Motivation Monday: What is Herzberg’s Two-Factor Motivation Theory?

October 31st, 2016

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Yes, motivation theory is a thing, and there are a few motivational theorists that are worthy of note, Herzberg being one of the most important. Frederick Herzberg was an American psychologist who developed the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, or Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.

Herzberg sought to understand employee satisfaction and it’s relation to how employees felt about their jobs.

What did they want?

Did they just want to be paid more?

Was it something else?

During the 1950’s and 60’s, that is what Herzberg sought to find out. Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory is the result of his findings.

Factors of the Two-Factor Motivation Theory

The two-factor theory suggests that there are two sets of factors that affect motivation: one set of factors that causes satisfaction among employees and one set that causes dissatisfaction. Here’s a more detailed look:

  • Factor 1 – Motivating factors like challenging work and great incentives provide positive satisfaction
  • Factor 2 – Factors like rate of pay or job security, not motivators in and of themselves, but create satisfaction. These “hygiene factors” can create dissatisfaction if they are not present.

The point that Herzberg was trying to make is that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are not elements where one increases as the other decreases and vice versa, but are independent of one another. What is the opposite of satisfaction?

Herzberg said it was no satisfaction.

Likewise, the opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction.

As a result, both factors of his two-factor theory need to be present to achieve the utmost motivation.

Motivators vs. Hygiene

If you’re not quite wrapping your head around this, perhaps a few examples will help.


  • Work responsibilities
  • Work that is meaningful and fulfilling
  • Recognition for achievement
  • Advancement


  • Financial rewards such as salary
  • Work conditions
  • Clear policies
  • Relationships with co-workers

Reflect on your current or most recent employment and how these factors affected your motivation toward your work. If all of these factors were present and positive, how would that affect your motivation?

Everything else may be of no value if appropriate hygiene factors are not in place.

Applying Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s theory brings to light the importance of a reward system; however, before you pull out the checkbook, understand that recognition is often enough to motivate employees. Think about it…have you ever noticed how fundraisers often use recognition as a motivator for people to donate?

If you have ever been involved in Network Marketing or Multi-Level Marketing, then you know that recognition is a huge part of the incentive to push product.

To implement this theory, you must also understand that both factors are equally important. If you only have good hygiene, you will only get average performance from your staff. You have stopped dissatisfaction, but there is nothing to drive motivation.

If you are truly interested in applying Herzberg’s Two-Factor Motivation Theory, then you must do so through a two stage process:

1. Elimination Dissatisfaction

If you’re not intuitive to the dissatisfaction of your employees, then you may have to find a way to honestly extract what makes them unhappy. Be prepared to do as many of the following as it takes and maybe more:

  • Update company policy
  • Stop the micro-managing and provide supportive supervision
  • Promote a culture of mutual respect and don’t tolerate anything less
  • Provide a competitive wage
  • Provide job stability and security

These are your hygiene factors. Fix these and eliminate dissatisfaction. This will be a huge, but temporary, motivator.

2. Create Satisfaction

Herzberg called this “job enrichment”. Depending upon the size of your company and number of different jobs, this could be a daunting task, but a rewarding one for both you and your employees. Examine each job and ask yourself how it could be made better and more rewarding for the person doing the work. Necessary improvements may include:

  • Opportunities for achievement
  • Recognition of both achievement and contribution
  • Assigning work that matches the skills and abilities of the worker
  • Assigning appropriate responsibility to each worker
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Training and development opportunities

The combination of the two sounds like the perfect job, huh? That’s the idea.

Wrap Up

If you’re in business for yourself, you have or will likely hire staff to help you realize your dreams. How much would you pay for something like that? It’s really priceless. Create an environment that says what your staff does for you is priceless and you’ll never want for productivity and motivation.

Have you implemented Herzberg’s motivation theory? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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