HR Retail 2019

April 08 - 10, 2019

Hyatt Regency Austin

Starbucks Recruits with a Purpose for a Better World


In the (not too distant) past, the notion of being “purpose-driven” was something largely reserved for the not-for-profit sector. Charitable organizations, of course, have always had “purpose” (to change the world in some way) – but businesses, surely, just have a “mission” (to be profitable).

Not anymore.

Today, in an age of conscious capitalism, more and more businesses are finding that profitability is becoming increasingly dependent on their ability to prove that they are as purpose-driven as they are mission-driven. Why? Because what motivates employees in 2017 – especially amongst the increasingly crucial millennial cohort – is no longer promises of job security, high pay and career advancements, but a feeling that the businesses they are working for are doing good for personal, societal and social purposes.

“An organization without purpose manages people and resources, while an organization with purpose mobilizes people and resources,” writes Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of organizational development firm Sparktures, in Fast Company. “Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organizational culture. It’s an unseen, yet ever-present element that drives an organization.”

The 2016 “Purpose At Work” global report from social benefit corporation Imperative in association with LinkedIn concurs. According to the report, 85% of purpose-led companies show positive growth – compared to 42% of non-purpose led companies which show a drop in revenue. Further, out of the companies surveyed that had experienced growth of 10% or more over the previous three years, 58% of them were purpose-driven.

(Image source: business.linkedin.com)

Mission Statements Vs. Purpose Statements

To get to grips with exactly what their purpose is, many companies have started publishing “purpose statements” that sit alongside the more traditional “mission statement”.

It’s worth clarifying the difference at this point. Mission statements describe what the company wants to do right here and now – i.e. what customers it wants to reach, what the critical processes of the business are, and what the desired level of performance is.

By contrast, a purpose statement describes what the company wants to be in the future – and indeed how the company plans to effect (positive) change within the industry and/or society that it operates. "Your mission statement is more about what you want to accomplish, and the goals you want to get to, whereas your purpose statement is your reason for existence and more about the journey," explains Shannon Schuyler, Chief Purpose Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Here’s how US coffeehouse chain Starbucks outlines its mission and purpose statements:

Mission statement: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."

Purpose statement: "To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow."

Starbucks Recruits for Purpose

The power of purpose is not to be underestimated. It gives companies a competitive edge, not least in the realms of recruitment. Companies with a purpose-driven culture, according to research from LinkedIn Talent Solutions, have employees who are more likely to be fulfilled and satisfied at work, form strong relationships with their co-workers, are higher performers, and speak highly of their company.

Recruiting for purpose, indeed, is something that John Phillips, SVP of Global Talent Acquisition & Partner (Employee) Enablement at Starbucks, believes in most firmly – for the good of the world, as well as the company.

We can’t just be bystanders to what’s going on in the world […] you turn on the TV and you see a fractured level of humanity out there […] and we need to figure out what is our role and responsibility in that,” says Phillips. “Think about how your role can change and disrupt the path humanity is on. As a recruiter, you have a way to disrupt that path and make your company – and in turn the world – a better place.”

A Better World

It is of course very easy for a company to come out and say that it “wants to make the world a better place.” But Starbucks wants its actions to speak louder than its words – which is why the retailer has been paying the college tuition fees for more than 4,000 of its employees.

In April 2015, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the company’s College Achievement Plan – a scheme that provides the full tuition fee reimbursement at Arizona State University’s online college to any full or part-time US Starbucks employee who is not yet in possession of a bachelor’s degree. This is a purpose-drive to make the world a better place in no uncertain terms. For indeed, the motivation behind the College Achievement Plan, according to Phillips, is to address one of the US’s overbearing concerns about the inequality of education opportunities in the country.

“When it comes to college, the highest predictor of achieving a college degree in the Unites States is the zip code you came from,” Phillips said in an interview with LinkedIn. “And that’s not right.”

Starbucks partners (employees) may choose from 50 undergraduate degree programs through ASU Online, with no commitment to stay with the company post-graduation. The top degrees being pursued through the plan are psychology, organizational leadership, and health sciences.

What is interesting is the fact that following the launch of the scheme, applications went up for positions at Starbucks right across the board – as well as a boost in barista applications, so too was there a boost in applications for corporate positions. Despite the fact that many of the applicants for these corporate positions already had a college degree – and therefore wouldn’t qualify for the College Achievement Plan – the program enticed them to Starbucks anyway.

“This is what people want to be part of,” Phillips said. “They want to be part of a company that does it the right way.”

Positive Branding

Starbucks will invest $250 million to help at least 25,000 partners graduate through the College Achievement Plan by 2025. It’s a sizeable figure, no doubt – but it provides the necessary clear and tangible proof that Starbucks really is purpose-driven to make the world a better place. And this positive branding, Philips believes, offsets the costs of the scheme, for it will attract and retain the best talent to the workforce, and consumers are always willing to spend more with companies they believe have good values. The last word goes to him: “There is a direct connection between the way you treat your employees and customers choosing you as a brand. We want our customers to know and love our culture.”

Make sure to also download the HR Retail agenda to discover all of the great activities, speakers, & sessions planned for this year.

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About John Waldron: John Waldron is a technology and business writer for markITwrite digital content agency, based in Cornwall, UK. He writes regularly across all aspects of marketing and tech, including SEO, social media, FinTech, IoT, apps and software development.