As a long-time Co.OfWomen member I’m always blown away at our events by the genuine support, intelligence, wisdom, honesty, drive, creativity and often pure grit displayed by fellow members. So I was honoured to be asked to share some thoughts with you on team engagement and business culture.


We’re a pretty passionate bunch and we love our products and services. Let’s face it, we have to or we wouldn’t stick it out through the inevitable ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and harsh reality of what it takes to succeed. The ability to share our products and services with those who can benefit from them is undoubtedly a key driving force behind us going into business.


I may be wrong, but I doubt many of us went into business desperate for the thrill of managing a team of disparate individuals, or hungry to be responsible for the well-being and motivation of others?!

And yet, here we are… accountable for culture within our businesses, with teams of people who we need to be fully committed and engaged with our brands, the work we do and what we offer our customers.

So we’re faced with some simple, yet critical questions… what do culture and engagement really even mean? Why do they matter? And if they do, then how do we nail it? What do we need to do?


I think the best place for us to start is to define what we mean by ‘culture’ and ‘team engagement’.


Culture is simply the unique character and personality of your business or ‘the way things are done around here’. Ask yourself how you would finish this sentence about your business: ‘Around here we…’. Think about your values, beliefs, practices, traditions, behaviours and attitudes.

Ask yourself how you would finish this sentence about your business: ‘Around here we…’


Team engagement is simply the emotional connection and commitment our teams have to our business, so they’ll go the extra mile for us.

Is this important? Hell yeah. And luckily, it’s not rocket science. It’s clear that if we can support our team to become more emotionally connected and committed to us and our businesses (engaged) then of course they’ll…

  • Be more productive and efficient
  • Deliver a better service to our customers
  • Be more likely to stay with us longer (so we don’t have to anguish over making the right recruitment decisions more than absolutely necessary)
  • Be more likely to put their ideas forward as to how things can be improved
  • Go home more content than if they didn’t feel that connection

Luckily, gone are the days when engaging our team is seen as ‘fluffy’ or just something for the ‘people’ people to think about. It’s the biggest win-win in business.

It makes financial sense for the company and it is simply the right thing to do for your team. We should never underestimate the impact we have as leaders, both on the lives of those who work for us and their immediate network of family and friends.

We can’t buy an engaged team, we have to earn them over time through our actions.


And yet, while this is all so obvious, it’s not always that easy. We understandably have many other things that demand our time and attention and this doesn’t always get the priority it deserves.

But we can’t buy an engaged team – we have to earn them over time through our actions. So it’s super valuable to think about and consciously prioritise those simple actions that will really make a difference.


I’ve supported a number of fantastic businesses and organisations on their journeys to develop awesome cultures and surveyed thousands of employees over the past few years.

Some clear themes arise in terms of what matters to people and I’d love to share a few of my top tips with you here, to help you fast-track your way to an amazing culture and engaged team.


Communicate (clearly and often)
Create clarity around your vision and ideal culture
Do values well (or don’t bother)
Recognise others and make it personal

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If you take away nothing more from this article, let it be this…

the quality of your communication will have a significant impact on the culture you want to build. It is, without question, the most consistent area of feedback from teams about what could be done better in the businesses they work in. The intricacies of what exactly needs to improve are different for each company, but the overarching message is always the same. Never, ever underestimate the importance of timely, honest, thoughtful, regular, succinct, authentic and consistent communication with your team. It really is the glue that holds everything together.

Never assume. Check in with the team so you know they understand what you want them to do. Step up, be heard and be seen. It’s rare to win the hearts and minds of your team from behind a desk. Constantly reinforce what you’re aiming to achieve, what’s going well, what’s not, which team or person does what and ensure courageous conversations take place in your business.

Remember, telling someone something does not mean they have heard you. Anyone with kids (myself included) can attest to that!


This is actually the other half of the communication equation. Often perceived as the poor cousin to Top Tip #1, make no mistake – listening is really the twin sister! It’s a sadly all-too-secret weapon in the war for engagement. We need more warriors who give a voice to the many.

I am always telling my kids we have one mouth and two ears for a reason – we must listen to others! There is untold power in listening to people. I mean really listening – not just pretending because you’ve got something else to say. People want to be heard – not humoured – really heard. Ask any coach. Their whole industry is built around the ability to really listen.

Sometimes a simple one-on-one catch up is what’s required. At the other end of the scale is a company-wide survey where you’ve really thought about the questions you’re asking the team, so it’s customised to suit your unique needs. The absolute key to success here though is taking appropriate action as a result. If you have no intention of learning from your team or of doing things differently, then don’t bother asking in the first place.


Stand for something worthwhile. Have you framed the purpose or vision for your business in a way that will resonate with your team? Is there an emotional hook? People thrive as part of something they believe in that is bigger than themselves. And beware of thinking a financial target will drive the behaviour you’re after (no matter how much it excites you!).

Have you tried to get clear and describe your existing culture? If you can consciously design your ideal culture, it’s the foundation for strong team engagement. Remember the ‘Around here we…’ question. Brainstorm that and articulate what you really want your ideal culture to be. Then look at the gaps and what’s needed to bridge them.


You’d laugh at the number of times I’ve sat with a CEO or an HR manager and they’ve struggled to articulate what their company values are, never mind what they are supposed to mean. If they don’t know, I can bet a decent wad of cash there is zero chance anyone else in the business has a clue!

The other big failing here is choosing generic values without any real thought behind them about how they will differentiate you in your marketplace. Things like respect, communication, teamwork. I mean, shouldn’t every business value these? How will they help you stand out from the crowd?

Ironically, for those who are interested, the values of the now infamous Enron Corporation were integrity, excellence, communication and respect.

Go figure!

Your values should serve as the behavioural compass for your team and believe me, it’s worth going through a proper process to define these well and make them meaningful, because if you do and if you can sell them to your team, you’re onto a winner.


Let’s face it, we all love to be recognised for our efforts. Desire to be recognised for a job well done is deep-rooted in our human psyche, but how to recognise well depends on the individual. It’s not a one-size-fits-all task. While one person will lap up praise in a company meeting in front of everyone, this can be another’s nightmare.

Be careful with monetary recognition. Once received it can become an expectation.

The best kind of recognition is, ironically, the one that costs next to nothing. It’s the informal ‘pat on the back in the trenches’ type of recognition. Tips for effective informal recognition… catch them doing the right thing and say so in the moment. Recognise something someone has done in context of a bigger company goal or team objective. Be authentic – only say well done if you really mean it. Be appropriate – match the extent of your praise with the quality of the job well done.

People become engaged with our businesses one by one and no matter how big the company becomes, it’s wise never to forget that.

I hope this has helped my fellow wonderful and inspirational members to actively prioritise your team engagement and increase insight as to how to go about this. Just by asking what you should be doing to build a great culture and reading this, you’re already on your way because you get why it’s important and you care. Good luck, team!

The quality of your communication will have a significant impact on the culture you want to build.

Claire Day is the Founder of CultureWise – you can connect with Claire on our digital platform or email her at: