Award to highlight best brewery workplaces

The Society of Independent Brewers has announced the ‘Empowering People’ award highlighting the best breweries to work for in the U.K, prompting discussion of implementing similar initiatives in Australia.

The award is the newest category for the society’s Business Awards and aims to recognise breweries that promote a positive working environment for staff members.

“The brewing sector is an incredibly hands-on and collaborative industry and the wellbeing of employees is at the forefront of all successful brewing businesses,” SIBA Business Awards chair of judges Neil Walker said in a media release.

“This new award seeks to highlight the breweries in the UK who are not only supporting their staff but helping them to have a happier, more successful working life.”

Australian Independent Brewers Association chief executive officer Kylie Lethbridge said it was a positive initiative.

“I think the award is a fantastic idea as is many of the other elements SIBA have introduced over time,” she said. “We will definitely be watching to see how this goes.”

While there are no specific categories in Australia’s Independent Beer Awards highlighting workplace practices, it could be implemented in the future.

“We certainly do look at what other countries are doing to better understand a possible evolution for the Independent Beer Awards in Australia,” Lethbridge said.

“As we went through a significant review of the awards in 2021 for the next couple of years we will focus on those recommendations but organisations like SIBA and the Brewers Association in the US have been going strong a lot longer than the IBA so we will certainly consider these initiatives as the Indies grows in style and sophistication.”

Brewstaff founder Nick Leach said the award could be a catalyst in improving workplace practices.

“I think it’s a great initiative – if it gets people talking seriously about the importance of a positive, safe and healthy workplace, I’m all for it,” he said.

“Sadly I speak with many industry folk who work for employers who simply don’t take employee wellbeing seriously, but an award like this would certainly shine a light on those that are going above and beyond for their people.

“Even if it only gets a handful of breweries to start thinking more seriously about building and celebrating a positive work culture, safe workplace and a more diverse and inclusive workforce, it is a good thing.”

Skills shortages

As the industry grapples with skills shortages, many breweries and businesses have launched campaigns to retain and attract new employees.

In September, the Independent Brewers Association announced it would launch a lobbying campaign to have brewers listed on the Skilled Occupations List.

It still remains to be an uphill battle, as the recent Federal Budget lacked support for the brewing industry, with the sector’s biggest organisations labelling this as ‘no surprise’.

In early October, the Skills Priority List, which provides a detailed view of occupations shortages and demands in Australia, did not recognise brewers as a priority however, highlighted technicians and trades workers as key areas.

Recognising exemplary breweries through initiatives such as SIBA’s ‘Empowering People’ award could be a step in the right direction in attracting new employees.

“I think we are building our resources in this space and really trying to understand what role we can play that not only helps our members day to day, but also works toward some very aspirational goals as an industry,” Kylie Lethbridge explained.

“Many of our members are already providing workplaces that empower their employees so as an industry, we are well on our way but we can always learn and strive to do better.”

Brewstaff founder Nick Leach said it was a collaborative duty of the industry to attract employees.

“Prevention is better than a cure – given the significant skills shortages we face in the industry, retention remains the best strategy for tackling the hiring challenges many brewing businesses face,” he explained.

“Collectively, we have an obligation to make the industry a desirable one to enter, (and stick with).

“It’s not even about winning either, if we are at least taking part then we are heading in the right direction.”

While the ‘Empowering People’ award may make the industry more desirable, Leach said it could go further.

“When looking at our workplaces, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to other breweries, we should be comparing ourselves to businesses across all sectors,” he said.

“We have organisations here like Work180, WGEA, FlexCareers and many others that work across all industries – I’d love to see our Australian breweries take these sorts of certifications/awards as seriously as they do some of the other awards they enter.

“Imagine seeing an Australian independent brewery on the ‘AFR Best Places to Work’ list.”

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