Starbucks Organizational Culture

Organizational Culture at Starbucks: An Analysis

Starbucks organizational culture
Source: Pixabay

Organisational culture is among the building blocks of organisational performance. Without a strong culture, it is difficult to create an environment that  drives performance, creativity and innovation. Culture acts as an anchor and keeps the foundation of a brand strong. All the strong brands have strong foundations anchored in strong cultures. Outstanding work cultures result in outstanding brands. Howard Schultz’s Starbucks is also among the finest examples of the best organisational cultures in the world. When you imagine a large coffee retail brand running across many countries, what kind of culture do you imagine? Some people would think of a culture where the machinery grinds and roasts employees like coffee. Starbucks is different. It brews the finest coffee and that too with love, respect and a human touch. Its shared values include ethics, equality, integrity, accountability and inclusion. Moreover, it is just as good at keeping its employees happy as its customers. There are several great things to know about Starbucks and its culture. There are several books that discuss its extraordinary culture. You will read about several important facets of its work culture on employment websites like Glassdoor as well.

To study the culture at Starbucks, one must start from its shared values. Shared values are at the core of Starbucks culture. It has focused on creating a culture of warmth and belonging where everyone from employees to customers can feel welcomed.  It created an environment of inclusion and nondiscrimination. Another important focus is creativity where employees challenge the status quo to bring things new and find new ways to grow the company. Working in collaboration helps the employees achieve difficult targets. Transparency, respect and integrity are also important focus areas which is because ethics are at the top of everything . From sourcing to human resources, marketing and customer service, ethics are an important focus for the brand in every area. Howard Schultz had set a different course for Starbucks right from the beginning. It was not a company meant to sink in profits but to become a benchmark for the entire industry. Simplicity and ethics became a part of the cultural DNA when its foundation was laid. Starbucks has continued to refine and improve and add to its strengths. The brand was not driven by profits but by a desire to build a unique identity – one that celebrated not just coffee but also connection.

What is the most important facet of the Starbucks culture?

The most important facet of Starbucks’ culture is its focus on equality and ethics. On its website, Starbucks notes, “We’re committed to upholding a culture where inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility are valued and respected. Your entire experience—starting with your application—is designed to be the beginning of an inspirational journey, where you are treated warmly and with transparency, dignity and respect”.  Starbucks is for everyone and while it is a premium brand, its culture is still rooted in modesty. Everyone must feel included from the frontline to the top management. Apart from that customers must feel valued and welcomed. The brand operates across 75 countries. Its employee diversity represents its diverse customer base. This does not extend to just customers and employees but also to the suppliers. Starbucks also focuses on supplier welfare. It works to educate them and train them so that they can take better care of themselves, their labor force and their employee base. All these things mean better relationships – with customers, employees and suppliers. Giving equitable treatment to each employee is the norm at Starbucks and it also applies to customers and suppliers. Customers receive a very special treatment in a welcoming environment. This has resulted in higher trust and a stronger connection. To strengthen the brand’s ethical identity, Starbucks also hires physically disabled and provides them every necessary accommodation so that they can succeed. Starbucks employees note that the environment at Starbucks can be fast paced but the culture and environment are still good and worth appreciation. Glassdoor reviews mostly show deep employee satisfaction. However, this does not mean there is not any further scope for employee satisfaction at Starbucks. In a fast paced environment, work may become full of pressure for a Starbucks Barista. Glassdoor reviews have rated Starbucks 3.8 on a scale of 5. In specific cities, the ratings can vary like 4 in NewYork. This is not bad given companies like Google and Microsoft  received 4.2 and 4 for entire US.

How does the organizational culture drive performance at Starbucks?

Organizational culture has posed as a tough question before executives. Few companies have been able to set their cultural foundation right. Culture’s relationship with performance is now well known. A high performance culture requires answering some key questions. Many organisations fix it right at the outset and many build it down the course as they proceed. There are several examples of cultural change in the twenty first century which have helped companies improve their team’s performance. In many cases  culture became a lifesaver as in the case of Ford infusing new energy into the organization. Starbucks focused on a building a strong culture that created space for creativity and inclusion right since the beginning. Organizations with strong cultural values treat people equally whether it is their employees, customers or any other stakeholder. At Starbucks employees are treated like partners and apart from few complaints related to work pressure and a fast paced environment, you will find its employees highly satisfied. Organizations that value inclusion and diversity are able to build strong connections with their employees. Such organizations face less issues related to workforce management. Just a fat package will not keep your employees satisfied. They must feel as a part of the family. Organizational culture is also linked to high employee morale and better retention rates. In terms of orgnizational culture, Starbucks is clearly a winner. Through its excellent culture, the brand has been able to build trust and strong relationships with its employees. High employee morale at Starbucks has kept driving employee performance. The company did not achieve all these things in just a single day. At Starbucks too culture has undergone continuous refinement and transformation. Howard Schultz calls the culture his organization’s most valuable asset. He too faced difficulties while trying to retain the integrity of the thing he had built but then deciding against the norm often helps you achieve the unthinkable. Schultz has believed in taking the road less travelled. Starbucks is a premium brand but if not for its culture, it too would have remained mediocre.

Culture of coffee and respect

Starbucks does not just serve coffee. A customer comes to the store looking for coffee but he also deserves respect. The brand is defined by its quality of coffee but it is the relationship between the brand and the customer that  better defines it. The baristas at Starbucks play a key role in growing this relationship stronger. They are there to make each customer feel valued, respected and included. Starbucks aspires to become one of the most respected brands in the world. This becomes possible when your customers respect you for everything you do. Schultz focused on building an original brand that was not built on inorganic fuss. To command respect from others, you have to be original; very original in your approach. Starbucks was not made a celebrity brand through marketing or bluff promotions. It took an original approach to give its customers a better taste of coffee. It turned coffee into a respectful experience.

Sources:

https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Google-New-York-City-Reviews-EI_IE9079.0,6_IL.7,20_IM615.htm?countryRedirect=true

https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Microsoft-US-Reviews-EI_IE1651.0,9_IL.10,12_IN1.htm?filter.defaultEmploymentStatuses=false&filter.defaultLocation=false&filter.employmentStatus=REGULAR&filter.employmentStatus=PART_TIME

https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Reviews/Starbucks-New-York-City-Reviews-EI_IE2202.0,9_IL.10,23_IM615.htm?filter.defaultEmploymentStatuses=false&filter.defaultLocation=false

https://hbr.org/2012/01/three-steps-to-a-high-performa

https://hbr.org/2010/06/howard-schultz-on-starbucks-tu