By Jennifer Breckner, Craft Maltsters Guild

Striving to have a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is a long-term commitment. It is a worthwhile process that promises fruitful and important ROI for those who stay the course. In 2021, the Guild worked with Dr. J Jackson-Beckham of Crafted for All to undertake a self-assessment, while providing members with the opportunity to learn alongside us. We encourage our members to make the Crafted For All commitment and to explore the inclusivity of their company mission statements. From there, it’s time to examine and shift your hiring process to become more inclusive. 

First, let’s look at why we want a more diverse talent pool. Different people bring different experiences and talent to your malthouse, brewery, distillery, or farm. Having a workforce from all walks of life means that there is a capacity for greater innovation and problem-solving. In addition, workforce diversity offers inroads to communities that may not be engaging with your company, which is good for your culture and your bottom line.

2021 statistics from the Brewers Association offer that 93.5% of craft brewery ownership is white (non-Latino). Dr. J offers that most ethnic and racial diversity is concentrated in non-managerial positions. While similar statistics don’t exist yet for the craft malt industry, we know we need to do better. This can make it hard when looking to expand the pool from which you hire. Bias is a natural part of how our brains work and humans tend to seek familiarity and the ease of being around similar people when they look to hire. One of the most important steps toward changing your culture is to understand your biases and implement strategies to combat them. Reevaluate who you see as your workforce and your customer base, as well as your hiring practices, taking a critical eye to how you sift through materials and your interview process. Dr. J offers, “It is important to hire for culture growth, not a culture fit.”

The next step then is to strategize how to improve the employment pipeline and be intentional and transparent about your process. Dr. J offers that you should begin by looking at inclusive job announcements and comparing them to yours before you even begin to write. Make sure to update your job descriptions as your business grows and evolves. Avoid gendered language, and overwhelming a description with skills that are aimed at the ideal or dream candidate and not relevant. Instead, tailor the language to what a person will specifically work on and think about candidates to fill roles who can grow and learn on the job. Create a brand statement that addresses company culture and is transparent about salary and benefits. 

Lastly, Crafted For All suggests we seek out productive and unconventional partnerships with organizations in the business of getting diverse groups hired. Think outside of the box in terms of the placement of your position announcement and look for new places to advertise. You need to get outside of your comfort zone to attract a more diverse crew. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to make an effort and be committed to change. 

“To be honest,” explains Dr. J., “There are very few things in life, leisure, and business that you get right the first time out. The thing to remember is that conflict is not inherently bad, it’s a normal human communication that can be managed well— or not.” 

This link from Forbes is a good place to start. The Brewers Association’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Resource Hub and the American Cider Association’s Anti-Racism, Equity, & Inclusion page are also valuable troves of resources. 

*The wisdom included in this article comes in part from Dr. J’s talk at the Guild’s 2022 Craft Malt Conference, “Working From Inside Out: Pipeline Development and Recruitment Strategies.”