The Bagg Group Champions Lessons from a Barista for Attracting and Retaining Employees


Next time you walk into a Starbucks, take a good look at the barista pouring your coffee. He or she is one of the reasons why Starbucks is once again in growth mode, after experiencing a crisis in the recession. 

In his newly released New York Times best-seller, Onward:  How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul, Starbucks founder Howard Shultz details what it took to get his company back on track.  Largely, it required empowering employees in three areas: responsibility, autonomy, purpose.  At The Bagg Group we know those are the essentials for attracting, engaging and retaining top talent — whether the talent’s skill is pulling a perfect espresso or improving a supply chain or IT operation. 

Some may consider focusing on employees to be a less than surefire strategy for significant growth.  But those people don’t know what we do. After decades of speaking with clients across the GTA, as well as candidates looking for full-time positions, contract work and temporary placements, we know this to be a fact:  People’s efforts, talents, dedication and creativity are a company’s competitive advantage.   With facts and figures, Onward makes it clear just how much.

On Tuesday, February 28, 2008, Schultz writes that he went further than most to re-invigorate his frontline employees.  At the price of about $6 million in lost sales and labour costs, Schultz closed all 7,100 Starbucks in the US for three hours.  During that time, training took place to remind 135,000 baristas that with the perfect cup of coffee, they can make a difference in a person’s life.   

“If the barista only goes through the motions, if he or she does not care and produces an inferior espresso that is too weak or too bitter, then Starbucks has lost the essence of what we set out to do 40 years ago: inspire the human spirit,” Shultz explains.

The founder of the world’s largest coffeehouse chain writes that he recognized “….even more than perfecting our coffee, we had to restore the passion and the commitment that everyone at Starbucks needed to have for our customers.”

For Shultz, that meant giving employees the autonomy to take responsibility and make decisions to do right by the customer.  Since the training, every employee is empowered to throw out an espresso that they don’t believe is good enough, and start again.

Writes Shultz:  “Speaking to our people via the video, I had no script, just a heartfelt plea. ‘It is not about the company or about the brand,’ I said. ‘It is not about anyone but you. You decide whether or not it is good enough, and you have my complete support and, most importantly, my faith and belief in you. Let’s measure our actions by that perfect shot of espresso.”

The Bagg Group recruiting experts know that it’s that level of recognition and trust, combined with a company-wide pride in product, that candidates seek.

In its time of hypergrowth, the CEO of Starbucks said the company made the mistake of not focusing enough on its people.

All of us at The Bagg Group are delighted that Onward is making the case today that a company that pays attention to its employees is the one that people want to work for — and with.

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