How does Starbucks hire the best?

The lunch hour (1-3 pm in India) is almost always the busiest in any restaurant. We Indians tend to be picky about what we eat and want to be absolutely sure about our orders. So, we spend hours “deciding” what to order! Only to change it completely or partially a minute later. I only wonder how irritating can this be for the person at the counter (if you’re at a fast-food chain) or at the table.

I had a similar experience with a friend of mine this past week. Thankfully, we were at a Starbucks, so I was busy sipping my Americano. But I couldn’t help but notice the smile on the barista’s (they call them “partners”) face as he was taking the order, modifying it, writing names, asking details and actively listening to my friend (who can be a handful, honestly). And for some reason, I started to look around and see the other partners and they all had one thing in common — eagerness to serve.

I couldn’t help but reflect back on my previous experiences at my third home (of sorts, my office is my second home) and realised that I’ve never had to interact with a partner who isn’t excited or eager to serve not just me but the hundreds of people who’ve come before or who will after me. They’ve got this genuine, heart-felt smile with a warmth that only a human can radiate. It’s just so special.

The company has been a constant companion in all my travels. In fact, the first thing I look for after landing at any new place is “Starbucks.” And despite the stores being custom-built to attract and appeal to the locals, the experience is just the same. Across cities and nations!

As you can tell, I was pretty intrigued and couldn’t help but think about two specific questions:

  1. How is Starbucks able to standardise experiences across cities and nations?
  2. What’s their talent acquisition strategy beginning with their hiring process?

This is probably the only post where I just have the questions because I simply don’t know what helps the company standardise something that’s as intangible and individualised as an experience. My guess is that their strong focus on values, culture, purpose and mission is their ultimate enabler. It’s got to be it as anything else is practiced by every other organisation on this planet with far less impressive results.

For their talent acquisition strategy, one should check out their US careers website (or your local one) for inspiration: the message is pretty clear, they want you to work with them. And they’re telling you the things you need to do and the attributes you need to have to succeed at the workplace or even the interview. Check this out below:

Prepare to interview

– Research company culture by understanding Starbucks Mission & Values and reviewing Starbucks News.

– Familiarize yourself with behavioral-based interviewing. Prepare specific examples reflecting the competencies of the role.

– Visit a Starbucks® store to observe the operation and familiarize yourself with our products.

– Engage with Starbucks on our social media channels, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.

How cool is that? I think every employer can take a leaf out of Starbuck’s talent playbook. It’s like they like you to win. What happens inside the organisation is something that I should be doing more research* on but it’s pretty evident that there’s a strong focus on the fundamentals aspects that most business folks would brush away. I think Starbucks gets it.

P.S. *Perhaps get hold of someone in the HR and have them talk about it? For my podcast? Just an idea…

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