Inside Starbucks: A look at how partners across U.S., Canada are connecting over coffee, embracing new mission
Between April 24 and May 8, 250,000 Starbucks partners at 10,000 stores in North America are meeting during two-hour sessions to focus on the art of connection and reflecting on Starbucks’ new mission: With every cup, with every conversation, with every community – we nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection.
These gatherings are part of a long tradition of bringing partners together during key moments in the company’s history. Following a successful year-long reinvention and the unique six-month immersion of Starbucks chief executive officer Laxman Narasimhan, partners across thousands of stores are now learning about the important role they’ll play in co-creating the future of Starbucks in a way that honors the company’s heritage while modernizing it for the times.
Below, we’re sharing dispatches and downloadable assets from some of the first sessions to be held during the week of April 24. Go here for the official FAQ. All stores are adapting a three-part agenda to fit their individual store’s needs.
Part 1: Connecting with Starbucks
On the evening of April 25, store manager Louis closed his café in Glendale, Arizona three hours early so that more than 20 partners could be present with each other without interruption. For some, it was the first time they’d been able to meet in person with colleagues working opposite shifts.
“Today is about exploring what connection means to us, among our community and between each other,” he told partners as they enjoyed pizza and casual conversation. “This session is only the beginning. We can and should carry everything we learn forward into our next shift.”
Louis and assistant store manager Zee laid out the agenda and led the group’s first tasting of Starbucks® Green Apron Blend™, a new and unique Starbucks® Blonde roast consisting of beans sourced from Latin America and Africa, with notes of honeybell orange and graham cracker. Partners smelled, slurped and shared their thoughts aloud whilst pairing the coffee with chocolate croissants and Marshmallow Dream Bars. The crowd reaction? “Citrus!” “Acidic!” “Really good!”
Via the store laptop and portable devices, store partners gathered around each screen to hear a message recorded especially for them from Narasimhan laying out the company’s future, its new mission – and each barista’s role in helping to foster the limitless possibilities of human connection over coffee.
“I like it because it’s very simple,” Louis told his team. “When I’m not having the best day, I can go back to this and know: This is why I’m doing what I do.”
During the discussion that followed, partners at every level responded to the new mission as well:
“It’s constantly achievable. This is something we can do with every customer we meet, every cup that we serve."
"It’s an achievable reality of what we do.” – John, shift supervisor
“I think the part that really resonates with me is the end – we nurture the limitless possibilities of human connection."
"And I think that’s the biggest shift that I’ve seen in the last six months to a year – where it feels really inclusive to what connection means to us. In the past, it felt like connection had to mean the same thing all around but now we’re being given the space for us to find how we connect with customers.” – Felicia, an Arizona district manager
“I think it’s important to notice the part ‘with every community.’”
“Every Starbucks is different. The experience we have here is infinitely different from experiences we have in other stores. Every single one of those groups of customers is different, which is why I’m grateful to be in the café I’m in.” – Staj, barista
Part 2: Connecting with our team
About 30 minutes away in Phoenix, store manager Matty conducted his All-Store Partner Session offsite in a neighboring café that had more space for his team of more than 20 partners to spread out and talk in small groups. He brought in his own television set so that the group could watch Narasimhan’s message on one screen together. Assistant store manager Keith facilitated leveraging a wide-ranging kit filled with connection exercises sent out to stores ahead of the session.
For part 2 of a three-part agenda, the partners bonded around circular tables, got up on their feet to move around, and shared lots of smiles as they reflected on themselves – and shared their answers in a supportive space. Through speed networking and writing, partners responded to numerous prompts, including the following:
- Outside these walls, I am passionate about...
- My secret talent that no one knows about is...
- What I value most in a teammate is...
- What I value most about Starbucks’ culture is...
- The drink that embodies my personal energy is... Here’s why...
Partners said attending the session helped them to reset their role in the store and, more importantly, their connection with one another.
“I'm feeling so motivated. I think a strength that I have in my job so far is connecting with customers. I think that's the easiest part of the job.”
“Sometimes it‘s connecting with your peers and your partners that, you know, can be difficult or sometimes you're so focused on the customers and so focused on your job that you can neglect each other, it‘s easy to put our needs on the back burner. I think having that time today to connect and get to know each other really was so amazing.” – Sheila, barista
“This is actually a newer store for me, so it was super important for me to be able to connect with my current partners.”
“I learned what their strengths are, and they also kind of helped me see what my strengths are just by working with me for the short amount of time that they have.” – Anna, barista
“We were re-instilling the culture with each other. We were re-instilling the culture with our guests. How are we going to be here to serve them?”
“And how are they going to be affected by the decisions we make with each other while we're at work. I learned that a lot of us are here for the same reason, and we like being here because we bring each other up.” – Nickolas, barista
Part 3: Connecting with our customers
Across North America, after the teams got to know each other, they shifted to the final section of the All-Store Partner Session during which they began to talk about connecting with customers.
In Katy, a suburb just outside of Houston, partners in store manager Kirsten’s café gathered late into the evening. Over croissants, conchas and cupcakes – paired with Starbucks Green Apron Blend brewed using multiple methods – the group cheered one another and voiced their commitment to creating the best experience possible for every person who walks through their doors.
Around small tables usually reserved for customers, baristas, trainers and shift managers worked through a variety of exercises together. A card set shared with every store laid out various scenarios they might encounter to generate robust discussions around ways to connect with customers of every profile. Each partner filled out a worksheet asking them to think about cultivating new connections.
As you think about owning your craft of connection, consider:
- How might you leverage your connection superpower on your next shift?
- What is one thing you would like to borrow or replicate that you have heard from your fellow baristas?
- Who is one regular customer that you feel empowered to connect with? What from today will you bring into your next interaction with them?
For many partners who went in thinking the session would be all about training, it was a welcome surprise to hear the new mission directly from the ceo and to focus on the art of connection.
“I feel like when you give, you get back.”
“Some of our regulars, you ask them how their day is going and sometimes they're having a bad day, but sometimes you might be having a bad day. And because you're constantly interacting with people, they want to give back to you. For me, having this two-hour meeting was really important. And, I took with me the fact that people and interactions are really important, and that I want to grow as a person by growing those interactions with people.” – Arousha, barista
“I thought this was going to be a lot more work driven. I'm glad it wasn't. It was really nice being able to sit down and talk to people, actually connect with them like we do with our customers.”
“I just want to spark joy. I love walking into a place, feeling welcome. It's nice just recognizing people, making them feel super famous when they walk in one of our regulars every day. It's a chorus of people. Love it.” – Sean, barista
“Starbucks is such a fantastic place to get started. It is loving, it's inclusive. It's a very strong environment to get a stance in, like drink making.”
“It's just a beautiful experience. I'm pretty terrible with faces and names, so I'm very excited to see partners give me tips on how to better remember people, their drinks, their names, their faces.” – Teagan, shift supervisor
“I feel like before this [session], I wouldn't have thought of Starbucks as limitless opportunities. Maybe I wouldn't have put those two words together before this meetup, but afterwards, I can definitely see the opportunities that we have here.”
“Connection means to me bonding on the soul level. Like it goes deeper than just, ‘How's the weather today?’ It goes more into, ‘How are you, who are you as a person’? One cup, one coffee, one neighborhood at a time. It’s all part of trying to relate to someone on a more human level. Today, I committed to focusing more on the little things. The little things matter to me, so I know they must matter to other people.” – Mia, barista
“Honestly, it meant a lot to me, and it honestly helped me grow personally.”
“I found that making connections with not only the customers, but with the people that I work with, it improves the quality of our service and of genuinely just coming into work, knowing that I can come into work and I'll enjoy whoever I'm working with, or knowing that I can have people other than the people at home supporting me.” – Avery, barista trainer
“It's hard for me to open up, but it's good to get out of my comfort zone. And again, connecting with my partners is a very big deal.”
“I do enjoy working with them and it does help me connect better with the customers in the long run.” – Cassandra, barista