Almost singlehandedly, the company launched a coffeehouse revival and made drinking dark coffee in a dimly lit room cool again. Although others attempted to follow in their footsteps, few succeeded in capturing the market's attention like the Starbucks brand.
Starbucks has also experienced its share of failures and setbacks. When the economic downturn caused the coffeehouse industry to implode, Starbucks was ill-equipped to survive in a world where caffeine aficionados could no longer afford to drop $5 on a cup of java. But despite the odds, the brand has managed to refine its business model and adapt to changing economic circumstances.
The Starbucks training program has played a big role in the company's success. Unlike other brands, Starbucks recognizes the centrality of the customer experience. They have tailored their training program to provide baristas with the tools they need to enhance the customer experience and deliver consistently high-quality products to its base. Here are some of Starbucks' training program highlights that can be incorporated into any small business training strategy.
- Well-roundedness. Starbucks puts new employees through a strict training regime in their first 2-4 weeks on the job. During this time, new recruits complete at least 24 hours of training. But unlike other retail food service operations, Starbucks' training doesn't focus exclusively on the mechanics of the position. Since the company understands that their employees are an extension of the brand, initial training includes sessions on coffee history, coffee knowledge, customer service, retail skills, and a 4-hour workshop about how to brew a perfect cup of coffee.
- Precise standards. As a franchise, Starbucks knows it can't take chances with the quality and consistency of its products. Using precise standards, their training program indoctrinates baristas in the company's coffee-making philosophy and processes. New employees are instructed in coffee making techniques, recipe memorization, ordering procedures, sanitary practices, and other standards required to maintain a pristine brand image. The lesson here is that Starbucks goes out of its way to define precise standards and pass them on to its workforce.
- Hands-on learning. Starbucks incorporates large doses of hands-on experiences into its training programs. New employees are expected to get their hands dirty from their first day on the job and to hone their coffee making skills throughout the training schedule. The takeaway for small business employers is that training content alone won't equip your workforce for front line realities. For full impact, it needs to be combined with hands-on experiences that allow workers to learn through trial and error.