Employee Motivation and the Herzberg Theory

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Employee Motivation and the Herzberg Theory

14 Feb, 2020

Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory (also known as Herzberg’s two-factor theory), according to Wikipedia, “states that certain factors in the workplace cause job satisfaction while a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction, all of which act independently of each other.”


The theory is an educated attempt at trying to answer the age-old question: what helps employee motivation? In this article, we’ll give you an introduction to Herzberg’s theory of motivation and why employee motivation is important in any organization. You’ll also discover ways to apply Herzberg’s two-factor theory as an organization in 2020

Why is Employee Motivation Important?


Employee motivation equates to better performance within the company, which often results in better profitability. However, according to Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged at work. That’s a lot of missed opportunities for organizations hoping to increase their output. 


Here are some of the biggest benefits for companies that can figure out how to motivate employees:


  • Teams and departments become more efficient at meeting their goals
  • Increased productivity with higher levels of quality output
  • Higher employee retention levels, which saves organizations money
  • Employees become more efficient at their jobs and happier overall


There are many ways to work toward better employee motivation and engagement. These articles are a good place to start if you’re looking for strategies to use in your organization:

Intro to Herzberg’s Motivational Theory

In the 1950s and 60s, psychologist Frederick Herzberg tried to understand how companies can help their employees be more motivated at work. He ran a series of experiments to identify the causes of motivation by asking workers what made them happy vs. unhappy in their jobs.


Through this research, Herzberg identified key ‘motivators’ in the workplace and ‘demotivators’.

The motivators include:


  • Advancement
  • The nature of the work
  • Responsibility
  • Achievement
  • Growth
  • Recognition


The demotivators (hygiene factors) include:


  • Company policies
  • Quality of leadership
  • Pay
  • Relationships
  • Work conditions
  • Status
  • Security



Herzberg tried to develop a simple tool from his research that could give a baseline for organizations to work from. Using Herzberg’s set of motivators and demotivators, companies have used the tool to create an ideal work environment for employees for many years.


Herzberg also concluded that there is no correlation between job dissatisfaction and job satisfaction. Therefore, only trying to eliminate common causes of dissatisfaction will not equate to employee satisfaction. Organizations have to both eliminate the demotivators and also work to increase the motivators in their organization.


Applying Herzberg’s Theory in the Workplace today


Here are some useful steps for implementing the Herzberg two factor theory as a way to increase employee motivation:

Remove the ‘hygiene’ factors first

The first step is to identify any demotivating factors in the workplace and remove them. This could be a toxic manager or employee, low compensation, poor work conditions, bad company policies, or a mixture of these things. Removing the hygiene items help get the organization to achieve that ‘neutral’ space. From this point, the organization can then work toward better employee motivation.

Focus on motivation and job enrichment

Think about the quality of employees’ jobs and how their work experience every day could be enriched. Also, leaders should come up with ways to give employees more autonomy and power over their work lives. As engagement is a key part of employee motivation, we have an article here on how to measure engagement the right way.

Talk to employees and team members

The Herzberg model is a great framework to work from, but don’t forget to ask for feedback from actual members of the company. Every employee is unique and will have individual motivating and demotivating factors. Asking these questions is essential to ensuring greater employee satisfaction in the workplace.

Be an example

When members of an organization see leaders overworking themselves, never taking any healthy time off, and perpetuating negativity in the workplace, it has a trickle-down effect. Try as you might to eliminate demotivators and figure out each employee motivators, these items will only go so far if leadership in the organization do not follow these patterns.


It’s important to be aware of the standards you’re setting for yourself as a leader because they are what lower management and employees will imitate.

Give a voice to employees

Let employees know you value their opinion by offering opportunities for feedback and to have a say in the company work culture. A huge motivator for employees is to feel seen and heard in their jobs, so making this a priority is important if you want to have a profitable company. 


Give employees more of a say in the workplace, and trust them to do their jobs effectively without micromanaging.


How Heartpace can help


Heartpace software can help your organization implement better employee motivation strategies by offering a robust solution. With Heartpace, getting your teams aligned, setting goals for your organization, and ensuring fair pay has never been easier. See what we can offer your organization and start building a better workplace today.


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