New Belgium Brewing: Freedom-centered and millennials’ best vocation

Rick Cookson

New Belgium employee Laura Ferenchik pours a pint of New Belgium's Sunshine wheat beer—one of ten beers brewed year-round at the New Belgium Brewery. (Photo credit: Rick Cookson)
New Belgium employee Laura Ferenchik pours a pint of New Belgium’s Sunshine Wheat beer—one of 10 beers brewed year-round at the New Belgium Brewery. (Photo credit: Rick Cookson)

There’s nothing new about New Belgium Brewing winning awards or getting reputable certifications. Only halfway through this year, the honors are rolling in.

For the sixth year in a row, WorldBlu certified New Belgium Brewing a freedom-centered workplace. Along with that, the Best Companies Group named New Belgium one of the best places to work for millennials.

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New Belgium ranked ninth out of 26 organizations worldwide that WorldBlu certified as freedom-centered workplaces after distributing and receiving employee surveys which analyzed employee satisfaction. According to 22-year-old Nick Lebesch, a New Belgium employee in construction management, he and his coworkers filled out the surveys with complete gratification.

“It’s not that we want to brag about our jobs, but we truly want people to know how much we enjoy working here.” Lebesch said.

The 100 percent employee-owned brewery boasts a 97 percent retention rate and was first certified as a freedom-centered workplace by WordBlu in 2007. According to WordBlu, New Belgium, as well as the other organizations and companies it certifies, abides by and practices WorldBlu’s 10 principles of organizational democracy. Use of these principles help create and support “democratic systems and processes to have a successful democratic organization,” which allow for company transparency and employee comfort.

For instance, New Belgium practices an open-book management style, which gives all employees at any level within the company the feeling of being partners of the whole by being open about all relevant financial information and the state of the company. They also have ownership ceremonies after one year of employment (followed by a trip to Belgium at five years of employment and a sabbatical after ten years of employment), an annual retreat for the whole company to come together for business planning and ingenuity, as well as every year bringing an array of relationship-building events.

“It is a phenomenal place to work, especially being employee-owned,” said 31-year-old New Belgium employee Laura Ferenchik. “It gives you more of the want to come in every morning. We work harder, we take pride in what we do and it’s a total blast.”

Ferenchik has been working in the same department at New Belgium for the past three years, and previously spent four years working in the Fort Collins brewery market trying to get her foot in the door at New Belgium. After spending two years working part-time at the Fort Collins Brewery, located at 1020 E. Lincoln Ave., Ferenchik finally landed a full-time job at New Belgium.

“As time goes on, there’s different incentives to stay longer with the company, whether it’s the one-year anniversary when you get a bike and ownership or after five years when you get a trip to Belgium or the employee sabbatical after ten years,” Ferenchik said. “It’s kind of unique to have a company that really wants people to stay longer and be able to take care of them.”

A few weeks after New Belgium received their WordBlu certification, the Better Companies Group, which analyzed data from more than 4,000 different organizations with help from the Center for Generational Kinetics, featured New Belgium on their 2015 list of the 75 best places to work for millennials. Millennials — adults 18 to 35 years old today — now hold the majority within the U.S. labor force, according to the research from the Pew Research Center.

“We have great people here, a happy and healthy environment with a good blend of ages,” said Shane Basinger, human resources site manager at New Belgium. “Millennials are a very important piece of our environment because they see things in fresh and new ways.”

New Belgium’s business model, which incorporates a plethora of benefits as Ferenchik mentioned, along with open-book management, company retreats, in-house training, financial benefits and much more, all accumulate into the satisfaction and gratification that the 591 New Belgium “co-workers” take pride in.

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“Everybody complains about their job, but I can guarantee that New Belgium employees complain much less than anyone else,” Lebesch said.

Collegian Senior Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @RickCookson1.