Starbucks CEO: Restoring the trust and belief of our partners


Starbucks ceo Howard Schultz tells all U.S. Store Managers, “We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity.” 

Partners,

We have much to discuss tomorrow after my first week back at Starbucks and the thousands of connections I’ve already had with partners across the U.S. and China. 

With significant pressures leading to the fracturing of our partner and customer experiences, I’ve been transparent about our missteps and the reason for my return – to reimagine Starbucks – built on our core values and guiding principles. I have complete confidence that together we will restore the trust and belief of our partners and deliver an elevated Starbucks Experience to our partners and customers.  

As I shared on Monday, a first order of business was to stop stock repurchases so we have the opportunity to invest more in our partners and stores. Since then, I have been meeting with partners at both large open forums and intimate, immersive collaboration sessions across the country to get underneath the challenges in the company that need to be addressed. 

As an opening moment in the collaboration sessions, we showed a poster that framed a set of issues we have been hearing from partners. This led to discussion in which partners have been open, at times raw with emotion, and clear in their aspirations for themselves and the company. By providing space for the needed dialogue, we have been capturing a treasure trove of perspectives, solutions and big ideas as we reimagine the future of Starbucks, together.   

The vast majority of partners believe in the heritage, traditions and rituals of Starbucks. As leaders in the company, we must embrace our newest partners who do not yet know the history, culture and intention of the company that goes way beyond the last few years.  

As one long-standing store manager said to me: “With 80% of baristas being partners less than a year, we have to do better to teach and share how we started and why we do what we do while better supporting each and every partner.”  

This is a powerful statement encouraging more accountability from all of us to lead and nurture our partners.  

We will become the best version of Starbucks by co-creating our future directly as partners. And we will strengthen the Starbucks community by upholding each other’s dreams; upholding the standards and rituals of the company; celebrating partner individuality and voice; and upholding behaviors of mutual respect and dignity. 

We plan to move forward constructively with all Starbucks partners.  However, we must not be distracted by the different vision being put forward by union organizers at some Starbucks stores.  And while not all the partners supporting unionization are colluding with outside union forces, the critical point is that I do not believe conflict, division and dissension – which has been a focus of union organizing – benefits Starbucks or our partners. 

Our collaboration sessions have not been without efforts at disruption by union organizers. During a session in Long Beach, a partner captured a raw moment in which I explain what happened in the middle of a memorial for a deceased partner in Chicago. It was upsetting. I go on to explain the personal responsibility I feel as I return to reinvent the company I founded – one where our people are never left behind but rather always propelled forward.   

Put simply, the law gives our partners a right to organize, and it also protects the right to work without having a union. I have learned that only a very small fraction (less than 1%) of more than 200,000 Starbucks partners in the U.S. have voted for unionization, and in union elections that have occurred at Starbucks stores, roughly 65% of Starbucks partners in these elections have not voted at all.  

Going forward it will be important for all of you to recognize that outside labor unions are attempting to sell a very different view of what Starbucks should be. In stores where any union election occurs, it is important for all partners to have a voice – by voting – because otherwise these important rights may be dictated by what a minority of partners actually support. You have resources available to you to ensure partners get the facts.  

With our resilience, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovation, we will invest our resources to reinvent the company, meeting our partners and customers where they are as we journey to the future. I am looking forward to our time together at tomorrow’s WP Live event. 

Onward as partners, 
Howard