A Starbucks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, looks like many other stores in the region. Baristas are handcrafting beverages with the rich aroma of coffee lingering in the air. However, when customers reach the counter to order a drink, they’ll notice something different. Instead of calling out beverage orders, baristas use sign language.
Berjaya Starbucks Coffee Company Sdn. Bhd. (“Starbucks Malaysia”) in collaboration with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), are opening a store dedicated to providing employment opportunities for Deaf partners (employees). Located in the busy Bangsar Village II shopping mall, the store is the first-of-a-kind for Starbucks globally.
“We are proud to support people with disabilities through fulfilling work to create a culture of empowerment and to bring new perspectives to the workplace, which ultimately makes us a better company,” said Sydney Quays, managing director, Starbucks Malaysia. “We have a rich history of creating opportunities for underrepresented groups and our aim is to raise public awareness of the value people with disabilities bring to the workplace and to enrich the lives of many more Deaf partners.”
In an effort to provide a better career path and sense of belonging for Deaf partners, Starbucks selected SID to help develop the store. Founded in 1990, SID strives to enable the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community an opportunity for equal rights and access to information and communication.
“We are proud to be working with Starbucks to provide job opportunities for Deaf people,” said Alvin YM Wong, Chairman of the Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), Selangor and Federal Territory, Malaysia. “Through Starbucks, these Deaf partners are trained and empowered to move forward in their careers, which will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment in the long run.”
SID provided Starbucks with two sign language interpreters to translate during hiring, training and coaching for Deaf partners. They will also teach sign language to hearing partners at the store.
Finding a Rewarding Career
The store employs 10 Deaf partners and three hearing partners including store manager Evonne Lo, who joined Starbucks three years ago.
“When I first heard of this initiative, I immediately signed up for the position and the challenge,” said Lo. “I think it will be a truly rewarding experience.”
Lo will be supported by Mohammad Aizad Bin Ariffin, a Deaf partner who will serve as the store’s shift manager.
“Since I joined Starbucks three years ago as a barista, my goal has been to become Starbucks Malaysia’s first Deaf store manager and after my recent promotion to shift manager, I’m well on way to achieving this dream,” said Ariffin. “It’s an incredible feeling to share my journey and help develop other Deaf partners.”
Building the Store Experience
The Bangsar Village II Starbucks provides a welcome environment for Deaf and hearing customers alike. It is equipped with a Starbucks Card kiosk to enable visitors to check their card balance and rewards before requesting drinks and food items on a Starbucks order ticket. Baristas will key in the order, which is displayed on a point-of-sale dual screen, so customers can see that the order is accurate. Customers then collect their beverages and food when their order number is displayed on a large screen above the pick-up counter.
Starbucks Malaysia’s commitment to excellence in the workplace has resulted in recognition as a leading employer by several prominent organizations. The company received Employer of Choice by the Malaysia HR Awards 2015, Best Companies to Work for in Asia 2015 by HR Asia and Best of the Best Award, Malaysia’s Best Employer 2015 by Aon Hewitt.
Editor’s Note: Starbucks has a rich history of creating opportunities for underrepresented groups and our aim in Malaysia is to raise public awareness of the value people with disabilities bring to the workplace and to enrich the lives of many more Deaf partners. While there are no plans to open similar stores in the U.S. at this time, the initiative in Malaysia builds on Starbucks commitment to diversity and inclusion.