Who cares wins: putting employee care front and centre

Companies whose employees connect with their values are more likely to see greater engagement, motivation and retention

In this piece we listen in on a conversation: Steve Wheen, Global CEO and founder of distillery and Alex Barber, Co-Founder of Common Good Co. discuss their partnership, and the importance of putting employee care front and centre. 


As Simon Sinek puts it, ‘customers will never love a company until the employees love it first’. At distillery, our team added caring as one of our core values. We believe it’s integral to our success that we care about our customers, about each other and that our employees care for themselves. NABS, the advertising and media wellbeing charity, recently reported a 49% increase in calls for its services, with mental health accounting for a worryingly large number of those calls.

That’s one of the reasons we partnered with Common Good Company. We needed an expert partner who could provide company wide support and who understands the unique pressures of the industry. Alex and Emily are able to draw on their time in the creative industries and as professional coaches to provide the necessary tools and support for our team.


From our first call together we were struck by what is a really people-centric approach. The desire for distillery to continue to walk the walk when it comes to that value of care was immediately apparent. Emily and I founded Common Good Co. against a backdrop of unsustainable churn rates in the industry (some 32% at last reckoning) with a real desire to support talent working in creative businesses, like distillery. Businesses who recognise people-support as an imperative, not a ‘nice to have’. 

We have to remember that consumers and talent alike judge companies by the way they listen to, value and care about their employees. That care doesn’t come in the shape of a company beer trolley once a week, but rather by being intentional in shaping resources to support and develop their people.


While opening the door to a company-wide coaching programme and other support mechanisms for employees is a great opportunity, one of the challenges we’ve seen is how to truly embed that within the fabric of the organisation. Enabling team members to embrace the opportunity that is made available to them for their development and growth is paramount. We’ve all seen companies with empty slogans stuck on an office wall, with values printed on covers of notebooks… the opportunity for leaders is to get teams to take responsibility for their development and care, to not stick it on the wall but to evangelise and hero it, and show the incredible benefits.

But therein, also, lies the challenge. 


Absolutely. Arguably defining values is the easy bit. What sets companies apart is those who are able to embody their values and embed them into systems and processes in a way that people can connect with.

That’s no mean feat, is it? But research shows that companies whose employees connect with their values are far more likely to see greater levels of engagement, motivation and retention and to advocate for them as a great place to work. We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact coaching and training has had with the team at distillery. 100 per cent of those who’ve taken advantage of their access to coaching have recommended all distillers do the same. 


But how do you make people care about caring for themselves? Quite simply, you can’t. That’s one of the biggest learnings from our work with Common Good Company. Sometimes it feels frustrating when all of the opportunities are given to team members, yet they do not take advantage of it.

It’s like that gym membership that doesn’t get used.

We’ve found that a more constant drumbeat of messaging and communication really helps. Sharing stories and quotes from the team who are engaging in the program, and making it as easy as possible to get started. But there’s got to be a drumbeat of comms, always front of mind, whilst making it fun and engaging with complimentary activities.


Often it’s the times we most need support that we struggle to reach out and access it. We can all relate to moments in our careers where we’ve experienced overwhelm, where stepping back from a challenge feels impossible or where our confidence has dipped. All perfectly normal experiences of course, but also factors that might contribute to us stopping short from getting help. 

And that’s why those consistent reminders are so important. They normalise and encourage care and access to support. Our coaching sessions have and always will be entirely confidential, but it doesn’t stop our partnership from being one that is visible. Having leaders who advocate for and share the impact that sessions have had for them is a powerful tool in encouraging greater uptake.


With recent Gartner research showing that employees who are given a fair voice are 27% less likely to leave their company, it is critical that we’re continuing to listen to the changing nature of needs within the team — from goal setting to unexpectedly challenging situations and more. It enables us to ensure we’re focusing our efforts, and that of our partnership with Common Good Co. in the right areas.

And for our leadership team, transparency is key — sharing our pulse survey results, showing we’re caring by listening and ensuring our employees’ voices are heard and actioned upon. This helps create two-way accountability, building a company that our people and our clients love. 

Featured image: Fauxels / Pexels

Steve Wheen

Steve Wheen is founder & CEO of distillery, a content studio specialising in social content; making & distributing branded films for social media.He started the agency in 2015 after eight years making content for Sky, MTV, Discovery and others when he saw, at Google Creative Labs, how traditional advertising agencies struggled to make social video.Today distillery has 40 staff across offices in UK, San Francisco and Singapore, and clients range from Tech, Retail all the way through to charity including Google, Amazon and the DEC. It’s recognised as a category leader with 2021 awards including Campaign’s (Independent) Agency of the Year.An activist for diversity, Steve is a board member at the advertising industry LGBTQ+ body Outvertising and mentor at women’s leadership group Bloom. A speaker on subjects including creativity and happiness, his media appearances include BBC, ITV & CBS.He’s also a keen gardener. A lack of green space when he first moved to London from Australia saw him take to the streets (literally); his miniature horticultural displays in potholes saw him attract a keen online following, becoming a published author and TED speaker.

All articles
Alex Barber, Co-Founder, Common Good Co.

Alex is co-founder of Common Good Co., established in 2020 with his business partner and fellow founder Emily Duder. They recognised that in an industry with damagingly high turnover rates and where burnout is rife, businesses need to do more for their people. They bring together industry experience with their expertise in coaching and learning & development to provide bespoke people and culture solutions that give creative businesses the edge.

All articles