Case Study: Starbucks training program

On February 26, 2008, Starbucks shut all of its 7,100 stores for 3 hours to deliver training to its 135,000 employees. The goals of the training were to bring back a focus on “espresso standards,” to ensure that the customer experience is the best it can be, and to re-energise employees’ focus on the things that made Starbucks the leading retailer of specialty coffee. Many loyal Starbucks customers were unhappy with the fact that they could not get their Starbucks fix anywhere during that 3-hour time period. From a quick look at the Internet, many customers spent the time blogging about how difficult it was to not have access to Starbucks during that time. As expected, competitors used the opportunity to lure customers with free or discounted coffee.

Some popular press articles have claimed that the training program was a marketing ploy (certainly, the training program did receive a lot of press coverage), and that the training program was more of a pep-rally than a serious attempt at training Starbucks baristas. The skeptics are correct that a brief, one-time training program is unlikely to make a real difference without additional training and ongoing support from peers and managers. However, it is possible that follow-up training is being conducted (without as much fanfare) and that there is support from peers and managers to transfer what was learned in training back to the job. It would be very interesting to see Starbucks (or better yet, an independent training evaluator) conduct a rigorous and thorough evaluation and utility analysis of this company-wide training program, which must have been expensive in terms of employee time and lost sales across all the stores.

  1. Do you think the program organisers achieved their training goals within the 3-hour training period?
  2. How can the above training program contribute to a more comprehensive human resource development program at Starbucks?