People

Naomi Simson’s five tips for how to build a highly engaged team

Dinushi Dias /

A strong brand comes down to every single employee, says RedBalloon founder and Shark Tank judge Naomi Simson.

Simson transformed her small business into a multimillion-dollar tech giant, and is now working towards delivering 5 million experiences by 2020.

Speaking at Zendesk’s Relate Live conference in Sydney, Simson says it is a founder’s role to bring a team together and empower, inform and educate every team member about the purpose of the business.

“My job as the leader is to make sure the team have the tools to get the job done [and] to align everybody to our cause,” Simson says.

“When you’re in perfect flow, what does it feel like? That perfect oneness?”

Today, RedBalloon’s team is 70-people strong.

“My job as the leader is to make sure that we know hat we stand for over and over,” Simson says.

She says that a highly engaged team is the backbone of any strong business and can be the saving grace of an early-stage startup.

“Those people who have highly engaged teams, people who love what they’re doing everyday, they will also have highly loyal customers,” Simson says.

“Happy people make happy profits.”

She says that 80% of highly engaged staff will stay with the business for at least a year.

On the other end, unhappy and negative staff can have detrimental effects on a brand.

“26% of disengaged employees are planning to spend their whole career with you,” she says.

“We need to set them free, let them go and work for the competition.”

Simson outlines five key principles for building a highly engaged team.

1. Connected to core values

Simson says people become highly engaged when they feel connected to the business and its values, and feel like they’re part of a community and believe in what it stands for.

And it all starts with one simple question: “Do they feel connected?”

2. Able to learn and grow

The motivation of staff to seize opportunities for growth, listen and learn comes with strong leadership and support to do so.

Simson uses the analogy of a rowing team.

“When you think about the boat, the leader is small, she is the only one who can see strategy and set the rhythm,” she says.

“Everybody else has to bring their best.”

3. Get fit together 

Whether it’s a group walk or a game of basketball, getting employees active together helps to boost energy and spirit, Simson says.

“We need to get people moving,” she says.

4. Have pride in the work 

Simson says that highly engaged employees want more than a pay cheque.

“Do they go home feeling like a winner?” she says.

They want to do work that makes them feel proud and this must be reinforced by their leaders, she says.

Thanking and recognising employees for their efforts can make a huge difference in their everyday lives.

“If you recognise people, it’s mobile, social and peer-to-peer,” she says.

5. Help and support others

Simson says this comes down to whether employees are willing to help and support each other and become mentors within the company.

This feeds into the creation of a business and brand that is authentic, transparent and genuine, which Simson says is integral to the game of platform amplification.

“It doesn’t take much for us to make a difference,” she says.

“If we create a really safe place for people, where they feel great, they will go home and share the happiness.”

This article was first published by StartupSmart. StartupSmart attended the Relate Live Sydney conference as a guest of Zendesk.

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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