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Will Bias Training Work, Starbucks?

A few weeks ago, we witnessed two African-American men be arrested at a Philly Starbucks for "loitering." The video of the incident went viral, sparked national protests and reignited the all-too-familiar discourse of discrimination that plagues America. In this incident, the major fault falls on the local store manager for not upholding Starbucks's national culture of community gathering. Since I could not find a loitering policy on their website, I cannot speak to it like I would like to, however I do believe the ill-treatment of the men was racially charged since the same rules were not applied to others as seen on the video.

I am pleased that Starbucks's CEO, Kevin Johnson, took personal accountability and responded with an anti-bias training program today for his 175,000 employees. As a diversity professional, I believe Starbucks's swift response was the right first-step to handling such an egregious misstep. However, do I believe it is a enough? Nope.

Deconstructing biases require a process far beyond classroom training. Anti-bias training should be ancillary to a formal inclusion program.

In addition to building a formal inclusion program, the coffee giant would benefit more by:

  1. conducting a multi-phase process where employees work through real-life scenarios,

  2. facilitating regular dialogues to challenge preconceived notions and stereotypes,

  3. implementing an accountability piece that bolsters no-tolerance rules,

  4. weaving inclusion into every strata of the organization with a presence in on-boarding, job descriptions and ongoing engagement activities. 

I trust Starbucks to continue to handle this incident carefully. Today's nationwide training was a good start. I hope what happened to Starbucks resonates to other major companies to get it together and build their own inclusion programs... and not for litigation avoidance! The real work is seen in businesses building strong inclusion programs.

DMK Consults leads corporate efforts beyond Diversity-101 to a more strategic program designed to tool a company to be a stronger and more inclusively-competent. Call us! (Totally shameless plug).

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