What are Herzberg’s two factors for increasing employee satisfaction?

Ilustración de tres personas subiendo una colina, simbolizando el progreso y la motivación en el trabajo. Están rodeadas de engranajes, lo que representa el funcionamiento y las dinámicas laborales. Una persona lleva una bandera azul, indicando liderazgo y metas alcanzadas."

According to Herzberg’s two-factor theory, the elements that cause employee dissatisfaction are not the same as those that cause satisfaction.

In this sense, working conditions and salary can prevent dissatisfaction, but they will not make employees more committed or work with more enthusiasm.

Instead, other factors, such as recognition and personal growth, are what really increase team satisfaction and morale.

Understanding this distinction is essential to improve the work environment and productivity in organizations.

In this article, we review what Herzberg’s two-factor theory is, delving into each of them, we review the types of organizations according to the type of factors they prioritize, and we end with a few tips to improve employee satisfaction.

Let’s go there!

What is Herzberg’s two-factor theory?

This theory, also known as the motivation-hygiene theory , was developed by Frederick Herzberg in 1959. In it he maintains that people’s performance at work depends on the level of satisfaction they feel in their work environment.

To explain this concept, Herzberg is based on the belief that the elements that induce satisfaction in human beings are different and independent from those that cause dissatisfaction.

In other words: an element that causes employee satisfaction cannot cause dissatisfaction, and vice versa.

To do this, it divides the factors that affect employee satisfaction into two types: hygiene factors and motivation factors.

What are hygiene factors?

Hygiene factors are intended to prevent employee suffering or pain and are related to the physiological and safety needs of Maslow’s Pyramid.

These factors have their greatest impact mainly on the environment in which the work is performed. If they are absent, they cause dissatisfaction among workers and, consequently, affect their performance.

Among the hygiene factors, we find:

Economic factors

These are salaries and monetary benefits that the worker receives. In order not to create dissatisfaction in the team, it will be necessary to reward the staff with reasonable and appropriate salaries in accordance with their tasks and effort.

Labor conditions

Second, work conditions refer to the environment that surrounds the worker. This means that employees must have a relatively stable area in which they can carry out their work calmly without being constantly interrupted and stay focused.

For example, workers will not feel dissatisfied if they are in safe, clean and hygienic facilities and with adequate prevention measures. But, remember, according to the two-factor theory, these conditions will not guarantee their satisfaction either.

Job security

Then, job security are all the company’s administrative policies. These must be correctly established so that they are impartial, reasonable and in accordance with the organizational values and vision.

Above all, they must include fair work rules and perfectly defined standards and procedures.

Social factors

It is the way of interacting and living with colleagues. They are all the social relationships that each worker has with their colleagues, whether they are supervisors or subordinates.

These relationships must be appropriate and very respectful, otherwise they can cause conflict and dissatisfaction.

Additional benefits

Companies can offer extra benefits, such as daycare service, employee assistance programs or family insurance. They can also provide physical amenities such as ample office space or break rooms.

Again, these elements will keep employees from being dissatisfied, but they will not increase their satisfaction.

Control and supervision

This has to do with managers who monitor all the movements of their collaborators during the work day, since little or no self-management capacity usually causes dissatisfaction.

As we see, if these six factors are satisfied or brought to a level that employees consider acceptable, dissatisfaction will not be generated, but there will be no long-term satisfaction either.

For example, eliminating employees’ dissatisfaction by offering a higher salary does not necessarily mean that they’re satisfied but will simply stop being dissatisfied.

So, if we want to achieve satisfaction, we must resort to the second factors developed by Herzberg, called motivation factors.

What are motivation factors?

These factors focus on the emotional and intellectual development of the individual. As a general rule, motivational factors are usually related to the secondary needs of Maslow’s Pyramid, such as social needs and self-actualization needs.

When these factors are covered, this time they do cause the long-awaited employee satisfaction, having a very positive impact on productivity rates.

On the other hand, if they are not covered, they will not cause dissatisfaction. That is, they will not feel satisfied or dissatisfied. But there will be no improvements in performance either.

The most important motivational factors are:

Interesting work

It’s clear that the work that workers do must be important and interesting to stimulate them to do better and be motivated. This can be achieved if people carry out tasks that are creative, different and that allow them to unleash their full potential.


If a meaningful and interesting job is combined with company recognition for the effort put in, it will generate great satisfaction among employees. This satisfaction will translate into individual growth, thereby increasing their performance levels.

Labor independence and responsibility

Without a doubt, people feel better when they are given some responsibility and when control by managers is reduced to a minimum.

This increases employees’ self-esteem and, consequently, their performance is better.

4 types of organizations according to Herzberg’s two-factor theory

Depending on how organizations prioritize hygiene and motivation factors, there are four different combinations that can exist in the workplace:

1. High hygiene and high motivation 

This is the ideal situation and the one that provides greater performance, since the team will be highly motivated and there will be hardly any room for employees to point out areas for improvement.

2. High hygiene and low motivation

Here, although the workers do not demand improvements, they will not have any real motivation to give 100% in their tasks. In this sense, they see their work only as a means to earn a salary that allows them to live comfortably, but they do not want the organization to progress.

3. Low hygiene and high motivation

The workers are motivated and see their work as a challenge, however, the salary does not seem adequate and the working conditions could also be improved.

In this situation, it is very likely that employees will leave if they receive better offers.

4. Low hygiene and low motivation 

As you can imagine, this is the worst possible situation and leads to lower staff performance. Here, employees are not only not motivated, they also have many complaints about their position.

These types of companies usually have high turnover and a very low level of performance.

How to avoid this situation? Keep reading!

How to boost employee satisfaction?

To achieve an optimal level of employee satisfaction, we must find a balance between hygiene and motivation factors.

On the one hand, flexible remuneration programs, measures to reconcile employees’ work and family life go a long way to ensuring hygiene factors.

At the same time, training and growth plans, carrying out recognition programs, as well as caring about their well-being will contribute to enhancing motivational factors.

Next, let’s look at this in more detail.

How to apply the two-factor theory in your company?

As we have seen, this theory allows us to understand that employees are happier when their work environment is conducive. So, if organizations want to keep their employees motivated, there are two things they will need to do:

Eliminate dissatisfaction

Some of the measures that can be implemented to cover hygiene factors are:

  • Create a work environment in which all people are respected.
  • Pay fair and appropriate wages for the task employees perform.
  • Guarantee greater job security.
  • Enrich work activities so that everyone does interesting and meaningful things.
  • Eliminate anything that could cause frustration in an employee. For this it is good to carry out surveys, to find out which points generate the greatest frustration in them.

Promote satisfaction

Once all the points that cause dissatisfaction have been eliminated, the level of satisfaction must be increased.

To do this, here are some good practices that you can implement in your organization:

  • Adjust each job based on the attitudes and skills of your workers.
  • Give each team member as much responsibility as possible and avoid micromanagement.
  • Offer alternatives for personal and professional growth and development within the company.
  • Appreciate the efforts and results of employees.

As a general rule, companies prefer to eliminate dissatisfaction among covering satisfaction, since it is an easier task and does not affect the organizational structure.

For example, paying higher wages and improving working conditions, etc.

Measures for motivation, on the other hand, require large investments and substantial changes in organizational culture.

However, we must not ignore these factors if we want to increase productivity rates, since these are the ones that affect the company’s performance in the long term.

In conclusion…

Before finishing, we would like to leave you with a few conclusions.

  • A bad environment causes immediate dissatisfaction among workers, but a healthy environment does not guarantee their satisfaction.
  • Preventing job dissatisfaction is as important as promoting satisfaction.
  • Hygiene factors are all equally important, that is, they have the same relevance.
  • Improving and satisfying hygiene factors brings short-term benefits. But, in the long term, these positive repercussions disappear!
  • Furthermore, hygiene factors are temporary and cyclical in nature, which means that over time new hygiene factors will emerge in employees that will have to be satisfied if they do not want to generate dissatisfaction in the worker.


How do you know which motivational factors are relevant to your team? Use employee satisfaction surveys to find out what drives your employees to work better.

With Team Insights , you can create your own surveys or customize those from our library of surveys created by HR specialists.

Request a demo now and discover all the features of our software to improve the employee experience.

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