Starbucks hires twice as many veterans as its 2018 commitment

Dear friends,

We’re writing to you as proud military veterans and Starbucks employees, with news we’re excited to share. Five years ago, Starbucks committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. Today, we’re proud to announce that we’ve hired 21,000 – more than double that original commitment.

Back in 2013, members of our internal Armed Forces Network went to Howard Schultz, then Starbucks chief executive officer, with an idea: Starbucks should do something to help offset the high number of unemployed veterans. With the encouragement of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, then a board member, the hiring commitment was made. The values that draw most to volunteer for military service – a desire to serve others and work to make the world a better place – are values that Starbucks also holds dear. The sacrifices military spouses make for the greater good and their deep loyalty inspires us all. Hiring veterans and military spouses wasn’t just doing the right thing, it has made Starbucks a better company.

We’ve also learned lessons along the way. Transitioning out of the military and into civilian life can be a hard adjustment. It was for us when we left the Marines and the Navy. Just because someone is a veteran or military spouse doesn’t automatically make them a good cultural fit, you still have to see them for who they are and look for where their strengths can shine, whether that’s in a store, at a roasting plant or at our headquarters. Working at Starbucks might not be for everyone – it could simply be a safe landing until they find something else; for others it might be the start of a long career. Either way, we quickly realized we needed to set up systems of support and ways for veterans and military spouses to feel connected.

Kevin Johnson, our ceo, often talks about servant leadership. In the military, we think of it as troop welfare – if you take care of your people and create an environment where they can be successful, they will go out and do great things.

Today, there are 16 chapters of our Armed Forces Network across the country. We’ve also dedicated 50 Military Family Stores, typically located by bases and heavily staffed by veterans and military spouses. Veterans and spouses in all our stores wear patriotic aprons that spark connections between them and customers. Our veteran-led efforts identify service projects that lead to connections – and retention. And, when Starbucks realized that those in the Reserves and National Guard were using their vacation time to serve, we started paying them for their service time.

We know there’s still work to do for this community. For example, the unemployment rate for military spouses is three times the national rate, so we continue to try to make it smooth for military spouses to transfer to another store when their active duty spouse is assigned a new duty station.

At the Starbucks headquarters, the names of thousands of veterans and military spouses who work for our company are engraved on medallions on our military honor wall next to the words, “There are heroes among us.” Like most veterans, we don’t see ourselves as heroes; to us, serving our country is just part of who we are. But at Starbucks, we’re valued for the strengths we bring – leadership, teamwork, loyalty and a drive to be part of something larger than ourselves.

As we head into Veterans Day, we’d like to ask you to share this letter and let others know about the opportunities at Starbucks and our dedication to supporting veterans and military spouses. While we’ve surpassed our hiring goal, we are steadfast in our commitment to serve those who served.

With great respect,

Dave Teves, co-chair of the Armed Forces Network, Starbucks Support Center chapter; Lieutenant, United States Navy

Michele Paul, co-chair of the Armed Forces Network, Mid-Atlantic Starbucks chapter; military spouse

Matt Kress, senior manager of Veteran and Military Affairs at Starbucks; Major, United States Marine Corps Retired