Herzberg, F. 2003. One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review (January): 87-96. (This paper was originally published in the HBR in 1968).

Summary by Justin Gerber

Master of Accountancy Program

University of South Florida, Summer 2003

The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between knowledge and speculation about what motivates employees. Herzberg discusses various myths about motivation, and explains his now famous motivation-hygiene theory.

Motivating with KIT

Many difficulties exist with moving employees to action. The quickest way to get an employee to do something is to ask, but if the person declines, the next solution is to give them a kick in the pants (KITA). However, there are problems with KITA and motivation. The employee, of course, does move when the KITA is applied, whether it is physical or psychological, but KITA does not lead to motivation, it only leads to movement. If an employee needs no outside stimulation, then he or she wants to do it.

Myths about Motivation

Next Herzberg confronts KITA practices that were developed to instill motivation.

1. Reducing time spent at work – The idea here is to motivate people to work by getting them off the job. The truth is that motivated people seek more hours, not less.

2. Spiraling Wages – Spiraling wages motivates people to seek the next wage increase. If rising wages won’t motivate, reducing them might.

3. Fringe Benefits – These benefits have gone from rewards to rights. The cost of fringe benefits is approximately 25% of the wage dollar. People are spending less time working expecting more security and money. Fringe benefits do not motivate.

4. Human Relations Training – More than 30 years of teaching and training and the question is still the same: How do you motivate employees?

5. Sensitivity Training – Because of the failure of Human Relations Training, sensitivity training was developed. Many employees were forced to get to know themselves better and no motivation was garnered.

6. Communications – This was the next management training program to instill motivation. The idea was to let employees understand what management was trying to do for them. But communication didn’t lead to motivation, it only lead to management realizing that it was not listening to employees.

7. Two Way Communication – Management now began welcoming suggestions and surveys. The two-way communication brought some improvement, but still had no motivating effect.

8. Job Participation – Job participation was designed to give employees the sense of achievement, or to show the employee the big picture. This, of course, doesn’t lead to motivation.

9. Employee Counseling – Employees could talk to someone about their problems and perhaps that would motivate them. But the counseling also failed to yield the desired results. In fact, counseling services were often interfering with the operation of the organization itself.

Hygiene vs. Motivators

Herzberg developed a motivation-hygiene theory based on a study of engineers and accountants. The findings of the initial study suggest that factors involved in producing job satisfaction (and motivation) are different from the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction (hygiene). These findings have been replicated by sixteen other investigations.

The problem with semantics is resolved when understanding human behavior. Two differing needs are involved. One set of needs comes from the animal-like nature – built

in drive to avoid pain and all other biological needs that drive humans. For example, hunger, makes it necessary to make money, and thus money is a specific drive. The other need is the ability to achieve and to experience growth. The tasks that satisfy the growth need are found in the job content, but also factors that induce pain-avoidance behavior are found on the job. Growth or motivator factors are achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth. The dissatisfaction avoidance or hygiene factors are company policy and administration, supervision, relationship with supervisor, working conditions, salary, relationship with peers, personal life, relationship with subordinates, status, and security. See below for a graphic view of the results of twelve of Herzberg's investigations.

The motivation-hygiene theory proposes that work must be enriched to successfully utilize, or motivate, personnel. Job enrichment provides the opportunity for growth. Job enrichment must be vertical job loading and not horizontal job loading. Horizontal loading consists of challenging the employee to increase production amounts or adding another meaningless task to the existing one. Vertical job loading could be removing controls while keeping accountability and introducing new and more challenging tasks not previously handled. Job enrichment needs to be a continuous management function according to Herzberg.

Herzberg disputes the ideas shared by managers that money and benefits motivate employees. Instead, Herzberg believes continuous job enrichment will motivate employees. He provides ten steps at the end of the article that managers should follow to implement his motivation-hygiene theory.


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