#6 Where Motivation Comes From: Herzberg's List of Motivators

It’s finally time to take a more comprehensive look at Herzberg’s motivators. The creators of satisfaction and ultimate creative productivity.

Here they are in Herzberg’s original terms…

Achievement        38%
Recognition           27%
Work Itself             31%
Responsibility       28%
Advancement        23%

*People could call out more than one factor per event so the numbers add to greater than 100%.

The first thing you'll notice is that RECOGNITION seems out of order. I did this to highlight it’s close relationship with Achievement. 61% of the time the researchers found Recognition to be a motivator, achievement was also listed. Point being, recognition motivates when it’s paired with REAL achievement. And remember that recognition can be as simple as a manager or a peer saying “nice job”. No need for plaques or fancy ceremonies.



Also remember that Achievement - “successful completion of a job, seeing the results of one’s work” - is a strong motivator ALL BY ITSELF. It doesn’t have to pair with recognition to be effective. But the opposite isn’t true.  Recognition without real achievement, as you’ll recall from last time, is a downer. 

That’s enough on achievement and recognition.  Let’s move down the list to the next motivator - WORK ITSELF. Where the employee feels good just doing their job. People  were especially motivated by  creative, non-repetitive work that allowed them to perform an entire operation. This makes sense.  It feels pure. Finding motivation in the challenge of your everyday work. Making steady progress toward a goal you care about. Enough said.  

Next comes RESPONSIBILITY. Owning the necessary resources and authority to get your work done.  Having the tools and the span of control to make a difference. And span of control doesn't mean being everyones boss. People were happy to take on expanded reponsibility even when it  didn't include a formal promotion. I’ll hit that last one again. 

More responsibility + NO promotion = Motivation. 

Within reason of course. No one wants to do three people's jobs. But if you provide people the tools to achieve their expanded responsibilities/goals, they will be motivated.

Next on the list was ADVANCEMENT. He had a tight definition here, a promotion had to occur. A lateral move with more responsibility was not considered ADVANCEMENT.  I don’t think this one is very applicable today.  Org charts are flatter and there just aren’t many opportunities to hand out real promotions.  

And I don’t think the modern practice of goofy inflated titles - like sales people that are called Regional Presidents, etc - would equal his definition of Advancement. So motivation options seem limited here.

In summary, here’s the list of motivators as described by Herzberg back in the 1950’s.  

Achievement ( with some appropriate Recognition )

Work Itself (enjoying the challenge and growth from just doing the job)

Responsibility (having the latitude to get it done)

Advancement (getting promoted)

Next time we’ll take a look at one factor that Herzberg studied that we’ve completely ignored. MONEY!


***NOTE: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.