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Part of the job of any employer is making sure employee satisfaction is high in order to retain high-quality workers and increase productivity. One of the most prominent theories regarding motivation factors in the workplace is Herzberg’s two-factor theory. Frederick Herzberg’s dual-factor theory is used by companies across the globe, and understanding how it works can go a long way in improving the lives of employees and the productivity of a company.



What Is Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory?

Herzberg’s two-factor theory is a psychological theory on motivation in the workplace developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg in the 1960s. Herzberg’s theory broke down workplace needs into two categories: motivation factors that give employees a sense of satisfaction and hygiene factors that determine the basic level of stability and job security.

Herzberg stated that the presence of motivators ensured employee satisfaction while job dissatisfaction arose from a lack of hygiene factors. The two-factor theory of motivation holds that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are two separate categories with entirely different contributing factors. In order to ensure harmony in the workplace, Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory holds that employers must increase employee motivation factors while simultaneously increasing workplace hygiene.

Herzberg based his two-factor model on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s existing theory of motivation and needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs breaks down the needs that human beings seek to satisfy into a variety of categories. Maslow postulated that human beings must satisfy the most essential and basic of these needs before they can seek to fulfill higher-level needs. Frederick Herzberg took some elements from Maslow’s theory and applied them to the workplace.

What Are Hygiene Factors in the Workplace?

According to Herzberg, having a work environment with high hygiene is vital in order to keep employee dissatisfaction at bay. Because the two-factor theory holds that motivational factors and hygiene factors need to be addressed independently, it’s important for employers to understand what hygiene factors are and how to improve them. Here’s a list of some of the primary hygiene factors (also known as maintenance factors) according to Herzberg:

  • Pay: Low pay will quickly cause dissatisfaction among employees. Employees should be adequately compensated in order to keep dissatisfaction down.
  • Benefits: Fringe benefits are expected by most full-time employees and therefore fall into the category of hygiene. An employer should ensure that the benefits they provide are competitive with what other companies are providing in their industry.
  • Job security: When employees feel like they are secure in their positions, it’s much less likely they will feel a sense of dissatisfaction at work. Employers looking to improve workplace hygiene should let employees know they are valued and that their jobs are safe.
  • Work conditions: Safe and comfortable working conditions are a basic need that employees require from their employers. In order to maintain high hygiene, employers shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to the welfare and safety of employees.

What Are Motivational Factors?

The difference between low motivation and high motivation in the workplace can be massive in terms of productivity and overall worker happiness. Herzberg explains that the factors that give employees the motivation to work often have to do with giving them a greater sense of purpose and significance in their current position. Some of the motivating factors that can increase work motivation include:

  • Recognition: Part of increasing job satisfaction is recognizing employees for the good work they’ve done. Motivation theory holds that job performance improves when employees are praised and recognized for a job well done.
  • Autonomy: An important part of Herzog’s motivator-hygiene theory is giving employees greater autonomy and responsibility within an organization. Employees tend to feel a greater sense of achievement and motivation when they feel that they have an important job with a large degree of self-direction.
  • Meaningful work: As much as possible, employers should strive to give their employees meaningful work and help them see how their labor contributes to a greater end product. Many jobs involve a certain degree of mindless, menial labor, but the more employers can give employees the sense that their jobs are meaningful, the more motivated they will be to work.