HR head Juliette Bourne on spearheading diversity within the spirits industry

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Juliette Bourne, head of HR at Edward Snell & Co., believes diversity in the independent spirits sector has become increasingly pivotal.

As discussions about gender equality gain more attention worldwide, the traditional roles occupied by women in industry are becoming more important. At Edward Snell & Co., this growing reality is not just a statistic to be acknowledged but is viewed as an opportunity to redefine the landscape of human resources.

Juliette Bourne, head of HR at Edward Snell &. Co. says that much still needs to be done in this facet of the industry.

“I acknowledge that there are still many challenges that women face in the workplace, particularly in traditionally male-dominated industries, but much like we started talking about transformation and BBBEE more than 15 years ago, the narrative needs to change from statements like ‘we are inviting’, ‘strategies to address’ and 'seat at the table’.

The real action required is to actively drive equal opportunity and inclusivity within the workplace to facilitate diversity of thought, of ideas, and of cultures.”

However, despite significant strides taken toward driving inclusivity, hurdles persist. “The biggest hurdle in fostering and empowering diverse leaders is us,” she reflects candidly. “It is so hard letting go of tried and tested ways of working. “Old habits die hard, but with visionary leadership and a commitment to change, I’m confident that we will overcome these obstacles.”

Change comes from the top

One such beacon of change, she says, is the managing director at Edward Snell & Co. Karin Krause Wessels.

“Her future-focused approach to talent management has catalysed transformation within the organisation. At Edward Snell & Co., diversity is not just about witnessing a shift in demographics; it’s about embracing the richness of perspectives that will ultimately propel us forward.”

Juliette’s proactive stance to cultivating an inclusive culture includes inviting participation into decisions that will impact the world of work. The company’s in person staff engagements and events are curated with the team in mind. For instance, traditional employee wellness events are customised towards regionally specific employee requirements, mirroring the same “private client” feel that Edward Snell & Co. provides its customers.

“We recently celebrated 175 years of Edward Snell & Co. where all staff were invited to this milestone event. Themed ‘African Luxury,’ each team member received an allowance to support them in looking their African-luxury-best, however they interpreted it. This is just one example of the organisation’s commitment to providing equal access to opportunities and resources for all employees.”

But the journey towards inclusivity is not only made possible through grand scale events. Juliette notes that “it is key to strive towards ensuring all employee touchpoints are representative of the diversity in our workforce.”

However, amid the pursuit of innovation, she emphasises the importance of having foundational HR practices in place. “As a proudly South African independent spirits business, we prioritise the sustained wellbeing of our employees. Our HR practices serve to elevate and empower individuals. All these “fun” initiatives are built upon the bedrock of fair labour practices, sound talent management, and best practice industry benchmarking,” she notes. “Without these fundamentals in place, our journey toward cultural inclusivity wouldn’t be as impactful.”

When asked about what is needed to drive change in the industry, Juliette highlights that “old-school perspectives, synonymous with tenured, senior leadership is ultimately what’s holding us back.” Traditional Exco’s have come up through the ranks working 5-days-onsite work weeks whilst drinking instant coffee from a pot,” she exclaims. “The world of work is constantly evolving, and it’s important, now more than ever, to embrace these changes and invite new perspectives; perspectives that only come with having diversity of thought around the table.”

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