Learning from Corporate America: Starbucks Closes Nationwide for Training

On February 26, 2008 if you tried to get your usual Grande Carmel Machiato from Starbucks between 5:30 and 9pm you were out of luck. In a historic move Starbucks closed nearly 7,100 stores for 3 1/2 hours to conduct mandatory training for more than 135,000 employees.

From the Starbucks Web site, “That amounts to almost a half a million hours of training in one night.

My first thought on hearing this announcement was publicity stunt. Why do you need to close for training? Why can’t you do it before or after closing or off site? I learned though that this was more than training in how to make a cup of coffee. According to the Starbucks Web site this was “a nationwide education event, designed to energize [employees] and transform the customer experience.”

It seems that most of the employees agreed. Some comments from employees on the Starbucks Gossip Blog:

I’ve just returned home from my stores espresso excellence training and I feel that as a whole we are re-energized and more passionate mostly about customer care. I really liked the team commitments at the end for us to hold one another accountable and this as much better then other store meetings because we got to move around the store as groups and we had fun! Posted by: Aaron | Feb 26, 2008 6:40:20 PM

Soo, I just got back from my meeting. It was amazing. I feel inspired in every way. I hope other baristas feel the same. Posted by: Neevan | Feb 26, 2008 6:54:53 PM

I just got home from the training session and I have to say it was great. It put us all on the same page and let all of us know that the standards have been raised and we WILL be held accountable for it. Not everyone remembers it. This meeting wasn’t to teach us how to make coffee and thats what a lot of people are missing. This was about making the BEST cup we can EVERYTIME, no exceptions. It was about how to give you customers what you pay for and more. Not to mention it laid down some new guidelines to make sure that if the customer does not get what THEY think is the perfect cup of coffee WE WILL MAKE IT UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED. We learned the vision of Howard and what he expects of us as a whole company so that not just some stores but ALL of them are doing the best everytime. I personally thought it was informative and helpful, especially to the new hires in our store who don’t know yet what they need to do and reminded all of us how to provide our customers with a place they want to be. To be perfectly honest with you I think that there are a lot of baristas out there (and if you have read some of their posts you know what I’m talking about) that we are not only in the coffee business but also the PEOPLE business. Posted by: | Feb 26, 2008 7:17:42 PM

Hi Everyone!!! Training tonight was great, what I felt would be just a refresher on the new flavor profile and proper steaming of milk, foam ratio, etc., ended up being more of a conversation on what we can do to accommodate and create a better experience for our customers. Posted by: buck star | Feb 26, 2008 9:36:18 PM

I freakin loved the meeting tonight. It’s like Starbucks Experience. it really re energized my passion for my job and my pride in my drinks, my service and the company as a while. I can’t wait to work on the floor again!! Posted by: Staxman | Feb 26, 2008 10:36:09 PM

I admire the courage of the company’s leadership to close every store, not just their doors, but their cash register as well, and then pay all their employees to attend a training session in order to improve the customer experience. Can you think of any other company that would spend that kind of money and time to improve their product? Can you imagine an airline stopping all flights for a day and requiring their employees to spend the time focusing on the passenger experience? Good for you Starbucks!! Posted by: | Feb 26, 2008 8:50:49 PM

So I have to ask, when was the last time you received comments like that on a training evaluation? What would it take for libraries to have all staff committed to the customer experience? What can we learn from Starbucks?

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

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    Jason Rakowski

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