To be a great artist you need to study The Old Masters. To be a great chef you need to know how to prepare, cook and understand the great classical dishes because only then can you begin to create new and innovative approaches that have popular appeal.  Without classic foundations like an understanding of how to capture flavours and refine textures with the application of heat, you could end up with a sorry mess.

To be a great leader or manager it’s useful to explore the great original thinkers of the 20th Century or you can end up with a totally disengaged team. 

Pioneering research

Back in 1959 the psychologist Fredrick Herzberg did some pioneering research.  He used a new interviewing technique (Critical Incident Method) to establish what gave people great job satisfaction.  Even though this is now considered to be old research and the world of work has changed beyond recognition, there is plenty of evidence that Herzberg’s findings are still highly relevant.

When asked, most managers will agree that money is the main motivator at work.  In fact, when people are asked they will often say the same.  Yet survey after survey shows a very different picture.  In the 2012 Global Workforce Study of 32,000 people it showed that nearly two-thirds (65%) of employees are not engaged at work.  This was mainly to do with lack of security, stress and the poor quality of work experience.  There were also a lot of doubts expressed about the interest and support coming from senior leaders.  In another even more recent survey by Investors in People UK the researchers stated that, contrary to popular belief, an increase in salary is not the top priority for workers who feel undervalued with two thirds (63%) stating greater job satisfaction as their main incentive for moving, with pay at just 48%.

Hygiene doesn’t motivate

Herzberg’s research gives some valuable insights into this.  His ‘Two-Factor Theory’ states that there are a number of factors that if not present will cause great dissatisfaction; but if they are present they will not provide great satisfaction or motivation.  Consider this: you see the kitchen of a restaurant you are thinking about eating in and it is filthy.  You will have great dissatisfaction and probably not want to eat there.  However, if it is clean you will be satisfied that it’s clean but not necessarily motivated to eat there because it will depend on the menu, quality of ingredients and the skills of the chefs.

Herzberg called the factors that cause great dissatisfaction ‘Hygiene Factors’ and salary is one of them.  Giving a pay rise may satisfy someone for a short period, but in a matter of months, if other factors are not present, motivation will not increase – the pay rise quickly becomes taken for granted.  The other ‘Hygiene Factors’ are things like working conditions including policies and bureaucracy, status, quality of supervision and management practices.  If improved these will not necessarily motivate or create great job satisfaction, they will bring people to a neutral state, not an engaged one. 

Genuine care does

The other factors Herzberg identified did provide a lot of job satisfaction when they were present.  They included recognition, a sense of achievement, challenging work, responsibility and personal growth. He called them ‘Motivation Factors’.  It’s interesting to note that while the Hygiene Factors require a lot of financial investment, they don’t require a lot of personal or emotional investment from management.  Implementing the Motivational Factors requires managers to get to know their people: to genuinely care about their aspirations and their growth.  It means investing time and effort in exploring opportunities to enrich and enhance people’s work.

Herzberg also provided an interesting classification of our actions (how and why we do them).   He stated that if you perform an action because you have to, you get “movement”, but if you perform a work related action because you want to, you get “motivation”.

What’s your Focus?

As the economy picks up over the coming months and more jobs become available people will start to vote with their feet and you need to consider the statistics from the recent surveys mentioned above.  I invite you to think about how you can become an even better leader and manager.  How could you use Herzberg’s findings to influence the way you engage with and motivate your team?

If you want to reduce dissatisfaction you will need to focus on improving working conditions and how you reward people, but recognise that this is not enough to actually give people great job satisfaction and high motivation. 

If you want to improve motivation and give your people great job satisfaction you need to focus on recognising them and finding opportunities for increasing responsibility and personal growth so they can feel a sense of achievement.

What do you need to focus on to get even more engagement from your people?
What do you need to do to increase and sustain their motivation?

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line anytime, I’ll respond personally to all comments.

Remember . . . Stay Curious!

With best regards

David Klaasen

David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (