The Strategist

Two-factor motivation for your employees


11/15/2019 - 09:35



Psychologist Frederick Herzberg, one of the pioneers in the field of human resources management and management theory, is known for his idea of expanding professional responsibilities, as well as for his proposed two-factor motivation theory. He and his colleagues tried to find out what people like about their work and what they don't.



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The authors concluded that in order to understand employees' motivation, it is necessary to categorize job-related factors into two categories.

1. Motivational. The factors that affect job satisfaction the most, such as possibility of promotion, achievement, recognition of achievements, nature of the job, responsibility, growth or efficiency. These factors relate to the nature of the job and how the person performs it (internal).

2. Hygiene. Factors that keep a person at work, such as working conditions, a company’s administrative policy, salary, interpersonal relations, status and safety.  These factors relate to working conditions (external).

The motivating factors that determine job satisfaction differ from those that lead to dissatisfaction with the job. These two emotions cannot be called sides of the same coin.

Job satisfaction is not the opposite of dissatisfaction.

Rather, in the first case the opposite is "no satisfaction", and in the second case it is "no dissatisfaction". The main message of the theory is that solving problems related to hygienic factors can reduce job dissatisfaction, but not necessarily automatically lead to increased satisfaction. In order to increase satisfaction (and motivation of employees to increase efficiency), it may be beneficial for the company to influence the motivating factors.

According to Herzberg, there should be two factors in approaching motivation: reducing irritants and increasing motivation. In order to motivate employees, Herzberg recommends to do the following:

- Ask for feedback;

- Maintain direct contact with clients;

- Learn new things;

- Increasing autonomy;

- Development of unique competencies;

- A certain level of control over resources (mini-budgeting);

- Direct communication (easier to do in "horizontal" organizations);

- Personal accountability (this can be both basic and resulting).

The Herzberg model is actively used, has been replicated in different teams and is still relevant. Since it is wide, it is worth to apply a critical approach in each case. Not all aspects of motivating factors can work in a particular business structure, corporate culture or workflow. In addition, the model does not take into account individual differences, such as character traits and needs. It is based on the concept of averaged behavior over a certain period of time and requires additional information about generational or individual differences.

Based on "100+ Management Models. How to Understand and Apply the World's Most Powerful Business Tools" by Fons Trompenaars и Piet Hein Coebergh




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