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Motivating motivation is a priority for anyone wishing to implement a process of progress. Not simple…


The success of a project depends directly on the motivation and the involvement actors. Like trust, they are hard to win but easy to lose.

Maslow and Herzberg are the two best-known theorists in the field of motivation science. They sought to demonstrate and structure the sources of motivation either by hierarchizing (the Maslow pyramid) or by opposing them (Herzberg’s 2 factors theory).

Maslow’s theory

Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970) is an American psychologist. Considered as the main leader of the humanist approach. He owes his notoriety to his explanation of motivation by the hierarchy of needs. If Maslow is best known in the field of Management, his work focused on general psychology. It was his successors who applied his findings to the sphere of business.

Maslow’s theory is based on a hierarchy of needs. Once the basic needs (physiological, security and belonging) are met, the higher needs (esteem and belonging) can in turn be met. In other words, at Maslow, the answer to a need is to emerge others at higher levels.

In terms of motivation: there is no point in trying to motivate employees in terms of esteem or accomplishment if wages are too low to meet the physiological needs of individuals or if a threat of dismissal damages the need of security.

Herzberg’s theory

Frederick Irvin Herzberg (1923 – 2000) is an American psychologist, professor of industrial psychology, known for his work on the enrichment of tasks at work. Between 1950 and 1972, he carried out numerous studies to determine what are the motivations of the personnel and what are the conditions to be met so that one can blossom at work. In his work “ The Work and the Nature of Man”, published in 1972, he expounded a theory based on two myths: the myth of Adam and the myth of Abraham.

  • The myth of Adam : According to the biblical account, Adam is the incarnation of original perfection corrupted by disobedience. After being expelled from the Garden of Eden for having tasted the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he must “earn his bread ” by the sweat of his forehead. Adam will try to reduce his suffering.
  • The myth of Abraham : Unlike Adam, Abraham is not perfect. He received the forces of the creator as well as a mission: to be the emissary of God on earth.

For Herzberg, there is a little Adam and Abraham in every man. At work, an individual will seek to flourish while “suffering” as little as possible. The psychologist then tries to identify the factors of satisfaction and dissatisfaction at work. He distinguishes 2 types :

  • Hygiene factors . they relate to working conditions. They are, in a way, prerequisites that do not directly bring satisfaction, but which, in the event of absence, give rise to dissatisfaction (Adam).        
  • The “engine” or motivating factors : they correspond to the higher needs of Maslow’s pyramid. They belong to the development of the individual at work (Abraham).


Factors of satisfaction and dissatisfaction

Valuing factors called “engine”

Factors causing dissatisfaction called “hygiene”

The gratitude

The consideration

The esteem of others Responsibilities

Interest in work


The fulfillment

The nature of the spots

The promotions

Personal development

Material conditions


Relationships between individuals

The strategy

Supervisory staff

Job security

The organization

How does dissatisfaction translate

On the individual level

On the community level

Decrease in effectiveness, stupor, resignation or revolt, flight, departures

Isolations, Frustration “Little Known Engineering”, Loss of Performance, External Compensation, Claims + Increased Wages

Decline of efficiency, change of position. By compensation, invention of new goals and activities that are not requested.

« Umbrella », destructive criticism, disengagement, search for non-work responsibilities

Sclerosis « I do not care  “, Change Request, Departures, Claim – Increased Salary


Bad atmosphere

Social peace troubled

Wildcat strikes

Hostility vis-à-vis the company

The measure of motivation

The ratios

  • The rate of absenteeism :  hours of absences / theoretical hours of work. It is commonly used in businesses. Studies show that there is an incompressible rate of around 3%. In Europe, a rate of absenteeism higher than 4% is assimilated to a deterioration of the social climate, to particular problems occurring within the company. If this ratio is able to give a trend, it remains unclear as to the variation in staff motivation. In fact, absences from work are not due solely to the demotivation of staff, but also to illnesses unrelated to staff activity..
  • The conflict rate : Unionized wage rates (comparison with the average French rate in the same sector of activity and comparison with the average rate of the previous year in the same company). The limits relate to the business sector. Some are very unorganized which means that a person may be dissatisfied and unmotivated without being unionized.
  • Turn-over : number of departures by breach of contract / average workforce. This ratio measures the stability of the current workforce. To use this indicator judiciously, it is necessary to take into account information on the departure of employees (reason, sector of activity, socio-demographic profile of the employee, …).


Many surveys are distributed in the companies to know the motivation and the satisfaction of the personnel. These questions often address the same themes :

  • What is the meaning of the work for the employee ? This gives information about the importance a person places on work in their life.
  • The concept of the professional self: provides information about the image of the employee of himself in relation to his aptitudes to fulfill his functions, his competences, …
  • The professional project: makes it possible to measure the ambition of a person. What are the employee’s career aspirations? This characterizes the employee’s hope to evolve in the company.

Annual interviews

The main purpose of the annual interview is to review the objectives set last year, to define new ones and to determine the skills and the need for necessary training. The annual interview is also a privileged moment to listen to the opinions or ideas of the employee on the operation of the service or the company.

This listening makes it possible to detect certain malaise, expectations and satisfy them is to re-motivate the employee. It should be taken into account that some employees “ deliver ” more easily than others. Establishing a climate of confidence at the beginning of the interview is essential to the smooth running of the session.

Isaac Getz explains how to motivate staff (French)


A. Maslow (1943) – A theory of human motivation

F. I. Herzberg (1987) – One more time : how de you motivate employees ?

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