Amatil driving diversity by paying it forward

Coca-Cola Amatil’s Alcohol & Coffee business has launched a new internal mentoring program aimed at nurturing a culture of inclusive leadership and fast-tracking emerging talent.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s Alcohol & Coffee business has launched a new internal mentoring program aimed at nurturing a culture of inclusive leadership and fast-tracking emerging talent.

The program was created by two emerging leaders from Amatil’s sales team, Danielle Beale and Tonya Cronin, who launched Project Pay It Forward to share the inspiration they received from the industry-wide Women in Drinks mentoring program, launched last year by The Drinks Association in partnership with Serendis Leadership, as a targeted measure to help address the underrepresentation of women in managerial positions in the industry. Women make up just 2 per cent of C suite and 22 per cent of senior leadership roles in the drinks industry, compared to Australian averages of 27 and 33 per cent respectively. (Source: AON Hewitt research, WGEA scorecard 2015).

As talented National Business Managers within Amatil’s Alcohol & Coffee sales team, Danielle and Tonya were among six emerging Amatil leaders to take part in last year’s Women in Drinks program. “One of our learnings from that was that leadership is about creating an inclusive culture where everyone is valued, empowered and supported, and the team and business benefits as a result,” said Beale.

“So from the start we were clear in our minds that we had to create a program that supported emerging talent, male or female, across our business and within the brand partners that we work so closely with.”

The program’s impact in helping Amatil fast-track inclusive leadership has seen the pair backed to lead the rapid roll out of Project Pay it Forward across its Alcohol & Coffee businesses in both Australia and Fiji, with discussions also taking place about potential expansion across the company’s other Australian-based Group and Australian Beverages teams.

Among those to praise the new project was Serendis partner and inclusive leadership expert Bianca Havas, who developed the Women in Drinks mentoring program that helped inspire the change. “Inclusion is the key to unlocking the value of diversity and we are already observing the business benefits accrued by companies who have taken early and decisive action to shift their culture. Often leaders misunderstand the subtlety of what inclusion really is. Inclusion is more than being ‘nice’ or having a ‘friendly’ culture. It requires conscious effort and awareness because whether you are nice r not, if you are not consciously including, you’re are most probably unconsciously excluding, and therefore not harnessing the value of your people.

“The ripple effect of any mentoring program is crucial to shifting an organisation’s culture so it’s rewarding to see two emerging leaders from Amatil paying it forward and embedding the value of diversity and inclusion into their organisation. Cultural and behavioural change is hard so the more we can support each other and hold each other to account, the faster the changes will occur.”

Echoing her sentiments, Cronin added, “We were amongst the six females given the opportunity to take part in the first WiD program last year and found it such a great opportunity for our personal and career development, we couldn’t help but think that there are so many others, both in our team and across the rest of the business, who could benefit like we did.

“We started thinking, what if we took the learnings, insight and confidence we got out of the program and replicated that internally so that everyone in our business could benefit? We could create a multiplier effect.”

And that’s exactly what they did. The duo put their proposal to Alcohol & Coffee Managing Director Shane Richardson and the business’ executive team and got their instant support for a threemonth, 10-pair trial, with every leader also putting themselves forward as a mentor. The program fitted well with Amatil’s existing leadership and mentoring programs, My Mentor and Women Leading@Amatil, which are broader programs for all Australia-based employees.

That was July, and by September, they’d developed the framework, launched to the business and rolled out the application process.

“We got 26 applications and managed to extend the program to a total of 14 mentees. We officially kicked off on 28 September and we’ve been blown away by the feedback from everyone involved. What’s struck us most is how mentoring programs don’t just benefit the mentees, it was also seen as a development opportunity for our mentors. As with the Women in Drinks program, the majority of our mentors were male (like the pool of senior management they’re drawn from). Feedback from our mentors pointed to the opportunity to see things from their mentee’s perspective, stand in a different set of shoes, and benefit from a different perspective to their own. In some cases, it was a case of seeing blind spots, and it’s helped them all to develop a more inclusive leadership style.” Following the success of last year’s inaugural industry-wide Women in Drinks mentoring program, The Drinks Association recently announced the program would continue into 2018, with applications due by March 29, the matching process taking part in April and the initial mentee workshop scheduled for May 10. Said Women in Drinks Chair Jennifer Collins, "The council of WID regards the
mentoring program as an integral part of our strategy to inspire, support and educate our industry as we strive to drive greater gender balance by attracting retaining and developing female talent. It's a fantastic endorsement of the value of the program that many businesses have re-signed for the second year and new businesses are joining.

"The program is important not only in the value it adds to mentees, but also to mentors in gaining that one-to-one understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing women in our industry. We are looking forward to working with Serendis again in 2018."