The question posed by Frederick Herzberg the distinguished professor of management at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in 1966 who went on to write Work and Nature of Man. His work may be somewhat dated now however the principles and understanding of motivation still remain true today. It is often misunderstood that the things that make people satisfied and motivated on-the-job are different to the things that make them dissatisfied. It is therefore critical that managers grasp this concept but also the understanding is beneficial for employees when making career decisions.
I speak with some of the top performing employees who are often at highly regarded companies. It always fascinates me listening to the reasons that cause them dissatisfaction within their current workplaces and what they are looking for in new employment. The answers are often surprising and sometimes require further thought from the candidates themselves. Environmental factors can make people miserable and they can certainly be demotivating. However if environmental factors are changed and improved they do not lead to job satisfaction but simply not job dissatisfaction. Employees are motivated and often overachieve when they are given interesting work, new challenges and increased responsibility. Factors contributing to job satisfaction are therefore focused around the need for growth and achievement.
Management will have to provide those factors that lead to job satisfaction if they are going to provide the right conditions for sustained success. The aim is to provide the conditions and opportunity that will lead to employees motivating themselves. If you take the concept of a rechargeable battery as an analogy to employee motivation you will hopefully understand the theory. We are able to provide a recharge to employee’s motivation by factors that will only have a short-term impact and will lead to the same issues further down the line. It is therefore a balance to meet the factors that will prevent job dissatisfaction whilst focusing on the totally separate factors for job satisfaction. These factors are listed below and are taken from the Harvard business Review that examined the factors affecting job attitudes which lead to extreme dissatisfaction and extreme satisfaction.
Factors contributing to job satisfaction
- Work itself
Factors contributing to job dissatisfaction
- Company policy and administration
- Relationship with supervisor
- Work conditions
- Relationship with peers
- Personal life
- Relationship with subordinates
It is somewhat surprising that companies all over the world still use ineffective methods for motivation. These methods were often effective when hierarchical structures were in place and employees had less choice. The worker of today has a tremendous choice and flexibility so if they are subject to bad treatment which is inappropriate they will simply swap jobs (there is of course recourse when employers act inappropriately so the dangers are double). China bank employees being spanked is a fine example what Herzberg referred to as a negative physical “Kick in the Ass” (KITA). It is however more common to experience negative psychological KITA which entails all kinds of emotional games and manipulation to make somebody perform. This can be somewhat subtle and may be more common in workplaces than one would imagine. It will only give the person administering the treatment an ego boost in the short term and will turn employees against working for the business.
There is also a positive KITA which is often wrongly championed by many organisations. This could be a reward, an incentive, more status or a promotion. The positive KITA is seductive and can make employees party to their downfall. “It’s the American Way. The organisation doesn’t have to kick you, you kick yourself”.
The answer is therefore for work to be enriched (or “vertically loaded”) for sustainable and self-administering motivation to take place. This process is about giving opportunities for growth with increased responsibility and new challenges. The list below shows the principles of vertical job loading:
|1.||Removing some controls while retaining accountability||Responsibility and personal achievement|
|2.||Increasing the accountability of individuals for own work||Responsibility and recognition|
|3.||Giving a person a complete natural unit of work (module, division, area…)||Responsibility, achievement and recognition|
|4.||Granting additional authority to employees in their activity; job freedom||Responsibility, achievement and recognition|
|5.||Making periodic reports directly available to the workers themselves rather than to supervisors||Internal recognition|
|6.||Introducing new and more difficult tasks not previously handled||Growth and learning|
|7.||Assigning individual specific or specialized tasks, enabling them to become experts||Responsibility, growth and advancement|
The problem with theory is that sometimes it is difficult to implement in the real world. There are however some underlying principles which can be used to structure the work environment and career development of employees. These are often changes that require no investment by the business and if structured right will provide the foundations for organisational success. Therefore the intrinsic rewards offered should be closely examined to ensure that interesting, challenging work, an opportunity to achieve and grow into greater responsibility is provided. This should be ingrained within the culture and continually reviewed and updated to ensure employees are given their own “internal generators” otherwise you will be stuck trying to recharge their batteries yourself again and again. When managers to apply job enrichment correctly there direct involvement in the work will lessen however this should free up time to focus on what really matters which is developing staff rather than checking work.
The concept of motivation is somewhat difficult and can be complex with individuals responding differently. I would be very interested to learn more about the thoughts of people reading this article and how they think organisations should motivate employees successfully. There are however individuals that are able to thrive in difficult environments and have trained themselves to look for the challenges and growth themselves. The difference between a happy motivated employee and one who is dissatisfied can be significant but also affect the rest of the team. I hope you will find this research useful and be able to apply and understand the theories whether you are a manager or an employee reviewing your career options.
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