What makes Starbucks one of the world’s top 5 most admired employers? Ask these partners

By Bonnie Rochman / Starbucks Newsroom

Last week, on the very day that Starbucks was ranked the fifth most admired employer in the world, shift supervisor Macall Gilmartin got a letter in the mail.

“It is a pleasure to inform you that you have made the Dean’s List of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation Fall 2017 semester,” stated the first sentence of the letter from Arizona State University. 

Gilmartin, a four-year partner in Little Rock, Ark., immediately called her dad. “I made the Dean’s List!” she exclaimed. Her mom urged her to post the letter on social media, so she did in three places, including on a Facebook Workplace page for Starbucks partners, where she hashtagged it #tobeapartner #tobeastudent.

Gilmartin, 20, participates in the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), which pays full tuition for all eligible part- and full-time U.S. partners in ASU’s online program. Partners can choose any bachelor’s degree and are not required to make a commitment to stay with Starbucks after graduation.

Without SCAP, Gilmartin says she would have postponed a college education due to the expense. Instead, she’s on track to graduate next year with a degree in integrative health. She plans to apply to nursing school and hopes to work in a neonatal intensive care unit or labor and delivery. “Starbucks is this amazing launching pad,” said Gilmartin.

As of December’s commencement, more than 1,000 Starbucks partners have graduated through the program and more than 9,000 partners are working toward their degree. Starbucks hopes that 25,000 partners will obtain ASU degrees by 2025.

“I hear so many stories from partners who share how graduating from college was always a dream of theirs, but something got in their way of finishing,” said SCAP director Mary Dixon. “What makes this program so special is that it is about supporting partners from any background and any income level in their pursuit of a college degree. It makes me so proud to be a partner and is a good example of our mission and values coming to life.”

Caring about partners and social responsibility are core to Starbucks values

The company’s commitment to social responsibility and its people management skills set Starbucks apart from many other multinational companies. It’s part of what led Starbucks to be named number 5 on Fortune’s World's Most Admired Companies list for 2018. Starbucks was also named the most admired food and beverage company in the world and is the only traditional brick-and-mortar retail business to be included in the top 10 list.

The annual rankings are compiled by surveying thousands of executives and securities analysts about the corporate reputations of about 1,500 companies. This is the 16th year in a row that Starbucks has appeared on the global list.

Elsa Ali, who has served as store manager at eight Starbucks locations, appreciates the way that Starbucks takes care of its partners. She and her husband, who worked at Starbucks for 15 years, used Bean Stock, a program that gives partners company stock as equity, to help buy a three-bedroom house when they moved from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas in 2006. And Ali, who manages Austin’s only Starbucks Reserve bar, has used the leadership skills she’s honed through company trainings to be a better parent. Learning at work about how to listen to partners and how to help them develop and grow translates to raising children; Ali’s are now 15 and 19. “These workshops helped me be more understanding, more present and better able to nurture my kids,” she said.

When her children were growing up, Ali took them to Starbucks volunteer events such as renovating a school playground or feeding homeless neighbors. Participating as a family helped them understand the importance of helping strengthen their community. “It’s in our genes – in our family’s genes and in our company’s genes – to help others,” she said. “In 18 years with Starbucks, I can honestly say that we live the values we stand for.”

There’s another reason that partners love Starbucks, and it has to do with romance. Gilmartin met her husband on the job. He was one of the baristas she spoke with during her interview process. “Starbucks means so much more to me than just a job,” said Gilmartin. “When I started working here right before my 17th birthday, little did I know that Starbucks would take me on such an awesome roller coaster."

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What’s inside a more accessible and inclusive Starbucks store?