Adnams Case Study

The world of hospitality has faced some challenging times throughout Covid, and the so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ doesn’t make the landscape a great deal smoother.

Companies like Adnams are all too aware of this, and it’s a credit to them that their focus is very firmly on employee and tenant wellbeing.

We’ve been finding out more.

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Name: Andy Wood, CEO

Business: Adnams

Core Business Function: Award winning brewer, hotelier and wine merchant

Total Staff: 500 (going up to 600 in peak season)


How significant is your approach to employee wellbeing within your business, and where does it stem from?

The genesis of employee wellbeing is in our purpose and our values.

We designed and implemented our organisational values 20 years ago, and that involved investing in our people and making them feel a sense of belonging, and of being well supported.

What specifics can you point to, which represent the features of your wellbeing delivery at Adnams?

Today, I’m proud to say we have a very comprehensive employee wellbeing programme. We refer to it as ‘Holistic Living’.

Under this banner, people can have things like counselling for mental health, financial wellbeing support and physical support such as reflexology and reiki – it really is very broad and is considered to be fundamental to caring for our staff.

How is this ‘attitude’ toward wellbeing embedded within your team – particularly at a managerial level?

We deliberately develop our managers to put their team front and centre.

We want them to recognise the signs of poor wellbeing, and to know how to support their teams and be aware of what the company offers.

We have a digtial training platform which extends beyond core skills – called Good Habitz. It’s a proprietary piece of software which we purchased from a Dutch company five years ago.

How was that received within the business? Was everyone happy to partake in it from the outset?

It could be argued that perhaps it was initially seen as ‘something else to do’, but our people have come to recognise that this is a vital way of developing themselves, and supporting others.

The information and insights we get from it is vast. It features all kinds of experts, as well as people like Dutch football legend Ruud van Nistelrooy discussing leadership. Contributors like that interest people and naturally mean it is taken seriously.

Was Adnams already very aware of wellbeing and the need to have specific support initiatives in place for staff before Covid, or was it the pandemic which led to some of this activity?

Our counselling programmes have been in place for some time, and certainly we had a number of tools to turn to immediately.

Having said that, we made further changes in light of Covid, specifically because we were equipped to recognise how people’s wellbeing might be further impacted.

For example, during Covid we created an employee hardship fund which could be used very confidentially.

We were aware of the fears and vulnerabilities our staff would be experiencing, and so it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Presumably these sorts of approaches are coming into line again, with the Cost of Living Crisis being so widely discussed?

Yes. We’ve got a similarly approached fund in place, and that’s being administered through a third party charity so it is again completely anonymous. This removes the stigma for people, and it’s the same way we approach the counselling service we offer.

Again, that’s offered via a third party and doesn’t need anyone to have to discuss or refer through their immediate colleagues.

As part of recognising the financial difficulties of staff, you did also move to become a Real Living Wage Employer during Covid?

Yes. We had the insight that there would be difficulty in retaining staff so this was very much the right thing to do and I hope our teams are appreciative.

Do you think in general Covid has caused employers to reconsider the wellbeing of their workforce, in a manner which was very much overdue?

I certainly believe the pandemic period has been a period of reflection.

It made employers look differently at the needs of their staff, but it also caused employees – in many sectors – to look differently at their lifestyle and their family and career choices.

As you can imagine, staff in a company like Adnams experienced Covid in different ways, depending on whether they were doing their role from home, or were required to be out on the road as drivers or working in the brewery.

About 30% can do their job at home but we are very conscious we don’t want to create a two tier system.

The hospitality industry has certainly lost lots of people in the last couple of years because of what’s happened to the country, and we did a number of things at the time – for example, we cancelled the rents for our tenants as soon as the announcement was made in March 2020 – our tenants are our business partners and again employ hundred of people. We wanted to do all we could to ensure our pubs survived.

And no doubt you’re worried about the way in which wellbeing of this group of tenants, as well as other employees, might be impacted if the Cost of Living Crisis rumbled on?

For sure. This period certainly feels as difficult for people as it did for Covid. I would go so far as to say we are on high alert in how we are dealing with that.

What other practicalities and tactics are in place as part of your wellbeing efforts?

We always carry out exit interviews so that we can learn from people leaving and understand if we could have done more.

We have a whistleblowing policy to allow people to speak up, plus we have our own social media platform, which enables staff to post things about their work – giving us an early warning system about how they may be feeling.

In addition to that, we have on occasion had guest speakers to come in and talk about issues which may be relevant to wellbeing.
Our whole team days are also a valued undertaking, helping to bring people together and make sure that there are still opportunities to physically come together.

Sum up the Adnams attitude to wellbeing in five words:

Supporting one another to succeed


Imagery by Anthony Cullen