Emotional Bank Accounts Enhance Employee Engagement.

Engaged employees


We would all like to have our employees highly engaged in our organisations. wouldn’t we? It happens in few, however. The level of disengagement globally is very high. According to highly regarded Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged worldwide. That means that a staggering 87% are not engaged. In Australia alone the lack of productivity in businesses costs $42 billion per year, in large part due to these poor employee engagement levels.

Research done by Red Balloon here in Australia found that 70% of an employee’s engagement is dependent on the employee’s manager. 44% managers do not know what motivates their employees so they obviously are not able to bring out the best in them.

The research revealed that most employees do not feel valued and appreciated at work by their managers or their organisations. Is this why so many are disengaged? If this why so many organisations are unproductive?

Red Balloon found that 78% employees would work harder if their efforts were recognised and appreciated. 82% reported being recognised actually motivated them in their jobs.

employee engagement from Red Balloon

So What Can Leaders and Managers Do About Employee Engagement?

There is not one quick fix. This is a multi-faceted problem, but I want to share one idea here, that answers the need for employees to feel valued and appreciated and the need for organisations to be productive.

Organisations will only be able to do this if their culture and the mindsets of their leaders and managers are open to it. It is not a “tip” or a “hint” to bring about immediate employee engagement. It is for organisations who not only want to have an employment contract, but who also are open to creating a psychological contract with their employees. “We will look after you, if you look after our organisation”.

Create Emotional Bank Accounts For Your Employees And Enhance Employee Engagement.

The late Stephen Covey, of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame created the concept of “the emotional bank account”. It’s a very good metaphor to explain what organisations need to be doing with their people to enhance their engagement by valuing their contribution.

We all know about financial bank accounts. We’ve all got one or many. We deposit our money into that account, save it until we need it – the “rainy day”, the emergency, the unexpected event – and then we withdraw it to meet that need. If we have consistently deposited into that account, we can withdraw when we need to and still have money in the account. We then build it up again. What we get from consistently depositing like this is a security and knowing that when we need to call on extra money to support ourselves it is always there.

Covey says that we need to set up “emotional” bank accounts in all our relationships – with our partner, our children, our family and friends, and of course, in our workplace. Organisations, and their managers, can set up emotional bank accounts for their people.

If organisations regularly make emotional deposits into the bank accounts of their people and build up that account, they can then withdraw from their employee’s account in the emergency or tough times for their organisation. These are the times when they need to call on their employees to give 150%, to give because they want to support their organisation or their manager. Organisations who have deposited consistently can withdraw without damaging that bank account too much, without damaging their relationship with their people. This is just another way of understanding the “psychological contract”.

If an organisation hasn’t made deposits into their peoples’ emotional bank accounts, and they attempt to withdraw in times of crisis, they usually emotionally bankrupt the relationship with their people because they feel used, even abused and often betrayed. Without a good relationship with its people an organisation is in trouble.

It is important to find out what constitutes a “deposit” for your people. As I noted above 44% managers do not know what motivates their people. Don’t assume that a pay increase or a promotion is what will make them feel good about the organisation and inspire a greater commitment. Instead they may want you to tell them – in words – how valuable they are to your organisation. Something that simple (and inexpensive) may be seen as a substantial deposit into their emotional bank account.

It is often the multitude of little things that make a difference. It’s also often the people in the leadership team with the highly developed soft skills who have the sort of “wealth” to deposit consistently and continually.

What Kinds of “Deposits” Build Strong Emotional Bank Accounts for Your People?

A few ideas……….

  • Valuing and appreciating your people when a job is well done,
  • Working with and developing their strengths,
  • Giving them stretch assignments,
  • Encouraging them and being affirming,
  • Letting them know you believe they can do a particular job, then supporting them in trying,
  • Giving them feed-back that is constructive and supportive for their career development,
  • Building positive and affirming relationships with them,
  • Calling them by their names,
  • Listening to them and asking their opinion,
  • Seeking to understand their position,
  • Being flexible and adaptable around work/family balance,
  • Giving them room and opportunities to develop their talents and potential, empowering them to greater success,
  • Acting with integrity in your relationship with them,
  • Showing interest in their work and achievements,
  • Trusting them to do the job they are employed to do and letting them know you trust them,
  • Telling them often what the difference is they are making to the organisation.

If you are now asking: “Yes, but how do we actually do those things? They are so general”, then your organisation needs to make this an item on your meeting agenda. For example, start with one issue and make it a priority this month. What are the many ways we let our people know that we value and appreciate them? Take it from the top right through to the bottom. You have your people right down through the ranks working out how they can value and appreciate one another in the organisation. Add to this list.

It is good to ask, how much of your meeting agendas, across your organisation, deal with the hard stuff of your business, and how much deals with ways to look after your people and thus inspire their loyalty and commitment.

This is not only about strengthening the psychological contract you have with your people and increasing the deposits into their emotional bank accounts, it is also about creating a sustainable culture for your organisation.


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