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Hi.

Welcome to my blog on company culture! I’m traveling the country visiting companies with great workplace cultures and writing about them. Why? Find out here.

Julia Kortberg

julia@touringwithpurpose.com

CV#4 Harpoon: Beer is Fun & People Are At The Center of What We Do

CV#4 Harpoon: Beer is Fun & People Are At The Center of What We Do

COMPANY AT A GLANCE

Founded: 1986 by three friends, Dan Kenary, Rich Doyle, and George Ligeti, who all loved beer, but couldn’t find what they were looking for in their local pubs. After a trip to Europe and drinking lots of diverse and local beers, they applied for Brewing Permit #001 in the Commonwealth of MA and Massachusetts Bay Brewing Company (known for their Harpoon Beer) was born.

Ownership: 48% ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and the remaining is shared among Company Directors, including Dan Kenary

Employees: 200 full time, 100 part-time, 75 per diem (Tasters, Sales Support) | Revenue: $60 Million in 2017

Core Values: Currently, revising them: 1) People are at the center of what we do. 2)  We challenge each other to be our best. 3) We're proudly independent. 4) Beer is fun.

Mission: Love Beer Love Life

Community: Harpoon Helps- the charitable arm of Harpoon brewery which donates thousands of dollars in swag and beer to New England charities and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars through their brewery fundraising events.

 Employee-Led Tour of Harpoon Brewery

Employee-Led Tour of Harpoon Brewery

LET THE TOUR BEGIN

I can’t remember the last time I had a beer on a Monday around noon– but let me tell you, it was fantastic. When I arrived at the Massachusetts Bay Brewing Company, commonly known as “Harpoon”, I jumped right into an employee-led tour of the brewery. For an hour, we toured the brewery, learned about their brewing process, and of course, drank the beer. (Personal favorite is the Harpoon IPA).  The tour was led by two recently hired part-time employees, who spoke very highly of the culture. When I asked them what they loved most about it, their responses were on point with Harpoon’s core values: the people and the beer!

After the tour, I met briefly with Rich Ackerman (Director of HR) and Chris Bonaci (VP of Marketing) to chat about their culture. Our time was short and sweet, so we dove into their core values and how they’re lived in the day to day of the organization:

 Pictured Left to Right: Well, me; Rich Ackerman, HR Director; Chris Bonacci, VP of Marketing

Pictured Left to Right: Well, me; Rich Ackerman, HR Director; Chris Bonacci, VP of Marketing

MAIN TAKEAWAYS:

1. Company Values Start with The Hiring Process 

Because “People are at the center of what they do” Harpoon has a very labor intensive hiring practice to ensure that they’re bringing on the right people who fit their company culture. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: It starts with a 30-45 minute phone screen with the hiring manager. They're looking to see whether the candidate can do the job and if the job is right for them.

Step 2: The second step is The Predictive Index, a behavioral and cognitive assessment, which evaluates how the candidate would perform their role and relate to others. Harpoon does not rely solely on these results, but rather, uses the assessment results to provide context for the third and final part of the interview, which is where they’re especially vetting for culture fit.

Step 3: The candidate has as many as nine, 30-minute back-to-back interviews with the following people: three people from their potential future department, three people from the leadership team, and three people who are both outside of the leadership team and the department, to assess for culture fit.

To remain as objective as possible, each interviewer has a scorecard with six objectives to evaluate both skills and culture fit: 

  1. I feel the candidate has the professional qualifications needed to perform the job:
  2. I feel the candidate understands what is expected of them to be successful in the position:
  3. I feel the candidate understands MBBC's culture and will be a strong ambassador for the brand:
  4. This candidate was well prepared for the interview:
  5. The candidate built a good rapport during the interview and had a positive attitude:
  6. What further information could be used to better determine that this candidate is the right fit for the position at MBBC?

While the process can certainly be exhausting for the candidate, it also gives them a good idea of the types of people they would be working with at Harpoon. Furthermore, it creates group ownership for the hiring committee who agreed that the person would be a great fit for the company. They are invested in the new hires success and the new hire is proud to be there.

 A Monday afternoon at Harpoon (By the way these people are all here to drink beer, may sound obviously, but seriously the only food Harpoon serves are soft pretzels and pretzel chips). The rest of the menu is on tap.

A Monday afternoon at Harpoon (By the way these people are all here to drink beer, may sound obviously, but seriously the only food Harpoon serves are soft pretzels and pretzel chips). The rest of the menu is on tap.

2. On-boarding Mentors Make a Huge Impact In Employee Satisfaction

For over 15 years, Harpoon has had an on-boarding mentorship program to help new employees have a successful transition in the organization.

For the first 45 days, the new hire is assigned to an on-boarding mentor who is outside of their department. The reason for this is because Harpoon found that many employees disliked going to their direct managers for simple questions like “Where’s the closest bathroom?” or “What’s the name of that one guy in the marketing department?” With these on-boarding mentors, employees feel comfortable asking all types of questions because the expectation is established from the get-go. In addition to being able to ask questions, these on-boarding mentors have a regular meeting cadence with employees to have deeper dive check-ins.

 Just happened to see this sign tucked away in the corner. I asked Chris and Rich about it later and they said that every year they close the company for a day to celebrate being employee owners.

Just happened to see this sign tucked away in the corner. I asked Chris and Rich about it later and they said that every year they close the company for a day to celebrate being employee owners.

3. Think Like Owners

In 2014, when former CEO, Rich Doyle, sold his shares to the company, Harpoon became a 48% ESOP – An Employee Stock Ownership Program. As described on Harpoon’s website, an ESOP is a program where “a company contributes to its employees’ retirement by allocating shares to them, which it then repurchases at fair market value upon cessation of employment.” For more information on their ESOP, check out the article here. Another incredible part of this program is that employees are educated on the financial health of the company monthly in all-company meetings. Leadership reviews revenue, expenses, sales and other line items so that all employees can understand the financial health of the organization.

 Recognizing Employee Ideas That Have Been Implemented

Recognizing Employee Ideas That Have Been Implemented

4. The Best Ideas Come from Employees: Ideas Wall

One of the programs that resulted by becoming an ESOP, was the Ideas Wall. In the spirit of employee ownership, all employees are welcome to submit ideas that will improve the company. Leadership evaluates the ideas and the ones with merit that also fall below a certain cost threshold are vetted and implemented – speeding up innovation. To celebrate the idea and the owner, they are framed on the Ideas Wall! Ideas range from improving the brewing process to finding ways to better care for customers.

 The best part of the Harpoon Tour-- tasting their beers. 

The best part of the Harpoon Tour-- tasting their beers. 

5. Beer is Fun: A Core Value

Nine times out of ten, I get frustrated when a company tells me that they have a great culture because they have beer in their office. Beer is not company culture, unless you’re Harpoon of course. Not only is beer what they do, but “Beer is Fun” is one of their core values. So, how do they live that out? Well, a few examples include “Welcome Beers” with everyone on staff to celebrate and introduce new employees to the team. They also have Harpoon Festivals, which are large scale beer events that employees put on for the public and engage the community. Another event (an employee favorite) is the annual European “beer culture” trips for employees celebrating their 5th (or 8th, 12th, 17th etc.) anniversary at Harpoon. Led by CEO, Dan Kenary, they travel as a group for one week to beer meccas like Dublin, Prague, Brussels, or Munich to taste beers, bond with one another, and seek inspiration for future beers that Harpoon can create.

 

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