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MillerCoors taps social media to retain more women

Wednesday, September 7, 2011  
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MillerCoors is using social media tools to help far-flung salespeople feel less isolated, a move meant to boost retention.

The brewing company is using enterprise mentoring and social learning software to keep its women sales team members feeling part of a cohesive team, according to a report in ComputerWorld magazine.

"I wouldn't say it's the equivalent [of working physically near other people] but it gets the job done,” Samantha Morris, an associate industrial organization psychologist with MillerCoors, told the magazine. "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.”

Last summer, a MillerCoors regional sales executive noticed the company was losing women in sales positions at a much faster rate than it was losing their male counterparts. Some had an issue with working alone; others, mothers in particular, were troubled by working hours, which often included sales calls to bars at night or on weekends, Morris explained.

With the company also trying to attract more women companywide, the sales team was a good starting point.

"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 has used Triple Creek’s Open Mentoring software to connect mentors to some of its sales team. The software allows mentors and workers to connect one-on-one or in groups. It also enables people to share documents and post comments.

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.

Members of each group used the social software to connect with one another, to figure out discussion topics, such as developing a personal brand and work/life balance, and to share documents or articles that pertained to their discussion threads.

Benefits of the program haven’t been fully analyzed, but Morris said early figures show a 1.85-percent decrease in turnover from the six months prior to the Women of Sales mentoring kick-off to the six months after the program ended. Most of the 45 women who were in the pilot program have remained connected.

As a result of the success in the sales group, MillerCoors started a group mentoring program for women in marketing in June and is launching one for leaders in the company's supply chain in late September. A second program for women in sales is set to kick off this fall, the magazine noted.

"I say we want to be a learning organization where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas and they're inspired to innovate,” Morris told ComputerWorld. "We want to develop our people and grow the business from within. That's very important to us.”

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