How can drinks companies attract the best talent?

With the drinks industry becoming ever more competitive Mark Thorne, global brand director at Chivas Brothers, offers his insights on how companies can develop a graduate programme that will attract the very best talent to help their business thrive.

The drinks industry is one of the most innovative and dynamic in the world. How important is it for companies to attract new talent?

It’s absolutely crucial. Our industry is very competitive, so companies are always looking for new ways to innovate, use technology and engage with both consumers and the trade. That’s why it’s so important to attract people with the right skills, mind-set and attitude. You need to build a workforce that is able to anticipate evolving consumer demands and innovate accordingly.

At Chivas Brothers, we’ve seen how a graduate programme can really add value to a business. Our grads help to promote our portfolio of Scotch whisky and premium gin brands including Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Beefeater all over the world. They consistently bring fresh ideas and a new outlook which injects energy into our existing workforce. On top of that, we’re also able to teach sector specific skills from day one which helps us to develop a more skilled workforce for the future.

Graduate programmes have increased considerably over the past few years. How can businesses ensure theirs stands out from the crowd?

Young people apply for graduate programmes because they want to experience what it’s truly like to work in that industry. Let them. Develop a platform which enables them to stand out from the crowd. The key to success in any graduate programme is being able to offer the candidates real responsibility from day one – and that’s exactly what we do. The drinks industry is dynamic and fast-paced, and candidates should be challenged whilst also given the right support and training to thrive in their roles.

As a global business, we believe there is real value in starting a career overseas. A lot of graduates like the idea of being able to travel and immerse themselves in a different culture. We currently have 44 ambassadors based in 24 markets around the world and each of them will learn a diverse range of skills to help them understand the business from a global perspective.

What development opportunities should drinks companies offer as part of their graduate programme to ensure they are building a more skilled workforce for the future?

As a first step, arm them with the knowledge to become really passionate about your brands. We’re lucky because the spirits industry has so much great heritage. To pass this onto our graduates we wanted to create a training programme which offered a truly immersive experience, giving them the chance to become really passionate about our heritage too. That’s why our grads get to visit all of the distilleries, take part in tasting sessions and learn about Scotch whisky and English gins from the very best in the business. It’s great to see them become more confident and really passionate about what they do.

On top of that, it’s important to allow graduates to showcase what they’re capable of. For our graduates, these career defining moments allow them to put into practise everything they have learnt and could involve delivering a presentation in Spanish to local whisky experts or watching their product take pride of place in a top bar around the world.

What qualities should drinks companies look for in a candidate?

You definitely need lots of energy to work in the drinks industry – particularly if you’re a brand ambassador. The job is really fast-paced and there’s lots of variety. One day you might be delivering an education session to bartenders and the next you could be offering brand support to customers and local brand teams.

Because of this, drinks companies should look for candidates that are driven and have an entrepreneurial spirit. If they are working on campaigns, it’s important for them to have an ability to present information in a compelling and creative way. Remember the key to attracting the right talent is to be really open about the type of skills, knowledge, qualifications and characteristics you’re looking for.

Retention is a challenge for many businesses. How can graduate programmes help to address this?

They offer a great stepping-stone to develop a lifelong career in the drinks industry. By the time the candidates finish a graduate programme they should be armed with the skills to progress into other roles within the business. Then it’s all about giving them the opportunity to grow and develop.

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