Hand on your heart, ask yourself. Are you totally satisfied with your job? Probably you are not very dissatisfied as you can still pay for your bills but may be you are not super happy, right?

A study by Deloitte revealed that meaningful work and career growth are the two stand out elements that make employees satisfied. Alarmingly yet, only 49% participants expressed that their employees are ‘satisfied’ with their job design. Only 38% believed that they have enough autonomy to take part into the decision making. Here are some other stats from the same Deloitte study –

  • Only 49% of respondents claim their employees are at least ‘satisfied’ with their job design
  • 42% believe their workers are content with their day-to-day practices
  • 38% say their team is happy with work-related tools and technology
  • 38% think they have enough autonomy to make good decisions

We live in this era when the workforce is characterised by millennials and Gen Y’s who are mostly famous for being a ‘job hopping generation’. It is really rare to see that employees spent longer period of time in a single job these days. Consequenly, organisations struggle with higher turn-over and mounting retention cost. To tackle such problems, an old yet useful theory may distil some inspiration for managers to help reduce the turn over and turn grumpy employees into satisfied employees.  Frederick Herzberg, a behavioural scientist proposed a revolutionary theory in 1959 on employee motivation which has still its value to explain how employers can create meaningful work for their employees. Known as the ‘two-factor theory’ – this study explains the factors that lead to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction.  According to Herzberg, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Dissatisfaction’ in workplace are not opposite to each other. There are some job factors that result in satisfaction while there are some other factors that prevent dissatisfaction. These factors are known as Hygiene factors and motivational factors.

Hygiene factors are extrinsic motivators. Hygiene factors which are essential for existence of motivation at workplace. Presence of these factors do not necessarily make employees super satisfied for long-term. But if present these factors will help employees to avoid dissatisfaction. Hygiene factors are further reflected through elements such as – Pay, Job Security, Fringe benefits, Physical working conditions, Status, Interpersonal relationship, Job security, and Company policies. These factors mostly are related with environmental aspects of a job. The hygiene factors symbolised the physiological needs which the individuals wanted and expected to be fulfilled.

Motivational factors on the other hand are intrinsic drivers to our job satisfaction. They are different to hygiene factors and inherent to work. Motivational factors cannot be regarded as motivators rather they fulfil the psychological needs. Presence of motivational factors help employees to become supercharged and multiply their performance. Employees find these factors intrinsically rewarding. These factors include – meaningful work, growth and career progression opportunities, recognition, peer-support, delegation, achievement.

Although Two-Factor Theory has been criticised for its general assumption that satisfied workers have greater productivity, but what’s the practical value of Herzberg’s two-factor theory? Here are some gold nuggets from this theory for managers who want to turn their grumpy employees (although may be not dissatisfied) into satisfied employees –

Creating meaningful job –

Every job has a meaning – right? Whether it’s a Data Scientist, a Clerk or even a Janitor. Everyone’s work is important. But our social lenses have created a marginalisation with classifications- white collar, blue collar etc. While the importance of formal education leading towards the creation of knowledge worker is still there, but other professions in the society are equally important. And it is the manager’s job to ensure they help their employees to find the meaning into their jobs regardless of job nature, salary and industry. You may have heard famous story of a janitor from Nasa. During his visit to the NASA space centre in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He walked over to the man and said, What function do you play in this organisation? The janitor proudly responded saying, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Get the best version of individual –

Employees feel stimulated once they feel that they can utilise their best version in whatever the job function is. It is the manager’s duty to carve out those functions which will help his/her staff to bring out the best version of themselves. This can be possible through understanding the strengths and weaknesses of and then help the staff to improve their performance incrementally over time. Creating regular professional development opportunities both on the job and off the job can yield good result in this regard.  

Recognition and reward –

Herzberg’s theory suggest that people value intrinsic reward more than extrinsic reward when it comes to creating satisfaction into their work. Therefore, managers need to develop an environment which is constantly encouraging and enabling where everyone’s performance will be recognised, no matter how trivial that is. Looking into the titan of successful organisations like – Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft we can see that they have created amazing perks and reward system for their employees which helped to 10x the productivity of their employees compared to any other organisation in the world.

Job enrichment –

Job enrichment has been one of the widely discussed management topics which strives to explore how jobs can be made meaningful so that employees always feel super-charged and be motivated. Herzberg suggested several ways that managers can help to enrich the job for their employees such as – greater scope for personal achievement, more challenging and responsible work, more opportunity for individual advancement and growth.