How Starbucks Can Make Its Massive Bias Training Count

How Starbucks Can Make Its Massive Bias Training Count

Last month, a manager at a Philadelphia Starbucks called the police on a pair of black men who were waiting in the store for a business meeting and had yet to make any purchases. A cell phone video of the two men’s subsequent arrest, which also captured other patrons’ outrage over the incident as it happened, quickly went viral and prompted a nationwide conversation about the racial profiling that black Americans often face in places of business. For Starbucks, which has sought to establish itself one of America’s most progressive employers, it has created a crisis, raising questions about whether this was truly an isolated incident and whether the roughly 40 percent of Starbucks employees who identify as racial minorities have faced hostility or felt unwelcome in the workplace—as many Americans of color have indicated in surveys that they do.

In an unprecedented response, Starbucks quickly announced an ambitious initiative in which it will close all of its over 8,000 company-owned US stores on May 29 so that nearly 175,000 employees can attend an anti-bias training. By conveying that the company takes this matter seriously and is committed to addressing it, the announcement won the coffee chain praise in the world of public relations, but from the perspective of HR—and Diversity and Inclusion more specifically—the standards for success are much higher and more difficult to meet. To make this response count as more than a PR spectacle, Starbucks will need to demonstrate that it’s not just making the right kind of noise, but actually making meaningful changes that are tangible to its vast numbers of nonwhite customers and employees. Furthermore, whether the initiative succeeds or fails, it stands to have an impact far beyond this one company. The stakes are high and all eyes are on Starbucks.

From the D&I research team at CEB, now Gartner, here are some points Starbucks should keep in mind in designing and deploying this anti-bias initiative—and for HR leaders at other organizations to consider in their own efforts to combat the insidious problem of bias.

Anti-Bias Training Should Encompass all Stakeholders’ Perspectives

To underscore the importance of this training, Starbucks announced that the curriculum would be designed with help from prominent experts in civil rights and racial justice, including former attorney general Eric Holder, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, and Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. This A-list roster lends an extra dose of credibility to the initiative, but Starbucks might also consider engaging with the communities they serve to understand the experiences of their nonwhite customers on a more personal level. A great example of this kind of stakeholder-focused inclusion strategy is ANZ Bank’s accessibility initiative for people with disabilities, which involved stakeholders across the workforce, workplace, and marketplace in determining accessibility goals and how the bank would achieve them. (CEB Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council members can read the case study here.)

Starbucks could also benefit from bringing employees’ voices and experiences into the conversation as opposed to making this a one-way training exercise. To be fair to the staff, they’re often at the frontlines of how the public feels about the company (like the time that a Miami man was videoed screaming “Trump!” at a black Starbucks employee, or the “Trump cup” protest, or the “open carry” protest, or the annual “war on Christmas” protests). Starbucks doesn’t exist to serve the community in the same way as the police or the government, but the company has consistently worked to cultivate a brand image of its cafés as public spaces, which imposes a unique set of challenges for its front-line employees.

Treat Employees as Partners, Not Part of the Problem, in Combating Bias

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H&M Hires First Head of Diversity After Backlash to ‘Racist’ Ad

H&M Hires First Head of Diversity After Backlash to ‘Racist’ Ad

H&M, the Swedish fast-fashion retailer, suffered a major public relations crisis last week when an advertisement depicting a black child modeling a sweatshirt with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle” set off a wave of violent protests at its stores in South Africa. The company quickly apologized and removed the ad from all its marketing, but the fallout has not ended: Musicians The Weeknd and G-Eazy have canceled partnerships with the company, activists have called for a global boycott, and the five-year-old model, Liam Mango, and his family have reportedly moved out of their home in Stockholm over “security concerns” after his mother was harshly criticized for defending the company over the controversy.

As part of its damage-control efforts, H&M announced on Wednesday that it had hired its first global head of diversity, the Associated Press reported:

In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, the retailer said Global Manager for Employee Relations Annie Wu, a company veteran, would be the new global leader for diversity and inclusiveness. The retailer said on Facebook that it’s “commitment to addressing diversity and inclusiveness is genuine, therefore we have appointed a global leader, in this area, to drive our work forward.”

At Quartz, Lynsey Chutel explains why the ad touched such a nerve in South Africa, and what other global brands can learn from this controversy:

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Studies Reveal UK Minorities’ Perceptions of Discrimination at Work

Studies Reveal UK Minorities’ Perceptions of Discrimination at Work

A new survey of ethnic minority business leaders in the UK from the consultancy Green Park shows that racial discrimination remains a serious challenge in the British workplaces, while UK businesses are not making sufficient progress toward meeting diversity and inclusion goals. The survey’s headline findings include that 18 percent of these leaders have personally experienced workplace discrimination in the past two years and that 82 percent of them do not trust their organizations and believe that there is institutional prejudice against minorities in the UK, People Management’s Emily Burt reports:

Meanwhile, just 2 per cent of companies surveyed by Green Park reported that they were meeting their targets for ethnic minority board-level representation, while more than a tenth (13 per cent) said they had an ethnic diversity target but no strategy for meeting it. …

However, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed felt most workplace prejudice was unconscious. In light of this, the researchers recommended that changes in attitudes towards institutional racism must come from the top and not just left to HR to “sort out”. But while 60 per cent of the surveyed ethnic minority leaders said they believed tackling institutional racism had moved up the organisational agenda in recent months, two-thirds of these respondents said workplace language around racism was emotive and made people uncomfortable.

Burt also points to a study published earlier in the year by the University of Manchester, which reviewed 25,000 incidents of racism in the workplace and came to the conclusion “that workplace racism was increasingly normalised,” with nearly 30 percent of surveyed employees saying they had “either witnessed or experienced racism from managers, colleagues, customers or suppliers.”

Meanwhile, the BBC reports on another new study conducted by the Trades Union Congress, which also found that more than one third of black or minority ethnic workers have experienced racism in the workplace:

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CEO Responses to Charlottesville Show HR as PR More Relevant Than Ever

CEO Responses to Charlottesville Show HR as PR More Relevant Than Ever

Over the course of three days, five US business leaders, including the CEOs of Merck, Under Armour, Intel, and 3M, plus the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, have resigned from President Donald Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, amid backlash over the president’s response to the violence that took place at a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. Two AFL-CIO officials have also left the council, and the CEOs of PepsiCo and Campbell Soup Co. are also under pressure from activists to do so. [Update: On Wednesday afternoon, the CEOs on both the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum decided to disband the groups.]

Trump has faced extensive criticism for declining to specifically denounce white supremacism in his initial remarks on the violence and waiting until Monday to do so. On Monday, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier appeared to echo that criticism in his statement announcing his resignation from the council, writing: “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy.” From an HR and management perspective, these high-profile resignations illustrate how high the stakes have become for American CEOs at a time when millennial employees and customers increasingly expect them to take on an activist role in the social and political issues of the day.

Over the past 18 months or so, a growing number of companies have started to push their HR strategies into their broader consumer brands in a bid to attract and retain customers as well as talent. In this “HR as PR” strategy, businesses adopt progressive benefits, for example, or take strong positions on diversity and inclusion as a way to show that they care about their employees and thereby to encourage consumers to patronize them. We’ve seen quite a few examples of this recently, from Lyft advertisements suggesting it treats its drivers better than Uber does, to Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya’s high-profile efforts to hire refugees from Syria and other troubled countries, and the evidence, while limited so far, suggests that this strategy is effective at generating revenue.

Since Trump’s election last November, HR as PR has taken on a new dimension as the CEOs of corporate America find themselves increasingly called upon to take stances on a variety of social issues ranging from immigrants to LGBTQ rights, from racial tensions to women’s rights. While these decisions have been bold and courted criticism, they have not been fraught with potentially massive blowback—until now.

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Study: Racial Discrimination Harms Bystanders ‘Like Secondhand Smoke’

Study: Racial Discrimination Harms Bystanders ‘Like Secondhand Smoke’

A new study suggests there is a disconcerting side effect of racial discrimination in the workplace. Writing about their findings at the LSE Business Review, Belle Rose Ragins, Kyle Ehrhardt, Karen S. Lyness, Dianne Murphy and John Capman assert that “like second-hand smoke, the negative effects of racial discrimination at work can affect third-party bystanders”:

Ambient racial discrimination is a workplace stressor. Our surveys of employees from a variety of organizations and occupations revealed its potent repercussions for employees of all races. Those exposed to racial discrimination in their workplace were more likely to report physical symptoms of stress at work, such as upset stomach, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and hand tremors. They were also more likely to experience insomnia and had more stress-related absenteeism than those not exposed to ambient discrimination. Ambient discrimination also affected employees’ organizational commitment; those who were exposed to racial discrimination at work reported less commitment than those not exposed. These findings illuminate the pernicious and potentially widespread effects of racism at work.

So what can organisations and managers do? Organisations clearly need to develop inclusive climates and eliminate workplace racism, but entrenched attitudes make this a challenge. Racism often emerges in subtle and sometimes even unintentional ways through jokes, comments or by forwarding “humorous” emails. Organisations can attempt to regulate behaviours, but employees may engage in racist behaviours without being fully aware of their racism or the repercussions of their words and actions.

Another suggestion the authors make is that “high-quality mentoring relationships” can help mitigate the effects of secondhand racism:

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Indians, Troubled by Recent News, May Be Reconsidering US Opportunities

Indians, Troubled by Recent News, May Be Reconsidering US Opportunities

Last Wednesday night, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, immigrants from India working as engineers at the GPS device manufacturer Garmin in Olathe, Kansas, were shot at a local bar by a gunman who witnesses say yelled “get out of my country” before firing on the men. Kuchibhotla was killed, while Madasani and a bystander were injured. The shooting appears to have been motivated by racial and anti-immigrant animus and is being investigated as a possible hate crime; in the meantime, Garmin is mourning the loss of one of its own and stressing its commitment to being inclusive towards foreign employees, as the Associated Press reports:

On Friday, Garmin tried to comfort grieving employees at a closed-door vigil inside the auditorium on its campus in Olathe, Kansas. Kuchibhotla’s widow, Sunayana Dumala, addressed the group of about 200 workers that included Madasani, who was released from the hospital Thursday. Laurie Minard, Garmin’s vice president of human resources, doesn’t believe the shooting will jeopardize its recruitment of workers from overseas.

“We tend to be a family here,” she said at the Garmin campus, which is waging a $200 million expansion, with plans announced last August for a new manufacturing and distribution center. “We want people to feel safe. We embrace it. We encourage it. We support it. It’s extremely important to us about acceptance.” At any given time, she said, more than 100 Garmin employees are in the H-1B program, which lets American companies bring foreigners with technical skills to the U.S. for three to six years.

The shooting has understandably put some Indians and members of other immigrant communities on edge, as have plans by the Trump administration to crack down on both legal and illegal immigration. Trump’s pledge to shrink the H1-B and other skilled worker visa programs stand to have a particularly significant impact on Indians, who make up the lion’s share of H1-B holders. Now, the New York Times finds, some Indian students and professionals are thinking twice about coming to the US:

India is second only to China as a feeder to American colleges, with around 165,000 students enrolled in the 2015-16 school year, according to the Institute of International Education. Indians are the largest recipients of temporary skilled worker visas, known as H-1B visas, which the Trump administration intends to cut back. And close to half a million Indians, who mostly went to the United States legally as students or tourists or on work visas, have stayed on after their visas expired, the Pew Research Center estimates. …

Some Indians who had planned to go to the United States said they were hesitating. Manavi Das, who is considering several universities, said she was “constantly looking to see if the school is in a red state, or has witnessed a shooting in recent times. “After a certain event in November,” she said, “I have found my apprehensions turned up a notch.”

The Wall Street Journal hears something similar from Indian professionals working in the US on guest-worker visas, who are making contingency plans in case they lose their right to remain in the country:

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How Should Employers Respond to the Protests in Charlotte?

How Should Employers Respond to the Protests in Charlotte?

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the shooting death of Keith L. Scott, a 43-year old black man, at the hands of police has led to six nights of peaceful protests so far, as well as some violent unrest. As we’ve discussed before, the issue of racial profiling and police violence in the US is no longer something organizations can ignore if they want to foster an inclusive environment for their black employees and display empathy toward these employees’ own experiences of racism.

Recent events in Charlotte and other cities have brought this issue to the fore yet again, and employers may be wondering about the right way to respond. Fortune’s Ellen McGirt talks to one expert who thinks now is a good time to test out the potential of employee resource groups as agents of change:

“We would suggest that the work that most ERGs do could be leveraged to create a space where the targeted communities and the authorities could meet and have a dialog,” [Tolanda Tolbert, PhD, Director of the Inclusive Leadership Initiative of the Catalyst Group,] says, referring to the police and aggrieved activists in Charlotte. “We could also see ERGs functioning as advisors to either side of this conversation—working as a bridge to communication,” she says.

Tolbert, who studies and consults with ERGs as part of her job, thinks they can grow into a management force for change. “For example, imagine that situation with Arizona passing discriminatory laws,” she says. “We could see an ERG telling their leadership not to have their annual conference in a location, or to stop sponsorship of an event.” To her knowledge, she says, an ERG has not yet established itself as an ambassador in this way.

The demonstrations have been concentrated in Charlotte’s “uptown” business district, and after violence broke out on Wednesday night, many businesses there instructed their employees to stay home the next day. One organization, United Way, used that communication as an opportunity to express support for the city’s diverse community and acknowledge the pain it is feeling:

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