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Boost Employee Productivity With Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory

Employee satisfaction is important for any organization. Apply Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory to optimize your productivity.

By Kate Dagher  •   September 20, 2022  •   7 min read

Since high levels of absenteeism and employee turnover can affect a company’s ability to achieve its goals, it’s essential that job satisfaction and retention are prioritized. When employees are satisfied, they are more effective, creative, productive, and motivated. One theory of employee satisfaction is Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory. The incorporation of this theory is said to motivate employees, improve company culture, encourage recognition, and boost achievements.

Incorporating this theory is a way of updating and upgrading your company policies so everyone feels happy and satisfied at work. The theory focuses on two dimensions: hygiene and motivation. This article will take you through an explanation of Herzberg’s theory, break down the factors included in the model, discuss the benefits of incorporating the theory, and explain exactly how to incorporate it.

What is Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory? 

In research on motivation, Frederick Herzberg is said to be somewhat of a pioneer. In the 1950s, he interviewed a group of employees to identify and explore what really made them feel satisfied at work and what made them feel highly dissatisfied. As a result of this study, Herzberg identified two major dimensions to job satisfaction: (1) hygiene and (2) motivation. 

According to the theory, hygiene issues can’t necessarily motivate employees but can minimize an employee’s dissatisfaction. Elements of hygiene all have to do with the employee’s working environment. Components included in hygiene are organizational policies, salary allocation, working conditions and environment, and interpersonal relationships. After organizations have placed some attention on any issues relating to hygiene, they can then move on to focus on motivators.

Motivators actually create and drive satisfaction at work. This is done by paying attention to and fueling personal growth and identifying what is most fulfilling to employees. Components of motivators include recognition, feedback, achievement, daily tasks and responsibilities, and career development. These motivators will make employees want to be more productive at work and feel more committed to the organization. 

1What are hygiene factors?

Hygiene factors are things that minimize employee dissatisfaction and make individuals feel valued as members of the organization. Here are some major components to which you should pay attention: 

  • Company culture and administrative policies: When you have an attractive company culture that brings people closer together, this can be a huge factor in minimizing any dissatisfaction. The same goes for administrative policies such as sick days, vacation, hours, salary, and workload. 
  • Supervision: Management is a huge part of any job. If there is poor supervision or management in an organization, employees will not feel satisfied at work. 
  • Interpersonal relationships: Working relationships are extremely important, so it’s essential to prioritize good communication, collaboration, and a good working environment.
  • Working conditions: Work conditions and environment are essential as well. Employees need to feel safe, comfortable, and secure at work. 

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2What are motivational factors?

Motivational factors are things that directly boost how motivated employees feel at work. These motivators can include:

  • Work itself: The actual work that employees are assigned to complete has to be interesting and fulfilling to them.
  • Achievement: The ability to be supported in achieving important goals is essential to fueling motivation in the office. 
  • Recognition: Recognizing employees’ abilities, accomplishments, and efforts will make them want to continue achieving great things. 
  • Responsibility: Trusting employees and giving them a certain amount of responsibility is important in motivating your workforce. 
  • Advancement: Opportunities for advancement give employees something to work towards and keep their jobs interesting. 

The benefits of applying Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory 

One of the benefits of applying Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory is that the application of the theory gives employees more autonomy. Autonomy acts as a strong motivator because when you give more responsibility to employees, it encourages them to take ownership of their work. This theory also pushes organizations to take a closer look at the work environment and improve working conditions so everyone can feel comfortable, safe. and happy. Implementing this theory at work encourages more reciprocal feedback and also highlights any components of work that need to be improved for everyone’s wellbeing. 

How to apply Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory to boost employee productivity 

1Pay your employees a competitive salary

First off, salary is extremely important. Management needs to ensure that they are allocating competitive salaries to employees. Dissatisfaction can very quickly stem from low or inadequate pay for a particular position. It is essential to be fair in salary decisions and to consider putting together a pay structure so everyone is satisfied and aware of what they can work towards as a salary goal. 

2Foster a psychologically safe environment

It’s essential for organizations to foster a psychologically safe environment. You need to provide basic needs—like a safe and comfortable working environment—to employees. The health and safety of your employees should be your number one priority. Cutting corners in these areas will only come back and escalate into larger issues. Make sure that the whole team feels not only physically safe, but also mentally. Everyone needs to feel supported, valued, and comfortable being honest and open. 

3Set SMART goals 

Setting SMART goals alongside implementing Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory will boost both motivation and productivity. To write business goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, you should develop your goal one letter at a time and really think about what it is that’s going to best motivate your employees. For best goal-setting results, try asking questions for each letter, then answer them—this can be done in a collaborative environment so the whole team is involved.

4Provide regular feedback 

Be sure to provide regular feedback to employees. Meaningful and constructive feedback will motivate employees to work towards their goals, which also translates into achieving organizational goals. You can build a culture of continuous feedback by using meeting management tools like Fellow. With Fellow, you can share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance. By creating this constant communication, you build a culture of feedback, openness, and honesty.

5Give employees autonomy 

A huge component of Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory is giving team members more autonomy and more responsibility at work. Motivation tends to increase when employees feel they have a strong degree of ownership over their work. In episode 58 of our Supermanagers podcast, Smruti Patel, Head of Engineering, Leap and Data Platform at Stripe, shares her best advice for fostering autonomy:

“When I think about fostering autonomy, it comes down to building trust and building feedback loops, whether it’s through feedback by mentoring by coaching or by sponsoring. Once you delegate scope, responsibility, authority, you can start on nurturing an environment where you’ve set others up for success.”

Listen to the full episode here:

6Create meaning around employees’ work

When people’s work feels meaningful, motivation is boosted because employees actually tend to look forward to their responsibilities. Sometimes, a great way of creating meaning around work is to listen to your employees, include them in decisions, and as previously mentioned, give them autonomy. It’s important that individuals understand the purpose behind their work and how their responsibilities contribute to the larger, overarching goals of the company. Identifying the purpose of each role in your organization highlights that employees’ jobs are meaningful and important, and keeps employees motivated. 

7Give regular recognition 

Providing regular recognition is key when applying Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory. Job performance tends to improve when employees are recognized for their good work, achievements, and efforts. Increasing job satisfaction means that employees are aware that management is satisfied with their performances and appreciates their efforts. Celebrating a team member,  especially with the whole team, can make everyone better. People want acknowledgement whether they’re new to the team or have years of service under their belt. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word or a thank you note when someone goes above and beyond!

8Have career development conversations with your employees 

Setting professional development goals is one of the best ways for employees to grow, find alignment, and increase motivation at work. It’s a great idea to ask your employees to share and revise their professional goals in a one-on-one meeting with you. This way, you can help them grow and track their progress as they expand their skills and competencies over time. Your support in their career development will keep them motivated to achieve their goals. 

Free Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory template

Parting advice 

It’s a key part of the job for any employer to ensure that employees feel satisfied and motivated at work—in doing so, you can support a productive workforce and retain your top talent over time!

One of the most influential motivation theories in organizational psychology is Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory. Learning to apply this theory to the way you manage work and lead your team will help you boost motivation and productivity overall. Not only will your employees feel happier and more valued, but the company will also achieve its goals with an even higher degree of efficiency. It’s a win-win!

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