In response to a review into its allegedly ‘toxic’ work culture, Scottish craft beer giant BrewDog has committed to a major increase in HR resources.
About 70 former employees of the company in June alleged that a cult of personality characterised the firm’s leadership, that health and safety was inadequate, employee mental health was under threat and staff were too fearful to speak out. Chief executive James Watt publicly apologised for the company’s employment practices at the time.
BrewDog hired former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton as its new non-executive chairman, in part to mentor Watt to become a better leader following the claims.
It also commissioned a review carried out by consultancy Wiser that has now reported that there is a “distinct gap of perception” between former employees and current employees.
Leighton and deputy chair Blythe Jack, announcing the completion of the review, told employees in a letter they had “never seen such a deep dive into an organisation’s culture”, with the review being taken “extremely seriously”.
They wrote: “Having read the review, we don’t subscribe to the characterisation of the company set out in the open letter and we know from having spoken to numerous crew members, neither do many of you.”
It added: “A second major theme is there is a distinct gap in terms of perception between former crew and those still with the business, what strikes us from reading the review is that it was during the explosive growth period from 2016-18 in particular where there was the greatest sense of disaffection.”
A lack of HR support and unprepared leadership had resulted from this rapid grown, said Jack and Leighton, adding: “Some current employees feel uncomfortable speaking up and challenging – this is partly related to James’ previous demanding leadership style and the way decisions were made in previous eras.”
The report found that staff were passionate about the brand but did not think the company’s structure had matured in line with BrewDog’s growth.
New initiatives designed to meet the issues raised in the report include a major increase in HR resource included a major increase in HR resources under the company’s group people director. A new head of HR operations for the firm’s property portfolio will also be selected.
BrewDog will also appoint a head of learning and development and introduce leadership and management development training across the business.
Mental health provision would be stepped up, the company promised, with the appointment of mental health ambassadors and several employee initiatives. There would be career development reviews focusing on wellbeing coupled with new career framework guidelines to make it easier to progress and build experience.
Overall, BrewDog said it would introduce 600 new roles across its worldwide operations to reduce resource bottlenecks, and bringing total headcount to 2,300.
Leighton, former chief executive of Asda and Pandora, told the BBC the review was a “bit of a blueprint for how to tackle these things”.