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How Training Saved Starbucks From Its Extinction


Every great company has an even more fabulous story to recite of their successes and failures. Starbucks - a company that revolutionized the coffee industry has not just set an example of how a great customer-oriented company should perform, but it has done more than that. It has defined the practice on how taking the right measures for training and development of your employees, to not just craft a learning program but move beyond the program to curate a learning experience can help you bring a very holistic change in your organization.

Training the Barista

In early 2008, when Starbucks saw a decline in its net income by 28%, it was struggling amidst a stuttering economy along with its rapid growth and increased competition from cheaper rivals. When the company was experiencing a slow demise, Howard Schultz, took on as the CEO at Starbucks on January 7, 2008. He wanted to turn around the business at Starbucks by providing customers with a distinctive ‘Starbucks Experience’ and building on Starbucks legacy of innovation, which was only possible with an excellent training program. When in February 2008, Starbucks closed its 7,100 U.S. stores for three and half hours; the objective was to have its baristas retrain on how to make the perfect espresso. It did lose $6 million in a day, but that retraining session made all the difference to get Starbucks where it is today!

It is the experience of brewing premiere coffee for past five decades that has led Starbucks to understand that the first order of excellent service in the industry is knowledge. Employees should not only know about the restaurant concept, the products, and their preparations but they must also be able to share that learning with customers. It helps them connect to not just your product but with the brand as well; which is only possible when your employees have adequately learned about it; themselves. At Starbucks, they have a very distinct way of approaching their employees, who are called partners. The philosophy that Starbucks believes in- ‘Treat employees like partners, and they act like partners’ has helped them develop a very learner-centric training programs from a rather usual corporate-centric approach which has profoundly influenced their productivity, customer service, and sales.

Starbucks realizes that their partners are the extension of their brand and value. The company believes that their product is not just coffee, but the coffee shop experience and culture. They deploy training and development to enhance this experience and drive partner engagement. Starbucks has laid prolific attention to training their partners on many subjects - business philosophy, customer service skills, work skills, management training programs and leadership skills. Thus, the Starbucks partners further receive a set of 'experience' which is similar to what their customers enjoy; towards the end of former's Starbucks journey. This sort of training and engagement, in turn, leads to increased visit frequency, wider product penetration, greater customer retention and consistent product sell-through.

The training program of Starbucks comprises of many quintessential concepts and ways which are by far the best training program that any organization offers. Beginning with ‘The Starbuck Experience’ classes where the baristas go through a detailed induction on the company’s history, its culture and the Corporate Social Responsibility. It takes place by providing baristas with training booklets and the green apron book so that they can always go back to re-learn what they learned initially. It is what makes the Starbucks training program so distinct. They have a series of other training programs such as mentoring under a learning coach, use of various training tools, lots of hands-on practice and barista certification. They make for an exceptional execution of training that is both- empowering and impactful.


Importance of training

Starbucks training program is indicative of growth and impact that has played an enormous role in bringing company's success back from the brink of its extinction in the early 2000’s. Unlike other brands, Starbucks has moved on to recognize the centrality of the customer experience. The company has built their training module precisely to render baristas with all necessary tools to embellish the consumer experience as well as deliver their merchandise from the base.

While organizations like Starbucks have laid tremendous emphasis on employee training to influence their sales and productivity, training is still not considered as important as any other aspects of company management such as Customer Resource Management and Enterprise Resource Management. The one lesson that Starbucks has taught us is that- training alone, could impact both CRM and ERM.

Starbucks would have made a more significant difference if they had gone for web-based training. Online training would have made a more profound impact here because it not just saves precious resources, but it also redeems a good volume of work hours, which would otherwise go useless. Training any team to keep up with the market requirements and benefiting both their company and themselves is of utmost importance today.

The best way to start preparing strong and impactful training course for your teams should happen in a precise manner. It has to include a particular construction pattern where the basic induction course for your new joiners shall be created, with a few slides about your company’s mission, vision, values and add a few videos from youtube about things that you want them to keep in their mind; while they work at your organization. You can use Knorish’s free platform to not just create this course, but also to monitor employee engagement with the content that you share with.

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