How to understand employee motivation and demotivation.

Frederick Herzberg - a pioneer of occupational psychology.
Herzberg was an American psychologist who established a theory about employee motivation, called 'Two-Factor Theory'. This theory distinguishes between Hygiene and Motivation Factors.

The theory of Herzberg can be represented as follows:

The Theory of Frederick Herzberg

Hygiene factors have the power to crush employee motivation if they are not present - but they will not increase motivation when present. Typical hygiene factors are a functioning IT infrastructure, the working atmosphere, the relationship with the boss, etc.

On the other side, Motivation factors can boost employee motivation when they are present, but they will not immediately create demotivation if not present. Typical motivating factors are purpose, recognition, growth prospects, etc.

Being deeply involved in Culture Change projects, we are obviously confronted with the topic of employee motivation. And there are two insights from our consulting practice I’d like to share with you today.

Finding 1:

Corporate Culture is at the same time a Hygiene AND a Motivation Factor! A healthy, integrative, and people-oriented corporate culture promotes the motivation of employees! A bad and negative corporate culture, on the other hand, destroys the motivation of employees!

Finding 2:

Herzberg’s theory applies to GenZ even more than to the other generations! People from Generation Z react even more quickly to non-existent hygiene factors than representatives of older generations and will quickly leave a place in such a case. Conversely, the classic motivational factors have a much stronger effect on Generation Z than for older generations.

While Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory is widely accepted, there is some criticism of the theory. For example, some psychologists argue that Herzberg’s theory does not take into account the different needs of different people. Herzberg’s theory also does not explain how to motivate people who are already satisfied with their work.

Despite these criticisms, Herzberg’s theory of motivation is an effective tool for understanding employee motivation. By understanding the factors that cause job satisfaction and dissatisfaction, employers can create a work environment that is more likely to motivate and engage employees.

Do you want to know more about this passionating subject or discuss a concrete issue you are facing? Contact us, we'd love to hear from you!
Christophe Berger
Christophe is founder and CEO of AGILIS. Besides his work as consultant and manager, he is always observing the business word and adores commenting on subject that seem relevant to him.