Bringing Diversity to Hiring Practices

Word of mouth doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to finding and hiring new employees. Bringing in a diverse applicant pool has become an essential practice for many breweries.

In June of 2020, California’s Topa Topa Brewing launched its Inclusion, Equity, and Justice Committee to help promote training, events, and partnerships that bring awareness and action to diversity and inclusion.

“We are actively working to become more proactive and have set an intention to place job postings in multiple places online; some cast a wide net to the general public and some target specific diverse local communities,” explained HR & Public Relations Director Heidi McElvaney. “One of our focuses is casting a wider job posting net.

“In the past, we have hired most employees through word of mouth and friends. This, while easy, doesn’t promote a lot of diversity among employees.”

READ MORE: MadTree Announces Scholarship & Sponsorship For Cincinnati State Brewing Science Program

So while Topa Topa is taking a close look at job descriptions to see where they can alter the required experience to be broader and more inclusive of diverse backgrounds, the brewery is even looking at deleting needed experience requirements to see if they can provide complete on-the-job training for that role instead.

Getting those roles filled though still takes inspection into developing important lines of communication in a job interview.

So what are some key questions McElvaney finds unique in finding the right hire for Topa Topa?

For a beertending position in one of the brewery’s five California taprooms, she said her favorite interview question is “are you a people person?”

“This seems obvious but, we have found that this question is an important one to ask,” McElvaney said. “It correlates with how this person will likely interact with customers. We view our taprooms as community hubs and we want all our beertenders to be comfortable and to really enjoy interacting, engaging, and talking with every customer that walks through our door.

“If you do not enjoy engaging with all people — long-time customers and friends, as well as first-time customers or tourists — this job, may not be a great fit for you.”

As for interviewing for a taproom management position, a question she finds important to ask is “how would you handle cutting off a customer?”

“This question hones in on how confident, commanding and tactful the candidate is while also honing in on how empathetic, graceful, and thoughtful they are,” she said. “It pretty much sums up their management style.”

After a hire, retention becomes an important aspect as well. Topa Topa has begun to look deeper into developing new onboarding strategies with a new software platform as well.

Gauging current employee happiness and having a process to report and resolve issues is paramount and McElvaney said that in the past, Topa Topa has done biannual employee surveys.

“Our surveys can be submitted with a name attached or anonymously — it’s up to the employee,” she said. “These have been very insightful at gauging happiness and job satisfaction.”

But now, the brewery is looking to leverage its new HR platform to do one-to-five-question surveys much more regularly.

“These surveys help us focus on specific areas of need and understanding,” McElvaney said. “We also have an employee anonymous suggestion and comment form available on our internal website but we have gained more understanding and knowledge through the surveys than through this channel.”

And of course, good old-fashioned communication is key. An open-door policy at Topa Topa allows employees to ask or approach HR about anything, anytime.

“When an employee comes to HR with a question or concern, we strive to drop everything else we are doing to focus all our attention and energy on that employee and on that question or concern immediately,” McElvaney. “We work with the employee to get them the information they need and we make sure to follow up regularly post-conversation as needed.”

Photo courtesy Natalie Tyson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *