Starbucks Steps Towards Greater Inclusion

In response to the recent incident at a Philadelphia store, Starbucks took quick and decisive action. CEO, Kevin Johnson, announced that all of Starbucks company-owned retail stores and corporate offices will be closed one afternoon in May for a company wide racial-bias education. While no company is incident-proof, companies can control their responses when issues arise. Johnson and his leadership team saw an opportunity to respond to an embarrassing situation in a way that demonstrates their brand value and a commitment to authentic diversity and inclusion.

Calling on national experts from the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Demos, the U.S. Attorney Generals office, and the Anti-Defamation League, Starbucks will build a unconscious bias training. This training will be designed to help employees at all levels understand and confront racial bias.

While we applaud Starbucks’ swift action, we know “one and done” efforts do not work. A recent study found that five years after holding mandatory diversity training, companies saw no improvement in the proportion of white women, black men, and Hispanics in management. The fundamental problem is that most employees tend to develop feelings of resentment towards mandatory trainings. As Malia Lazu of The Urban Labs recommends, “unconscious bias training is a great start to shifting culture but needs to be followed up with resources towards effective diversity training, hiring, retention and positive employee engagement.”

At WeSpire, we know that creating an inclusive culture requires ongoing, sometimes difficult, conversations and reinforcement of inclusive behaviors. Some programs that our clients have used include “Understanding Implicit Bias Campaign” and a corresponding “Implicit Bias Scavenger Hunt Campaign.” These programs have shown how their employees are ready and willing to have authentic conversations around personal biases alongside their peers and coworkers.

Our customer’s success is generated by ongoing conversations around awareness and understanding rather than a one-time training event or a lengthy newspaper article. We look forward to watching how Starbucks will transform the way they educate their employees on unconscious bias as an ongoing investment in their employees, customers, and neighborhood communities.