Business thought leaders and their relevance to educational technology leadership 03: Frederick Herzberg

This is article 3 of a series of 3.

Frederick Herzberg was a psychologist in the USA who
developed the hygiene theory of people's
productivity at work. What is the theory, and how
can it help the ICT (educational technology) leader?

Herzberg can be placed in the Abraham
school of thought, in that he believed that
people's motivation could be explained in "human" terms
rather than "scientific" ones. He distinguished between two
kinds of factors: hygienic and motivational.

The hygienic ones are those which help to prevent job
dissatisfaction, but do not in themselves promote job
satisfaction. In other words, they are like good hygiene: it
does not in itself create good health, but its absence can
lead to ill-health.

Examples of such factors include, working conditions,
salary and working relationships.

Motivational factors are those which positively promote
job satisfaction, and include achievement, recognition and

So how can you, the ICT manager, make use of these insights?

Hygiene factors

As far as the hygiene factors are concerned, you consider
the following:

Working conditions
Staff should have access to the best equipment, not the
worst. In other words, if you find yourself being offered a
sum of money to spend on educational technology, ask
yourself how it might be used to make teachers' lives

Make sure that the environment is kept pleasant -- and
hygienic. For example, if you have a technical support team
ask them to implement a schedule of keyboard cleaning.

Working relationships
There is not much you can do if two people dislike each
other, but that is not the point. As a manager you need to
be seen to be above their differences, and to be completely
impartial. That means, for example, being prepared to give
everyone a chance to give their opinion in team meetings.
It also means not going out for dinner or other kinds of
socialising with just one or two people. Team means are
fine -- a good idea, in fact -- but anything else could be
seen as favouritism or at least a lack of impartiality.

What about motivational factors?

Clearly, you will probably not have the power to promote
people to a higher position -- but you can make sure that
members of your team are given opportunities to take
responsibilities that may help them gain promotion in the

Also, giving them some degree of control and flexibility
over what they do is a very good way to motivate people,
and to harness their natural desire to do the best they
can. You may think that in these highly prescriptive times,
that kind of delegation is impossible. not so.

One of the things I used to do, for example, was to ask each team
member to take responsibility for a particular unit in the
scheme of work. That meant devising the lesson plans and
the resources for the rest of us to use, and making sure
that we had received training so that we knew what we doing
and how to do it. The only non-negotiable element in all
this was the set of objectives that had to be achieved. The
result was not only a well-motivated team, but also a much
richer set of lesson plans than I could have devised on my
own, or which could be found in a book.

Job enrichment
This article would not be complete without considering job
enrichment, which is an extension of Herzberg's hygiene-
motivation theory. It includes factors such as giving team
members more control, and using more of their abilities --
and extending the ones they have through training.

You will immediately recognise that the example I gave a
moment ago of team members taking responsibility for a
unity of work can be seen as an example of job enrichment.

But we can also learn something else from Herzberg's job
enrichment theory, although you probably know it already,
and that is the importance of professional development.

It is probably also crucial to extend what team members do
to areas that are slightly beyond their comfort zone:
everyone needs a challenge, if only to prevent boredom in
the long term. But this option can be fraught with
difficulties, and so will be covered in a separate article.

As you can see, it is possible to take the theories and
findings of a clinical psychologist and apply them to the
leadership and management of ICT.