Respect the Process: MillerCoors Employees Blend Art & Science to Create Great Beer

Laurel Griffith

Monday, November 5th, 2012

“MillerCoors hires good people,” says Tim Dill, Vice President of MillerCoors Albany brewery.  He explains the thorough interview process reveals how potential employees rate in six key areas: passion for beer, commitment to the customers, bias for action, connection with people, sense of pride and integrity, and the desire to learn. Dill says the brewery’s human resource department also performs technical and competency testing, as well as background checks to “learn a little about the person.”

“These days employers have the opportunity to interview a lot of individuals to get to the right employee for the job. The effort has paid off. We brought the right people in at the right times.”

The brewery has been in Albany for 33 years, and according to Dill, that kind of longevity means there is a real dichotomy among their 600 employees. 

“Up until four or five years ago, it was rare to have a significant number of people retire, but now we have 125 employees who have been here for more than 30 years.”  That means the brewery has blended new hires with long-term employees. The transition has been smooth and the combination of experience and fresh perspective is a good one. 

Experienced employees bring a breadth and depth of knowledge to daily operations.  Dill says, “They have seen the evolution of 33 years in the beer business. They understand customer expectations and the expectations of parent companies.

Long-term employees know when something was tried fifteen years earlier, and what happened then. “

New employees make a different kind of contribution to the brewery.  Dill says they bring new talents and great energy, arriving with an appreciation for having found a good job in a depressed job market. Almost no new employee has worked in the beer industry, so they see the beer business through a new lens. Dill welcomes this fresh point of view. “New employees will look at a process and provide alternatives that turn out to be improvements. I beg them at orientation not to lose their perspective.  Don’t be afraid to tell us, to criticize us or to let us know if it makes more sense to do something another way. We want to improve.”

The brewery attempts to create a culture that invites employees to challenge and question. Dill says monthly shift meetings have been key in giving employees the freedom to make suggestions and to know they will be supported.  “There is a tremendous amount of sharing and we learn a great deal just by listening. If people are comfortable offering challenges, you can’t help but improve”

Dill joined MillerCoors 3 ½ years ago, but his work ethic was formed in childhood.  “I got my first job caddying when I was nine years old.  I started carrying two bags when I was twelve and at 14, I started cleaning the club my mother ran every morning before I went to school. I’ve never been without a job.”

He graduated from Pennsylvania State University and went to work for Sky Chefs at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport right after college. “We put food on every seat, even coach, in every airplane. Our mantra then was ‘don’t delay, do whatever it takes.’ It has stayed with me. Today, people who work with me know we will do whatever it takes to get the work done.” 

The Albany brewery produces 52 brands of beer.  Coors Light, which is the second best-selling beer in America, and Miller Lite, which holds the fourth place position, comprise over 50% of the brewery’s volume. More recently, the brewery has placed a focus on producing craft beers. Dill explains the reasoning behind the decision. 

“Light beer is still the best selling beer in America, but craft beers are the fastest growing segment of the industry. As light beer sales have flattened out, craft beer sales have increased. At the same time we are exploring new opportunities with craft beers, we can’t forget our primary products.  There’s an old saying that reminds you to dance with the one who brought you to the dance.”

Brewing beer is a blend of art and science. The process remains the same, but since the ingredients are natural, good results require more than the ability to follow a formula. Creating the product our customers desire, demands experience, skill and knowledge from brewery employees,” explains Dill.” “MillerCoors employees have a deep respect for the business and the process of making beer.”

About Laurel Griffith

Laurel Griffith is a freelance writer. Before moving to Albany, she published a magazine for six years in Dothan, AL.