Starbucks Recruitment and Selection Process

Modified: 21st Aug 2018
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Starbucks is a speciality coffee house which originated in Seattle. Today the organisation has over 15,000 outlets worldwide. It sells a range of hot and cold drinks, food items and accessories. Its philosophy is to create an experience for the customer and a human connection. With the introduction of the Starbucks Card purchasing drinks, food etc. from the outlets has now been made a lot easier. Customers can top up their cards and use them as a method of payment.

Starbucks products are also available from supermarkets. Some of the range includes packets of coffee, coffee makers, gift sets etc.

Starbucks is constantly innovating its offer to keep up to date with competition from McDonald’s, Cafe Nero, Costa Coffee etc.

You are required to answer the following questions making reference to Starbucks.

Task 1 – Recruitment, Selection and Retention

A Barista at Starbucks must have a number of personal characteristics and skills which will enable them to carry out their role. These skills and characteristics are likely to include friendliness, attention to detail, a commitment to providing customer service and an ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Pilbeam and Coridge indicate that successful resourcing is as much to do with good organisational fit as it is to do with HRM best practice, and therefore the first stage of recruitment should be to undertake a role or person specification in order to establish the skills and attributes necessary for the role. Phillips and Gully suggest that successful recruitment, selection and retention should also be aligned to the strategic objectives of the firm and therefore care and consideration should be given to the most suitable recruitment and selection methods in order to ensure they will attract the best potential candidates and also that the entire process will result in long term employee retention.

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Bratton and Gold state that “recruitment is the process of generating a pool of capable people to apply for employment to an organisation. Selection is the process by which managers and others use specific instruments to choose from a pool of applicants a person or persons more likely to succeed in the job(s), given management goals and legal requirements”. Accordingly, Torrington et al observe that there are a number of alternative recruitment and selection strategies including interview, assessment centre, and psychological testing. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and therefore it is not uncommon for multiple approaches to be used in combination depending on the seniority of the role in question. However, before recruitment and selection can commence it is necessary to determine a suitable specification for the role. Thus the suggested specification for a Barista at Starbucks is given below:-

Figure 1: Personal Specification Template for a Barista at Starbucks (Source, Author)


Essential or Desirable?

Qualifications / Education / Training:

No essential qualifications required, food safety or food hygiene would be desirable




Customer service, food handling, retail




Some retail knowledge would be desirable, along with a knowledge of various coffees



Skills & Competencies:

attention to detail; ability to work in a high pressure environment, customer-centric



Personal Attributes:

open & friendly, keen to provide an exceptional customer experience




Prepared to go the extra mile to offer exceptional service and use own initiative when necessary in order to promote the brand and concept



The specification is not exhaustive and further attributes may be considered such as an ability to communicate in more than one language, especially if the location of the outlet is such that overseas tourists regularly visit (eg parts of London). 

The most cost-effective form of recruitment and selection process for Baristas would be CV and subsequent interview as managers in Starbucks at a local level have a clear idea of their local customer demographic and demand and thus potential applications who submit a CV can be easily screened for desirable and essential skills and attributes. The manager can then interview potential applications before making a decision on selection. An interview has further benefits as it allows the manager to identify the personal attributes and characteristics of the application in order to assess how the application would fit within the existing team, as much of the Starbucks ethos and working model requires a high level of teamwork.

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Potential questions which might be asked at interview for the Barista would include asking the application to describe their retail experiences to date and getting them to explain how these experiences have relevance at Starbucks. This would test for depth of experience and also organisational fit in terms of focus on the customer experience. Other technical questions might relate to Food safety and handling in order to ensure that the application understands the critical importance of this when delivering an exceptional customer experience.

From a regulatory perspective the manager conducting the interview must be sure not to inadvertently discriminate against any potential applications during any stage of the recruitment and selection process. Therefore all applications must be asked identical questions and none should relate to issues of gender, age, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In short, Starbucks is proud of its heritage as an equal opportunities employer. During the recruitment process potential applications must be offered full opportunity to ask their own questions in order to ensure that they fully appreciate the nature of the role which they may be committing to.

Task 2 – Building Winning Teams

One of the foremost scholars of team building, Meredith Belbin, identified that in order to function effectively an organisational team requires members with different skills and attributes. In her research she identified that there are nine alternative “team roles” as she described them (see Appendix for full details). Belbin observed that the most effective teams possessed at least 5 and ideally 7 of the roles, and that an individual member within a team was capable of fulfilling more than one role, but rarely more than two. Tuckman established that when people are first brought together in a team they experience various stages of team development, popularly referred to as “forming, norming, storming and performing”. This concept is reflected in Figure 2 overleaf. In short, the theory holds that as employee are brought together in a group they experience an evolutionary process whereby they come to understand and appreciate one another’s skills and strengths and then utilise these complementary skills for the best advantage of the team as a whole.

History has shown that Tuckman’s theory has almost universal application, however, when used in combination with Belbin’s theory it becomes even more powerful as it becomes possible to identify in advance whether or not a group I likely to succeed based on the unique skills and attributes of each team member. For example, if there are too many “plants” within a group then it is likely that the group will be highly creative but the ideas will rarely be translated into action. Similarly, too many co-ordinations is likely to result in arguments as the co-ordinator role is known to be quite stubborn and even manipulative.

When applying these theories and concepts to teams at Starbucks it can be observed that different skills are required for different parts of the operation. Holistic observation of a team working at Starbucks demonstrates the power of team working. Each person has a defined role which they focus upon in order to ensure maximum efficiency and quality of output. For example in any Starbucks outlet one person focuses on taking orders and payments, another one or two (depending on the size of the outlet) focus on making the orders and a further team members is constantly ensuring that the outlet is clean and tidy and well stocked. It can be suggested that this requires a high level of group communication and co-ordination and also a high level of trust as those baristas making the coffee must take on trust the orders given to them by their colleagues. Similarly because two Baristas can work on the same order simultaneously there must be complete understanding and uniformity to the order production process such that they can interchange their roles at any point. Under Tuckman’s model it is clear that a team in Starbucks is at the very least in the “norming” stage of the model and most probably at the “performing” stage.

The concept of team work within organisations has gained increasing prominence in recent years and with good reason as highly effective teams are more efficient and productive. Furthermore, Armstrong identifies the benefits of empowering team members within a role so that they feel more engaged with the organisation and therefore more committed to delivering the best possible experience for the customer or client. At Starbucks one means of achieving this would be to ensure that every team member is fully cross-functional and that they are given stretch performance targets which require them to work as a team. Full cross-functionality means that each team member has an appreciation for other roles and therefore they tend to be more considerate of outcomes. Moreover, a cross -functional team which has accountability for its own results will typically find more effective means of delivering a service in order to reach targets. 
Armstrong also discusses how increased responsibility and accountability increase engagement which in turn increases motivation. Some HRM scholars regard the relationship between engagement and motivation as symbiotic, but there is little doubt that engagement and motivation are strong indicators of a high performance team that is committed to exceed expectation and delivering exceptional service. Furthermore, research by Saunders demonstrates that highly engaged teams have lower levels of staff churn. This point is useful as it is closely correlated to the previously discussed matter of recruitment and retention, and thus if the right people are brought into the organisation and they are motivated to stay because they feel the business (for whatever reason) is a good fit for them, then there is reduced churn, increased engagement and greater productivity. In summation, engaged team members are more profitable for the business and thus it becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.

Task 3 – Leadership & Motivation

There is a vast amount of literature and research which embraces the topic of leadership; furthermore, leadership theories have experienced a considerable amount of transition over time as societal perceptions of leadership have changed. Leadership has been defined by Mcquire and Molbherg as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. Theories of leadership range for discussions as to the traits of leaders their styles of leadership and transactional and transformational theories of leadership. One of the most popular theories used to explain leadership style is the Managerial Grid as developed by Blake and Mouton and shown in figure 3 below:-

As can be seen in the figure, the Managerial Grid examines the prevailing managerial technique of leaders within an organisation in order to identify their preferred style. In ideal circumstances Blake and Mouton believe that a manager and leader should adopt a team style which is participative and empowering and allows the employees of the organisation to make their own decisions within the remit of the organisation’s objectives. It can be suggested that the concepts of the Managerial Grid share some parallels with the discussions as to transformational and transactional leadership whereby Burns argues that in the longer term transformation leadership is far more effective because it empowers employees to deliver the best possible performance as they have accountability for their own daily working lives.

It is evident that there are close linkages between leadership and motivation insofar as good leaders motivate their employees and team members to succeed through a combination of techniques such as engagement, empowerment and delegation of power. Armstrong and Cheese et al believe that the use of these techniques in conjunction with other factors such as employee voice ensure that individual employees align their personal aims and objectives with those of the organisation and therefore voluntarily strive to ensure that the service provided by the organisation is a success.

It should also be acknowledge that several scholars perceive there is a difference between a manager and a leader within an organisation. The distinction is subtle and relates to the fact that managers generally focus on day to day operational tasks and leaders tend to occupy a more strategic role. However the distinction is certainly not clear cut and considerable debate still centres on this division of roles. Furthermore a leader can also be a manager by dint of their role within the organisation, and thus leadership tends to be regarded as a personality trait as opposed to an organisational position. In short, a leader tends to be more effective at motivating and inspiring employees because of their ability to engage them and encourage them to strive for enhanced performance.

In times of change and development, and also in times of difficult circumstances such as recession, leadership and talent management skills are highly valued. In application to Starbucks it should be observed that in times of recession when consumers tend to cut back on luxuries such as coffee from coffee shops, Starbucks must strive to offer improved service to customers in order to retain them. The managers (and ideally leaders) of Starbucks must also continually strive to motivate Baristas to deliver exceptional service even when customers become more demanding. This concept is closely correlated with that change management and goal setting whereby engaging Baristas with the process can ensure that they feel empowered to respond to the challenge and that they have responsibility for it. At a local level this may mean running small promotions which would suit the customer demographic in order to attract and retain more customers. Furthermore, if Starbucks wish to retain their employees it is prudent to continue to invest in training and development in order to ensure that they are highly skilled and capable of responding rapidly to changes in customer demand. This might include job exchanges with Baristas from other retail outlets in order to share best practice, or creating a forum where Baristas can put forward their suggestions for improvement. Although these are relatively small steps they can help individual Baristas to progress within Starbucks and this ensures that Starbucks generates a reputation as an employer of choice which fosters home grown talent and treats employees with fairness and respect. 
Research into the prevailing management style at Starbucks reveals that they have a relatively flat hierarchy which ensures that it is easy to disseminate information widely and effectively within the organisation. Starbucks has a clear mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time” and this is fully evidenced in their training policies and ethos. The structure and leadership style of Starbucks also ensures that the business can be responsive to customer needs because the baristas are in direct contact with customers every single day and also have the necessary mechanisms to ensure that they can provide valid and timely feedback to their managers in order to improve the customer experience.

Task 4 – Work and Development Needs and Performance Management

Armstrong defines performance management as “a process which contributes to the effective management of individuals and teams in order to achieve high levels of organisational performance. As such, it establishes shared understanding about what is to be achieved and an approach to leading and developing people which will ensure that it is achieved”. It is important to observe that from a HRM perspective performance management is not solely concerned with disciplinary procedures, but rather it is concerned with ensuring that each and every employee has the necessary support to achieve their objectives and potential. Thus, performance management is often closely correlated with learning and development as in order to achieve to their maximum potential employees must continue to expand their skills and to develop their capabilities. Furthermore, scholars such as Benson et al have observed a link between training and development and employee retention, which as previously identified, helps to ensure increased engagement and reduced employee churn.

However in order to monitor and improve employee performance it is first necessary to set suitable objectives and targets and to apply metrics and benchmarks to these objectives and targets in order to objectively assess employee performance and development. At Starbucks there are two core elements which form the basis of employee performance; these are technical capability that is to say the ability to consistently produce a high quality cup of coffee, and secondly the ability to interact with other stakeholders including team colleagues and customers. The former can be objectively assessed by observation against agreed performance metrics such as speed of production and consistency of taste. This has benefit to individual employees and Starbucks as a whole because it ensures consistency of service and product quality across the network of franchises meaning that the reputation of Starbucks is maintained and also that Baristas are employable across a range of franchises that they may be prepared to travel to, thus increasing their value to the company.

The second performance metric to assess is more intangible and pertains to perceived service level and customer and colleague interaction. In terms of colleague interaction this can be assessed through a variety of measures such as 360 degree feedback, line manager observation and self-reflection during a performance review. Research has shown that generally speaking individual employees are reasonably self-aware of their skills and capabilities and it is rare that a performance review highlights anything that the employee was not at least already aware of at some level. However the benefit of performance review is that it can demonstrate to individual employees specific areas where they could improve or would benefit from training to enhance their skills set. For example a food safety certificate to help ensure that an individual franchise was fully compliant with legislation, or perhaps rudimentary book-keeping skills to help ensure that the cash is managed accurately in each store.

In terms of assessing Barista performance when interacting with customers this can be achieved through feedback forms and customer incentives. For example it is becoming increasingly common that receipts from retailers encourage customers to provide feedback about their service online. This has the dual benefit of helping the organisation to become more engaged with customers and response more rapidly to customer feedback. It can also be used to gather individual barista feedback if specific questions in the feedback questionnaire relate to performance and service such as speed and friendliness and helpfulness of the Barista. The information gathered from feedback surveys can be fed back to each barista in regular performance reviews in order to help them identify areas of development and subsequently improve performance. As noted at the outset of this section, performance management techniques should not be designed with the sole intention of discipline employees, although it is almost inevitable that at some stage a form of discipline may be required for certain employee. However, best practice makes it clear that regular performance reviews can help to forestall any such issues as if they are held regularly and reasonably frequently it should be possible to forestall any problems before they become issues of concern.

Finally it is necessary to consider how Starbucks applies principles of delegation in order to motivate Baristas. As discussed previously in this review, Starbucks encourages team working and the creation of stretch targets to help Baristas develop and to take responsibility for their own areas of production. This approach is closely linked to effective performance management because empowering Baristas to set and achieve their own targets helps to motivate them to achieve as they feel in control of their targets and daily responsibilities. Targets can be used to monitor and evaluate Barista performance and at each performance review they can be revised as necessary in order to help the Barista improve. For example in the early days of a barista’s employment this could be to improve the speed of production and to obtain a certain customer service rating. In due course this could progress to internal training courses in advanced customer service management and customer experience. This holistic process also helps Baristas to appreciate that they are valued and therefore this leads to them becoming more engaged and motivated and delivering improved performance.


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