ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Truly Motivate Employees

Updated on October 2, 2014

Motivation is the unique human ability to experience psychological growth from our achievements, and the hidden force within that causes us to take action.

Why Is Motivation Important?

When workers are truly motivated, their own internal generators take over and they want to do the work. Many will seek more hours at work and less outside stimulation. Turnover decreases and productivity increases. As a manager, this is what you want, right?

Herzberg’s “Two-Factor Theory” is one of the best management tools I have ever discovered, so lets discuss it here today.

The Two-Factor Theory of Motivation

Also called the “Motivation–Hygiene Theory, Herzberg, a clinical psychologist, published it in his book: “The Motivation to Work” in 1959. His conclusions were based on extensive research in the field of job attitudes, first conducted with engineers and accountants and then substantiated by 16+ other studies among a wide variety of populations.

Stay with me here. Herzberg identified two distinctly different sets of factors in the workplace. One set (motivational factors) leads to employee satisfaction and motivation. The other set (hygiene factors) leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

Motivational Factors

Herzberg found that factors leading to employee satisfaction and motivation relate exclusively to the job itself—the work a person is doing. Primary motivational factors are job achievement, recognition for achievements, type of work (interesting and challenging), and job responsibility, advancement and growth. When these factors are present in a job, the worker is likely to be satisfied and motivated. Output increases while turnover and absenteeism decrease.

Hygiene Factors

Primary hygiene factors that can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness are company policies and administration, relationship with supervisor, salary, and other benefits. Note that these hygiene factors relate to the work environment and not to the job itself. While it is important to identify and correct major hygiene problems to eliminate dissatisfaction, correcting them will not motivate your workers.

Management Confusion

Managers who don’t understand the difference between motivational and hygiene factors often try to motivate workers by manipulating hygiene factors- work hours, days off, salary, bonuses, or other benefits. But this doesn’t work because motivation only comes from the work a person is doing- the job itself.

It’s hard for some managers to accept that the benefits and perks they spend so much time and money on do not motivate their employees. Yes, a salary far below what others are making at a similar job in similar companies will cause dissatisfaction and unhappiness. And if you make it fair and equitable the dissatisfaction will go away- but motivation does not increase. Money means little if you hate your job.

Remember, motivation of your employees comes from the jobs you give them to do and the psychological benefits they derive from their achievements while doing that job, and from the subsequent recognition you give them. It does not come from environmental (hygiene) factors, like salary, parking spot, free lunch, more vacation, or other benefits unrelated to the work itself.

The Bottom Line

Spend less time identifying and correcting hygiene problems, and more time creating important, challenging jobs for your workers that provide plenty of responsibility, autonomy, and opportunities to achieve. Then find those achievements and recognize them publicly and privately. This is the path to real employee motivation.

Steven R. Smith is the author of Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, a concise,150-page guide to help managers and supervisors succeed. It is based on the author’s 42 years of industry experience at 15 different companies. For more information on this book go to:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)