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Bacardi HR Business Partner: A Role With the Perfect Mix

by Jo Faragher

Bacardi HR Business Partner: A Role With the Perfect Mix

by Jo Faragher

Published 03-20-24

Submitted by Bacardi Limited

Laura Jenkins
Laura Jenkins has been lead HR business partner for seven months, and enjoys the variety of the role. Pic: Bacardi 

Originally Published by Personnel Today

Laura Jenkins is UK & Ireland Lead HR Business Partner at global spirits giant Bacardi. She tells Personnel Today how no two days in the HRBP role are the same, and how a commitment to inclusion means staff stick around. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about working for Bacardi is that it’s part of a much bigger brewing or drinks business, when it’s the largest, privately held spirits company in the world.

At more than 160 years old, Bacardi runs not just its famous rum brand, but also well-known spirits such as Grey Goose vodka, Patron tequila, Bombay Sapphire gin, and Martini. It’s also a family business, where colleagues are known as “primos” (Spanish for cousins), and there’s a celebration of its founders every year.

Laura Jenkins has been with Bacardi for 10 years and is now lead HR business partner in the UK and Ireland. She works alongside two other business partners – one who covers learning and development and the other who looks after benefits. Every day brings up something different, she says.

“I really like the lack of hierarchy,” she says. “I connect with leaders but also with people at every level in the business, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit. Ideas come from all over the business and if you have a great idea you are encouraged to share it.”

There is a global HR function that acts as a framework for local and functional HR operations, she adds, but HRBPs are given a great deal of autonomy to drive projects ‘on the ground’, and there is a culture of “steal and share with pride”, so if something works in one area, then teams are encouraged to apply it elsewhere.

“It opens up a varied role within the HR business partner space because you connect with everyone in the business,” she adds. Furthermore, the fact Bacardi is run privately means there is more freedom to blur boundaries than be fixed in one function or area.

“In previous businesses [I worked] there was more pigeonholing, as in ‘this is your role’ and stay in it,” she says. There are only around 9,000 “primos” globally, meaning departments can be relatively agile in terms of making decisions and getting things moving.

Belonging at Bacardi

‘Belonging at Bacardi’ takes the family theme further, encompassing the company’s efforts across diversity and inclusion. “We have self-nominated champions for belonging – they are volunteers rather than ‘volun-told’ – and it all comes from the ground up,” Jenkins explains.

Champions have been involved in staging talks and learning sessions with external partners such as LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, or working with specialist neurodiversity recruiter Enna.

The company has been named as one of the world’s top employers for women by Forbes, and aims to have 45% female representation in management and executive positions by 2025.

Belonging sits within Bacardi’s wider ‘Good Spirited’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, which has four pillars that cover its environmental impact; supporting people to make ‘good choices’ and drink responsibly; empowering a fair and inclusive workplace; and responsible sourcing.

Examples of work within these strands include the company’s partnership with alcohol support organisations such as Drink Aware and promoting education about responsible drinking, or on the environmental side, there is a focus on backing up any claims with facts, rather than “greenwashing”.

But is it challenging to bring all of this together and still maintain the happy, family theme? Jenkins says she thrives on the ‘all hands on deck’ culture at the company.

“I love a culture that allows us to be fearless and challenge the status quo,” she adds.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t challenge back. If someone says they want to do something we can say it’s not the right time, for example. People trust that we treat each other respectfully, we talk about feedback being a gift.”

Sticking around

Jenkins attributes the sense of belonging at the company as the key reason she has stayed for the past decade, and for its high levels of employee retention overall. “The business appreciates me for who I am – whether that’s a mother, a daughter – I get the flexibility I need,” she says.

The company is often celebrating 10-year, 15-year and even 20-year anniversaries for long-standing employees, and career development is a big focus for HR and recruitment teams.

There is an internal talent acquisition team known as Bacardi Executive Search Team (BEST) that is focused on building individuals’ career development pipelines and mapping out how these will work within the company – another driver behind high retention. Early careers joiners have a range of possibilities in front of them, says Jenkins.

“We treat our entry level sales positions like a talent pool,” she explains. “We say we will develop you because you’re the next generation of the business. This is the group with the largest headcount and they’re out talking to customers and getting a feel for the business.”

She has only been in the HRBP position for seven months, so feels “there is still a lot to learn”. But Jenkins hopes to do more in the L&D space and further progress Bacardi’s focus on building talent from within.

“We give primos permission to shape and plan a career programme, giving them the time and space to do so. Think about when you plan a holiday or a wedding, versus what we do for our careers at times. We want to help them to build a journey to their end goal,” she says.

Bacardi Limited logo

Bacardi Limited

Bacardi Limited

Bacardi Limited, the world’s largest privately held international spirits company, produces, markets, and distributes spirits and wines. The Bacardi Limited portfolio comprises more than 200 brands and labels, including BACARDÍ® rum, PATRÓN® tequila, GREY GOOSE® vodka, DEWAR’S® Blended Scotch whisky, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin, MARTINI® vermouth and sparkling wines, CAZADORES® 100% blue agave tequila, and other leading and emerging brands including D’USSÉ® Cognac, ANGEL’S ENVY® American straight whiskey, and ST-GERMAIN® elderflower liqueur. Founded more than 162 years ago in Santiago de Cuba, family-owned Bacardi Limited currently employs approximately 9,000, operates production facilities in 11 countries and territories, and sells its brands in more than 160 markets. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited. Visit or follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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