Patricia Lacey — a true changemaker and champion for corporate diversity and equity

“CHANGE agent” is the only phrase that aptly describes the enigma of Patricia Lacey, the outgoing talent and leadership development manager at Red Stripe.

As her incredible 30-year journey ends she reflects on her time as a driver of change at one of Jamaica’s most prolific brands, and looks to her next chapter of life.

“At the end of 2022 I retire from Red Stripe. My tenure has been quite enriching and interesting. My passion for growing and developing talent has flourished here, and my capacity has grown immensely,” she asserted.

Lacey, who hails from Albert Town, Trelawny, graduated from Knox College and later The University of the West Indies with a degree in chemistry. She then started her career as a teacher at the Wolmer’s Boys’ School, where she spent six years. In 1990 Lacey decided to put her degree in chemistry into practical use in the alcohol industry as a lab technician at Red Stripe, and has remained at the company ever since.

“After spending some time in the technical side of the business in the lab, I got an opportunity to move into the HR department as a technical training officer. It may seem like an unlikely switch but I welcomed it as a chance to combine my interest in teaching with the technical experience I had gained in the lab. From there I was able to grow personally and professionally and eventually assume a management-level role.”

Identifying the nuances of educating adults became her passion, and she dedicated years to mastering the art of human capacity development within Red Stripe. “I already had the science and technical background; however, there’s a philosophy around how you train adults instead of children. I did a master’s in human resources to build my capabilities to match the responsibilities of my role in the HR department. I wanted to ensure I could teach and lead effectively.”

Lacey’s notable accomplishments at Red Stripe include implementing systems to transform HR operations and significantly improve efficiency. However, of the many projects she has been involved with during her career, she lists spearheading Red Stripe’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programme among the most memorable.

Lacey beamed as she explained how a deeper understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion dynamics is necessary for the workplace to function optimally. “Diversity refers to how people differ regarding gender, race, age and experiences. Inclusion is about working together to make sure that persons, despite their differences, can contribute to the business and business goals. A holistic DEI strategy promotes the notion that even though everyone will have a different perspective, diverse views empower us to come up with the most innovative and creative solutions to any problem.

“Red Stripe’s DEI strategy enabled us to embrace diversity and new ways of thinking further. Doing so contributes to increased mutual respect and building a safe space to maximise all team members’ personal and professional development. It is both the practical and right thing to do. We started the process by conducting company-wide surveys to gather male and female perspectives on the issues of trust and development; this feedback helped to guide our priorities. From there, we conducted DEI training for employees with experienced facilitators, using materials built on industry best practices. We have already received positive feedback from staff members on the impact of these deliberate efforts towards inclusion. I believe Jamaican organisations of all sizes can benefit from taking a similar approach to human development”, Lacey further explained.

Lacey shared a nugget of wisdom for companies seeking to embark on their own DEI programme. She asserted, “Developing a DEI strategy is essential for employee engagement and, ultimately, the future success of all companies in this ever-changing world. Creating and implementing such a strategy is not easy; it is a process. However, just like many things in life, it is not about the destination but the journey. DEI is an ongoing journey and will not conclude when I leave, but I am happy to have started this transformation and led the department in 2020. I know it will bolster the company’s success for years.”

Although Lacey retires at the end of 2022 she will not be slowing down. Instead, she looks forward to leaving her mark on her direct and extended community. Lacey’s plans include supporting students preparing to take the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) in 2023. “Retirement has presented an excellent opportunity to volunteer my time to help the next generation and provide guidance and support to shape their growth and development positively,” she said.

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