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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How Starbucks Teaches the Gospel of the Bean

A huge part of Starbucks' comeback over the last few years has been the company's attention to its internal brand and employee engagement.

A new story in Fast Company magazine illustrates how the iconic coffee chain does it, focusing on Starbucks' $35-million Leadership Lab for store managers.

The two-hour, theatrical experience taking up 300,000 square feet and 20 exhibits at Starbucks headquarters was the highlight of a recent conference for the company's 9,600 managers, the magazine reports.

The Leadership Lab is a means of both training and inspiring managers to grasp the larger context of their work and to carry that back to their home outlets. In that way, it is creating the effective essence of both internal branding and employee engagement.

It uses theatrics such as allowing managers to rake real coffee beans, acting out difficult in-store scenarios, providing a space for "journaling" and concluding in a pristine white room "where benches face a massive Starbucks logo, inviting you to contemplate the company's mission statement," as Fast Company put it: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit -- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."

That Starbucks should invest so much in an employee-engagement exercise isn't a surprise, given the management approach taken by CEO Howard Schultz.

"[Employees] are the true ambassadors of our brand, the real merchants of romance and theater, and as such the primary catalysts for delighting customers," he wrote in his book, Onward. 

And that's the true gospel being taught effectively at Starbucks' Leadership Lab.

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