How i4 Connect combated the challenges posed to a remote, national, and diverse team amidst the COVID-19 pandemic


Increase in staff engagement.


In people feeling accomplished.


Saved in recruitment and productivity p.a.

About i4 Connect

i4 Connect was a startup and commercialisation practice guiding entrepreneurs via an Australian Government Program established in Victoria from November 2019 to June 2023.

Organisation’s Background

The team consisted of founders, mentors, advisors, investors, and supporters of the start-up ecosystem, carefully selected to deliver expert business guidance and program services that are flexible, adaptable, and scalable. Many of the i4 Connect leadership team have 30+ years’ experience and have put their own ‘skin in the game’, through cash, effort, risk, reputation, and opportunity cost, to learn the skills of venture and value creation, creating multiple successful ventures.

Challenges and opportunities

Rapid growth, remote work conditions, and the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health were challenges for i4 Connect’s young and growing culture. Feelings of isolation and loss of motivation as faced by much of the population throughout the pandemic, especially in Victoria where extensive lockdowns were experienced, could have, if left unaddressed and unresolved, posed a great risk to the team – individually and as a collective.

ShareTree’s Culture Engagement Survey greatly appealed to i4 Connect as its focus on Purpose, Character, and Gratitude provided a holistic approach to culture optimisation. In-depth anonymous surveys enabled the business to identify areas of growth to inform effective team re-building strategies. To identify these areas on a national scale, i4 Connect administered ShareTree’s Culture Engagement survey in all Australian states. The people engagement matrix revealed the “hot spots” across a continuum from disengaged to a self-actualised culture, typical of a well-functioning organisation. In the first instance, i4 Connect’s culture identified a total 70% engagement score, slightly below the global average of all organisations.


ShareTree recommendations included:

  • Creating a culture of appreciation.
  • Supporting staff with clear performance measures and pathways for progression.
  • Integrating the organisational purpose into regular communication and feedback sessions.
  • Allowing team projects that give back to the community.
  • Aligning awards and feedback with the culture aspiration.
  • Planning celebration events that involve activities for connection and support.
  • Developing a mentorship program.
  • Supporting staff with personal/career growth goals.
  • Inspiring innovation through a suggestion system.
  • Communicating the purpose and values of the organisation through culture posts or newsletters.

The results

Key takeaway

By harnessing the power of employee-led strategies and fostering a thriving team culture, i4 Connect achieved something truly remarkable. They managed to save a staggering $128,538 on staff disengagement, all thanks to their investment in the ShareTree program, which initially cost them $32,055. What’s even more impressive is that they were able to achieve a return on investment (ROI) in just 2.9 months!

“Engaging with our team from a holistic, value-based perspective was crucial in establishing the culture of our business. Traditional “performance” discussions became a source of authentic connection with team members and focused us in a way that we could bring the best out of everyone. I do think that we now have a more relaxed, transparent way of communicating with one another and I am very proud of the team’s willingness to engage with the Sharetree model as a means of continually improving our culture and performance.”
Suzanne Paynter
Chief Operating Ofificer