The American craft beer industry likes to talk about being small and independent and removed from big business culture. Living in the realm of small business it cultivates a scrappy and local image that resonates with a lot of consumers.
There are, however, some lessons or practices from corporate America that should be incorporated into smaller breweries. As the industry looks to grow and diversify and build a meaningful culture, creating an internal mentor program is a step in the right direction.
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There are a lot of reasons to start a mentor program and it can be as intense or casual as a brewery wants, but the bottom line is that by connecting seasoned employees with newer ones can strengthen a company culture, create an avenue of collaboration, and begin a cycle that can continue for years to come.
What to Expect
First decide what your company wants out of a mentor program, even if it’s just to pass along general and generational knowledge and expertise in a one-on-one setting. Having a goal that benefits all is important.
To have a successful mentorship program the parties need to be interested. It shouldn’t feel like a chore o compelled duty, but rather something that both are interested in and excited about. For mentors it is a chance to give back and pass along knowledge and insight gained over a career. For mentees it is a chance to lean more than just practical skills.
Having a set schedule is important. If it is weekly or monthly check-ins or meetings every effort should be made by both parties as well as the company to make sure these happen and are productive. Having a mentor set up topics of conversation or lessons in advance will help keep the meetings focused and the mentee should come in with questions as well.
Setting a timeframe is also important. Is this a six-month or a year program? Having an end date in mind, gives the ability to set a program and to stick to it. It also allows the program to continue with new mentees who are ready to climb the ranks.
Think Outside of the Organization
For smaller breweries with only a handful of employees there is an opportunity to create synergy with larger breweries nearby. In the spirit of community, reaching out to other breweries to see if they are wither interested in being mentors or providing mentees can be beneficial to both companies. It not only passes along important knowledge that benefits consumers but can also leads to long-term collaborations that play to the strengths of both businesses.
Another option is to look outside of the brewing industry. Similar businesses like coffee roasters, soda makers, restaurants or hospitality groups can also prove useful allies to help employees grow. Finding these connections can be a two-way-street and give both companies new perspectives that help culture and the bottom line.