BrewDog ‘hasn’t matured in line with firm’s growth’

BrewDog co-founders Martin Dickie (left) and James Watt

Aberdeenshire-based craft brewing giant BrewDog has announced that the independent review of its working culture is now complete and that chairman Allan Leighton and deputy chair Blythe Jack have sent an open letter to all 1,800 staff outlining its findings.

BrewDog hired former Asda chief executive Leighton as chairman to mentor CEO and co-founder James Watt.

The review followed controversial allegations made in an open letter by a group of former employees claiming that the Ellon-based company operates in a “culture of fear.”

The letter to staff from Leighton and Jack said “some people have shared some sensitive and upsetting experiences” and “although time has passed, their stories cannot be ignored or untold” and said employees feel that “BrewDog’s structure hasn’t matured in line with the company’s growth.”

Watt said he fully accepts the findings of the review and accepts he hasn’t always “looked after our people as well as I should have done.”

The letter to staff read: “The founders, James Watt and Martin Dickie, have grown up as leaders in the limelight.

“By their own admission they are still learning – and that hasn’t delivered a consistent and stable people experience …

“The effectiveness of HR within an organisation is a good predictor of the overall people experience.

“Brewdog has evolved with such rapid pace, but the changing faces of HR have lead to inconsistencies with the support employees have experienced.

“The current team hasn’t had the investment it needs and is small compared to the industry average, leaving people feeling they don’t have the support they need …”

In a summary, the letter read: “BrewDog’s employees are really passionate about the brand and want to take positive action towards changing the experience of working at BrewDog.

“However, they feel that BrewDog’s structure hasn’t matured in line with the company’s growth.

“More structured processes for recruitment, progression, communication and HR would make their lives at BrewDog much easier and more fulfilling.

“Some current employees feel uncomfortable speaking up and challenging.

“This is partly related to James’ previous demanding leadership style and the way decisions were made in previous eras.

“It’s clear that teamwork is strongly valued amongst BrewDog’s current employees, and BrewDog needs to ensure this is reflected and lived in the Dogmas.

“In addressing these shortfalls, BrewDog should champion a workforce that are included, engaged and empowered to do the best work they can do.

“Some people have shared some sensitive and upsetting experiences.

“Although time has passed, their stories cannot be ignored or untold.

“The letter has provoked strong reactions from many current employees – some recognised their own experiences within the letter and some didn’t.

“However, one shared goal amongst all is to make BrewDog the best it can be and use these experiences to drive positive change.

“Throughout this review process, there has been significant engagement from BrewDog’s leadership team.

“A genuine commitment to change has been expressed, with dedication to make meaningful changes to BrewDog’s culture and inclusion.

“BrewDog should now look to the future and pledge to build a more positive and consistent people experience, changing the way people think about BrewDog and committing to making Brewdog a great place to work.”

Watt said: “I fully accept the findings of the review and that in these areas we have not met our crew members’ expectations.

“I take personal responsibility for this as CEO.

“I have often said how I am still learning in this role – when we set BrewDog up we could never have imagined how quickly we would grow and before BrewDog I was working on a fishing boat.

“I accept I haven’t always looked after our people as well as I should have done.

“It’s been the most important lesson I have learned in my career thus far.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.