How Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory works in a hybrid work model

The Theory perfectly explains what factors are instrumental in employee retention in a flexible work culture

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Frederick Herzberg, in his Two-Factor Theory, states that employee satisfaction is dependent on two factors – motivators and hygiene. Motivators, such as recognition and stimulating work do increase satisfaction, but hygiene factors, such as job security, competitive salary and employee benefits do not necessarily create satisfaction. However, their absence will lead to job dissatisfaction.

This implies that motivators enhance employee satisfaction, and thus, can help in employee retention. Scoring low in the hygiene factors, however, can create employee dissatisfaction, which, in turn, can make employee retention difficult.

Hybrid model

What has changed in the hybrid model is that while the hygiene factors exist, the motivators may be missing, which means there is a basic level of satisfaction, but the spikes to enhance satisfaction levels are missing.

Skills, such as ownership, accountability, collaboration, resilience and adaptability have suddenly become very important and are needed in order to embrace a hybrid skill set. The leadership style also needs a shift, towards becoming more caring

Unmesh Pawar, partner – CHRO, KPMG India

How does that affect the hybrid workforce?

This could be dangerous in the long run – a stagnant level of satisfaction will bring monotony into the work life, and start affecting the productivity levels due to lack of any motivational spikes.

Ranjith Menon, senior VP, head – international HR operations, Hinduja Global Solutions, suggests, “It’s important to make a clear policy on the hybrid work expectations. As some offices begin to reopen and others remain entirely remote through 2021 and beyond, current and prospective employees will look for clear guidelines and expectations around hybrid work environments.”

Interdependence of motivating and hygiene factors

In times of crisis, the motivators help keep the team together. The motivating factors are essentially the self-importance every team member feels when they believe that they are crucial for the organisation to survive and stay afloat. This sense of responsibility is a good motivator, mostly in cases of the hygiene factors being sound.

During a crisis, the team may be aware that the basic hygiene factors may be missing, such as timely salary, security, or even work conditions. However, despite the missing hygiene factors, which usually create unhappiness and increase dissatisfaction, the gap is filled with the motivators.

As some offices begin to reopen and others remain entirely remote, current and prospective employees will look for clear guidelines and expectations around hybrid work environments.

Ranjith Menon, senior VP, head – international HR operations, Hinduja Global Solutions

For instance, another senior HR executive reveals how employees are being motivated, by providing them access to a lot of learning avenues, and a wide  basket of opportunities to choose from. The HR in the company urges employees to engage them (motivational factor) and those who are interested actually embrace the learning opportunity to upskill themselves. This practice, however, is being followed by most companies around the globe now, to boost the motivation factors.

It needs to be pointed out that the motivators are, to some extent, dependent on the hygiene factors and differ for every employee. They also differ with the nature of work. A person working in a laboratory versus someone in the IT industry will have different needs and wants.


What is ideal?

The baseline remains the same, irrespective of the rank or function of an employee. To address job dissatisfaction, the hygiene factors need to be evaluated before shifting to the motivators. Also, considering the hybrid model of work, far more weightage will be given to the motivational factors.

Unmesh Pawar, partner – CHRO, KPMG India, agrees, “Skills, such as ownership, accountability, collaboration, resilience and adaptability have suddenly become very important and are needed in order to embrace a hybrid skill set. The leadership style also needs a shift, towards becoming more caring.”

Given the recent shift in HR trends, towards being more humanised and empathetic, motivational factors are definitely important. However, if the hygiene factors are not revised, employee dissatisfaction will start to creep in. The ideal situation will be high levels of hygiene and motivation for an employee to thrive and be happy.

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