Maslow vs Herzberg: Motivation Theories

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INTRODUCTION From as early as the beginning of the 20th Century, corporations began to realize that motivated employees are a strategic necessity in the harshly competitive and fast paced market place. This new understanding or paradigm shift brought to an end the era of coercive, machine-like workplaces where employees were considered to be just another input in the production of goods and services. Hence the reason, there has been substantial research that has been done and is still being carried in the area of employee motivation and there is a general consensus that that employee motivation and company performance are positively related.

The concept of motivation has been variably described by many authors, but for the purpose of this analysis, Higgins (1994) definition will be borrowed. He describes motivation as the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals.

The global economic downturn has had damning effects on companies which have left many employees disengaged and demotivated and yet according to Smith (1994), companies need motivated employees for survival because motivated employees help organizations to survive even in the most turbulent of times.

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There has therefore never been a time when companies needed motivated employees more than this time.

The purpose of this paper therefore is to analyze two main theories of motivation namely: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory and Herzberg two-factor theory and how they can be applied by companies to boost workers’ satisfaction and therefore, organizational effectiveness.


DEFINITION OF TERMS 1. Organizational Effectiveness: There is no true consensus about the definition of this ubiquitous term.

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Wikipedia defines it as ‘the concept of how effective an organization is in achieving the outcomes the organization intends to produce’.

2. Employee Engagement: Is the ‘extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort in their work. Passion, commitment, and most importantly, discretionary effort. Engaged employees are motivated to do more than the bare minimum needed in order to keep their jobs’, Custom Insight (2011)

3. Disengagement: has two levels a) Disengaged employees: Disengaged employees don’t have an emotional commitment to their work or their place of employment, according to Entec Corporation, which has conducted employee surveys since 1966. Entec emphasizes that disengaged employees aren’t necessarily bad employees, but they just do what’s necessary to get their jobs done. They typically don’t take part in offering suggestions for improving the workplace. Entec indicates that disengaged employees usually don’t stay at work late if it’s not required, and they don’t give their jobs much thought after they finish a workday.

b) Actively disengaged employees: These are the workers who undermine their jobs and employers. Actively disengaged employees can sink employee morale and performance. In such cases, employers should try to determine what’s behind active disengagement to prevent it from getting out of control.

4. Employee satisfaction: Is the extent to which employees are happy or content with their jobs and work environment.


MOTIVATION THEORIES: 1. MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEEDS THEORY: In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that people have five basic needs and he further came up with a pyramid that prioritized these needs. His needs-based framework went on to become a model for both personal empowerment and workplace management, and embraces the concept that basic needs must first be satisfied before higher, unselfish goals can be pursued and achieved. Several companies have implemented the ideas of this theory with differing success levels. The theory is delved into below and examples are used to substantiate the analysis.

Physiological Needs Maslow identified the core physiological needs to sustain human life as air, water, food and sleep. To perform their jobs, workers require healthy air to breathe, water to keep their systems hydrated, sustenance to fuel their bodies and adequate time to rest and recuperate between shifts, including regularly scheduled breaks. As described in his own book, “Maslow on Management (1963),” Maslow cites that when deficiencies exist in these four basic requirements for survival, people become incapable of developing any ambition, much less acting on it and achieving their full potential. In regard to a work place, this could mean furnishing a pleasant and comfortable environment for staff to work in.

A company that has embraced this idea is MTN Swaziland. Their new state of the art building was not just constructed for aesthetics, but the construction was also a strategic goal with regards to their Employee Value Proposition. The building has ample work space, beautifully furnished staff canteen, gymnasium for the staff, day care center for staff children, golf course and a club house. A survey that was conducted after the relocation to these new premises showed that staff were now happier and were willing to work extra hours as it had become more comfortable for them to do so.


According to Dan Romaniak, the communications Manager from Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) Geographic Operations, HP attempts to retain its employees and keep them motivated by offering not only competitive salaries and benefits, but also perks like flexible time off from work are specific examples of physiological, social and ego needs. They also provide company cars or memberships privileges at country clubs. He further mentioned that HP is also using benefits such as non-cash bonuses or additional paid time off if company goals are met. Others like managers taking employees out to lunch to reward good work or allowing them to use reserve parking spaces for performances above and beyond the norm.

By offering attractive benefits and satisfying employee needs, the employers will reap the positive benefit of motivated employees a Safety Needs A safe and secure working environment reduces the threat of physical injury. When workers believe that the level of risk has been minimized and that good health and safety practices are judiciously enforced and monitored by management, they feel more comfortable and are less distracted from performing their tasks and interacting with others. Conscientious safety practices reduce absenteeism as well, which can impact productivity and morale. Security also extends to emotional well being in the workplace. An employer that provides medical benefits contributes to retirement plans and is financially solvent makes workers feel more secure about their jobs and the future. Conley (2010) writes that companies that demonstrate they care for the welfare of their workers create an atmosphere of trust which, in turn, encourages loyalty and decreases stress.

Coca cola is a typical example of a company that has harnessed the power of this theory because they understand that their success depends upon ensuring the safety of their workers. So they integrated the Coca-cola Safety Management System as part of their day to day management. This system incorporates occupational safety, quality, environment and loss prevention into a single framework. It also defines rigorous operational controls. With this in place, the company has employees that are able to work without worrying 5

about safety, thereby focusing all their energy into production. This could explain why coca-cola has remained the world’s number one brand even throughout the economic down turn.nto a single framework. Social Needs Man is a social animal and, accordingly, seeks out companionship, acceptance and inclusion. Maslow identifies social needs as friendships, peer support and the ability to give and receive love. Podmoroff (2009) observes that the workplace offers an opportunity to be part of a team in which members share their respective knowledge, skills and unique experiences to solve problems in which they have a vested interest. Competitions, focus groups, mentoring, brainstorming sessions, after-work get-togethers and even office potlucks can make employees feel as if they are “family.”

A small company that is nestled at Ezulwini is cognizant of this fact. Bethel Court Hotel has formalized daily devotion which is a crucial element to the staff. There is a special hall that is designated for such purposes. This hall is well taken care of and is well furnished. This crucial component unites the staff and makes them feel like family. Hence the reason, they are always motivated to go the extra mile with regard to their work. Esteem Needs In concert with social needs is the desire to be recognized for personal accomplishments. Maslow divides this portion of his theory into external and internal motivators. External motivators are prizes and awards bestowed for outstanding performance, elevation in status such as a coveted promotion and newfound attention and admiration from others. Internal motivators are the private goals that workers set for themselves such as beating a prior month’s sales figures and the satisfaction of experiencing self-respect for having done the right thing. Silverstein (2008), notes that fairness and consistency in the recognition process are critical. When employees know that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed by management, they take more pride in their work product. In addition, their coworkers see 6  the correlation between responsibility and reward and may endeavor to set the performance bar higher for themselves.

Once again, MTN Group of companies makes a good example of how meeting esteem needs through reward and recognition can motivate staff. Their annual bonuses are not shared equally amongst staff, each staff member is rewarded a bonus in accordance with the performance appraisal score. The higher the score, the higher the bonus. Furthermore, individual annual increases are also determined by the performance of individual employees. The effect that this has is that; throughout the year, the employees work with a mind to deliver set targets because they are aware that delivering or mot delivering has an implication on their pockets. So there is always a drive and motivation to go beyond set goals. Self-Actualization Once the quartet of physiological, safety, social and self-esteem needs are met, Maslow believed that individuals are capable of achieving their true potential and embodying truth, meaning, wisdom and justice in their words and actions.

Self-actualization moves them to a higher plateau of understanding as well as a greater empathy for the needs of others. Those who achieve this ultimate state and Maslow himself speculated that it was only 2 percent of the population enjoy a greater autonomy, have a deeper sense of humility and respect for others and a better sense of distinguishing between real and fake. Maslow also tied this to the belief that the journey in whatever form it takes can be more rewarding than the actual destination. Managers can apply this to a practice of appreciating the worth of each of the individuals “traveling” with them rather than focusing so intently on the end-game that they lose all sight of human emotions.


2. HERZBERG’S TWO FACTOR THEORY Herzberg’s work categorized motivation into two factors as described below: a) Hygiene or extrinsic factors: these are based on the need for business to avoid unpleasantness at work. According to Riley (2012) if these are the factors are considered as inadequate by employees, then they cause dissatisfaction at work, riley further makes examples of what hygiene factors are: Company policy and administration Quality of supervision Quality of interpersonal relations Working conditions Feelings of Job security

b) Motivator or intrinsic factors: are based on the individual’s need for personal growth. When they exist, motivator factors actively create job satisfaction. Riley (2012) says that if these are effective then they can motivate an individual to achieve above average performance and effort. Motivator factors include: Status Opportunity for advancement Gaining recognition Responsibility Challenging/ stimulating work Sense of personal achievement and personal growth in a job.

Apple is a major user of motivator factors. There is an outstanding creational culture within the organization which Steve Jobs as always argued that it is the main gravitational force that puts all the right and creative people together and motivates them to achieve above expectation. Although Steve Jobs was the centric force of innovation at Apple, employees were still allowed to directly contribute to their jobs by being given responsibility which they are accountable for. This job enrichment is challenging and stimulating staff not to let down their employer, but to always deliver beyond target. This practice also creates a sense of personal achievement 8

Job enlargement, rotation enrichment

Another example is from HP; they create an excellent company policies and conditions of work and offer bonus incentives as increasing the hygiene factors for motivation. As a motivator, HP has implemented HP’s Educational Assistance Policy (EAP) which is very helpful for workers who want to go back to school. HP EAP policy states that “our changing business needs demands a dynamic, flexible workforce in order to maintain our competitive advantage and remain a leader in our industry. In accordance with PH’s employee development philosophy including our commitment to lifelong learning and career selfreliance, the company may provide employees with financial assistance for education relevant to meeting our business needs, Approval of financial assistance will be based on recommendation from the employee’s management and guidance from Human Resources” (HP 2003).

The HP EAP can be looked at as a hygiene factor where employment security is tied to competitive realities as well as individual results and performance. Employees are responsible for ensuring that they possess the competencies required in HP’s dynamic environment which will definitely provide the grounds for employee striving to get the into the EAP and therefore getting motivated by higher qualification in the long run. Furthermore, for job posting, HP employees will receive consideration for open posting provided the competencies the employee possesses are competitive with external talent. Additionally, employees whose jobs have been eliminated or who working where excess capacity exist should have preference in filling open positions provided there is a current and future business need for the competencies the employee possesses and the those competences are competitive.


Companies cited in this paper are successfully motivating their working through application of the two content theories (Hierarchy of Needs and Two-Factor theories). It is important to note, however, that there is no single content theories which can successfully stand alone as a sole motivator. Each theory has its drawbacks – each one is deficient in one or more ways. Each of the two content theories described above fails to account for individual differences, to link motivation and needs to both satisfaction and performance, or to consider cultural and professional differences” (Schermerhorn et al., 2002, p. 159). Using only one motivational technique is a poor solution; employee needs would remain unfulfilled and, therefore, create low-performing employees.

In an effort to promote the ideal model of employee motivation, MTN, Coca-Cola, Bethel Court Hotel, Apple and Hewlett-Packard are efficiently utilizing a combination of motivational strategies in order to consistently and effectively motivate their employees to perform at peak standards for the company. Motivation drives existing talents and develops new areas of interest and expertise.

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Maslow vs Herzberg: Motivation Theories. (2016, Mar 15). Retrieved from

Maslow vs Herzberg: Motivation Theories
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