Why Starbucks Rocks at Their Employee Onboarding Program

by Sabrina Son on Mar 4, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Why_Starbucks_Rocks_at_Their_Employee_Onboarding_Program_1Ever wonder why a grande latte ordered at a Starbucks in San Francisco tastes the same as one ordered in New York City — and why the entire coffee shop experience seems the same as well?

Aside from using the same ingredients and machinery, the similar experiences are the direct result of Starbucks’s comprehensive training and employee onboarding program, which is explained in full detail in this Quora thread. Here are some of the highlights:


1. One their first day, baristas become familiar with the store they’ll be working at and the products they’ll be selling

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, particularly when you’re (eventually) expected to be able to explain the differences between a slew of different coffees and teas.

Starbucks lets its new hires dip their toes into the experience on the first day. There’s a store tour and some coffee tastings that are facilitated by the store manager. Baristas get exposed to training materials too.


2. One their second day, they learn about the history of Starbucks, as well as its culture

Starbucks isn’t just a coffee shop. It’s a coffee shop that’s committed to doing good by its employees, the communities it serves, and the farmers it works with.

So on the second day, baristas learn about the company’s history and its culture. They learn about how the company gets coffee beans, the deals it makes with farmers, and the importance of corporate social responsibility.


3. Baristas are given a training booklet

Why Starbucks Rocks at Their Employee Onboarding Program by TINYpulseSOURCE: giphy.com

The booklets feature self-guided modules that give new baristas insight into customer service expectations, company practices, and coffee history.


4. A learning coach charts each barista’s progress

A learning coach — who’s generally a motivated, helpful, and experienced employee — checks in with new baristas to see how they’re progressing through the training booklet. They answer any questions new hires might have.


5. Starbucks also gives baristas access to tools that make training simpler

There are literally infinite drink combinations at Starbucks. Aside from the different sizes, customers can choose whether they want decaf, half-caff, or regular. Then there’s milk. There are syrups. With or without whipped cream? The list goes on and on.

New hires are given access to training tools that help them get up to speed on making drinks. For example, they have Drink Dice baristas roll to see what combinations pop up. They’re then expected to be able to say the drinks correctly in Starbucks’ vernacular.


6. Coffee and tea passports make the job even easier

Why Starbucks Rocks at Their Employee Onboarding Program by TINYpulseSOURCE: giphy.com

These books — which fit in a barista’s apron pocket — provide new hires with a quick description of each coffee and tea Starbucks sells. Baristas are encouraged to jot their own impressions down on each page in the book and revisit their passports as their palettes mature.


7. As does the green apron book

The green apron book also fits in a barista’s apron pocket. These books are intended to provide new hires with a good idea on the kind of customer service they’re expected to deliver.


8. There are computer training modules that provide extra support

When there’s a rush of customers, managers and shift supervisors might not be able to help new hires. No problem: there are additional training materials on a computer in the back office that new baristas can use to teach themselves additional skills.


9. Most importantly, there’s a lot of hands-on training too

Why Starbucks Rocks at Their Employee Onboarding Program by TINYpulseSOURCE: giphy.com

The most help for new hires is perhaps found in their coworkers. New baristas are trained by their friendly coworkers on how to make drinks, how to prepare mixes, how to clean, and how to present food, among other things.


10. Baristas are then certified

Once a new hire is up to speed on all things being a barista, they are certified by a manager. This makes them bona fide Starbucks employees who are ready to provide exemplary service and delicious food and drink — and help even newer hires find their footing.


11. Training continues as big promotions roll out or baristas climb the ladder

Starbucks promotes a lot of folks from within. Each time someone climbs the ladder, there’s a whole new training system that similarly sets them up for success.

A worker's success only comes from an efficient employee onboarding program. How does Starbucks’s program differ from your organization’s program?



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This post was written by Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the managing editor for the TINYpulse blog. A Seattle native, she loves her morning (or anytime) coffee, spending her weekends on the mountains, and of course, the famous rain.

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