An Interview with EX experts BrewDog
In 2007, James Watt and Martin Dickie teamed up in a bid to rid the world of bland, monolithic beer and they started home brewing in their garage. BrewDog was born with the aim to revolutionise the beer industry and completely redefine British beer-drinking culture.
A decade of dog, 1000 employees, and two breweries later, BrewDog the fastest growing Food & Drinks company in the UK, one of the Times Top 100 Best Employers, and breaking into International markets “like a shark on steroids”.
With their HQ based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, they now have a second brewery across the pondin Columbus, Ohio. Now, as well as distributing to countries across Europe, they will be able to also provide the States and Canada with their beer.
After winning the ‘Business Change or Transformation – Employees First’ category as well as the ‘Employee Engagement – Insight and Comms’ at the UK Employee Experience Awards 2017, we caught up with Megs Masson, who handles Internal Communications at BrewDog, to discuss how the company implemented these fantastic employee experience initiatives.
Congratulations on winning! The judges were very impressed with the Unicorn Fund initiative that BrewDog introduced. Can you explain what the Unicorn Fund is and how does it work?
The Unicorn Fund is where we divide 10% of our profits equally between our crew. The amount is prorated depending on whether you are Full time or Part Time. We first introduced this scheme in mid-2016 and it has been the most successful staff initiative we have ever implemented.
Who has access to this fund and how does it boost employee experience?
The Unicorn Fund is for all employees and is divided equally regardless of what role you have in the business. Entry-level employees get the same Unicorn Fund as the Directors. I believe this reiterates the lack of typical corporate structure within BrewDog.
Our crew now feel more ownership over business decisions, are savvier with money and have a better understanding of the company’s financial stats.
Our P&L is published to our teams each month, and we make it super easy for our people to engage with the company’s growth. Every penny counts, and any savings, sales wins or other #Unicorn stories are shouted about in our DogTales newsletter each week.
How was the company providing employee incentives before this?
We have an online platform called “Crew Treats” that all employees can access. It hosts a huge variety of staff perks such as discounts to thousands of retailers, the cycle to work scheme, help to buy on electronics, and the ability to claim back money on healthcare, eye and dental care. It’s a really easy-to-use one-stop-shop for all benefits.
Before The Unicorn Fund, we didn’t have an incentive like this in place – although we had lots of other awesome perks. Last year, we also introduced “Pawternity leave”, where we give our employees one week of paid leave when they get a new dog or puppy! We sent out an educational piece on the benefits of adopting at the same time, and have since seen a few more four-legged colleagues around the offices!
Pawternity was actually an idea from our General Manager of the BrewDog Flagship bar in Aberdeen. We have this cool programme called “DogTank” where anyone can submit business ideas and if they’re used, you will be rewarded. The GM was rewarded with a trip to our Columbus, Ohio brewery!We encourage people to think of insane ideas and we definitely thoughtPawternity leave was up there.
Who thought up the Unicorn Fund idea and why is it called this?
James, one of the two founders, chose to do this because he wanted his employees to feel like business owners. The announcement of the new perk was great to see, as our directors paired with the People team to talk to all of our teams individually. They went around each of the bars and made sure they worked around our production shifts too. Everyone was really excited – and the crew got to vote on the name. We went with Unicorn Fund because it’s something that shouldn’t really exist, but is amazing and magical.
What problems have the company met with it?
I wouldn’t say we’ve had any problems, but last year was our first year implementing it, so we’re still learning as we go. As times goes on, we’re getting better at communicating the P&Ls and making sure that people 100% understand them.
We don’t want to lose the engagement, especially as our teams grow. Our growth may mean that people won’t have been around for the big announcement last year. We might look into doing another educational tour and encourage the teams tohold regular get-togethers to chat all things #Unicorn!
The judges were also very impressed with the internal newsletter that the company uses. Can you tell us more about this?
Sure! Rewind 18 months and BrewDog, as ever, was growing at a speed of knots and this is where communications started to falter. There were so many different regular updates to keep track of across all-user emails and staff intranet posts. It became a chore to read, and none of the cool, exciting stuff was being shouted about. Teams in production had no idea what was happening in the office and vice versa. The bar teams felt as though they were in a different world completely.
We needed a newsletter that encompassed all the amazing things that we’re doing as a business. This is where DogTales was born. It’s such an incredible piece, as it brings out the voices of employees from all areas of the company. It’s not just written by the top and fed down, like regular companies – it is written by our people. DogTales has stories each week of what’s in the tanks, what beery events our teams have been to, punk-to-punk nominations (colleague shout outs!) and more.
How do the employees contribute to this newsletter and what impact has this had on the staff and the company and how does it boost employee engagement?
We have an inbox specifically for DogTales, so people will email that every week with content. I can also scoop up content from social media, as BrewDog employees are natural ambassadors, always sharing their beery adventures online. Each Monday I’ll collate it into a brief and send over to the design team who work their magic.
We send it out via email to all users (UK & International). It’s great to hear what the folks in the International bars are getting up to, and likewise, they love hearing about what’s going down at the brewery. It’s easy for our International teams and bars to feel disconnected, but DogTales ensures we don’t leave them out when it comes to shouting about the incredible stuff we do.
We’ve also seen a huge amount of “shout-outs” come through where staff are sending in notes of appreciation for their team members. When someone has been working super hard, it means the world to see their name in DogTales with a wee message just saying “Hey – you’re amazing, thank you for all of your hard work!”. That can really go a long way.
It was fantastic that you won two awards. What did winning mean to the organisation and how did you celebrate the win when you got back to the office?
We hadn’t really done anything like this before, and honestly, we were so nervous presenting to you guys! But when we did, it was one of those proud moments where you are reminded of how unbelievably amazing the company is. We celebrated with some unicorn cake and beers, naturally!
After winning the award, how did the company inform their staff and customers of the win?
Through DogTales, of course!
Has the company made any significant changes to the business post-award?
We are always striving to do better. Since presenting the Unicorn Fund earlier this year, we’ve gone one step further and introduced Unicorn Fund 2.0. Now, as well as giving 10% of profits to our employees, we are giving 10% to charity. Our crew and Equity Punks are joining forces to divide the 10% between charities of their choosing. This is the biggest community-fuelled, crowdfunded charity contribution in history.
We want to create a new blueprint for a 21st-century business. If we hit our targets, we will give away more than £45million over the next 5 years via the Unicorn Fund. And it is our 57,000 Equity Punks and our 1,000-strong BrewDog crew who have made that possible.
Want to hear more about BrewDog? Click here to read our article about how upmarket craft brewer BrewDog is aiming to give away 20pc of its profits between staff and charities as part of its new Unicorn Fund.
The UK Employee Experience Awards 2017 are open for entries so if your company has a great EX initiative like BrewDog to share, you can enter the awards here.