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Technology is valuable! But humans come first!



I just came back from a meeting with a customer who asked us to staff a significant number of positions as they have been fighting with a high attrition rate for the last couple of years. 


You have to know that this company is very successful, pays decent salaries and has nice offices. 

So why do they have such a problem with employee loyalty? 


One key towards the answer may be given by Frederick Herzberg


Frederick Herzberg was an American scientist trying to understand human behaviour in general and motivation in particular and was very regarded in the sixties and seventies of the last century. Although research has continued since then and new insights into motivation have been made, Herzberg's work is still valid and can explain a phenomenon like attrition.


His hygiene-motivation theory, which was made very popular with an article in the Harvard Business Review (One more time: how do you motivate employees?, 1968), tries to explain why monetary incentives are, most of the time, short-term solutions and often start a vicious circle.


He came up with the idea that there are some hygiene factors which do not, by themselves, increase job satisfaction, but can lead to quick dissatisfaction if they are not present. Amongst the hygiene factors are things like management style and support, salary, working relationship and job security.


Motivation factors (also called growth factors) relate to the concrete job of a person and include things like achievement, recognition, responsibility, self-scheduling and professional perspective.


Herzberg insisted on the fact that these two factors are not opposite, but complementary. Each company has to make sure that the hygiene factors are given - this is the baseline. But true motivation and loyalty comes with the motivation factors. As a result, a simple "thank you, you did an outstanding job" may be more effective and authentic than a one-off bonus for certain achievements (which does not mean that the latter is fundamentally bad).


For us leaders in a digital world, it's tempting to idolater Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Latest Java Technology - as an extension to Herzberg, I'd say that these are hygiene factors for our ventures.

However, never forget that it's finally the humans who make us progress and let's give them the attention and recognition they deserve!

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