When brewing company MillerCoors realized it was struggling to retain female salespeople, the company turned to social tools to turn this trend around.
Executives at the country's second-largest brewing company, known for producing brands like Miller Genuine Draft, Coors, and Molson Canadian, wanted to make far-flung female sales reps feel less isolated and more a part of a cohesive team. But how could they do that when their workers are spread across the country -- often on the road -- and working odd hours?
That's when Chicago-based MillerCoors, a $7.5 billion company with about 8,500 employees, turned to Triple Creek, a Denver-based company that makes enterprise mentoring and social learning software.
"I wouldn't say it's the equivalent [of working physically near other people] but it gets the job done," said Samantha Morris, an associate industrial organization psychologist with MillerCoors. "I think the women are having an opportunity to connect with other people in the business who have similar work roles, similar concerns, maybe similar aspirations. It gives them an opportunity to connect with each other more than they had. They get a personal connection."
Morris explained that last summer a regional sales executive noticed that the company was losing women in sales positions at a much faster rate than it was losing their male counterparts. Working alone was an issue for some, while others, mothers in particular, were having trouble with the hours, which require them to make sales calls at bars at night or on weekends. It was a problem the company wanted to quickly curb.
She noted that MillerCoors is also trying to attract more women companywide, so sales was a good place to start.
"One thing is we realize that demographically we're at a disadvantage," Morris said. "We have 24 percent women overall. For most of the best companies -- the top 100 companies -- the average is about 48 percent women. We want the different thinking styles and abilities that women can bring to the table. We want to make sure our company is representative of the best and of the marketplace."
MillerCoors decided to provide mentors to some of its saleswomen, connecting them through Triple Creek's Open Mentoring software. The software is designed to let mentors and workers connect one-on-one or in groups. The software also enables people to share documents and post comments. As part of the program application process, it also matches workers with mentors who have experience with issues the workers are dealing with.
Jim Ebert, a leadership development manager at MillerCoors, noted that the company had already used Triple Creek for one-on-one mentoring and decided to expand its use to include efforts to mentor groups of saleswomen.
Last October, the company launched a six-month Women of Sales mentoring program. Forty-five female sales representatives were split into three groups of 15. Each group had two mentors, either female executives or leaders from within MillerCoors.