78% of business leaders rate retention and engagement as urgent or important; and having a good work culture is a higher priority than having a higher salary. ~ Deloitte Global Human Capital, 2014

How many organizations have you worked in that had an engaged work culture?  My guess is not many. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Creating an engaged work culture is a process. It starts by making small changes and practicing them consistently. It takes time, but it is worth it in the end.

In my work as Director of the GET program we have taken a small program, and grown it to become one of the best in the nation. We have weathered storms and dealt with unexpected changes. We’ve provided excellent program management and some of the best customer service that you’ll see in state government. Our customers love us and we genuinely love working with each other. Conflicts are few and well managed. We have streamlined processes, saved time and money, and look forward to coming to work every day.

If staff love their work and the environment you have created, they will treat customers better, solve problems better, and work to continually improve your business. And, you will of retain your high performers.

Here are four ways to begin to build a culture of engagement and high performance.

1. Build trust

  • Encourage open communication.
  • Pause and listen.
  • Give regular feedback.
  • Hold people accountable.
  • Make expectations clear.

2. Encourage input into process improvement and new projects

  • Practice over-sharing information.
  • Encourage questions and curiosity.
  • Talk about your mission and values in your everyday work.

3. Practice regular appreciation and gratitude

  • Make the Rounds – check in briefly with everyone, everyday.
  • Catch people doing the right things and share it. Post customer compliments and encouraging emails.
  • Celebrate. Remember birthdays, holidays and create new traditions (ugly sweater day, dessert Friday).
  • Work hard and play hard.  Work hard to meet a deadline or finish a project and then go to coffee together, start a trivia board, or hold a book club over lunch.

4. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see

    • Teach and practice good communication skills.
    • Commit to building an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful and fun.
    • Make meetings more interesting.  Don’t have one just to have one.  Have an agenda, timeline, and outcomes planned in advance.
  • Staying positive can be a game-changer and it’s absolutely contagious.

Creating a work culture begins with you, the leader. It’s the way you actively think, act and interact. It’s the personality that you give the team. I challenge you to pick any one of these four areas and start making a difference now.


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in improving interpersonal communication skills, building and leading teams, training supervisors, career coaching, solving human resources issues, and working with different communication styles and generations.