How to Use Herzberg Job Enrichment to Improve Engagement

by Marilyn Lindblad

    Employees in virtually every industry want to draw fulfillment from their work. The concept of job enrichment originated in corporate America in the 1940s, and, since then, many employers have implemented programs to help keep employees engaged. In 1959, behaviorist and author Frederick Herzberg introduced a two-factor framework for improving employee engagement.

    The motivational-hygiene theory is Herzberg's contribution to the study of employee enrichment. Herzberg sorted such factors as job security and employee recognition into two categories: those that result in job satisfaction, which he called "motivational factors," and those that lead to job dissatisfaction, known as "hygiene factors." According to Herzberg, motivational factors drive employees to improve their performance at work, while hygiene factors are non-negotiable basics that employees insist on having in the workplace.

    Employees derive job fulfillment from Herzberg's motivational factors, also known as "satisfaction factors." The five satisfaction factors are recognition, a sense of achievement for work accomplishments, opportunities for growth or advancement, responsibility and meaningful work. Employers can use the satisfaction factors by adopting practices that leverage them. Encouraging managers to recognize employees' achievements, providing training and development opportunities for employees, and letting employees schedule, plan and control their workday are some ways employers can put Herzberg's theory to work.

    According to Herzberg, employers must fulfill certain hygiene, or maintenance, requirements or face widespread employee dissatisfaction. Employers must address aspects of the job such as competitive pay, a clean, safe workplace, reasonable policies, good relations with coworkers, and job security. Employees expect these basics to be present in the workplace, so the hygiene factors will not, standing alone, enrich employees' experience at work. Organizations can use the maintenance factors to improve employee engagement by inviting feedback from employees about factors where the employer may not be meeting expectations, and implementing employees' suggestions for improvement in those areas.

    The culmination of Herzberg's theory is Orthodox Job Enrichment, where an employer incorporates motivators into the workplace culture without focusing on the hygiene factors. Employers remove unnecessary controls that indicate micromanagement, such as requiring employees to take breaks at designated times, and insisting on frequent progress reports. They may allow employees to interact with clients or customers to get direct, real-time feedback on their work. They may also give employees direct responsibility for setting and executing a project budget. Implementing these practices gives employees the independence and autonomy to take ownership of their work, resulting in greater feelings of enrichment from the job.

    About the Author

    Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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