Fredrick Herzberg’s behavioural theory is considered as one of the oldest theories that describe job factors which inspire employees. Herzberg was a contemporary of Abraham Maslow who had coined the need pyramid theory. These two theories are studies globally even today in the business studies. There are few similarities between Herzberg’s and Maslow’s models. They both suggest that when needs are satisfied, people get motivated.   However, Herzberg emphasized that only the higher levels of the Maslow Hierarchy (e.g. self esteem and actualisation needs) act as a motivator. The remaining needs such as basic needs, security needs and social needs which he calls Hygiene Needs can only cause dissatisfaction if not addressed.

What do people want from their jobs? This is an important question; because it’s at the root of why would someone go to work. A manager must know how to engage his team members, to get the best performance out of them. Psychologist Fredrick Herzberg tried to find answer to this pertinent quest in 1950s and 1960s, what people want from their employment, what makes employees satisfied in an organization? He conducted a study by asking people to describe situations in which they felt really good, and really bad, about their jobs. What he found was that people who felt good about their jobs gave very different responses from the people who felt bad. Person to person they varied.

These results form the basis of Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory which was published in his famous article, “One More Time: How do You Motivate Employees,” the conclusions he drew were amazingly influential, and they still form the foundation of good motivational practice even half a century later. The theory concludes that there are certain factors in the workplace that can cause job satisfaction and a separate set of factors that can cause dissatisfaction.

Herzberg’s Hygiene factors: These are those job factors which are essential for existence of motivation at workplace. The hygiene factors symbolize the physiological needs which the individuals want and are expected to be fulfilled in their work place. However, these do not lead to positive satisfaction for long-term. Therefore, they are also called dissatisfiers. But, if these factors are not present, they lead to discontent. In other words, hygiene factors are those factors which appease the employees. The essential factors are:

Pay or compensation:  The pay or salary structure should be appropriate and reasonable. It must be equal and competitive to those in the same industry for the same job profile.

Fringe benefits: Employees require additional benefits such as breakfast, lunch (canteen at workplace), paid leave, health care benefits such as mediclaim, provident fund, gratuity, staff welfare, bonus etc. They like benefits passed on to their family members as well.

Position: Employees enjoy a suitable position in an organization. They get recognized by their position.

Work culture: Employees like to be respected by the employers. The work culture in organization matters. Their association with peers, superiors and subordinates needs to be respectable. Conflicts, grapevine and politicking spoil the work culture. Employees like to be treated with fairness.

Job Security:  People like to work in organizations which provide job security for achieving long-term career goals, better position helps them financially. A secured job enables them   marketable skills and fetch a reasonably good job in future.

Motivators: The other factor is called motivators or satisfiers. These are linked to employee motivation which arises from built-in or dependent conditions on the job itself. The motivational factors are referred to as self-worth or self-respect. This is an important part of success. Too little self-esteem can leave people feeling beaten or depressed. It can also lead people to make bad choices, fall into destructive relationships, or fail to live up to their full potential.  A person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value adds productivity to his style of working. The motivational factors for satisfaction include responsibility, job satisfaction, recognition, achievement, opportunities for growth, and advancement. Finally, the realization or fulfilment of one’s talents and full potentials lead him in achieving actualization. Self esteem and self actualization are considered as innate drive in almost everyone.

Motivational factors include:

Recognition: Good employees like to be known for their talent and good job. When their superiors and peers appreciate their hard work, they feel nice. When employees feel acknowledged, they are more likely to be motivated and more productive in their everyday work lives. This is a fact that employee recognition does not have to come in the form of a formal reward. It may come in the form of a good certificate or appreciation delivered informally in a conversation or email. Money is not the only motivator.

Feeling of achievement: The sense of achievement works like a booster for the employees.   This depends on the job. Achievement is most commonly associated with a grade, promotion of some sort. Achievement typically measures externally imposed standard. Accomplishment typically describes an internally motivated goal. It leads towards growth of a person in his career. Managers must allow their subordinates in achieving fulfilment of their career goals.

Responsibility: The employees must be given ownership of work by their superiors.  They should minimize control but retain accountability. Being responsible means being dependable, keeping promises and honouring commitments made by an individual. It is accepting the consequences for what one says and does. It develops a person’s potential. People who are responsible don’t make excuses for their actions or blame others when things go wrong.

Meaningfulness of the work: Meaningful work is something everyone wants. Each person has an innate quest for meaning and purpose of life. It becomes stronger and stronger as a person matures with all good and bad experiences of life. Some of the recent studies have shown that meaningfulness is more important to employees than any other aspect of work, as well as pay and rewards. Therefore, opportunities for promotion or working conditions matter. Meaningful work can be highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment, and satisfaction. For example, an intelligent researcher would find a professor’s job significant, in which he could impart his knowledge to students.

Conclusion: Maslow once stated that business leaders must set up healthy conditions so that employees can enjoy peak experiences in their jobs, they can act perversely to reduce their eagerness. His quote is a potential reflection on what is happening in today’s organizations and mainly its leaders who fail to help deliver a purposeful organization and equally important, a purposeful employee mindset. Herzberg’s theory echoes the same philosophy.



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