• Richard Burner

Job Enrichment (In the 21st Century)

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

Job Enrichment in the 21st Century

Let’s face it, it’s the 21st Century and all the experts for the last 100 years have pushed the idea of human resources - Employees as a cog in the machine. Our education system (in the United States) focuses on churning out students that are great at conforming to the manufacturing workplace. But most of us don’t want to stamp out metal parts in a manufacturing process. Generally speaking it’s the author’s assertion that people want jobs that are both challenging and rewarding; and that make a difference in other people's lives. There is nothing wrong with Manufacturing, and there are many people who find fulfilling careers working in a manufacturing setting; but clearly the economy has switched away from mass production to more service, and knowledge work. One solution to employee satisfaction steadily gaining popularity is Job Enrichment.

And many wonder what is job enrichment?

Job Enrichment is a concept from the late 50s, pioneered by Frederick Herzberg an American Psychologist. The idea behind job enrichment is to increase employee satisfaction with their job. Dr. Herzberg came up with a so-called “two-factor theory”. This theory states that there are “Hygiene” Factors which if out of balance lead to dissatisfaction. And then there are “Motivators” the factors that help employees to feel a high level of satisfaction.

Image of Dr. Harzberg
Dr. Harzberg

One thing to note is that if these “hygiene Factors” are not dealt with - no amount of motivators can overcome the negative effects. And also vice versa no matter how well you deal with Hygiene Factors, if there are a lack of motivators employees will only view the job as a paycheck at best.

So let's dive into the hygiene factors first. These are factors that are considered to be “maintenance” by Dr. Herzberg. These are factors such as: job security, salary, status, paid insurance, paid retirement, fringe benefits, office snacks, coffee, tea, and more. According to Herzberg Hygiene factors are what cause dissatisfaction among employees with their job. The factors in order of importance are company policy, supervision, employee's relationship with their boss, work conditions, salary, and relationships with peers.

Secondly are the motivators, which give positive satisfaction for employees. These Motivators can in part be explained as employees “wanting” to do something versus having to do something. These factors include: Recognition for achievement, Challenging work, responsibility, sense of importance in the organization, opportunities to do something meaningful and more. Satisfaction of the employees can have multiple positive effects for the organization. For example, when the employees share their knowledge, they satisfy their social needs and gain cohesion within the group. Also, sharing knowledge helps others to create new knowledge, which also can reinforce the motivating factors. By sharing knowledge, the employees feel satisfied and with the new knowledge it can increase the organization's innovation activities.

One of the core tenets of this theory is that Satisfaction cannot be achieved by only providing good “Hygiene” factors, or good “Motivation” factors, but must be a combination of both.

So now we know a little bit about Job Enrichment, let's get into how we enact these practices in our company, and even on a personal level.

First - Fix the Hygiene Factors.

Company policy

Avoid company policies that create unstable work environments. You also want to avoid overbearing rules, or any rule that actually breaks the law.

Generally speaking you want to involve employees, and all stakeholders in policy consideration.

You want to spend some time working on your policies and reviewing at the very least once annually.

  • It is written in simple terms and clear language.

  • It has well-defined procedures. The procedures should clearly indicate how instructions in the policy should be carried out.

  • The policy takes into consideration the benefits of the employees, making sure the rules are fair.

  • It is easy to understand so that employees can easily adhere to the rules.

  • It isn’t totally restrictive. Where possible, your policy should present the employees with options. Making people choose gives them a sense of ownership.

Some Recommendations: 15 Policies to Consider for Your Business


There is a lot of information out there on successful work supervision. A few key points are:

  • Communication skills

  • Approachability and empathy

  • Management skills

  • Adaptability

  • Confidence and positivity

  • Transparency

  • Biased towards Teamwork

  • Willingness to learn

Employee's relationship with their boss

A healthy, professional relationship with your immediate boss/supervisor is crucial. Employees and “bosses” need to build a relationship based on trust and understanding. A poor relationship thats not cohesive will dampen productivity and can lead to higher rates of turnover. There are several elements that make up a boss and employee relationship that need to be understood by both parties for the relationship to be effective. Teamwork, mentoring/development, avoiding Cronyism, and following company guidelines fairly are all area areas that can be taught to managerial staff that will help establish a good working relationship.

Work conditions

Good work conditions are very hard to define since this shifts so much based on everybody's personality. To some a good work environment has jamming music and a lot of moving around, to others it’s more sedentary and focused. And it’s so wide ranging - think all five senses play into “work conditions” in addition to hard to define factors like work life balance, and healthy environment.

You must make sure that workplaces are a safe place to be (physical and emotional security). Employees need to know they are going to a safe place and every step needs to be taken to make sure that the workplace is safe. Here in the United States there are a plethora of resources related to safety such as OSHA. Physical cleanliness is also important - but it varies from function to function (operating room vs welding station).

The job function needs to be realistic - and measurable. No one can be expected to work without breaks, eating, drinking or using the restroom for long periods of time. Production rates shouldn’t be particularly onerous, and should be applied equally and fairly among people with similar jobs.

Work conditions also involve sensory distractions, horrible odors, disruptive coworkers, too hot/cold or humid. Also things such as lighting (too dark / bbright / harsh), and physical space (or too little space). And even maintenance of office equipment and facilities.

This is one of the most challenging factors to work with. Following government and professional guidelines is a great place to start. Carefully evaluating the conditions by trying to think about the conditions from an employees perspective - will help to advance good workplace conditions.


One very important, and controversial topic is Salary (including bonuses). There are a couple of ways to narrow in on the perfect compensation package for employees.

First check pay rates for competitors in your local area. You can do this by going onto sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Monster. Find similar job titles, and try to understand their salary and benefits. Typically finding a few job posts, and calculating the mean of their benefit packages gives you a baseline for your offering.

Another great idea is to hire an accounting or law firm specializing in benefits.

Relationships with peers

Co-worker relationships are a big deal. There are several main factors that psychologist say define a positive working relationship. These include trust, respect, Self-Awareness, inclusion, and open communication. Encouraging and setting an example in these areas will help your team, and organization to thrive. We’ll go over a couple of key areas that will help in all categories.

Open and honest communication is one of the foundations of successful inter-company relationships. Employees and manager should encourage and set the example of clear and honest communication. This involves several things but generally, keep your commitments, don’t play the “blame game”, share in accomplishments, and tell the truth - even when it’s difficult.

Another area that will help encourage good relationships is with positive communication, and encouragement. Try to make time to get to know each other and especially your supervisors, and immediate reports. It’s also important to spend time getting to know key stakeholders for the areas that you’re responsible for, and people who are in your close proximity and you often communicate with. Try find time to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea together. Also make time for “1 minute acknowledgements” such as commenting on an accomplishment of a coworker, or liking a linkedin post.

Job Security

Job security (especially without a union) is one of the most difficult things to encourage. A few key ways to help your staff feel they have a secure job without encouraging laziness are to offer regular advancement opportunities, offering training opportunities, and encouraging worker management communications.

If you didn’t notice - one of the key takeaways is to empower employees who want to advance to have opportunities to learn and advance. This encouragement helps staff to feel valued, important, and secure in their job.

Second, work on the Motivating Factors

The main factors recognized by Dr. Herzberg is Achievement, Recognition, The work, Responsibility, Advancement, and Growth. This is generally the area where many modern companies try to build their company culture. These are the trickier but more rewarding aspects of job design, and workplace culture. Below we will discuss some of the finer points of each of these points.


Everyone wants a sense of achievement in their work. People want to be proud at the end of the day for what they have accomplished. Achievement is defined as a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill. There is almost no way to have a sense of achievement without having a way to define success. Smart goals are a way to define Success, and encourage Achievement.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Using the SMART goal framework sets boundaries and defines the steps you’ll need to take, resources necessary to get there and milestones that indicate progress along the way. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your goal efficiently and effectively.

Specific - a goal that is as clear and specific as possible.

Measurable - why set a goal if you cannot measure it? You need to be able to determine a way to measure when this goal has been met. There should be a consideration of being able to determine if you're on track - measurable steps along the way.

Attainable - Goals that are possible. This may take preliminary steps to research and evaluate if the goal is achievable.

Relevant - Make sure that this goal is aligned with the employees values, company values, and longer term goals. Make sure this goal is aligned with broader objectives if not tweak it.

Timely - This goal needs a time frame. Providing an end date helps people to prioritize and motivate.


This goes hand in hand with achievement. Workplace recognition comes in many forms. From small 1 minute recognitions such as a high five, thumbs up, or quick email; all the way up to bonuses and awards. True employee recognition has transformative power to lift up employees and inspire them to do their best work. A successful employee recognition program is democratic, relates to company values, and is perceptible.

A really great program means that anyone who recognizes an action that supports company values, can provide a perceptible recognition/reward. Ideally, everyone in an organization should be able to give each other recognition. That said, the most effective source of a particular piece of recognition is based on the situation and circumstance.

In order to reap the benefits of a culture infused with gratitude, you have to rethink what it means to show appreciation and recognition in the workplace. Recognition has traditionally been an impersonal, top-down process. In today’s job market, companies need user- and human-friendly programs, such as Social Recognition, that empower employees to show their gratitude in the moment and build connections with their peers. These connections are the fibers that hold together a resilient, agile organization.

The Work

This is an area that is often overlooked by employers. How does the work someone is doing benefit the organization, humanity, and the person. All jobs have a benefit to the organization - or there wouldn't be a job. Helping workers see the company's mission and how their job is crucial for success is one way to help people to value their work. Another way is helping the employee to see how their job benefits other people or humanity. An example is a researcher working on a cure for some disease. You want to design job’s in a way that will allow the employee to feel a sense of fulfillment to the world at large, and to the company at the same time.


When you supervise every little detail being done by your employees, in other words, you are saying that you do not expect excellence from your employees. You expect failure. Expect excellence from your team and project it. Your team will not help but perform excellently.

While giving your employees more responsibility, it is important to ensure that your employees do not start feeling tired and unmotivated due to workload. Most of the time, employees can take more responsibilities due to their own curiosity or excitement which later becomes a huge burden which hinders their productivity and the overall performance of the organisation.

Communicate clear expectations but as much as possible give your employees autonomy and responsibility.


Giving employees abundant opportunities to advance their career is one of the most outstanding ways to promote high levels of satisfaction. There are many things that can be done to help employees grow in their career. One way is to offer tiered structures of title, as the employee gains more experience and recognition they move up to the next tier. Another option is to offer more managerial responsibilities, or even different options in different parts of the organization.

One really useful tip is to offer training and learning programs. There are many very affordable ways to help employees to learn and train in different skills. Another option is to offer Cross - training options, a way to try out a very different job and skill set that still will help the employee understand their role better inside the company at large.


This goes hand in hand with Advancement, but it is a little different. Growth encompasses both personal and professional growth. Some companies offer a certain bonus or incentive for employees to read outside of their job. This could also be an opportunity such as tuition reimbursement, health and wellness benefits, or smoking cessation programs. Helping employees to grow both inside and outside the organization is huge.

Lastly, Putting Job Enrichment into practice (in the modern world)

First - there are a huge number of modern tools available to help nail the benefits package. We highly recommend that you ensure your organization is competitive in the job market. You must make sure that you are competitive in your location, but also not in danger of having your talent poached by other competitor organizations in other areas of the country. Since so much of the workforce is moving into the digital space - even though you are located in Iowa, and rates are much lower than New York City, people in your physical area may be able to find a similar position in New york city - while staying in Iowa. It’s important to be able to compete on multiple levels - and even if you can’t compete dollar for dollar - finding other benefits to balance the scale out.

It’s important to nurture a safe and healthy work environment. Many organizations are starting to embrace work from home but this has some drawbacks and some huge advantages. Drawbacks include distractions, loneliness, lack of oversight, technology challenges, and many more. But on the same token there are many advantages too - employee responsibility, recognition, advancement, and many more “opportunity” factors benefit from the work from home model - you’re asking your employees to work as hard as before with much less oversight. This tends to empower people.

Moving forward one of the biggest challenges is that - more organizations are naturally forced to improve their “motivation” factors by nature of work from home. But the factors that organizations used to have more control over “Hygiene factors” are also suffering. Companies need to continue to provide the best motivation factors they can while still providing quality hygiene factors without as much control of a come into the workplace environment.

To do this employers should carefully reconsider their policies, and benefits and would likely succeed by embracing the change and become a shining example of a great place to work. Especially now as workers have more tools than ever before to evaluate their next job, and more job opportunities available (hello Remote!) than ever.

Companies should also commit to the 21 St centuries buzzword of Work - Life Balance. Don’t work longer hours than necessary, and make boundaries (Especially when Working from Home).

There are some really important lessons from the Job Enrichment theory - that the author believes are more important than ever before.

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