Starbucks enlists the help of Unconscious Bias training

Coffee house and global brand Starbucks recently mandated its employees across the USA to participate in an unconscious bias training course. Why? Because several employees at one of its outlets in the USA were deemed to be biased towards two black gentlemen who had requested to use the outlet’s toilet facilities (prior to making any kind of purchase).

As is often the case in the social media savvy world we now live in, the whole incident was caught on camera and quickly published. International broadcast and print media grabbed the story as if it was one of Starbucks’ overpriced, but oh-so-good cakes. And then what happened?

A very public apology was caught on camera by the swarm of TV cameras that accompanied journalists at the Starbucks outlet. The apology was quickly followed by the announcement that all Starbucks employees would be participating in a one-day unconscious bias training course. Reasons for this may include, but might not be limited to:

1.  An attempt by company executives to demonstrate that Starbucks as a brand was sorry and wished to find some good in this less-than-ideal situation.

2.  To educate employees on the need for bias awareness, fairness and customer service.

3. To restore some brand credibility and minimise potential losses in terms of financial and credibility.

But a well-intended organisational commitment could quite quickly fall on deaf ears.  Sending thousands of employees on an unconscious bias training for one day – one whole day – may be financially expensive great PR, but it’s very limited in terms of value delivered for Starbucks as a brand (a global brand, remember).

It is rather like arriving at the gym, doing one workout, even a really great workout, then never returning but still believing you are now fit for life.  Fit for life following that one workout.  It is completely ridiculous.  As you and I both know, to be fit for life, we need to return to the gym, increase the intensity of the workout, recover, and then return again.  Otherwise, our one time effort leads to, well, nothing worthwhile.

If it is to deliver genuine organisational value, unconscious bias training needs, and indeed deserves, to be actively reinforced. This can be done with gentle but regular reminders, proactive people management and clear communication and shared understanding about the minimum organisational standard that will be accepted.

Find out more about how unconscious bias training can help your organisation.

Posted by on July 10, 2018

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