In the wake of last week’s events where two Black men were arrested for hanging around a Starbucks while waiting for a friend, Starbucks has announced it will be closing 8,000 stores in the USA to offer anti-bias training. That equals about 175,000 employees.
When you do the math, that’s a fairly hefty financial commitment – training costs plus lost revenue for the time the stores are closed. But it’s worth it – if it works.
So here’s what I want to talk about today:
What do we need from a training like this, and how do we get it?
Thoughts about Training
Starbucks will include input the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League in the training. Good. Having the perspectives of Black people in this training is crucial, given the events that led up to it. So this is a good step.
Who will deliver the training? Hopefully it’s someone who will be able to effectively engage employees around their privilege, what bias looks like and how unconscious bias works and the impact. This will be important in order for people to understand their complicity in a system that oppresses people based on skin colour.
What will the training include? I’ve noticed what an impact it makes when people learn about the history or racism, and how it’s baked into our structures, laws and policies. It’s important for people to learn and understand the systemic nature of racism, so they can spot it, and speak up against it.
And lastly, what will happen after the day is over? In my experience, a one-day training will only do so much. Open people’s eyes at best, highlight resistance at the other end of the spectrum. But either way, one day can only achieve so much. What happens next? Who will facilitate the discussions that the training brings up? Who will answer the questions? Who will monitor if the training is working in terms of customer service and experience? And perhaps most importantly, how will the changes that this training is meant to create be supported? How will employees (and Starbucks) be held accountable?
These are all important questions. Training is an important part of behaviour change. But it’s only ONE part. Behaviour change takes time, and requires support and accountability.
I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.