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HR leaders explore key learnings from Drinks Association mentoring program

HR leaders explore key learnings from Drinks Association mentoring program



The Drinks Association has celebrated the conclusion of another successful year of its Inclusive Leadership Program.

It’s the third year that Serendis Leadership has facilitated the program, which aims to enhance a culture of inclusion across the sector by supporting a diversity of talented, aspiring leaders to progress their career while enhancing the inclusive leadership capabilities of all participants, both mentees and mentors.

The Drinks Association's HRD Forum (pictured above), which is chaired by Pernod Ricard's Christian Campanella, met last week with Serendis Leadership Director Bianca Havas for a debrief on the program and its objectives. 

The program’s unique structure addresses three critical levers of change:

1. Grow the leadership pipeline by supporting talented individuals to drive their career and develop their readiness for more senior roles;

2. Enhance participating mentors’ inclusive leadership capabilities and awareness of gender imbalances and diversity challenges; and

3. Develop an inclusive leadership culture within the sector and its organisations.

Over the last three years 134 participants from 15 drinks companies have completed the program, with evaluations indicating a significant positive impact for individuals and sponsoring organisations. 

In 2019, the program built upon previous years’ successes and evolved to include men at mid-career level who are aspiring to leadership. This contributed to the program’s name - The Women in Drinks Mentoring Program - changing to The Drinks Association Inclusive Leadership Program.

This year ALM, Australian Vintage, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Campari, Casella, Coca-Cola Amatil, Diageo, Lion, Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard and Taylors all took part in the program.


“The program has demonstrated the importance and crucial impact that mentoring can have on an individual’s career,” said Havas (pictured above).

“The access to a different perspective and the feedback of a senior leader from another organisation is a unique opportunity for participants. Participants report that the cross-industry nature of the program is a distinct advantage and allows for a more open and honest conversation with their mentor.”

As the program enters its fourth year, Havas said it was inspiring to see the impact it was having on inclusion in the Australian Drinks industry.

“I have observed a heightened awareness from all our mentor and mentee participants around what inclusion is and how it drives performance,” she said. “They are more aware of what it looks like and calling it out when it is not demonstrated.”

Among the mentee comments from this year’s program were:

“Fabulous program – it was great to have an outsider view on what I wanted to achieve and some new frameworks to help how to view the development of career.”

“Excellent program and a game changer for me! It provided genuine change and development in my presentation and confidence.“

“Very insightful, beneficial program that highlights the important topic of inclusion and how to improve it through leadership.”

Among the mentor comments from this year’s program were:

“I have been on a couple of mentoring programs, but this by far was the most professional and well-run program I have had the privilege to be a part of.”

“I'm trying to replicate the pure focus on coaching with my team and more broadly in my organisation. I've made conscious effort to create the space from the day-to-day in my coaching conversations that I have enjoyed and benefited from in my conversations with my mentee.”

“It helped me reconnect with that next level down and a different generation. This provided me with a better understanding of what drives and motivates them.”

HR heads also praised the program during the forum meeting, noting that it was great to build on internal mentoring initiatives within their organisations. They said the Serendis program was useful in that it used different mentoring tools. Both mentees and mentors were passionate about the positive benefits of the program and used what they learned to improve their teams and some even held lunchtime learning sessions to share their knowledge more broadly.   

Mentee panel gives feedback

Three mentees from the 2019 program appeared in a panel session at the HRD Forum.

Lion’s Deb Beverley, ALM’s Soliman Naimey and Brown-Forman’s Helen Tarkanyi were unanimous in their praise for the mentoring initiative.


“Prior to taking part in the program I though leadership was purely about doing my job well,” Naimey said. “But being paired with a mentor who thinks very differently to me was incredibly beneficial. It’s really opened my eyes to how much more is involved in leading a team successfully and how important diversity of thinking is to achieving the best outcomes.”

Beverley agreed: “I have so much more knowledge and appreciation of the benefits of inclusion now and how important it is to have thought diversity in a team.”

Tarakanyi added: “The program emphasised that it’s not just about inviting people to meetings who are going to agree with you. It’s important to encourage everyone to feel comfortable to give their opinions and make them part of the conversation.”

Tarakanyi revealed that after taking part in the program she found the courage to speak up in a meeting when she was left out of the conversation. She said noticed the body language towards her improve when she gave her view on the project that was being discussed.

Naimey said that matching mentees with mentors working in different sectors was also a strength of the program.

“Working in finance means I don’t go to many events,” he said. “I had a strong internal network, but this took me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to the broader industry.”

Tarakanyi said her approach to her career had been permanently improved by taking part in the program: “It’s changed what I say and do and I can’t go back!”



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