Expert Topic Using Human Resources as an Advantage for Employees

Courtesy of Half Acre

Human Resources is a department that can help the mechanics of a company move smoothly. There are some considerations to think about when it comes to HR in the brewing industry and how it relates not only to employee performance, but happiness, and potential career growth.

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For over 140 years, the Siebel Institute of Technology has attracted an extensive global following. Our alumni span more than 60 countries and are found in almost every major brewery on earth. Our on-campus classes include a mix of participants from breweries of all sizes who hail from locations all over the world, enhancing our student’s learning experience by exposing them to differences in culture, equipment, methods and beer styles.

To get better insight, it’s always best to ask an expert. Emily Cripe is the Senior Director of Human Resources at Half Acre Beer Company in Chicago, IL. She has 18 years of HR experience across a variety of industries.

As an HR generalist by training, Emily’s specialty is working in startups and small-to-medium size businesses and subsidiaries, creating and managing HR from the ground up. She created the Human Resources function at Half Acre, where she has worked since March 2017. She spoke with All About Beer editor John Holl.

John Holl: Let’s start at the very basic beginning. And I’ll ask you what is human resources?

Emily Cripe: That’s a pretty common question. Especially for small business owners, or people who maybe haven’t worked with HR before. But human resources encompasses a bunch of miscellaneous functions that all connect to the really the humans, the individuals who make up the organization and how they work together.

So when you think of HR, you might be thinking of responsibilities around hiring and recruiting and actually what we call onboarding but getting new hires all the information they need to get settled and get started.

We also usually handled benefits both the selection of benefits and also the administration of benefits and when I say benefits, I mean health insurance, and some of those other related insurances Dental, Vision etc. We also often do payroll and then we’re responsible for things like training and development and that’s not the sort of specialized training that comes with say production roles, but more like soft skills, training, manager training, things like that.

And then we also deal with in HR is broadly referred to as employee relations, and that is anything from dealing with disciplinary processes. But it can also be things like mediating disputes between employees handling sensitive or confidential situations. Providing feedback and in also listening to employees if they have feedback, or they have issues that they want to share. So dealing with performance and interpersonal issues.

Then finally, and this is a big one, a lot of what we do involves staying on top of, and interpreting and applying federal, state and local laws to make sure that as a business that we’re compliant, and that we’re following the law and applying it correctly to our business based on where we’re located and our size.

John Holl: When does it make sense for brewery to bring on an HR professional?

Emily Cripe: So every brewery is going to be a little bit different. But I’d say some of the clues that you’d want to look for are, first of all your size. And when I say size, I don’t mean production size, I mean headcount. And here at Half Acre, I want to say, I think they had about 70 people, maybe when I started and that was fine, they’d been managing just fine before then. But I think there was certainly a strain on the managers, because they were doing a lot of the work that is now on my plate.

So sizes is one factor. And then I would say if you’re a brewery, where you are finding that you’re struggling to stay on top of federal, state local laws that apply to your business. And or you’re finding that your employees are asking for either HR, or for the things that HR would normally handle, you might consider whether it’s time to take that step.

John Holl: I’m wondering if there are because you’ve worked in other fields before coming to the brewing industry? Are there brewery, or beer specific areas of HR that don’t exist? In other industries?

Emily Cripe: Certainly the business model that a lot of breweries have, which is a restaurant combined with a manufacturing facility. It just means that whoever is coming into the HR role, they need to be comfortable and prepared to handle workers comp issues and safety related issues that might come up in a production facility, while also being prepared to be well versed in how tips are paid in your state. It’s just a very, two very different working environments, sort of slammed together. The issues are so unique in each area, and then dealing with alcohol on the job at that’s the other one. Obviously I knew to expect that walking into this role. But it’s a challenge because I wanted to come and work at a brewery because I love craft beer, and I love our brewery specifically.

And I like to drink beer, just like all of all or most of my coworkers. But I’m also in the position of trying to create some rules and some policies around when and how we can make sure that we’re being safe with alcohol. And that we’re being careful and making sure that people are employees are enjoying our product responsibly.

John Holl : There’s all these various things that you mentioned early on about everything that an HR professional does the onboarding, the benefits and health, payroll, trend development. And on that, you started talking to talk about soft skill training, which I’m not quite sure what that was.

So I wanted to know a little bit more. But then management training as well. And I know, there are a lot of people who get into beer and the brewing industry, wanting to climb the ranks, they don’t want to be a keg washer forever. They’re an assistant Brewer, they want to be a head brewer one day, all of that. I wonder one, what soft skill training is, and then to briefly just sort of how to approach management training and helping people take on responsibilities for better titles and assuming better pay and benefits?

Emily Cripe: Well, when it comes to soft skills training, first of all, that’s referring to trainings that are specifically designed to build those skills that are more interpersonal, and are based around how you relate to others, whether it’s the people you manage, or your colleagues. So that might be something, I have a training that is designed for what I call indirect managers.

So that’s maybe a team lead, or an assistant manager, or someone who doesn’t directly manage people, but might still need to delegate to them. Or someone who might be in charge when the manager is away. And that whole training is all about soft skills.

So things like how to step into your authority when you’re trying to do that for the first time. How to delegate, how to give feedback. So a lot of that’s around communication. So that’s when I think of soft skills, those are the kinds of the kinds of things I’m talking about. And so, we try to do that for especially for anyone who is maybe not quite a manager yet, but in that sort of transition role.

As far as manager training is concerned, I think there are two paths. One is there are additional soft skills that you might work on with a manager. So basically the next level of what I was just describing with that indirect manager training, but then we have a whole training that we put all of our manager through specifically about laws that they need to know that are specifically applicable.

Both federal state and local laws that are applicable to our brewery. We also talked about things like how to write a job description, what to include what not to include, how to deliver performance reviews, talking specifically about what our performance review process looks like, and what our expectations are.

We talked about safety a bit earlier but we talk in that training more directly, and specifically about a manager’s responsibility when there’s a safety incident, what steps they need to follow. And then, of course manager training wouldn’t really be complete if we weren’t also talking about some of our handbook policies that they’re going to be expected to enforce.

So things like sexual harassment prevention and bullying, discrimination, just making sure that they’re keeping an eye out for those things. And if they’re occurring, that they know that they’re going to be responsible for reporting in dealing with those issues.

So that those kinds of trainings are a bit more, I guess, based on direct policies and procedures, and a little less soft skills.

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