Starbucks Coffee Company’s Organizational Culture

Starbucks Coffee Company organizational culture case study analysis
A Starbucks café in Singapore. Starbucks Coffee Company’s organizational culture is one of the firm’s key success factors and competitive advantages. (Photo: Public Domain)

Starbucks Coffee Company’s organizational culture is one of the most distinct characteristics of the firm. A company’s organizational culture widely influences employees and business performance. In Starbucks Coffee’s case, the company’s organizational culture permeates all aspects of its business. However, Starbucks cafés are where the company’s organizational culture is most easily observable. The way café employees work with each other and how they interact with customers are indicators of Starbucks Coffee’s organizational culture. The warm and friendly ambiance in these cafés is part of the company’s distinction from competitors. Starbucks has an organizational culture that relates with the company’s strategies for successful brand development and global expansion.

Starbucks Coffee’s organizational culture is a key success factor in the business. The company uses its organizational culture as a distinction against competitors.

Features of Starbucks Coffee’s Organizational Culture

Starbucks Coffee’s organizational culture has a number of key characteristics. The combination of these characteristics is unique to the firm. The company describes its organizational culture as a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity. In this regard, the main features of Starbucks’ organizational culture are:

  1. Servant Leadership (“employees first”)
  2. Relationship-driven approach
  3. Collaboration and communication
  4. Openness
  5. Inclusion and diversity

Servant Leadership. Starbucks has a servant leadership approach, which significantly characterizes the company’s organizational culture. In this approach, leaders, managers and supervisors emphasize support for subordinates to ensure that everyone grows in the company. This feature of Starbucks’ organizational culture translates to the employees-first approach. The company highlights the importance of caring for employees. Former Starbucks President Howard Behar developed this feature of the firm’s organizational culture because he believed that employees who are cared for are the ones who care about customers.

Relationship-driven Approach. Starbucks also has an organizational culture that supports warm and friendly relationships. For instance, at Starbucks cafés, baristas exhibit warm friendly bonds with each other. This feature of the company’s organizational culture extends to customers, who are also treated with warmth. Through emphasis on relationships, Starbucks develops the coffee culture that drives consumer demand for the company’s specialty coffee products.

Collaboration and Communication. The organizational culture of Starbucks encourages collaborative efforts through effective communication. At the cafés, baristas clearly communicate with each other to fulfill orders. Also, they collaborate as teams to make the order fulfillment process efficient. Thus, Starbucks’ organizational culture supports efficiency in business processes, which contributes to quality of service, customer experience, and business cost-effectiveness.

Openness. Openness is another major characteristic of Starbucks Coffee’s organizational culture. Initially, employees had a culture of fear to speak up to their superiors. To address this issue, former Starbucks President Behar introduced open forums to encourage employees to ask questions and communicate with superiors. A culture of openness developed. Through this feature of its organizational culture, Starbucks empowers employees and facilitates innovation.

Inclusion and Diversity. Starbucks has an anti-discrimination policy that shapes its organizational culture. This policy prohibits any form of discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, cultural backgrounds, life experiences, thoughts and ideas. Through this feature of the organizational culture, Starbucks facilitates sharing and rapport among employees, as well as innovation based on diverse ideas. This aspect of the company’s organizational culture also makes customers feel welcome at Starbucks cafés.

Note on Starbucks Coffee Company’s Organizational Culture

Starbucks has gone through significant changes in its organizational culture. These changes are based on issues and problems leaders like Howard Schultz and Howard Behar identified. As a way of enhancing business performance, Starbucks instituted reforms in its organizational culture. Today, the company’s organizational culture is a distinct characteristic that builds competitive advantage and develops a consumer population of loyal Starbucks fans.

References
  • Barney, J. B. (1986). Organizational culture: can it be a source of sustained competitive advantage? Academy of Management Review11(3), 656-665.
  • Burack, E. H. (1991). Changing the company culture – the role of human resource development. Long Range Planning24(1), 88-95.
  • Denison, D. R. (1990). Corporate culture and organizational effectiveness. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Diversity and Inclusion – Starbucks Coffee Company.
  • Koehn, N. F. (2002). Howard Schultz and Starbucks Coffee Company. Harvard Business School.
  • Our Culture of Inclusion – Starbucks Coffee Company.
  • Schein, E. H. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership (Vol. 2). John Wiley & Sons.
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