Kate Price,

People Director, St Austell Brewery

St Austell Brewery has a strong heritage and company values. Kate Price, People Director for the business is on a mission to make it the number one employer of choice in the South West...

Kate Price,

People Director, St Austell Brewery

St Austell Brewery has a strong heritage and company values. Kate Price, People Director for the business is on a mission to make it the number one employer of choice in the South West...

Kate Price is People Director at St Austell Brewery, with hospitality being a hotbed of stress when customer service is afoot; she discusses how a focus on fairness and zero-tolerance to discrimination and bullying ensures the workforce is looked after.

St Austell Brewery was founded in 1851, it brews some of the nation’s most beloved pints and runs an impressive 180-strong pub estate across the Southwest. Kate Price, heads up the HR team, with an impressive HR CV and a University of Cambridge degree behind her. Here she talks people strategy and how her student studies developed an early passion for ‘people and place.’

Starting out at Unilever

Like many graduates, Price had no idea what she was going to do when she left Cambridge. Following a well-trodden path, she enrolled in the University ‘milk round’ and found herself in an enviable position of a job offer. Her career began at brand-powerhouse Unilever, on their graduate scheme, being exposed to all the different career paths but kick-starting that within HR.

Price helped to develop the HR shared services programme along with partners Accenture before being placed in one of Unilever’s factories in Derbyshire that was responsible for industrial cleaning products. Within six months she was offered the HR manager role and she quickly had to learn the reins of working within a highly unionised environment that was also very male dominated. It was a baptism of fire for the young Price, aged just 24 at the time. Price worked in the position for the next four years, eventually taking on her boss’s role learning many career lessons from him along the way. She then returned to the HR shared services role, which was servicing around 250,000 employees and never had a quiet moment.

During this time Price also got married and the pair decided to relocate to Nottinghamshire which meant it was time to find a new job. “I saw a position advertised as the HR manager at Burton Brewery, Molson Coors,” with Carling a strong brand, Price began to get excited. She worked there for the next six years managing a big change programme, including a significant upskilling of the brewery team members to be technical operators, enabling a leaner and more capable workforce. She did this role while starting a family and began to head up their talent management team. During this time, Molson, the Canadian brewer merged with the business to make it the fifth largest globally. After her second bout of maternity leave, Price, returned to the business in a business partnering role. Yet family life started to take hold and things had to be re-evaluated, “The commute was very difficult with two young children, and I got approached for a job at Boots which was on my doorstep.”

I feel genuinely blessed by the opportunity to work here. It’s lovely to work for a local, growing business that literally puts its people first. It has a really strong heritage, and strong company values

Kate Price | People Director at St Austell Brewery

Heading up HR at Boots Brands and moving over to wilko

Putting family first, Price’s next move was to be as Head of HR for Boots Brands. “My job was working in the Boots branded part of the business which at the time was just before the acquisition by Walgreens. It was a big division and very profitable and full of different types of people.” Price adds that this role was very much about, “Making sure we had the right people and in the right place.” It was a time of integration for Boots too as they set about buying the skin care brand Liz Earle and Soap and Glory, adding those businesses into the new brands division.

“I talked to my line manager at the time about wanting to go back into something that was closer to a thinking space, and he said I could create my own role which I did, heading up talent resourcing and learning,” says Price.

She set about securing the talent that would enable the business to grow brands from companies including L’Oreal and Procter and Gamble. Price adds that it culminated in a ‘really good six years at Boots’ but then the time came for her next move, and she was approached by wilko, the family owned home and garden retailer.

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