Hygiene Factors: How to Increase Happiness (without offering a pay rise)

Only recently, I was sitting around a table, talking to some managers about what motivates their employees. One said, “It’s all about hygiene factors.” The rest of the team had obviously never heard of the term and so looked in amazement at his remark.

Well, in fact hygiene factors have a big part to play in how your workforce is motivated, but they don’t actually add to job satisfaction.

We’ll explain what I mean in this article. I’ll also provide implementation examples, to help you implement these ideas and improve motivation in your workplace.

The Root of Motivation

What is it that people want?

Do they want more money? 

Do they want to be part of a team?

Do they want to be appreciated?

It’s a great question. One that has been pondered over many decades. And it’s one that forms the root of motivation.

In the 1950’s and ‘60s, a psychologist named Fredrick Herzberg set out to answer these very questions. He did this by asking a number of employees a range of questions on what did and didn’t make them happy at work.

He got the recipients of the study to explain situations where they felt really happy and really unhappy in their jobs.

The results formed the foundation to what’s called Herzberg’s Hygiene Factors. It’s also called Two-Factor Theory.

Two Factors to Motivation

Herzberg’s theory focuses on 2 factors:

  • People are dissatisfied by certain situations at work;
  • They are also satisfied by other situations at work.

Herzberg identified that certain situations or ‘conditions’ of a job consistently relate to job satisfaction, whereas certain factors cause dissatisfaction.

In fact, he called these two variables:

  • Hygiene Factors (Dissatisfiers);
  • Motivators (Satisfiers).

So, what are the hygiene factors and motivators, I hear you ask…

Hygiene Factors
Company policiesAchievement
Relationship with the bossResponsibility
Working conditionsChallenge
Relationships with co-workersGrowth and skills development
Job SecurityPromotion and progression
Pay and benefitsRecognition
Status and your sense of worthEngaging and rewarding work

Hygiene and motivators are very specific. They will either make you unhappy at work, if you experience the dissatisfiers, or improve motivation, if you experience motivators.

Using the Hygiene Factors Model

Herzberg concluded that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites in their own right.

  • The opposite to dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction;
  • The opposite to satisfaction is no satisfaction.

This means that simply offering better pay, will not motivate someone for the long term. It will just make them not dissatisfied at the time of their pay rise.

A case in point here is an employee that once worked for a company that I was a manager at; The employee was a very negative and quite disruptive person. He was a very skilled member of staff – so much so that some relied too much on him getting work done.

He was never happy in his job, and so when he threatened to leave for more money, they gave him a pay rise to stay. Guess what happened to his engagement and motivation levels?

Nothing much.

He was just neutral. He openly said he wasn’t dissatisfied anymore, but he still wasn’t happy.

Herzberg himself said, the factors that lead to job satisfaction are “separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction.”

So, if you put your intentions into eliminating dissatisfaction, you’ll get a relatively quiet workforce, but none will be more motivated to perform to higher levels.

In context, after removing hygiene factors (dissatisfiers), you’ll then need to work on improving motivation factors like achievement and goal setting, recognition, responsibility and empowerment.

Step 1: Get to Work on Hygiene Factors (Dissatisfiers)

We know that hygiene factors will keep people feeling dissatisfied, so the first point of call is to appraise your business’ policies, pay, leadership styles, relationships and cultural influencers.

What Are Your Employee’s Views – What Frustrates Them?

Poor Processes and Policies

If your processes are inefficient, they’re probably causing stress to your employees.

Here are some examples of frustratingly broken processes:

  • An order for a machine component that’s needed now, but is still on the manager’s desk waiting for sign off;
  • This was a real life example from a colleague – £250 refund cheques from an airline, had to go through 4 director’s signatures and extensive delays, before being confirmed. As a result, they had over 20,000 refunds waiting;
  • Duplication of data – a member of staff enters details on an excel sheet, for the next person to copy all the same information into a database;
  • An operations team that is given incomplete job details from design. This causes lots of lost time and interruptions;
  • The sales team passing incomplete customer order details to the administration team, so they have to go and ask more questions on their behalf;
  • Extensive errors between process steps, due to poor handoffs of information between teams;
  • Processes that are heavily reliant on a few people;
  • Policies that punish mistakes – I once worked with a company that wanted to motivate their employees. The problem was that if someone made a costly error in production, they took this cost out of their wages! Why would anyone want to come up with any ideas? They would be fearful that they’d get punished if the ideas didn’t work;
  • That same company had a bonus system based on each production operator’s performance. The problem was, people cherry picked easy jobs, and so some people were left with the long and less productive jobs. This caused huge problems in morale and teamwork;
  • Poor health and safety practices. This just shows that there’s no commitment to employee welfare and safety;
  • An unfair attendance monitoring system, which is linked to a disciplinary process.

For additional examples, Forbes has a decent article that shows you 10 policy mistakes to avoid.

The bottom line is, listen to your employees. What frustrates them? Where are processes too bureaucratic and slowing people down?

Where is wasted and incomplete information appearing?

What about excessive steps that are not needed?

How do they feel they are being managed and trusted? What policies are wearing them down?

List them and start to improve them using best practice, your employees’ ideas and process improvement.

For each of these barriers to flow you fix, the less dissatisfied your teams will be.

Supervision and Leadership

According to Gallup, Supervision accounts for around 70% of the motivation levels in a business. In fact they go on to highlight that poor leadership literally costs billions of dollars each year to businesses. “Having too many bad managers can bring down a company,” Gallup explains.

So, poor leadership can have a huge impact on hygiene factors in motivation. Being able to spot the traits is equally important.

Here are some things to look out for and correct:

  • Managers walk past their staff every morning, without any hello. This seems trivial, but it has a powerful effect on employees. It shouts, “He/she feels they are too important to speak to us..”;
  • Lack of daily communication between teams – if your managers manage from their desk, then your team are being starved of their leader’s support. Good leadership comes from good coaching, and communication, not hiding in the office or away from where the work gets done;
  • There are no 1-2-1 reviews with managers and their team members – again, good communication breaks down barriers and increases trust. 1-2-1s are important elements of this process and help provide a platform of support to employees. Impraise offers some good pointers to gettign yours started today;
  • Micromanaging everything – This can come from detailed understanding and overview of all things going on in the team, or indeed a lack of delegation. Either way, both restrict team growth and enthusiasm.

For more examples, Hubspot have created 11 signs you’re a bad boss (and how to fix them).

Ensure Wages are Correct

People want to be paid an honest pay for an honest day’s work. This means that your pay must be in line with the market rate. If you’re not paying well, then expect a disgruntled workforce.

  1. Search through the local and national job vacancies which cover your team’s job roles;
  2. Get an average pay figure;
  3. Compare these against your pay structure;
  4. Ask your team how they feel with the current pay structure – what are their views? how do they feel?

You can even contact local recruitment agencies to ask their advice on expected salaries and hourly rates.

The reality is, you can’t moan about having dissatisfied workers, if you’re not paying the going rate.

Build Meaningful Work For All Positions

Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, identifies the simple fact of sitting down and asking employees what part of their work they enjoy most, and then seeking to give them more of it. This goes a long way in providing meaningful work.

In tandem with this, here are some other things to address:

  • Teams and employees don’t have or are not clear of their goals. One of the big sticking points of meaningful work, is the lack of understanding on the big picture – what the company is trying to achieve. This cascades down to the team and individual level. So, if people are not clear, ensure they know what their goals are, and their team’s, as well as the overall goals of the business;
  • Lack of control over an employee’s work is also a dissatisfier. Engage in providing more autonomy in employee’s roles. Studies support the fact that by providing a little autonomy goes a long way in improving motivation levels;
  • Building team relationships helps create a deeper meaning, through human connection. If your team don’t interact, this is a big sign that by improving socialising opportunities, you’ll grow team rapport.

This is such a powerful topic, that HBR identified 9 out of 10 people would be willing to take a pay cut in order to do more meaningful work.

Improve Job Security

If your workforce are scared to make mistakes and worried that they’ll be the next out of the door, they’ll often stay stuck in this dissatisfaction rut.

Poor leadership, lack of trust, lack of teamwork and communication and bad policies, can all lead to a sense that one’s job is not all that secure. 

The key here is to focus on improving the other hygiene factors, and you’ll make an improvement in this field, too.

  • Encourage your managers to actively look for good things being done and praise them for it. Often, it’s the other way round. Managers look for conformance and punish or reprimand if standards are not being followed. By flipping it on its head and praising people everyday, it will provide a big step towards trust and openness;
  • A blame culture. If one exists in your business, change it! There’s nothing worse from an employee’s perspective, of the fear of making mistakes, because they’ll get the blame. In a continuous improvement culture, the message is to welcome mistakes, because they are important learning points;
  • Problems and issues are normally hidden in workplaces. Instead, create an ideas and issues board for each team. Use visual management principles to identify problems and actively discuss how to overcome them and what actions to take. This discussion and reflection method is very important to air views and build teamwork – all are components of improved confidence in the workplace;
  • If a business has a history of hiring and firing, then this will only solidify the fear of losing one’s job. Improve the hiring process. Give people a chance to develop and resist the blame game – focus on communicating and developing people.

Step 2: Develop Motivators

These motivation factors are built around essentially what good leadership is about. 

Here are some pointers to get started:

  1. Provide opportunities for achievement. Use a leadership framework like the situational leadership model to help set goals and coach employees in learning new tasks and developing skills;
  2. Practice coaching as a natural thing you and your leaders do. Coaching allows your teams to think on their own feet. This in turn helps create a culture of empowerment and self direction. One of the biggest challenges leaders face is the ability to step back and avoid being the rescuer. Coaching allows teams to reflect, try new things and implement new ideas under your guidance;
  3. Ensure you follow Daniel Pink’s 4 ways to increase empowerment in your team. The more control your team have over their job roles, the more engaged they’ll be;
  4. Create a personal development mindset, so all employees can identify where they want to improve. The 70 20 10 model of learning is a good guide to start. Actively seek ways to help each team member to grow and develop, sand don’t leave it once a year to discuss. Make it an everyday thing.
  5. Actively follow the principles of the 1 Minute ManagerFocus on creating clarity in everyone’s role:
    • Create 1 minute goals that inspire;
    • Always look for ways to acknowledge the right effort and outcomes. 
  6. Regularly ask your employees how they are feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask for ideas to improve processes, policies and your leadership style, in view of them being happier in what they do.

AAFP.org has a printable questionnaire that you can use to gauge how strong you are in both hygiene and motivation factors. You can print a copy here.