Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory states job satisfaction is influenced by two factors: motivation factors and basic “hygiene factors.” Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, and responsibility. Hygiene factors consist of pay and benefits, supervision, working conditions, and job security (among others). Herzberg suggests that while the presence of hygiene factors does not create motivation, the lack of them creates demotivation. If hygiene factors aren’t met this can breed dissatisfaction and cause employees to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
For example, a large automobile manufacturer contacted us with a concern that had tremendous impact on their levels of employee morale. Several employees had reported being robbed in the parking lot while leaving the assembly plant at night. The final straw prompting the call was that an employee was assaulted, leaving the employee bruised and in poor shape. The company needed to reach out to us in order to restore levels of confidence in employee safety and well-being.


For these employees, and employees anywhere, safety was not something that motivated them or got them excited to come to work. It was a hygiene factor. Being safe did not cause satisfaction, but losing a sense of safety quickly caused employees to be demotivated and dissatisfied in their jobs. Even though safety isn’t a perk, it illustrates an important reality: Constantly introducing bigger and better hygiene factors doesn’t increase job satisfaction or performance, but the lack of these factors could cause huge declines in satisfaction.


So, while employee satisfaction is a prerequisite to employee engagement, satisfaction factors don’t lead to engagement. Satisfaction is simply the price of admission.


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