Understanding the value of Herzberg's Model of Motivation

In applied behavioral science research, we always have a big amount of research. Such research provides the base for further theory and this, in turn, leads to far better understanding of the concepts. One such concept is Herzberg's Model of Motivation. This is a superb conceptual framework. The most important points of this model are sought to be discussed in this article.


Have you not seen any employee talk about his increased merit payment? After a few minutes, he would talk so much about the training that he would attend in the USA in the next six months. Two different levels of Motivation are in action. The first is related to what Herzberg would call as Hygiene factors. The variables that are included are company policies, Supervision, Relationships, Work conditions, Remunerations, Salary and Security. The absence of these factors would lead to job dissatisfaction. According to Herzberg, the second set of factors are critically important to any organization, and these include Achievement, Recognition, The Work itself, Responsibility, Advancement, and Growth. These are the "motivators".

Cut to the example mentioned above. The first set of factors can also motivate people to some extent. However, by themselves, they cannot achieve anything. We often see people who are highly paid bank employees. Yet, they are frustrated with their work, since their work is highly procedure-oriented and structured to the maximum extent. However, the second set of factors, the motivators have been put to effective use even in banks. For example, executives here have chances to dabble in a huge variety of experiences and these involve marketing of products. It also includes experience in areas like mutual funds and in capital markets, as they call themselves "team ICICI". It is a huge financial supermarket.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of the Herzberg Model of Motivation, with specific reference to a) overlap of hygiene factors and the motivators in India b) Absence of social security and its consequences c) Scope for 'Motivators' under ideal conditions d) Creating conditions where both factors can work and e) Scope for Innovation.

Overlap of hygiene factors and the motivators in India

Make no mistake. Runaway inflation, complexities of life in metros, complexities associated with the education of children, influence of social media, the atrocities in society, and such other variables can and do cause immense pain and shock to any Senior Manager, or even a workman, in India, at any point in time. Metros like Mumbai, Chennai, and Bew Delhi have hundreds of thousands of employees, including the senior most employees, commuting long distances to work. The traffic is the worst in Bangalore. All the aforesaid problems are "givens". They just cannot be wished away. When the environment is good, and the infrastructure is also very good, the hygiene factors are well taken care of. For example, in Infosys Technologies, the working environment is world-class. This gives the employee a huge sense of satisfaction. The plants of BHEL at Tiruchirapalli, Hyderabad, Haridwar, and Bhopal, among other cities, have excellent townships that more than take care of all basic amenities. The environment at work in BHEL has always been reported as equal to those of private sector organizations. The engineers get chances to work in various roles and are highly satisfied.

Hence, there is always a very big overlap of the "hygiene" factors and the "motivators". Companies that have been able to satisfy both are reportedly Aditya Birla group, Mahindra and Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, TVS Motors, TVS logistics, L&T, Asian Paints, Karur Vysya Bank, Axis Bank, and at least another twenty-five other organizations. P&G and Unilever also stand out. So does ITC, with its terrific diversity of products and services.

Absence of social security and its consequences

In India, we do not have any social security. A dreaded disease like cancer can make any middle-class family, debtors of a tall order. Higher education is very costly and has to be financed only through loans. The inflation rate is still very high. The chances of inflation coming down are zero. Given this scenario, it is becoming very difficult to foresee a scenario where the "motivators" can alone work. It may work in some cases, like small restaurants, where the single or just two "masters" as they are called, are often praised by the owner and the customer. The work environment is not only hot, but it also does not afford them even the small luxuries. Yet, praise does work. It is another story that the alternative is to go to just another hotel. Most stay back for decades, in places where they are recognized. They are given free food and accommodation and this does make some difference.

Scope for 'Motivators' under ideal conditions

Given the fact that the external environment is the same with all its complexities for any organization operating in a particular eco-system, like for example, banking, how do ICICI Bank and KVB stand out? The answer is simple. They have modernized at the right time and the role of the most modern IT infrastructure in making the work environment very pleasant and challenging is there for all to see. The employees are always pro-active.

Yes, these are the ideal organizations. They have it in them. They have CEOs, who see far beyond tomorrow. They always plan and execute strategies only for the long-term. It is only because of such strategies that it is eminently possible to give maximum importance to motivators. These organizations have HR executives who are professionals and they know how things work. They are always on the move and would do everything to make the Herzberg model work. For example, in Infosys Technologies, the CEO gets to interact with the lower level employees. Many organizations have an employee who can spend one full day with the CEO. So many innovative HR practices have been documented.

Creating conditions where both factors can work

In organizations where the factors are inadequately addressed, in most cases, HR professionals from the best of institutions such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, the Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur and Loyola College, Chennai, which offers one of the best MSW degrees with the HR specialization, come in and create a huge difference. They analyze the details of each situation and take action.

Of course, when there is a downturn in the economy and in the organization, the HR role naturally goes back to the fire-fighting one. Yet, a balance between the factors is quite possible and it is noticed that it is put to work on a continuous basis. The essential task is to ask the two vital questions. The first one is "what is going on?" This would involve a massive amount of interaction with all employees. The second is." How can we make the changes work?". The answers should be anchored in the context of a particular reality and then taken on to a good conclusion. Any attempt to force something or rush through the change does not work at all. It is a fact of life that changes in HR do take a lot of time to work. They cannot work so easily. It is hence very essential to plan and execute every single initiative.

Scope for Innovation

It is now seen that robots have made their presence almost everywhere. This has added a new dimension to the role of IT professionals in both software and hardware. The scope of innovation may lead to totally new products. For example, it is now being said that Apple will come up with a card that will nullify the use of all credit card companies. Already, what's up has facilitated free calls across nations. What will happen if these kinds of innovations keep on happening? Yes, they are the result of excellent organizations, where "motivators" are made to work so seriously. The scope for innovation in making hygiene factors and motivators work is so huge.


Herzberg's model of motivation opened up new vistas of research in advanced behavioral sciences. It continues to do so, even now. Some ideas of the practical application of the concept in India has been explained in some detail in the aforesaid paragraphs.


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