11 minutes

You probably fit one of these two categories: either you had at least one Starbucks drink in your life or you had the curiosity to find out what all the hype is about. The popularity of the coffee company (and a lot of other drinks) is undeniable, Starbucks managed to create a universal appeal not only around its products but also its staff. So, what can Starbucks Teamwork culture teach other companies?

Starbucks teamwork

The concept of getting a Starbucks drink goes way beyond the drink itself, it attracts customers to the experience and they are left impressed with the workstyle, which is very enjoyable and distinctive. But a major business like Starbucks did not achieve all this prestige unintentionally, of course! Over the years they’ve implemented a variety of practices focused on taking the company’s name to a new level of customer and employee excellence.

Starbucks policies cover several areas, but it’s safe to say that those that concern employee appreciation and teamwork encouragement stand out. Not only do they contribute to the success of the business, but they can also offer valuable lessons for other businesses on improving their performances and results. 


To start, Starbucks always refers to their employees as “partners”, this practice reinforces how every single person represents more than just regular workers and it doesn’t matter if they’re on corporate or store jobs. This simple detail can boost employee’s morale inside the company and provide that feeling of protagonist and impact on the success: “I don’t just work there, I’m part of the business”. 

 But it’s not just the company that views employees as partners, coworkers also have this culture and they’re really invested in the mission of being there for each other. This feeling of partnership is key in the process of reinforcing teamwork, since “partners” begin to view collaboration as the best path for success. The accomplishments are best when the efforts are shared.

So, lesson number one from Starbucks teamwork efforts: it’s not particularly necessary to come up with nicknames for your employees, but implementing a culture that expresses their importance and the equality of protagonism is definitely a great approach to encourage collaboration inside your team. 

To understand more about the partnership culture at Starbucks, you can watch this video about what it is like to be a Starbucks partner: 

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Another particularity about Starbucks is its valuable statement about being a place that deeply cares about the workers. Partners claim to be treated with a lot of respect and dignity, always being encouraged and developed along the way. They say that every day brings an opportunity to overcome a new challenge, learn something new and grow as an individual.

What can we learn from this? When every worker is treated with respect, is valued, and considered, there is little room for unhealthy competition. And without this unhealthy competition, employees can thrive in an egalitarian environment and work in a collaborative spirit. We can see in the video that employees see each other as family members. And honestly, what better team than family?


Another great strategy from Starbucks is their involvement in community service: the company invests in programs designed to strengthen local economic and social development. This is how the initiative works: the company allows some of its employees to spend half of their workweek volunteering for a local nonprofit and still getting paid for their time. These programs usually last for about 6 months.

 The partners are encouraged and sponsored to volunteer in organizations and participate in charity events. These external programs are known to integrate the volunteers and are also a great way to make them come together for a bigger cause, nurturing that sense of partnership and teamwork. When asked, a Seattle retailer said that employees who feel connected and engaged in their communities are more likely to stay at Starbucks longer.

 The Starbucks Global Social Impact team is responsible for reaching out to programs they find compatible with the company and executing the process of partnership. Some of the benefits of this initiative are the increase in employee engagement, the development of new skills, and the experience to serve as a model for an employer-led capacity-building program that Starbucks and other corporate partners can scale globally in the future.

To see more about the Starbucks Community Programs you can visit this website here. They have a section dedicated to the matter and the first thing you’ll see is an institutional video exploring all about the experience and benefits of this inspiring initiative. 


The next lesson from Starbucks is to build the most diverse team possible. For them, teamwork and diversity walk side by side because the company wants a universal perspective. To show appreciation, Starbucks believes in inclusion and this is done by encouraging diverse conversations and thinking. The partners say that difference is celebrated because it boosts innovation.

For Starbucks, bringing different people together helps the business create innovative products and solutions. By having a more diverse workforce, they’re solving the needs of the larger community. Celebrating diversity is how Starbucks teamwork and collaboration thrive.  

Speaking of diversity, Starbucks is also really supportive of accessibility. They are actively hiring individuals with disabilities and providing reasonable accommodations and assistive technologies to enable people for their jobs. They even have an official channel for partners to request assistance and more: the “Partner Networks” (also referred to as employee resource groups) who work to create an inclusive environment across Starbucks representing the broad spectrum of the partner’s backgrounds.

Take a look at what diversity means at Starbucks: 

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Another interesting initiative was when 75,000 Starbucks employees were shown this film about racial bias when the company held a nationwide session to kick off a curriculum on the subject. This way, the partners tend to not resent the company because they are being treated equally, which enables them to feel like a part of a team and makes them contribute evenly to any job or project.

Culture and values

Starbucks has an “Employee First” philosophy and it’s based on an important logic: competitors can replicate the products, but they can’t replicate the experience that partners provide when serving the customers. Starbucks also knows that employees that are treated well, will, in return, treat customers well. As a matter of fact, it’s important to say that this appreciation doesn’t only apply to store workers, but also to corporate employees, after all, they’re partners too! 

To keep all employees on the same page, Starbucks has an Employee Handbook that is constantly updated. In fact, this type of manual is very common for a lot of companies because they help with the onboarding and orientation of newcomers and older employees. Starbucks has a Handbook with a few guidelines that are extremely important for the business’s success. Here are some of them:

  • Employee Motivation;
  • Pay Structure;
  • Employment Discrimination laws;
  • Employee Performance review;
  • Anti-Harassment guidance;
  • Performance Management Process. 

The complexity of these types of manuals helps to make sure that partners are fully aware of the company’s dynamic, this way, they can integrate and understand how the team behaves and how they’re expected to work. 

Benefits and appreciation

When it comes to appreciating employees, Starbucks promotes  “a special blend of employee benefits” and a work/life program that focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, and creative aspects of each person. The company is known for rewarding partners who achieve results and live its mission and values. Aside from that, it recognizes employees’ contributions at all levels of achievement through formal and informal programs. 

One example of these programs is the “Bean Stock” reward, which consists of allowing the partners to share in the financial success of the company through shares of Starbucks stock. Bradley Honeycutt, vice president of HR Services said that Starbucks established “Bean Stock” in 1991 as a way of investing in its employees and creating ownership across the company. She added that this strategy has been key to retaining good people and building a loyal team. Consequently, the level of bonding and work efficiency was favorably impacted. Another great reason why Starbucks employees are called partners, right?  

Another great example of how Starbucks values and encourages employees through benefits is an initiative called the “Starbucks College Achievement Plan” in which eligible partners can choose from over 100 diverse undergraduate degree programs at Arizona State University online courses with the assistance of 100% tuition coverage by the company.

Check out this institutional video that explains all about the University program and  the partner’s success stories on this journey of education:

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There are even videos where the partners themselves share how they managed to get a college education thanks to Starbucks and what are their thoughts about the program, like this one.

Talking about education, another Starbucks benefit is the “Tuition Reimbursement” where the company helps partners by subsidizing their tuition, books, and fees so that they can pursue advancement in professional development. The reimbursement can go up to $1000 a year when the partner checks a few boxes, such as: having a minimum of 6 ​​months of continuous service and taking a course at an accredited educational institution towards a certificate, diploma, or degree program.

Programs like these can help prepare employees for higher positions and bigger accomplishments. Well-prepared partners can also boost their team’s performance because they’re constantly applying the acquired knowledge to their work. And another advantage is the fact that the support from an employer has the power to make someone feel considered and appreciated, this feeling is transformed into gratitude and it is shown in the employee’s dedication to the job.

Taking care of the partners

Following the health orientations during the pandemic, Starbucks implemented remote work for its corporate partners, and last year (2020), the company decided to extend its work-from-home policy for the Seattle Headquarters employees. This work mode is set to last until October 2021. But Starbucks affirmed that it envisions a more flexible workplace, maybe even a smaller one, for when the activities return to “normal”. 

To help with this process of adaptation, Kevin Johnson, CEO, declared that the new layout will focus on emphasizing remote-working technologies and maybe include “hoteling features” that will make it possible for employees to reserve parking spots or spaces where they can work for the day. But, this decision is also based on a few other strategic factors… Johnson said to the partners that “This is more than a health and safety measure, but an intentional decision to help you manage your individual needs”. 

It’s safe to say that this strategy intends to promote important new skills in the workers, especially self-management and productivity. This measure can also strengthen employees’ relationships since they have to improve their communication to not lose touch with each other and keep the business developing.

As long as we’re talking about taking care of employees’ health, Starbucks partners also are eligible for a universal benefits program that includes coverage from care plans and the possibility to select dental and vision plans. This helps to keep the partners in their best shape and condition, this way, they can give more and more dedication to the job. It’s a fact that a complete and healthy staff will always represent the strongest teamwork efforts. 


Starbucks has a mindset to make sure that a partner feels that their impact was seen. It even set some directions on how to do it: 

  • Timely: Delaying the recognition lessens the impact. 
  • Genuine: The recognition mustn’t feel forced or an obligation. 
  • Shared: Employees want their peers and leaders to know about their accomplishments. Seeing someone being recognized also inspires the observer!
  • Frequent: Partners should be thanked or praised regularly, it’s important to not take them for granted.

These were just a few of many strategies that every business can learn from Starbucks Partnership Culture. But, if you thought the lessons were “too advanced” for your business at the moment, remember that it’s important to focus on the intentions behind every benefit, philosophy, or program because that’s where all the important concepts are. So, if you found them interesting, go ahead and adapt what you’ve learned to the reality of your business. You’ll definitely make some great changes!