This week, 8,000 Starbucks stores shut down for about four hours for racial bias training. This comes after an incident in Philadelphia last month when two African American men were arrested, accused of trespassing as they sat inside in a Starbucks without purchasing anything.
So how do we know if the training worked?
Starbucks is not the first company to carry out unconscious bias training. We’ve seen huge corporations and police departments try to tackle the problem. But, the training programs created are still a debated approach.
“This sort of training can get that conversation started and begin to make people aware of what they do and maybe even at the organizational level get some awareness of what they do as an organization that potentially influences things,” said Evan Abbott, the director of organizational development and learning at the Employers Council.
Abbott believes this type of training can drive positive change. “As long as the company starts embedding it into its DNA, as long as they are seeing this training as a first step in how do we talk about race class and other forms of unconscious bias and have it be the first step of the conversation, and what are we doing from the top down now and embed it across the whole organization,” said Abbott.
The Chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, said this training is just the first step to long term change.
“But, we have to start the conversation, but we have also said that we are deeply committed to this being a long-term journey and we plan on integrating this training not only into every Starbucks from this point on but also the on boarding of a 100,000 new people a year," said Schultz.
"It’s a big deal what Starbucks is doing. They are sending a strong message," said Abbott. “Pessimists would say that’s a small element that’s one day out of 365 days and that’s a significant amount of money. They are demonstrating this is important enough were shutting down the business we are going to make time for us we are going to make time for our employers around this and I think that’s to their credit.
Once these trainings are complete, success can be measured.
“It can be measured in a soft way or a hard way. From the HR person of how many complaints I’m getting or has it gotten better the tensions being released or sometimes it’s a little bit more measurable like an employment engagement survey or customer satisfaction surveys where we collect some data. Do we seem like we are a more diverse and inclusive organization," said Abbott.
Both Abbott and the chairman of Starbucks agree that the training is just the beginning of a long road ahead.
“I think the real test will be what happens next. Do they communicate that change at that managerial level that organizational level and is that something they continue to report as a value and how they incorporate that into their stores,” said Abbott.