A month ago, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores to train 175,000 partners on cultural bias. The training happened in response to the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store, for not ordering anything while waiting for a third party for a business meeting.

Although many praised Starbucks for taking such swift and far-reaching action to address the root cause of the incident, the company also received criticism for the training, noting that a half-day session wouldn't do enough to tackle bias.

But in an interview with CNN, Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO clarified the role of their half-day racial bias training in the context of tackling a large and complex problem:

This is a societal issue. And race and racial bias has been present in the United States for centuries. So the fact that this happened at our store really put us front and center at understanding how that could have happened at our store,  and understanding what happened and what we could do to take a positive constructive step forward. And we view this as just one step in a journey. This is not the only step. It is a step and we feel like it is a very positive first step.

Because this is a societal issue that we all play a role in addressing, Starbucks released the content of their entire 4-hour racial bias training, including the videos and workbook on The Starbucks Channel.

Johnson went on to explain what some of those future steps will look like:

We now have 12 follow-on modules that will go on, each month we'll drop a new module out to our stores for our store partners to continue on that journey...This is just the beginning.

Business is about belonging. And if you want to create an environment where all your customers feel like they belong, like Starbucks, you will need to be intentional about building and nurturing a company culture that fanatical about delivering that experience.

To create a company culture where diversity, inclusion, and belonging are more than just lip service, follow these three principles.

1. Ensure everyone on your team knows the vision.

When everyone who works with your company is clear about the customer experience you want to deliver and the values you want to embody in the process, it makes it easier for them to live into those behaviors.

Starbucks mission is to uplift others by inspiring and nurturing the human spirit -- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. One of the values that helps them live out that mission is "creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome."

At their cultural bias training, Starbucks engaged in a number of exercises that helped their team members see what living the mission looked like in practice.

When I worked at Johnson & Johnson, the company credo was ever present in the mind of every employee as we went about our work. Not only did we have the full written credo on our desks, but it was discussed at every company meeting, and we frequently heard stories about how different company decisions were connected to the credo.

Engage in activities that make your company mission, vision, and values come to life for everyone on your team.

2. Make training and dialogue an ongoing part what you do.

Too often training occurs only in response to bad behavior. But you'll fare better with cultivating a positive company culture when training on the behaviors you want happens on a consistent basis.

Note that training doesn't always have to be a formal endeavor. It can be as simple as your leaders seizing opportunities to have a engage with team members when teachable moments present themselves, or encouraging honest dialogue for greater understanding.

When you start to look for them, teachable moments are abundant. While onsite at a client office last week, I had an open dialogue about race-based labels. A gentleman had an honest question, and we had a good conversation that was enlightening for both of us.

3. Implement policies that support your team carrying out your mission.

Starbucks is doing that both through training and with policies that support their vision. In response to the arrest of the men in the Philadelphia store, the company announced it's "Third Place" policy, which states "any customer is welcome to use Starbucks spaces, including our restrooms, cafes and patios, regardless of whether they make a purchase."

When your policies are in alignment with your mission, it makes it a no-brainer for your team members to act in a way that supports them in delivering good customer experiences. 

Invest in creating a company culture where both your team and your customers feel like they belong. There will be many rewards when you do.

Published on: Jun 26, 2018