Herzberg two factor theory sheds light on the relationship between the attitude that employees have and motivation in the workplace. Without any doubt, employees need to be motivated so that they can be more productive. The lack of motivation usually makes them feel dissatisfied with their jobs and in the long run, they decrease their performance. Once the employees’ performance reduces, the growth of the organization becomes stagnated. Therefore, it is upon the management to ensure that employees remain motivated all the time.
Frederick Herzberg was the developer of the two factor theory. He was a psychologist who was keen on the investigation of the factors that make employees feel satisfied or dissatisfied in their workplaces. His study to come up with the correct conclusions involved interviewing employees. He asked questions regarding the things or aspects in the workplace that made them feel good or bad. It was through this process that this theory was born.
Herzberg two factor theory definition
The Herzberg two factor theory is among the major motivation theories developed to help improve employee management. The assumption behind the two factor theory is that there are two types of factors that affect employee motivation in the workplace. These factors can either enhance motivation or hinder it. One set of factors is known as the hygiene factors while the other is known as motivators or satisfiers.
According to Herzberg, hygiene factors refer to those factors that cause dissatisfaction in the workplace. These factors do not have anything to do with cleanliness in the workplace as the name suggests. These factors are extrinsic aspects of the workplace that employees may not have control over. The hygiene factors that Herzberg recognized include compensation, organizational politics, leadership qualities, job security and the relationship between supervisors and employees.
Something noticeable from the hygiene factors is that employees do not have a lot of control over them. For instance, they have to go by the type of leadership portrayed by the management. They also do not have a say on their compensation. Even though the hygiene factors do not motivate employees, when they are absent or are inadequate, they can increase the severity of the dissatisfaction of the employees. For instance, it would be devastating for employees to be led by poor leaders. The poor leaders would barely know how to handle the employees' concerns. Also, if there is no job security, employees are bound to keep worrying about losing their jobs. Chances are that the employees would contribute more to these worries by the thought that they would, in the long run, lose the jobs assigned to them. Eventually, their performance would decrease, thus, reducing the overall growth of the company. Therefore, it is the lack of fulfilment of the hygiene factors that makes employees feel dissatisfied.
The other set of factors include the motivators or satisfiers. Just like the name suggests, these factors motivate employees and make them feel satisfied with their jobs. Unlike the hygiene factors, motivators are intrinsic or rather, they depend on the job. They include responsibility, achievements, growth opportunities, recognition and advancement in career and personal life. If employees are recognized for their achievements and they are satisfied with their jobs, they are likely to increase their performance.
Herzberg two factor theory advantages and disadvantages
Even though Herzberg two factor theory is important in explaining the relationship between motivation and employees’ attitude, it has some weaknesses. Below is a discussion of the pros and cons of Herzberg two factor theory.
These are some of the positive aspects that come out of the theory.
1. Herzberg two factor theory is beneficial to managers as it expounds on the issue of motivation. It creates a basis upon which transformations in the organizations can be made to promote job satisfaction and growth of the organization.
2. This theory also recognizes that the management has control over how employees perform. If they treat them well and create the right conditions, employees can increase their productivity.
The downsides to the theory include:
1. The theory does not use a comprehensive measure to assess what motivation means. An employee can find their job satisfying even though they do not like some aspects of it.
2. This theory is also biased. It was purely developed based on the answers that the employees gave. It goes without saying that often, the employees will blame the management for their lack of motivation. Also, if they are satisfied they will say that it is because of their efforts. This theory could have therefore considered the opinions of the management as well.
Application of Herzberg two factor theory
Based on the analysis of this theory, one is conditioned to think that reducing the factors that cause dissatisfaction would eventually lead to increased satisfaction and vice versa. However, this is not the case when it comes to the application of the theory. It is important to note that the factors that promote satisfaction are not the opposite of the factors that cause dissatisfaction. These set of factors are quite different and the absence of one does not indicate the presence or existence of the other.
Here is a good case scenario to expound on this issue. Take the case of an employee who, due to her increased performance, gets an increase in salary. However, she works in a noisy environment and she really struggles to concentrate on her work. The increment in salary is meant to motivate her. However, the fact that she will still go back to working in an environment that she finds uncomfortable demotivates her. Simply put, a motivator cannot override or hide a hygiene factor.
READ ALSO: Trait theory of leadership
To fully benefit from this theory, there is the need to eliminate the factors that cause dissatisfaction and incorporate those that cause satisfaction. This can be done in two ways.
1. Do away with job dissatisfaction
As mentioned above, the factors that lead to dissatisfaction cannot be done away with by simply increasing those that lead to motivation. Therefore, to get rid of the hygiene factors, the following tips can be used;
Do away with poor company policies
Some company policies are so strict that they cause employees to lack motivation. Fixing such policies can go a long way in motivating the employees.
Establish non-intrusive supervision
Supervision is very important as it enables employees to know how to go about their duties. However, an intrusive supervision can be quite annoying for an employee. Supervision should not always be about finding the faults of the employees. Instead, it should also involve creating a good relationship with them.
Establish an organizational culture that is based on respect
Even though employees do not have a lot of power like the supervisors, they deserve to be respected. The management has the duty of enhancing respectful behaviour among the employees and between the employees and the supervisors. This way, they will feel satisfied with their job.
Compensate employees well
One of the hygiene factors noted by Frederick Herzberg is compensation. Poor compensation is a factor that demoralizes employees but proper compensation can make them love their job and feel satisfied.
Provide meaningful work for all positions
As a manager, you have to assign responsibilities that are meaningful. In this case, "meaningful" means jobs that employees which make employees feel that they are advancing in their careers and in their personal lives. Do not just let them stay in one position for a long time. Promote them occasionally. Also, you can introduce new roles or new ways of doing things for each position. This is how employees find meaning in their work.
Guarantee job security
If the employees feel insecure about their job, they would always be worried about losing it. They are bound to feel less motivated and some of them would even make plans to look for greener pastures elsewhere. If this is the situation at the workplace, productivity would reduce. It is, therefore, important for the organization to provide job security to employees so that they do not have to worry all the time.
2. Build job satisfaction conditions
This is the second step in applying this theory. This requires an evaluation of the job and an analysis of the factors that could make it better. The following tips can be used to create good conditions at work.
Provide growth opportunities
Employees do not only need to earn money. They also need to advance their careers. The management should, therefore, provide such opportunities through training and promotion.
When an employee does something great, they should be recognized for doing it. This makes them feel good and it elevates their motivation.
Matching people’s skills with the work
Employees should be given work which they can accomplish with their skills and abilities.
All employees should be treated equally, regardless of their gender, age, culture or religion. This helps in creating a great teamwork culture and also motivating the employees.
As is discussed above, Herzberg two factor theory is all about how motivation relates to employee attitudes. The hygiene factors and the motivators are distinct and should be treated as such. The reduction or increase in any of the factors does not cause an increase or reduction in the other set of factors.