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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How Beam Suntory Builds Career Growth Into its Culture

From left: Hugo Decrosse, Kaci Shipp, and Eli Johnson of Beam Suntory
From left: Hugo Decrosse, Kaci Shipp, and Eli Johnson of Beam Suntory.
| Courtesy of Beam Suntory

Later this year, Kaci Shipp will complete her doctorate in education, focusing on change management and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She plans to apply what she’s learning in her courses to her work at premium spirits company Beam Suntory, where she is a senior manager of talent and learning delivery within the global supply chain team.

Shipp is earning her doctorate with assistance from Beam Suntory’s tuition reimbursement program, which is available to employees who can demonstrate that the degree will help them in their current or future position with the organization.

“My role includes helping leaders really understand how they can develop the talent they have on their teams,” says Shipp, who joined Beam Suntory three years ago and was promoted into her current position in January 2023. “My program is really focused on things that I do at work, and I feel like it’s making me a better internal consultant who knows how to prepare our leaders.”

Shipp is getting financial assistance—“which is huge for me,” she says—but the support she’s receiving from managers is equally impactful.

“They’ve helped me from a work-life balance perspective, telling me if I need to shut down at 5 p.m. every day to do my homework, I can,” she says. “They’re also constantly asking me how school is going, what I’m learning, and how we can incorporate it.”

Encouraging employees to continue learning and providing top-down support like Shipp is getting are just two ways Beam Suntory is committed to career growth. The organization offers a number of other initiatives, including ongoing coaching, training, and mentorship, as well as matching employees to the right assignments.

By building growth and mobility into its culture, Beam Suntory is able to keep employees engaged and moving up within the organization’s ranks. Here, Shipp and other colleagues share how this approach to learning and development has boosted their careers.

Consistent support from managers

Providing direct reports with feedback—both constructive and positive—is an imperative part of any manager’s role. At Beam Suntory, leaders take it a step further by working closely with team members on planning for their future at the company. This includes having ongoing conversations about their career path and making sure they feel empowered to ask for new on-the-job experiences, stretch projects, or assignments in different business areas or offices within the company.

Take Eli Johnson, a senior on-premise manager for metro New York, who has navigated his way through four roles since joining Beam Suntory in 2015—including on-premise manager positions at the North American headquarters in Chicago and global headquarters in New York City.

Johnson credits his mobility with his willingness to seek out challenging projects that put him in contact with different areas of the business—and having the managerial support to turn his ambitions into reality.

“Managers are always talking to me about the next evolution of my development that can get me to the next level,” he says. “They make sure I know that I’m accountable for my career and understand what I’m passionate about, and then help me make a plan.”

Today, Johnson is using this approach with his own direct reports. “Showing support to take a risk is how we tell our people it’s ok to be comfortable in the uncomfortable,” he says. “It’s alright to try different things and figure out what’s best for you.”

Shipp agrees that conversations with her managers have been vital for her to grow strategically and feel engaged at every step.

“Within the first six to eight months of joining Beam Suntory, my manager at the time started to pinpoint what my strengths were, ask me questions about long-term career growth, and place me on projects that helped me get to my current role,” she says. “You might report to only one person, but it feels like you always have this whole team of people that are really looking out for you.”

Opportunities to learn and experience new things

Beam Suntory has a multifaceted business, and team members who aren’t quite sure where they want to build their careers can apply to be a part of the Training Tomorrow’s Talent program. This rotational program includes a year-long stint in three segments: off-premise, on-premise, and marketing. At the end of three years, employees have a better idea of what they want to pursue.

The rotational program isn’t the only way to gain experience in different business areas. Hugo Decrosse, a credit and collections manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Brazil regions who is based in Madrid, has been at Beam Suntory for six years. Before his current role—his fourth at the company—he worked as a project manager and a credit analyst.

“Global companies can be very segmented, but I think the fact that you can explore different areas here keeps people motivated and curious,” he says. “You have to go the extra mile to get those opportunities, but they are there—and it makes you more inclined to stay at the company.”

Beam Suntory also offers a variety of classroom or self-directed trainings in subject areas such as leadership development or project management, which provide another layer of support for advancement. Decrosse has regularly taken advantage of these opportunities; for example, he obtained project management and Six Sigma certifications and has participated in LinkedIn Learning and Udemy courses.

“I hope to continue learning and building my skills for my next opportunity,” he says.

Support from fellow employees

Having an environment where employees can rally around each other strengthens Beam Suntory’s culture of internal career growth. Instead of competing with colleagues, they can help each other in achieving their goals.

The company has a number of Employee Impact Groups (EIGs), which provide a place for people to talk honestly with coworkers who share similar interests or backgrounds, and foster a sense of belonging, says Johnson, who co-leads Harmony, the EIG for Asian employees.

Mentorship programs also help employees meet people from around the organization, learn about different areas of the company, and expand their networks, says Decrosse, who’s been both a mentee and a mentor. He is also part of a diversity and inclusion team working on gender equity and LGBTQ policy initiatives.

“I really hope to help people, and my team around me, grow,” he says.

Fostering a growth mindset benefits everyone

Shipp, Johnson, and Decrosse agree that Beam Suntory’s commitment to career growth benefits both its people and the company as a whole. When leadership always has your best interests at heart, the result is employees who are more fulfilled and engaged—and more likely to perform well and remain loyal.

“The biggest thing to understand is that we are striving to create not only a workplace that people can be proud of, but also one where they can be happy,” Johnson says.

Decrosse believes the culture of development allows employees to feel heard, and, he adds, “It means you don’t need to look outside of the company for new opportunities and challenges, which is very motivating for employees.”

For her part, Shipp—who will finish up her doctorate program at the end of 2023—is grateful to have found a company where she can not only work long term, but also advance in a strategic way that utilizes her strengths and knowledge.

“The fact that my leaders are invested in making that happen is a large piece of why I continue to stay,” she says. “I feel like Beam Suntory will help me get to where I'm supposed to, and I'm looking forward to seeing what that journey looks like.”