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How Focusing On Staff Wellbeing Helps Startups To Grow Quicker

Research suggests that entrepreneurs can benefit from keeping their staff happy as well as their customers
Research suggests that entrepreneurs can benefit from keeping their staff happy as well as their customers
  • Founders who create a psychologically safe space for their employees are more likely to see their start up scale quicker
  • Companies like Candy Kittens who prioritise staff happiness have successfully scaled up quickly
  • Listening to employees ultimately results in better sales and greater engagement

Jamie Laing started his career on the reality TV show Made In Chelsea but, perhaps surprisingly as many of his fellow castmates were focussed on collaborating with various brands on social media for payment, he took his own route.

Along with his friend Edward Williams, they started Candy Kittens, the gourmet sweet company.

Williams and Laing thought that the sweets industry was somewhat dated and decided to create a brand to reinvigorate sweets into the 21st century. They decided to target a Gen Z audience by making the sweets vegan, cruelty free and palm oil free.

Founded in 2012, the brand has scaled up over the years, not relying on the celebrity status of Laing, creating a sophisticated brand alongside slick marketing. This meant by 2021 they’d make over £8M turnover.

Laing himself is related to Sir Alexander Grant, the man credited with creating the first ever digestive biscuit from McVities in 1892. So, the confectionary world was already within his genes. Also, coming from reality TV, he benefitted from a healthy network of contacts, as well as being given £200,000 from his family and friends to start the company.

Having had the benefit of a few helping hands, Laing is different to many other entrepreneurs as he already had a starting point whereas many founders start with little to nothing.  

So how can people who don’t have deep pockets to begin with create a large-scale business from scratch?

Research conducted by Professor Veroniek Collewaert from Vlerick Business School in Belgium suggests that entrepreneurs can benefit from keeping their staff happy as well as their customers.

Collewaert studied the roles of both founders and employees and how they developed over time, regularly observing and interviewing all members of an AI start up. She was looking to understand how founder roles evolve in preparation for scaling, and how founders’ interactions with employees shape this role evolution.  

Collewaert acknowledged that “a founder’s role often changes from focusing on a number of areas, to becoming highly focused on one. In doing so, it is important for founders to find ways to get the most out of their own role, but also the roles of their employees.”

The study found that when employees had a say in their future roles and help to craft their own expectations, the start-up was more likely to develop efficiently.

Focus on Wellbeing

The study shows that employees appreciate to feel heard and seen, and their quality and speed of work will be affected by this. This comes as people are starting to really focus on their mental wellbeing as a top priority.

It comes down to making sure the most vulnerable voices can be heard.

Collewaert’s study supports this finding that founders who create a psychologically safe space for their employees are more likely to see their start-up scale quicker.

This is why it is so important as a founder to listen and respect your employees. As Candy Kittens highlight on their website ‘everyone has a say so there is always an opportunity to make your mark.’

It has almost meant that businesses like Headspace have started to create Employee Wellness Programs to help encourage managers to focus in on their employee’s mental health and physical wellbeing, resulting in subsequent development for the brands and businesses.

Work Perks

To create a psychologically safe space for employees, many businesses are also introducing work perks.

For example, Candy Kittens’ work perks include;

  • Unlimited holiday
  • Hybrid working
  • Flexible hours
  • Early finish Friday
  • Monthly socials
  • Quarterly getaways
  • Private healthcare
  • Free Sweets

Including perks like these will help employees feel happier in the workplace and in more control with their schedules with things like flexible hours and hybrid working. Collewaert highlights that when employees and happier and in more control. They feel able to speak up about their future roles.

When it comes to attracting new colleagues to the team, insights from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) show that Gen Z are drawn to flexibility and stability as well as being more in control.

Collewaert highlights that it is very important for employees to craft their own roles, as it can not only lead to changes in the founder’s own roles but also support the realisation of the founders’ ambitions for their venture.

“Employees typically craft their own role so that it better fits their preferences and strengths,” says PhD researcher Evy Van Lancker who helped Collewaert with this research. “This role-crafting doesn’t only influence the employees’ role, but also impacts the organisation’s culture and the founders’ roles.”

It creates a cycle where founders are prioritising the wellbeing of their employees which leads to positive role creations, leading to the positive impact on the founders’ roles, and so on and so on.

So, the secret to creating your own million-pound start-up company seems to be the prioritisation of employees’ wellbeing. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

By, Millie Jones

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