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Belonging in beer: inclusion where I least expected it
No longer just “a beer company” in my mind, Lion is an empowering, authentic and inclusive place of some 6,700 passionate people.
Daniel Connolly, Talent Brand Manager at Lion, shares his experience working with the organisation:
Perceptions are a funny thing. They influence so many decisions and actions in our lives: the products we buy, the clothes we wear, the people we admire – or don’t– and, increasingly the employers we choose or aspire to work for.
Seven years ago, I joined Lion quite unaware what kind of company and employer I was signing up for. Seven years ago, marriage equality in Australia had not been realised, workplace attitudes on diversity & inclusion were not the same and society was a different place for people of the LGBTI community. How much further we’ve come.
I didn’t know anyone who worked for “a beer company”.
Having come from a company previously where LGBTI people were actively and overtly embraced in the workplace, I was dubious as to what to expect coming to (what I thought to be) just “a beer company”. I didn’t know anyone who worked for a beer company. I’d not heard of Lion and had never really been a beer drinker or frequenter of pubs. For many in the LGBTI community the stereotypical Aussie image of entering a raucous pub full of men drinking beer can be a little daunting (à la Priscilla Queen of the Desert). Would we feel welcomed? And what of working at the companies that make beer? Could we belong?
Like most prospective job candidates, I asked around with various friends if they knew Lion and what it was like. Surprisingly, two friends had – and both had overwhelmingly positive things to say. One, a close friend, worked at a firm of which Lion was a client and said: “Oh the people there are great, so nice to deal with, really enjoy working with them”. This was reassuring.
After receiving the good news of the offer, I recall my pre-day one reflections around whether I could fully be myself working “at a beer company”. Like many people, the thought of having to “fit in” somewhere and not be your whole self or conceal a part of you is a troubling one. It was something I’d not had to do in a long time. As I was joining Lion on a 12 month contract initially, I didn’t expect to be staying around for too long and resolved to accept whatever came with the territory of working for “a beer company”.
Day one came and I left the office that day feeling super pumped…
Thankfully, these concerns were unfounded. And my perceptions more than a little inaccurate. Day one came and not only did I leave the office that day feeling super pumped and engaged, but I quickly learnt that Lion was much more than simply “a beer company” (having around 150+ brands across more than 14 food categories!).
What I have discovered at Lion is a culture of true authenticity, of trust and humility, led by highly capable & inspiring leaders. This has been incredibly empowering. Understanding what authenticity really means can be difficult to discern until you’re surrounded by people who live and breathe it every day. It was this focus which prompted much introspection around my own conscious and unconscious sense of self, and how I engage with others not only at work but in my personal life. Being more prone to seeking harmony and avoiding conflict in the past, how could I be more open in my development opportunities, how I felt, what I communicated and in understanding others? To develop yourself at a company not only professionally but also personally, feels extraordinary and the mark of a truly great place to work.
The other thing I noticed was how much people trusted and supported each other: trust in abilities and intentions, offers of help and allowing you to just get on with the job. And this trust and support extended to everyone: women, men, diverse cultural backgrounds, LGBTI, new starters, long tenured, junior and more senior people etc. This was inclusion.
Lion’s work on gender equality makes me truly proud…
Lion’s commitment to equality and inclusion is highlighted in the larger actions at an organisational level too: publicly supporting marriage equality in Australia, contributing to the LGBTI awards through our Little Creatures brand and receiving the Rainbow Tick certification in New Zealand. Our work on gender equality makes me truly proud: in 2016 Lion closed the gender pay gap across the business in terms of like for like roles and continue to work actively to keep it closed. We’ve implemented a 50:50 gender balance target by 2026 across the business, launched a Women@Lion leadership program and introduced Unconscious Bias training. These actions are driven by clear strategies and a genuine commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality, and have been recognised through receiving the WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality Citation in Australia and the GenderTick in New Zealand. And I’m proud that in my role, I get to contribute to this every day through diverse talent attraction.
Lion has been a transformative experience for me professionally and personally. I’ve learnt more about people, culture and myself than I ever expected to learn in a workplace. I won’t forget the parting words of a former Lion colleague in New Zealand when she finished up to pursue a different opportunity: “You don’t join Lion just for the job, you join Lion to become a better version of yourself”. Too true.
No longer just “a beer company” in my mind, Lion is truly an empowering, authentic and inclusive place of some 6700 passionate people (that make great beers & more!). The funny thing about perception is we don’t usually notice it changing at the time; we only notice the difference after the passing of time. And when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at – change. And we’re all the better for it.
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
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