External Investigation Concludes ‘Bias Does Exist’ at Minneapolis’ Indeed; Search Underway for HR Leader

Minneapolis-headquartered Indeed Brewing has struggled with internal bias against female employees and fostered an “‘us vs. them’ mentality” between leadership and rank-and-file staff, according to the findings of an external HR investigation the company published on its website last week.

To combat this, Indeed said it plans to hire a people and communities leader via a search that has already begun, overhaul its internal operations system, develop a management training program, and realign the internal company vision.

“So far, our efforts have been focused on the audit process, getting the audit findings to our staff, and answering the questions our staff has,” chief operating officer Kelly Moritz told Brewbound. “The real work toward meaningful change has to start now.”

The investigation was conducted by tHRive Law & Consulting, which Indeed contracted in May after Rachel Anderson, a co-founder of the company, shared her experience of mistreatment within a toxic work environment that led to her ouster. Anderson told Brewbound she was inspired to speak out after a tidal wave of social media posts detailing women’s experiences with sexual harassment, assault and discrimination in the beer indsutry were shared via the Instagram profiles of Brienne Allan (@ratmagnet) and @EmboldenActAdvance. [For more about Anderson’s experience, listen to an interview with her on the Brewbound Podcast.]

Indeed has chronicled its progress on a page on its website titled “Our Accountability Commitment,” where it has shared open letters from CEO Tom Whisenand and Moritz in response to Anderson’s account and the stories on social media, as well as updates that tHRive Law & Consulting was hired, and completed its investigation.

In its findings, tHRive Law & Consulting concluded that “bias does exist at Indeed.”

“Specific examples revealed language loaded with stereotypical gender bias directed toward female employees, including that they are ‘not confident enough’ or ‘too emotional,’ ‘too anxious,’ ‘too stressed,’ or ‘not committed,’” the consulting firm wrote.

It was unclear if the comments made to female staff happened in verbal conversations or in formal communications due to the anonymous nature of the investigation, but Moritz confirmed that at least one written performance review cited a lack of confidence.

Meanwhile, Indeed’s employees have broken into several factions, tHRive Law & Consulting reported.

“An ‘us vs. them’ mentality runs rampant throughout Indeed,” the firm wrote. “At times, the ‘us’ is employees in all departments with the ‘them’ as the leadership team. At others, the ‘them’ is sales with the ‘us’ being all other employees. Sometimes, ‘us’ is the rest of the company while ‘them’ is specific members of leadership, including the chief operation officer and sales director.”

The divisions have led some employees to believe that some people are hired due to company leaders liking them, “rather than for their skills, knowledge, and experience.” The consulting firm also found the company “lacks a shared vision in a few key areas: a lack of fun; turf battles over what Indeed makes and why, with the perception that sales drives decisions without input from production.”

Indeed employees described a practice of “management swooping and catastrophizing,” which made them feel as though they have less agency in their roles.

“Instead of empowering teams to execute on a particular idea or project, the CEO, COO, and/or sales director ignore the process and expertise of managers and teams, swoop in, create chaos, swoop out, and complain that the idea or project was not flawless,” the firm wrote. “This feeds a perception of perfectionism as the goal and that only with the CEO, COO, and/or sales director’s input will anything actually be flawless.

“The resulting culture created by this swooping and catastrophizing is that some employees walk around the brewery on eggshells with little confidence that they are secure in their positions,” the report continued.

The report also noted that “many managers and leaders have little-to-no management or leadership experience,” which Indeed plans to fix by establishing a “program for management training and support, including regular bias training, interview training, and anti-harassment training” by December 31, according to the company’s action plan.

Lastly, tHRive Law & Consulting found that employees felt that “they received very little recognition or gratitude during a particularly challenging year, with health and safety regulations changing constantly and shifting the demands of nearly everyone at Indeed,” and that only workers favored by leadership received praise. Indeed plans to rectify this, according to Moritz.

“We will absolutely be changing the way we recognize employees’ efforts, and will be working collaboratively across departments to find better ways to ensure each person feels valued,” she said.

Several employees have left the company to pursue new roles elsewhere in recent months, according to Moritz.

“They’ve left for jobs that they’re excited about, that are great new opportunities for them,” she said.

The first step on Indeed’s action plan is to hire a people and communities leader by September 30, with a start date of no later than October 30.

“We’re looking to hire a leader who can bring both elements of more traditional human resources like compliance and workplace best practices, as well as the expertise to help create a workplace that is focused on employee happiness, health, and retention,” Moritz said. “We’re already in the process of hiring for this role, and we’ve got a great pool of candidates with a wide range of backgrounds.”

The company is considering candidates with varying experience, but ideally would like to find someone familiar with hospitality, production or logistics, Moritz said.

“It’s definitely a big job, and though we do have a good amount of expectations wrapped up in the hiring of this position, we fully expect all of the items on our action plan to be accomplished collaboratively; the burden is not on this person’s shoulders alone,” she said. “In all of the conversations I’ve had so far, the candidates are aware of Indeed’s situation with the audit and everything that led up to it, and they’re excited to help shape our culture going forward.”

To align the company around a common vision, Indeed plans to host an all-hands workshop by October 19, “where every member of the Indeed team will have the opportunity to share their vision of Indeed’s future.” Leadership will use input from the meeting to create one-, three- and 10-year plans for Indeed’s future.

While the company is looking ahead, the second step on Indeed’s action plan to build a common vision is to “revise the way it portrays its company history to depict a more inclusive and accurate origin of the company.” To that end, the company has already replaced a taproom mural depicting Whisenand, co-founder Nathan Berndt and founding brewer Josh Bischoff, and will identify and replace all “inaccurate” versions of the company’s origin story across internal documents and public-facing platforms.