Issue 34

ERROR 404: “Employee motivation”

Ana-Maria Vuscan
PR & Customer Care Specialist @ Azimut Happy Employees


Each and every one of us wants "more/to have it better", regardless if we're talking about ourselves as individuals or as an organization. But what pleases us actually? What renders us entirely satisfied, motivated and willing to remain in the same organization for years on end? Right now, employees have a tendency to switch companies easily, in order "to have it better". But let's find out what this somewhat ambiguous phrase means to an employee: is it a higher pay? A diversified benefits package? A "cooler" working environment or better opportunities? On the one hand, employers seem to agree that "having it better" means either a competitive salary or an attractive portfolio of benefits. Either way, these seem to be insufficient, as employees still continue to switch companies, the retention rate keeps dropping, and recruiters are still struggling to fill vacant roles as quickly as possible. In short- a lot of money, time and resources going down the drain.

The cause? Most likely the source of this situation is employee motivation. Oh no, not again! Motivation?! Let's be frank - how many times haven't we heard that we need to have motivated employees? And still, a miraculous solution to this "problem" is yet to be found. And that is maybe because we still do not entirely comprehend what factors truly motivate an employee. In the following paragraphs we will be looking at the concept of motivation and try to find out: what type of organization should we join as an employee and what to do, as an employer in order to avoid having employees leaving it too early.

Hygiene factors vs. Motivational factors

A competitive salary package and a pleasant working environment are the two most common criteria which are associated with employee motivation. But are these sufficient?

These are necessary, but not sufficient. Let's see why. Salary, work environment, relationships with superiors and colleagues, and company policies are regarded as hygiene factors (Herzberg, 1959), which do not actually motivate; they only eliminate dissatisfaction. Thus, if we want our employees to be truly motivated, only relying on material benefits will not do the job. Through financial motivation we will only achieve short term satisfaction, but only if the material reward is a natural follow-up to an employee's performance.

The study conducted by Herzberg (1959) concluded that the factors which truly contribute to an increase in the level of motivation are: achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and the work itself. Still, their lacking does not produce dissatisfaction. One of the most important things to remember is that the lacking of hygiene factors produces dissatisfaction; their presence however ensures a mediocre level of involvement, which does not generate motivation.

To better understand these two typologies, let's look at the following table:

As such, if we want to have motivated employees (on the short term at least), we should firstly eliminate dissatisfaction by keeping bare necessity factors to a high level; after which, if we want to motivate on the long term, we should explore motivating factors and preferably keep them at the corresponding level.

Does money motivate?

Money has always been a delicate topic. We're not trying to be cynical and claim that money does not play an important role for an employee. However, this could be a powerful motivating factor if the work we did had a mechanical, strongly standardized, or automatic nature. In this case, a high remuneration, according to performance, would be motivating: we would know that we need to work faster, deliver at the same standard of quality and in a short time frame in order to earn more money.

We are, however, continuously evolving. We want our work to challenge our creativity, our strategic thinking and our problem solving abilities. In this case, financial motivation won't do any longer. Self-development, knowledge broadening, autonomy, effort recognition, goal searching- are the most important aspects in this situation. That is why we should strive towards organizations which share our system of personal values.

Practical ideas for increasing employee motivation

Up until now, we’ve found out that there are two prime factors which influence employee involvement, but which are not co-dependent. In other words, if we ensure that the working environment is a pleasant one and that the material rewards are generous, this will not automatically guarantee that our employees will be more motivated; it simply means that they will not be demotivated. Let’s look at some suggestions for applying Herzberg’s dual factor theory in order to increase long term motivation in a company.

Step 1 – Eliminate job dissatisfaction:

All of the above actions help eliminate dissatisfaction in an organization. However, we must keep pushing forward! Only after we’ve surpassed this level will we be able to work on employee motivation.

Step 2 – Create conditions for motivation:

To the above, we can add a few other helpful suggestions:

The concept of “job enrichment” refers to motivating employees by attributing them additional responsibilities which are specific to their hierarchical superiors. Employees benefiting from such a change will feel more appreciated, see more meaning in their work, and feel that they and their work are essential for the company.

On the other hand, ”job enlargement” involves diversifying the activity portfolio of each employee, in addition to their usual workload. Avoiding repetition and monotony, coupled with offering development opportunities, are only a few of the benefits offered by ”job enlargement” measures. Also, the two concepts mentioned earlier – effort recognition and continuous development – can help with increasing motivation.

Open discussions about career development;

Implement cross-functional training.

These types of trainings help employees learn new things and understand the business strategies of other departments. By doing this, each employee gains a clear understanding of where they fit in the company, and how their role contributes to the achievement of organizational objectives.


Motivated employees are an extremely important resource to any company. They are more productive, more dedicated, and remain loyal. As such, they shelter the company from the additional expenses incurred by recruiting and training new employees.

In this sense, we are often tempted to believe that we motivate our employees by offering only material rewards, a pleasant working environment, or a good relationship between company management and teams. We keep investing in all of these, without achieving any real or long term results. The actual issue is that we keep investing in hygiene factors, which will at best ensure that we do not have demotivated employees. In order for them to perform however, we need to channel our efforts towards motivating factors – those which focus on achievements, recognition, responsibility, career opportunities and employee development.


There are several recommendations for developing a viable motivation strategy. Still, perhaps the best thing to keep in mind is the diversity of factors which motivate each and every one of us in a different way. Along with the examples of possible motivating actions presented above, it is recommended that one-on-one discussions are also introduced in order to determine what is important for each employee.

Finally, an essential aspect to be remembered: we need hygiene factors; however we also need to make sure that these are adapted to each individual’s needs. Only afterwards will we be able to start developing motivation.




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