Featured Customer

How Labatt Keeps Strong Employee Engagement & Culture in a Remote Work World

Labatt's Coffee Chats program connects 320 members in the Greater Toronto Area. It represents 10 different seniority levels, 13 functions and 4 offices.
Women from Labatt celebrate their passion for beer

A new employee engagement challenge

As the largest brewer in Canada, Labatt's always looking for ways to innovate. That includes how they level up their employees and ensure they have a high performing team.

Labatt has a tightknit, in-office culture. Built on the closeness and camaraderie that comes from working closely together, their team motto is #ChallengeAccepted. It's the expectation that employees rise to whatever challenge comes their way. When they shifted to remote work, the Talent team needed to rethink how to keep employees connected and engaged. Through Ten Thousand Coffees, Labatt's Coffee Chats program connects 320 members in the Greater Toronto Area. It represents 10 different seniority levels, 13 functions and 4 offices.

“The culture at Labatt is very Work Hard, Play Hard. We have a ‘Challenge Accepted’ mentality. Everyone has to work hard to achieve their goals. But at the end of the day - this is a beer company - people also want to have fun. Our mission is to connect people over a beer, and that’s reflected in our culture.”

- Danielle Galbraith, Talent Manager

Keeping remote employees engaged

Danielle Galbraith is a Talent Manager at Labatt. She was six days into her role when the team shifted to remote work overnight. Danielle's responsible for employee engagement and talent program management for 3,000 employees nationally. Her scope includes all levels - from corporate executives, to brewery workers to interns and trainees.

Danielle’s job is to make sure employees are happy and engaged in their work. Yet engagement is more complicated when everyone is working virtually.

Picture of Danielle Galbraith

"We can't pass each other in the hallway and have a brief chat while getting coffee in the kitchen anymore. Using technology, employees can connect with colleagues even while working from home. Ten Thousand Coffees reminds employees to take a break and connect with colleagues outside their function."

Danielle Galbraith, Talent Manager

Introducing Labatt Coffee Chats

Labatt Coffee Chats, powered by Ten Thousand Coffees, is a key part of Labatt's employee engagement strategy. The program matches employees for virtual coffee chats, which replaces the little moments of connection that went away with social distancing. Labatt increased the frequency of their SmartMatch introductions since shifting out of office. The employee feedback has been really positive.

Sales representative matched with a technology strategy and development managerthrough Labatt Coffee Chats.
“Connecting with Sanchit was awesome. We talked about our  experiences being in different trainee programs and how we made our way through the company. We also discussed possible shadow days to expand our knowledge into our respective functions!”

- Cassy Byj, Sales Representative

Delivering a talent management vision through strong partnerships with HR Business Partners

Overseeing such a diverse group of employees presents unique challenges. It requires one central vision and talent management toolkit to work for everyone.

Labatt’s HR Business Partners represent the diverse needs of the business. They act as Subject Matter Experts to help make decisions at an executive level. This hands on method gives a very holistic approach to their People team’s strategy.

These partnerships with the HRBPs are key for Danielle. Together they deliver a cohesive vision for talent management that's still highly relevant.

Ten Thousand Coffees offers an engaging employee experience at scale

Labatt has Ten Principles that address their Dream, People and Culture. These are the foundation of their engagement strategy. Of the Ten Principles, there’s three in particular that the Labatt Coffee Chats program supports.

Labatt employees connect on topics they're mutually interested in. A group of women discuss innovation at the company.

Principles that Ten Thousand Coffees supports

  1. We put our people first. 
  2. Our greatest strength is our people. Great people grow at the pace of their talent and are rewarded accordingly.
  3. We recruit, develop and retain people who can be better than ourselves. We will be judged by the quality of our teams.

Implementing Ten Thousand Coffees has helped employees at Labatt make organic connections. By allowing employees to set their own interests and goals, they get targeted connections. They’re connecting based on mutual interests rather than picking a name from a company directory.

Manager matched with analyst through Labatt Coffee Chats.
“What started off as a friendly conversation turned into an in-depth knowledge sharing for Inclusion & Diversity initiatives and an opportunity to collaborate for future projects. We've started bi-weekly touch points since our initial chat. Some of the insights I have received are becoming integral parts of my 1 year plan.” 

- Arohie Chopra, PPM High End & Beyond Beer

The opportunity for people to connect on topics they care about is one of the tools Labatt is giving employees to succeed in their careers. It's one of the ways Labatt puts people first and distinguishes their talent brand.

Breaking the dependence on people managers to empower employees

Before implementing the program, it was all about who you knew already and who they knew. Employees had to go through their manager, and hope their manager knew the right person. This is often a big limiting factor to development. 

Many employees worry what their manager will think if they ask to connect with another manager. Once they ask, success depends on whether the manager knows the right people (another challenge in large organizations) and can make the time to reach out. With the long to-do list of people managers, add playing “career cupid” for their direct reports. It's an impossible task.

The Labatt Coffee Chats program widens the net of who employees can connect with. It puts individuals in the driver’s seat of their own career development. Connecting virtually has been surprisingly easy. Getting leadership to engage in a Zoom call via Office Hours is much simpler than booking an in-person session.

Developing cross-functional leaders and expertise through talent mobility

Labatt puts a lot of emphasis on employees developing cross functional experience. The goal is to have a talent pipeline that’s mobile - moving from HR to logistics to supply, for example. Diverse experience gives a deeper understanding of the functions and more holistic view of business.

It’s a chance to network and develop strengths outside their function. When they have opportunities to move up or into other functions, they’ll have a strong foundation. Ten Thousand Coffees helps employees on that journey by facilitating cross-functional connections.

One SmartMatch introduction paired two members of the Sales team, the largest function at Labatt. One was in field sales and the other was in back-end office. Without a program like this, they wouldn't have crossed paths. Soon after they collaborated on a project. The field sales rep was able to access backend sales intelligence. That turned into providing insight to assist their colleague on a specific project. Each got a more holistic view of the sales function and a better understanding of how to meet their objectives.

“It’s difficult to understand what everyone does at Labatt. Ten Thousand Coffees allows you to see different sides of the business that you wouldn’t be able to do day to day.”

- Danielle Galbraith, Talent Manager

Town halls and employee onboarding rituals drive program adoption

Labatt has a long-standing tradition to welcome new employees - a ritual they call “Stein Sessions”. They celebrate new employees they’ve onboarded by having them “Stein in”. It’s a chant that all employees take part in while raising a glass to welcome their new hires.

During these sessions, Galbraith promotes the program to all new and current employees. It’s available to everyone to join. With new employees joining each month, there's always new connection opportunities for members.

Virtual coffee chat or virtual beer chat?

So long as it’s after 2pm, employees in the program can have a virtual beer chat, rather than a virtual coffee chat. It’s one of the perks of working for the world’s largest beer companies.

Labatt employees build connections with colleagues over a beer.

Future growth of the program

A simple connection can spark meaningful connections. For Danielle, she was able to ask a connection for help with negotiating skills. It was a unique opportunity to spend an hour with a VP to level up her skills in that area.

Currently the program focuses on the Toronto head office and GTA employees. Next up: expand regionally. Future state they're looking  at expanding to all levels of the organization - from head office to breweries.

Interested to explore the possibilities?