How Artisanal Spirits Prioritise Employee Development

Andrew Heath · November 30, 2023


Artisanal Spirits and Laura Hardie, their Business Partner turned HR Manager are reimagining their performance management process to ensure every individual can discuss their progression and development opportunities in a dedicated, quality 1:1s every month.

To achieve this, Laura has moved the organisation away from an annual, DIY process and partnered with WeThrive to deliver consistent, quality conversations for all their people.

What challenges did Artisanal Spirits experience?

After digging deeper to see what her employees thought, Laura learned that many “never get time any with my manager to talk about me”, “never get to talk about my development”, and some felt that “they don’t have a plan in place for me” which often wasn’t the case, but the employee perception was having a negative impact on morale.

While some objectives were being set for employees, this was happening at varying levels and with no consistent strategy across teams. Laura noted,

“There was no benchmark for comparison and evidence that people were progressing. Without clear, consistent objectives progression was impossible.”

Lastly, having only ever taken an annual approach to performance reviews, objectives became quickly outdated and irrelevant within six months. Laura felt

“an annual review became null and void as the business moved quite quickly. Objectives were no longer valid because we’d changed something and there was there’s no real way of recording that and looking back.”

Putting employees and managers in the driving seat

After deciding an annual, internal approach wasn’t cutting it, Artisanal Spirits partnered with WeThrive to empower their managers and employees to elevate their performance review process.

They began by taking a hands-off approach, using the best practice questionnaire templates that allowed managers and employees to shape their sessions as they saw fit. Laura remarks

“Our view is that it’s not up to us to decide what an individual wants. One of the reasons we chose to work with WeThrive is that it puts the performance and development in the hands of the people who are doing it.”

This less parental approach comes highly recommended by Lucy Adams, who believes it’s an individual’s responsibility as an adult to have regular and ongoing grown-up conversations about how they’re perceived and the contributions they’re making.

Laura has already noticed that for some, this means less frequent 1:1s, and from January employees who have been with Artisanal Spirits for more than a year will have the option to have these conversations quarterly.

Similarly, next year from January, this will also be in the hands of the line managers, who will be sending out their own performance reviews with the questions directed to their team as they see fit.

Transformative results

After just five months, the results have been spectacular, with more valuable feedback than ever before and 1:1s taking place on a consistent, regular basis.

The people team have received at least 50% more development requests from employees, according to Laura. She remarks

“If we had waited annually for these conversations, we might not have been able to pick them all up. However, having all of these throughout the year when they are instantly flagged enables our employees to be far more agile in terms of how they adopt and tackle their projects.”

“We’re getting more requests for development than I have ever seen. From requests for courses throughout the year to spending time shadowing other people in the business, and specific programmes or leadership management. This has been driven by their monthly WeThrive 1:1s and it’s also allowing managers to send structured, evidence-based requests rather than just stabs in the dark.”

From a big picture, strategic viewpoint, Laura shares that

“WeThrive has definitely put individuals’ development at the forefront of our agenda and on the line managers’ agenda. It’s made them aware that there is an expectation from the business that we have a duty to develop our team and people shouldn’t want to stand still.”

Empowering managers to evolve

To achieve these results, there has been a strong focus on ensuring that leaders and managers in the business are regularly using WeThrive’s platform to read their people’s results and host regular 1:1s.

Following the rollout of WeThrive, Laura has invested a lot of time in training and supporting managers, spending time walking managers through a best-practice process from beginning to end. She believes

“Managers really need to be pushing this within their teams – it’s a skill. It’s not that I think individuals shouldn’t drive their own development, but our culture comes from the leader, and line managers should always encourage their people.”

This has quickly become ingrained in Artisanal Spirits’ managers’ routine, with Laura recalling a few occasions where she was late sending out a monthly review, “it was surprising the amount of emails I received, and messages asking “where’s my WeThrive questionnaire?”

What’s next in 2024?

From January, the executive team will be implementing OKRs, and cascading these through the business to ensure each team is aligned with the strategic goals and vision of the company. “When teams see how their jobs link to the purpose and to the overall objectives for the company this will help everyone understand how they contribute.”

Laura will also be using the data and talent snapshot within WeThrive as evidence for allocating bonuses.

“As much as this is about people’s development when we award our annual bonuses, we need to have a body of evidence that we use to allocate people their reward.”

Using WeThrive’s talent snapshots and awarding bonuses based on their “red, amber, green” results will also help encourage managers who are not using the platform at full capacity to get the most out of their accounts. Laura hopes to create more WeThrive manager advocates to “share their best practice” and encourage others to get the most value from their insights.

By using the full range of tools in WeThrive, Laura and the team can continue to build a more strategic, organised performance management process. She notes that “Rather than having any additional documents, we can actually do it all and store this information on WeThrive.”

“This is an exciting time at Artisanal Spirits and we’re looking forward to supporting our people’s growth and development in 2024.”

Laura Hardie
HR Manager, Artisanal Spirits PLC