At this time of the year, change is on the minds of many as they contemplate the New Year ahead. Some of the most common things considered at this time of year are:

  • A commitment to weight loss and wellbeing (a recurring challenge for myself at this time of year)
  • Consideration of career options
  • The adoption of a new hobby or leisure pursuit
  • A change in hair colour (a favourite of my beautiful wife – currently a combination of pink, purple and silver for those who are interested in such matters!)
  • House sale or purchase.

Change at William Grant & Sons

Change also comes in a more personal form and within William Grant and Sons. Just before Christmas, we got the very sad news of the passing of our life president, Mr. Charles Gordon. In a very touching and apt fashion, our chairman, Glenn Gordon, paid tribute to the work of his father, highlighting that: ‘as life President of the family business, my father worked ceaselessly on behalf of the company until the very end of his time. There was never a moment when he was not focused on improving some aspect of the company’s business, which was, for him, a lifetime endeavour. There are very few persons, if any, in the whisky industry who will have contributed as much as he has and over such a long time span’.

Do your values define your culture?

The notion of longevity and providing for the long-term has been in our thoughts of late. Within the company, we have a single set of values that our family shareholders and employees work to. This ensures we keep a strong connection with the family and stay true to our important heritage. Being a family-owned company is what makes us unique and allows us to operate in a way that helps us stand apart from our competitors. Our values give us a framework for guiding how we act, do business and make decisions, and they reinforce the behaviours that mean the most to us. They are a very important driver in building our unique company culture.

Ring in the New Year with change

These values were revisited in the latter part of 2013 and witnessed the introduction of a new value: ‘Think long-term: we all care deeply about the long-term prosperity of the business and understand that this long term perspective gives us a major competitive advantage’. How refreshing in an era of focusing on the next quarter’s financial results to be part of an organisation that truly thinks about the long term and creating a genuine legacy.

I read a quote recently by furniture designers Pinch and Bannon, who very eloquently stated: ‘Our style has cemented over the time we have been doing this, particularly as what we do is not about trends. We have had the opportunity to really understand what is important to us in terms of materiality and longevity’. That struck a chord with me, as I believe that change has to be for a reason and for a purpose and it has to be of significance.

How will your organisation evolve this year?

The HR function, more than many others, has been accused of following fashions-of-the-moment. As we face 2014 – a year of potential change for Scotland in particular – let us consider creating change of a more substantial basis, not simply for its own sake. Let us make change that benefits the business; that truly impacts the bottom line, which allows for investment to create a legacy and that supports, recognises and motivates our employees. However, let us not discount and discard what already works well simply because there is a newer option available. Let us create change of real substance for the long haul.

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Written by Gary Brewer, global head of reward & OD, William Grant & Sons

Gary Brewer is global head of reward & OD for William Grant & Sons. He has formerly held lead HR roles across the Pharmaceutical, Financial Services, Media, Transport and Public Sectors. A Fellow of the CIPD, Gary is currently an Employment Tribunal member and has also held various Board and Consultancy appointments.

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