Herzberg Motivation Theory: How To Boost Employee Motivation

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Frederick Herzberg's theory, also known as the two-factor theory of motivation or the motivator-hygiene theory, attempts to explain the two factors that motivate people and improve job satisfaction. Developed in 1959, the theory states that motivation factors encourage people to work harder, and hygiene factors prevent their dissatisfaction with their jobs. By understanding the approach of the Herzberg theory, you can use it effectively in business management. In this article, we examine the Herzberg motivation theory, explain the Herzberg motivation and hygienic factors, discuss the use of the theory and give its limitations.

What Is The Herzberg Motivation Theory?

The Herzberg motivation theory is a study of human motivation that attempts to understand the two independently acting factors that cause people to be satisfied and dissatisfied with their work. According to the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, there are motivation factors that lead to workplace satisfaction and hygiene factors that are necessary for the workplace to function correctly.

The motivation factors include work achievement, recognition, advancement and other intrinsic needs that make people enjoy their work and enable them to grow in their careers. The hygiene factors include the salary employees receive, their work environment, their work relationships, the company policies and other extrinsic needs. Both the motivation and the hygiene factors operate independently of one another.

Related: Psychology Of Learning And Behavioural Learning Theory

What Are The Herzberg Motivation Factors?

The Herzberg motivation factors that can cause employees to experience work satisfaction include the following:

  • Work duties: When employees feel that they are doing important and meaningful work, they are generally motivated to do well. They are also motivated work-wise if they can perform their assigned tasks with ease, efficiency and excellence.

  • Advancement opportunities: Employees may be motivated to do well and be more productive when they know that, if their work meets expected standards, they can progress to higher positions in their careers. It can also help if they know about the salary raise and benefits that they can get with each promotion.

  • Achievements: Some employees have a strong drive towards setting and achieving personal and professional goals. They can work with minimum or no supervision, accept constructive feedback and are willing to take calculated risks to succeed in the workplace.

  • Recognition: Receiving recognition for good work in the form of praise and rewards can make employees feel appreciated and accomplished. It can motivate them to continue performing well and producing high-quality work.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories for Career Growth

What Are The Herzberg Hygiene Factors?

The Herzberg hygiene factors that can prevent employees from experiencing work dissatisfaction include the following:

  • Job status: Employees are less likely to experience work dissatisfaction if they feel that they are doing meaningful work that makes a difference to the company. It can also help if they receive social respect for the position they hold.

  • Work environment: Most people work better in a clean, light-filled and uncrowded work environment. They also do well if they have personal space to work in, comfortable furniture and good work equipment.

  • Employment conditions: Employee work satisfaction can depend on how long they work per day and if they get sufficient rest and meal breaks. The salary and benefits they receive can also influence the employees' satisfaction with their jobs.

  • Work autonomy: Employees are likely to be more satisfied at work if they have the autonomy to perform their work as they think suitable and make work-related decisions. They may be more willing to assume work responsibility and try out innovative work approaches.

  • Job security: Employees are going to be more satisfied with their work if they have a long-term work contract with their employer. When they know that they have job security, they are likely to be less stressed and more productive.

  • Salary: There is a correlation between high job satisfaction and high salaries. Employees who earn well and know that they can earn even more by advancing in their career path are likely to be very satisfied with their jobs.

  • Interpersonal relations: A friendly and supportive work culture can foster higher levels of work satisfaction among employees. It is important for people to get along well with their co-workers and feel part of a team.

  • Company policies: Fair, impartial company policies that promote a friendly, helpful and healthy work culture can contribute to greater work satisfaction among employees.

Related: Behavioural Learning Theory: Types, Benefits And Strategies

How To Use The Herzberg Theory In The Workplace?

The following steps can help you to implement Herzberg's motivation hygiene theory in the workplace:

1. Conduct a workplace evaluation

Before you use the Herzberg theory in the workplace, it is essential to identify the motivators and hygiene factors in the work environment. Knowing about these can help you understand the overall morale of the team members. You can observe employee interactions and learn about their comfort level in the workplace. You can find out how their attitude towards their work influences their productivity and the quality of their work. If the company has a telecommuting option and the performance of those employees exceeds that of office-based employees, then you can conclude that it is a hygiene factor.

By understanding the various influences that motivate the employees, you can customise a plan to improve their morale and make changes to benefit them and the company.

Related: Motivation Theories (Definition, Types And Examples)

2. Address the workplace hygiene factors

When you create an improvement plan to address hygiene factors, consider how improving or changing them can meet employee needs. For example, you might help employees improve their professional skills or acquire new ones by providing skills training programmes. You can make sure that they have the necessary resources, directions and guidance for completing work projects. You can improve the ease of communication between the employees and the management. It is a good idea to make printed and digital copies of company policies available to all employees, so that they know what these are and that they apply to everyone fairly.

You can improve the work facilities, furniture and equipment to create a pleasant work environment. It can make a positive psychological impact on employees if their workstations are not crowded together and they have personal space and freedom of movement. It can also help to have exposure to natural light and good ventilation. Additionally, you can consult industry salary surveys and review the company's organisational budget to determine if it is possible to give salary raises to deserving employees. You can also assure employees of work security through company updates via newsletters and announcements.

Related: A Complete Guide To Management Theories (With 7 Examples)

3. Focus on reinforcing workplace motivators

You can increase the level of work satisfaction among employees by reinforcing workplace motivators. For example, you can designate work assignments to employees with the appropriate aptitude, skill and experience levels. That makes it more likely for the employees to engage more with their work and derive work satisfaction from doing it. You can allow them to take responsibility for their work and give them the authority to make work-related decisions. You can offer praise, rewards and recognition for producing high-quality work or meeting work targets.

You can also offer employees many opportunities for personal and professional growth. Aside from providing training programmes for improving existing skills or gaining new ones, you can give them the chance to seek higher-level job positions.

Related: Why Employee Motivation Is Important: A Complete Guide

What Are The Limitations Of The Herzberg Theory?

While it can be very useful in business management, Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory has the following limitations:

  • Work bias: Employees may focus on specific work areas they like and they may be productive only when the work environment is pleasant. If there are changes in the work environment or work-related challenges arise, the job satisfaction level may go down.

  • Subjective nature: Different employees may have different interpretations of job satisfaction. Some people may feel satisfied with flexible working hours, while others may give more importance to getting a higher salary or wielding more power.

  • Unrelated to productivity: Satisfied employees do not necessarily indicate an increase in work productivity. Job satisfaction is just one element of higher job productivity.

  • Effect of external factors: Job satisfaction can be affected by external factors such as other companies that offer better work environments, facilities, salaries and benefits for the same job role.

Example Of The Herzberg Theory

The following situation is an example of the Herzberg theory:

You are a manager in an advertising agency and your goal is to improve employee job satisfaction. To achieve this goal, you consider the motivation and hygiene factors. You address the hygiene factors by making changes in the physical setup of the office, such as installing comfortable furniture, work stations that offer personal space, better lighting and the latest computer devices and software. You also offer employees reasonable breaks and the option to telecommute.

Next, you look at the motivation factors and work on improving those by assigning meaningful work and acknowledging employees for their contributions. You inform employees about the real-world impact of their designs in improving brand awareness and product sales.

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