offer possibility of promotions

  • Acknowledge the contributions of employees

  • Create work assignments that matches the employee’s abilities and skills

  • Give everyone as much responsibility as possible

  • Make it possible to advance internally in the company

  • Offer training and development possibilities so that everyone is able to pursue the positions they want in the company

In spite of the broad recognition, Herzberg’s theory has several critics. Some say that the method does not consider the fact that when things go well, we have a tendency to look at the things we like about our jobs. When things go worse, on the other hand, we have a tendency to blame external factors.

Another frequently presented point of criticism is that the theory assumes that there is a strong correlation between job satisfaction and productivity. Herzberg’s method does not address this connection, which means that his assumption must be correct in order for the results to have any actual relevance.