After Starbucks’ racial bias education training on Tuesday, more people were talking about what the coffee chain must do to ensure that racist store incidents are stopped.
The company sparked outrage when two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were arrested while waiting for a potential business partner at a Philadelphia location on April 12. Since then, several other stories of racially charged events at the chain have come to light.
To get some insight into what Starbucks should do next, African-American workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I) experts shared several useful pieces of relevant advice and guidelines.
“For an effective training plan, gaining an understanding of what bias is all about is important first,” Doug Harris, CEO of diversity and inclusion consulting firm The Kaleidoscope Group, told NewsOne via telephone. “Secondly, to explore where you are at with [bias] and thirdly, to manage and apply that [knowledge] to everyday reality. Education is awareness.”
Harris, a D&I expert with more than 25 years experience and this year’s keynote speaker at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Summit in Charlotte, believes that Starbucks employees must address various biases — whether racial, about sexual orientation or other prejudices — so people from all backgrounds or the “vast market” feel safe inside its stores.
Good training also means companies must let employees know that “respecting differences of all kinds is the expectation” and “illegal discrimination will not be tolerated,” Michelle T. Johnson, a D&I expert and author of several books including “Working While Black: The Black Person’s Guide To Success In The White Workplace,” explained in an email. There must be “healthy” conversation so “people can see how their words and behaviors can have an impact on getting the work done” and “respectfully co-exist,” she wrote.
The discussion about training also includes addressing the needs of African-American employees, who face “unique situations and concerns,” Johnson shared.
“Time and time, I’ve seen how diversity training sessions can be stressful for Black employees in these kinds of settings because they are the visible minorities in most organizations and are weighing a lot of emotions—self-consciousness, irritation, anger or just plain frustration,” said the author, who spoke with Black employees over several years while writing “Working While Black.”
Black employees’ needs are generally “touched on” during company-wide diversity or bias trainings, but not specially addressed, she said. She advises employees to “stay present,” listen for useful information and use it as a “point of reference” in their jobs going forward. For those who want to talk about issues facing African-American workers, they can ask their employee resource group or human resources department to arrange a personalized session, she added.
But what will Starbucks do next? Here’s what a spokeswoman from the coffee chain told NewsOne via email Wednesday:
“Over the next months and years, we will go into different forms of bias by adding more learning sessions on understanding bias, inclusion, use of the third place, leadership, among other topics. Starbucks is also looking forward to attending a convening this summer, hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights as we take the next steps toward understanding how can address other forms of bias and how companies can best implement these lessons.”
Starbucks will also consult with several diverse organizations and civil rights experts—including The Anti-Defamation League, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, UnidosUS, Muslim Advocates and representatives of LGBTQ groups, religious groups, people with disabilities and others. The road forward for Starbucks must also include putting the advice of D&I experts into action as well as that from communities of color.