‘The Starbucks Way’: Focus on Cultural Fit Not Skills

Starbucks, the global and iconic coffee brand, has a company culture that is fueled by passion for coffee, customers and employees. In Joseph Michelli’s latest book, Leading the Starbucks Way, he describes the importance of coffee tasting for new hires in the 200,000 employee corporation based out of Seattle, Washington. “When a store manager celebrates the first day with a new hire by preparing a coffee tasting, that manager is producing an event that both communicates the desired behavior of learning the unique flavor profiles of coffee and demonstrates values that support coffee passion.” This passion is fueled by the commitment to build a genuine connection between the customer, the company, its products and initiatives around the world.

The book outlines the onboarding process for new hires, called partners, and the rigorous training they undergo to not only acquire the right technical skills, but also grasp the nuances of company culture and building those emotional connections in the context of the Starbucks Experience. Their brand value reads: “We’re called partners, because it’s not just a job, it’s our passion. Together, we embrace diversity to create a place where each of us can be ourselves. We always treat each other with respect and dignity. And we hold each other to that standard.” Partners’ ideas are important and Starbucks is committed to making the experience a collaborative process between management and employees. Because of this strong belief, they created the idea portal that celebrates the contributions and innovations of its employees.

Michelli says Starbucks’ human resource leaders, “have done a remarkable job with orientation tools centered not only around job skills necessary to produce a well-crafted beverage, but also around understanding the underpinnings of culture and what it takes to form an ‘emotional connection’ with each person who comes into the Starbucks store. In fact, baristas are taught to look for [qualities, including passion, within those connecting moments] in customers as potential Starbucks partners themselves.”

HR has a huge role in maintaining this culture, but it also upholds its partners to the same standards, whether they are baristas or managers. Although they are tasked with standard functions like training, coaching and onboarding, their primary purpose is to lay the groundwork for company culture. Coffee tasting rituals are a large part of this culture that encompasses the celebration of milestones with the sharing of stories about the brew, its origins and everything that makes it unique.

Is this an indication for how company’s should move forward in the future? Should the focus be more on mindset, stories and cultural fit rather than skill set? John Boudreau, professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and research director of its Center for Effective Organizations, agrees. He notes that  Starbucks is not the first company to realize the impact that ” ‘fit’ with culture, values and mind-set [can have on] performance and success in some situations.” The thinking here, he says, is that “if you know it’s pretty likely that any applicant can learn the skills, and it is not more expensive to train them than to hire for them, then shifting your hiring focus to other dimensions that are harder to train makes logical and economic sense.”

from Jason Hanold http://ift.tt/1rwo9fa
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