Herzberg’s Theory of hygiene factors

38Frederick Herzberg’s Motivational Theory, identified motivation and hygiene factors. His research studied why people strive to achieve ‘hygiene’ needs and what happens once those needs are satisfied , He found that people are not ‘motivated’ by addressing ‘hygiene’ needs, but by motivators, such as achievement, advancement, development, which represent a deeper level of meaning and fulfilment.


Another classic theory is Frederick Herzberg’s Motivational Theory which identified motivation and hygiene factors

Herzberg was the first to show that satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work nearly always arose from different factors, and were not simply opposing reactions to the same factors.

“We can expand … by stating that the job satisfiers deal with the factors involved in doing the job, whereas the job dissatisfiers deal with the factors which define the job context.”

Herzberg’s theory, although developed in the 1950 and 60’s, is relevant to ethical management and social responsibility, and the Psychological Contract.

Herzberg understood and taught ethical management principles of responsibility, fairness, justice and compassion in business.

Although Herzberg is most noted for his ‘hygiene’ and motivational factors theory, he was concerned with people’s well-being at work and how to manage people properly, for the good of all people at work.

His research proved that people will strive to achieve ‘hygiene’ needs because they are unhappy without them, but once satisfied the effect soon wears off .People are not ‘motivated’ by addressing ‘hygiene’ needs, but by motivators, such as achievement, advancement, development, which represent a deeper level of meaning and fulfilment.

Examples of Herzberg’s ‘hygiene’ needs (or maintenance factors) in the workplace are:

  • policy
  • relationship with supervisor
  • work conditions
  • salary
  • status
  • job security
  • relationship with subordinates
  • personal life

If hygiene factors are not addressed and taken to acceptable levels, staff can become demotivated.

  • Herzberg’s research identified that true motivators were other completely different factors, notably:
  • achievement
  • recognition
  • work itself
  • responsibility
  • advancement

Money as a motivator

The question of how important a motivator money is, is addressed when he refers specifically to ‘salary’ in his study. Herzberg acknowledged the complexity of the salary issue and benefits package, and concluded that money is not a motivator in the way that the primary motivators are, such as achievement and recognition.

Herzberg said about salary ‘”Viewed within the context of the sequences of events, salary as a factor belongs more in the group that defines the job situation and is primarily a dissatisfier.”

Surveys and research show that other factors motivate us more than money. For example a survey by Development Dimensions International which was published in the UK Times newspaper in 2004 interviewed 1,000 staff from companies which each employed at least 500 workers. The survey found that many were bored, lacked commitment and were looking for new jobs.

In the reasons people gave for leaving their jobs, pay came fifth. The main reasons people gave were lack of stimulus, and lack of opportunity for advancement. Both of these are classic Herzberg motivators.

43% wanted better promotion chances

28% left for more challenging work

23% were looking for a more exciting place to work

21% wanted more varied work.

Money is certainly important, and a personal driver if you don’t have enough for a civilized existence, or you are saving for a house or a holiday. But for most people money is not a motivator in itself.

Actions to Motivate employees may include

  • Personally thank them for their efforts.
  • Listen to them
  • Involve them in issues wider than their workload-, how the team, department, company is doing, how their actions fit, how they can make a difference.
  • Give feedback
  • Create a fun open environment
  • Involve them in decisions
  • Reward their performance
  • Give them a sense of ownership
  • Provide development opportunities
  • Promote good staff, encourage poor staff to leave
  • Celebrate success.

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