A Proven Way to Motivate Your Employees:

The Herzberg Model

How Do You Motivate Your Employees?

With the U.S. unemployment rate at near-record lows, businesses are seeking new and meaningful ways to satisfy their employees to retain their top talent. Factors like company culture and work-life balance are certainly impactful; however, companies should truly be focusing on motivating their teams and ensuring they’ve cultivated a work environment where people feel satisfied with their efforts on a daily basis.

“If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.” – Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg was a pioneer in motivation theory and is regarded as one of the major motivational philosophers of our time. He authored a number of books on the subject of motivation, including Job Attitudes: Research and Opinion (1957), The Motivation to Work (1959), and Work and the Nature of Man (1966).

 In a Harvard Business Review article titled One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees? (2003), Herzberg writes about his theory on motivating employees. Herzberg’s theory was founded from a study that he conducted on over 4,000 subjects focused on what made employees satisfied or dissatisfied about their jobs. He asked each subject two sets of questions:

  • Think of a time when you felt especially good about your job. Why did you feel that way?
  • Think of a time when you felt especially bad about your job. Why did you feel that way?

The subject responses resulted in a list of various causes for the conditions described above of feeling good or bad about their jobs. The responses didn’t appear to relate to one another in terms of good and bad feelings and opposite situational causes. For example, if a sense of achievement led to a subject feeling good about their job, the lack of a sense of achievement did not lead to feeling bad about their job. There simply didn’t seem to be a correlation around the causes of good and bad feelings.

From this study, Herzberg was able to conclude that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites. He came to two separate conclusions:

  1. Some conditions of a job simply dissatisfy employees when they are NOT present. However, when they ARE present they do motivate. These conditions were termed hygiene factors.
  2. Some conditions of a job simply result in job satisfaction and motivation. However, if they were NOT present, they did dissatisfy. These conditions were termed motivational factors.

The table below lists the factors Herzberg found as both motivational (satisfiers) and hygiene (dissatisfiers).


Motivational Factors Hygiene Factors
Achievement Company Policy and Administration
Recognition Technical Supervision
The work itself Relationship with Supervisor and Peers
Responsibility Work Conditions
Advancement Salary
Personal Growth Responsibilities Status
Job Security
Personal Life

“True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction, and recognition.” – Frederick Herzberg

Herzberg noticed that the hygiene factors were more associated with the work environment itself (i.e. poor lighting, relationships, ventilation, etc.) rather than the actual nature of the work. Thus, improving the hygiene factors doesn’t necessarily improve motivation/satisfaction, but rather decreases dissatisfaction. Simply put, improving the hygiene factors like the lighting and ventilation will not lead to an increase in motivation, but a decrease in dissatisfaction. In order to actually improve employee motivation, efforts should be targeted towards improving the satisfying factors. A good example of this is supplying employees with rewarding work with a high level of responsibility.

Overall, Herzberg’s Two-Factor model helps to clearly identify the difference between satisfying and dissatisfying factors within the workplace. Having this knowledge should give you the tools to first eliminate dissatisfying factors within your workplace and inspire you to create a culture that nurtures conditions for job satisfaction and motivation.

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