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David Matthew

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Cheers! How a global brewery engaged their employees


Employee engagement has never been more discussed than it is currently. But how often do companies plan and implement engagement strategies with a very clear business goal?


Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd, the global family brewer, has just completed the first phase of a major new people engagement programme designed to do just that; to reinforce the company’s growth strategy in 2010.

The brief
Molson Coors (UK) approached us with a specific brief: we needed to inspire and involve their 2,400 people with the company’s strategy. It was all about getting them fully behind it and taking ownership for the personal contribution they can make to making it happen.

Building on a successful 2009, Molson Coors (UK) are taking a determined and positive approach to growing their brands and its customers’ businesses in 2010 by attracting one million more shoppers down the beer aisle and one million people back down their local pub. UK alcohol consumption is falling, the total trade beer volume in the UK has been in general decline since the 1980’s and pubs are closing at the rate of 52 every week.

Molson Coors (UK) is committed to driving the beer market forward and supporting the customers businesses despite these significant pressures faced by the brewing industry. The company is investing heavily in 2010 to stimulate performance of the beer category for their customers, aiming to increase rate of sale with a focus on beer quality in both the on and off trade that will add real value to the customers businesses.

This is a major challenge in anyone’s language and having the support of a team of highly skilled, engaged and motivated people, is crucial to making this happen. The company needed to inspire and involve their staff, so they understand how they can help to achieve these goals. 

The event
A one-day experience and dinner was held at the Liverpool Arena in early February. Over 1200 employees took part in the event and a further 1200 will participate in a roadshow at different Molson Coors’ (UK) sites around the UK, so that everyone is involved in the programme. 

Groups of employees explored seven zones representing the seven pillars for growth of the business. Instead of the hours of dreaded PowerPoint and droning executives that many companies still rely on even in these times, every element was fully participative, with lots of practical examples and opportunities for people to explore Molson Coors’ (UK) priorities using different learning styles.

For example, the challenge of improving the company’s profitability was illustrated by using jugs of barley. Starting with a full jug, employees could see the impact of paying taxes and covering all the overhead costs. In another zone, employees became a part of a play with different characters discussing company’s views on important issues such as responsible drinking.

Molson Coors (UK) believes that it’s all about motivating extraordinary people who, of course, may well have different learning styles. But how can you make people understand this? How about a line dancing class? It was interesting (and very educational) to see how people reacted to it. Some of them just jumped into the line trying out moves while others stepped away or learnt through observing others. This different approach to learning is exactly what happens every day in a workplace.

The innovation zone was presented in a form of a shop. Employees used shopping baskets to choose ideas from the 70 innovations the management had developed over the last few months. The most popular ideas will be taken forward.

It all may sound simple, but it was powerful. It was varied, great fun and designed to help people really understand the issues they faced. Everyone left very clear on what needs to happen.

To ensure they would talk about the experience for months to come, the day ended with everyone taking part in a ‘human orchestra’. ‘We will rock you’ was reproduced and performed using hands, feet, kegs and 1000 beer bottles instead of traditional instruments. Over dinner everyone experienced their own ‘beer tasting’ – with nine different courses served with nine different beers (in a way we normally associate with wine).

Straight after the event, everyone received a copy of a special edition of Cheers, their internal magazine, with a report and images from the event, so that the key messages were reinforced.

Results so far comparing pre and post measurement of the impact of the day are encouraging. The average score was 94 per cent for “good use of my time”, the average score was 99 per cent for “I know what I can do personally” and the average score was 94 per cent for “I believe we can achieve our 2012 goal”.

Was it worth it?
Yes! Mark Hunter, Chief Executive of Molson Coors (UK), believes this major investment was absolutely vital. The company needs to bring their strategy to life, so that everyone knows what they can do to contribute to their team’s success and, through that, to the success of the company. Molson Coors (UK) had a good year in 2009 in a difficult economy. They did get a shift in behaviour and they’re now going to continue the ‘Our Brew’ activity in 2010. They want to make sure that all of employees understand our platforms for growth and feel engaged in making them happen. The feedback they’ve had was that it was the best event they’d ever held. People who participated in the event thought it was a good use of the company’s money and more importantly feel committed to delivering great results in 2010.

Molson Coors’ (UK) commitment to engagement is shown by the fact that a recent survey revealed 88 per cent of its people are actively engaged – a figure far higher than the national average and an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year. Impressive, isn’t it?

David Matthew is Partner at Involve