In the 7 years I’ve worked at Starbucks (holy crap… my numbers were #1301323), I can attest that this job is challenging. We gotta deal with a lot of stuff; we gotta make drinks, smile for with customers, prepare for QASA, wake up the wee hours of the morning, etc. So anything the company can do to make other parts of the job easier is an awesome addition.
I left Starbucks last November to pursue a career in design, and a few months later I now work for a company that does email digests. I still have friends at Starbucks, so naturally, I began to combine my expertise and see ways email digests can help with solve some of our problems.
First, the problems:
1. Forgetting when you work
If you’ve been with the company for over a few months, you probably know how it feels to get a call on your day off. It starts with a slight tinge of anxiety as you reach for the phone and recognize the number from your store. That triggers a filmstrip of reasons why they might call you to play in your head. Ultimately, your fears are confirmed as you hear — seemingly in slow motion — the 3 words baristas on their day off dread the most:
"Where are you?!"
First you’re shocked, because you’re friggin’ POSITIVE you’re off. Then comes denial, as you insist that your manager double checks. Then frustration, and maybe a few curses, mostly at yourself for reading the schedule wrong. And finally acceptance, as you suck it up and haul your ass to work.
Most retail partners are part-timers who go to school or have other jobs, so we never have the same schedule every week. While that’s no excuse for reading your schedule wrong, the reality is this happens quite frequently.
2. Having no idea what’s happening with the company
My father once told me that the most important aspect of a partner is clear communication. I think he might have been talking about a different sort of partner, but the point is the same — if you’re in a relationship (and we are with Starbucks), you gotta communicate with your partner. Seriously, when’s the last time you thought, “I love what corporate is doing up in Seattle. They sure keep us notified! ” HAHAHAH.
You see, I get the scoop from customers before I hear any news internally… if ever! If I had a nickel every time a customer brought up Starbucks news before I knew of it, I could buy myself a pretty decent steak dinner. Did you know Starbucks is raising prices? Nope. What’s the next community event? You tell me. Did you hear that Starbucks bought so-and-so? No, that’s a surprise. What’s the hashtag of Starbucks’s latest Twitter campaign? Uh, #WTF???
I wish we had a better idea of what was going on with the company! Sure, you could argue that knowing this stuff wouldn’t make you a better barista, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I’d argue it’d make you a better *partner*…. and If Starbucks is gonna call us *partners*, they should talk to us like we are.
3. Confused about our benefits
I worked with a partner who was once struggling to cover her bills. She was living paycheck-to-paycheck and it wasn’t such a good situation, so wanting to help, I asked if she had been contributing to her 401k, because — did you know —you can actually borrow money from there at a low interest rate, so if you’re ever caught in a financial pinch, having a 401k to draw money from is a friggin’ lifesaver! Most partners don’t know about this!
Turns out she never even started her 401k! And she had been a partner for almost 10 years. I was shocked! I didn’t have the heart to tell her how much money she’d have (more than $10k) if she had started contributing once she was eligible. That’s like telling your neighbor she had sold a Picasso painting at her garage sale (well…almost as bad) — some things are better off not known.
Starbucks has very generous benefits, but it only works if you take advantage of it. They send out a few pieces of mail every year, but based on the amount of people I’ve had to help, it’s not effective. This happened so much, in fact, I decided to write a guide to your Starbucks 401k. This should be Starbucks’s job — not mine.
What should Starbucks do?
I think getting digital reminders would be a BIG step towards making our lives easier. There are many ways to do this, but a combining it in a weekly email digest is probably the simplest solution.
It could look like this:
The email would come with 3 parts:
1. an update of what’s new with Starbucks
2. Our schedule for the week
3. Tips and reminders about our benefits.
For partners, I think the biggest immediate utility is the convenience of never having to write down your schedule… but over time I believe updates about Starbucks and a clear understanding of our benefits will add much more value.
The updates could be interesting… I could imagine some interesting topics, like the rational behind store design, cup design, cool stories with partners, community events, etc. If anything, it’s cool to know more about the company and it’ll make good conversation on the floor when business is slow.
But I ESPECIALLY think reminders about our benefits will be the most valuable. This is the area I’ve found my partners to be the LEAST knowledgable about. This problem happens because Starbucks sends one-off brochures in the mail, and nobody takes the time to read it. But if they include it with our schedule, it’s much more likely to be seen. An email digest could present information in a way where we can conveniently and effortlessly consume it. Eventually they could also alert us about open enrollment, RSU vesting, tuition reimbursement, etc, and really minimize partners missing out on benefits.
Could you imagine this helping you?
Have you or your partners ever read the schedule wrong? Do customers often ask you stuff you don’t know about? Are you ever curious what’s happening with the company? Do you like free money (benefits)? Then shoot Starbucks a tweet or REBLOG!
I made the email with Knowtify. Although I worked for and wrote this specifically for Starbucks, I believe employees in many organizations face similar problems and might find email digests a valuable solution.