Brewing Inclusion at Starbucks
Creating an inclusive culture is a core value of Starbucks, from both the workplace and marketplace perspective. The company is committed to ensuring that employees and customers with disabilities feel welcomed and have equal access to opportunities and services. Starbucks’ disability employment initiatives are an important part of its broader diversity and inclusion efforts. They include partnering with state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to recruit and hire people with disabilities and providing training for all employees on disability-related topics, including workplace accommodations. Starbucks has also created a dedicated accessibility office at the corporate level and offers a disability-focused employee resource group (ERG). In addition, the company has established several “Signing Stores” staffed by employees who are deaf or hard of hearing and hearing employees who are trained in sign language.
Building Partnerships for Hiring & Training
Creating a culture where everyone is welcomed, respected, and valued, and an environment that is accessible for all, are core values for Starbucks. As such, the company’s disability employment initiatives are woven into its broader diversity and inclusion efforts, and infused into all aspects of the employment lifecycle. These initiatives include working with local nonprofit organizations and universities to recruit and hire people with disabilities. Further, Starbucks partners with state vocational rehabilitation and workforce development agencies to host “Inclusion Academies” that provide on-the-job training for people with disabilities in locations such as a recently opened store in Baltimore, MD and at the company’s York, PA and Minden, NV roasting plants and distribution centers. The company also conducts training for all new employees on disability inclusion topics, such as its service animal policy and the availability of accommodations and process for requesting them.
In 2017, the company reinforced its commitment to disability inclusion with the launch of an accessibility office within its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) programs team at the company’s Seattle, Washington headquarters. This office, which includes employees with disabilities, works to improve Starbucks’ culture, hiring processes, and infrastructure for people with disabilities and helps ensure accessibility of internal products, such as the company’s intranet and training platforms. It also supports Starbucks’ commitment to inclusion by assisting the company’s human resources office in providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
Starbucks has a disability-focused employee resource group (ERG), called the Disability Advocacy Network (formerly the Access Alliance Partner Network), that supports employees with disabilities by fostering awareness and inclusion. Additionally, the group offers opportunities for Starbucks employees with disabilities to strengthen connections and share knowledge and creates forums for education, community, and professional development.
In 2016, Starbucks opened its first “Signing Store” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, staffed entirely by employees who are deaf or hard of hearing and hearing employees trained in sign language. The success of the Kuala Lumpur store led to the opening of three more Signing Stores in Penang, Malaysia; Guangzhou, China; and Washington, D.C. Starbucks partnered with local nonprofit organizations, such as the Penang Deaf Association and The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf, to provide training of the stores’ employees through internship opportunities and sign language classes. The Signing Stores are specially designed to meet the needs of employees and customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. They utilize technology such as visual alarms, digital trays, and cash registers with customer displays to showcase how digital innovation enhances inclusive design. Signing Stores also add to Starbucks’ culture of awareness by featuring artwork by local artists who are deaf or hard of hearing.
These efforts have contributed to Starbucks receiving a 100 percent score on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) sponsored by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, an EARN partner, and being recognized as one of the “DEI Best Places to Work”.