Starbucks: Thriving Coffeehouse, Award-Winning Employer

Nov 27, 2015 1 Min Read

Photo above: Team Starbucks at the Malaysia HR Awards.


Top reasons for coffee giant’s continued success

Starbucks was awarded the Employer of Choice Silver Award at the recent Malaysia HR Awards organised by the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management (MIHRM). This latest recognition marks yet another accolade to display in the specialty coffee company’s already burgeoning awards cabinet.

Just earlier this year, Starbucks was conferred the Best of the Best Employer Award at Aon Hewitt Best Employer Malaysia 2015. Last year, it was the recipient of the HR Best Practices Gold Award at the MIHRM Malaysia HR Awards.

The coffee giant accounts for almost half of the total coffee market share in the country. While business strategies are in place to ensure Starbucks retains its market leading position, it recognises the significance of its people in making this happen. Hence the commitment to being a great employer.

Preferring the term “partners” to employees, Sydney Quays, managing director of Starbucks Malaysia and Brunei, highlights that “the commitment of our partners is a major reason why we are recognised as the leading specialty coffee company and the industry benchmark in Malaysia.”

To what does Starbucks credit this steady recognition of their reputation as an employer? It seems to boil down to four points, which the company adheres to as its key principles in its undertaking to remain an employer of choice.

1. Employer branding

When you work at Starbucks, you’re a “partner”

In exchange for the productivity and performance of its people, Starbucks pledges to provide its partners with personal and career development opportunities in the effort to retain, engage and motivate staff.

Of the numerous initiatives in place, a comprehensive talent management framework ensures Starbucks can plan for select, hire, develop and retain the best talent.

Its compensation and benefits programme is customised according to the needs of partners, and boasts elements such as a monthly reloadable Starbucks card for friends and family, incentive trips and sponsorship on gym membership.

Furthermore, the company commits to equal pay range for the whole country and extends equal benefits to part-time partners.

2. Partner development

Your growth and development are important

Starbucks partners are provided with a structured career pathway. Expectations are set from the beginning so that partners can forge their own path and manage their success.

With a heavy emphasis on internal promotion, partners are given opportunities for career progression. Impressively, 100% of the company’s current operations leaders were promoted internally, and 52% of department heads in Starbucks’ headquarters were promoted from retail.

Talent development comes in the form of initiatives such as the Starbucks Coffee International Retail Learning Certification Programmes and conferences to connect with local and overseas networks.

Exemplary partners are recognised through formal and informal means, which include service awards, performance awards, recognition cards and “WOW” pins.

3. Coffee and culture

It values the coffee connection

Fueling the company’s rich coffee culture is a priority. One of the ways it achieves this is by equipping partners with knowledge and skills to be strong ambassadors of coffee.

Spot a Starbucks coffee master by their black aprons (as opposed to the usual green). These are graduates of the company’s Coffee Masters Programme. Other initiatives include the Latte Art Programme and Origin Experience, where partners are taken on coffee-education trips to farms where beans are sourced.

The way Starbucks sees it, both partners and customers benefit; it feeds the passion and expertise of partners, and at the same time, partners are better equipped to provide customers with the best levels of service on the front line.

4. Humanity and love

It gives opportunities for values to be translated into action

With a strong emphasis on the human connection, Starbucks has a suite of initiatives to provide an avenue for partners to express humanitarian instincts.

Its numerous corporate social responsibility programmes especially focus on two main areas: the community and the environment. Recent examples include partnering with non-governmental organisations to provide free medical aid to children in low cost neighbourhoods, and a recycling project in Cameron Highlands.

For partners in need, a CUP (Caring United Partners) Fund is in place to provide help in times of significant and immediate needs such as illness or injury, death, natural disaster or other catastrophic circumstances. All partners are eligible to apply for assistance, with a 90% application approval rate.

Exemplary people leadership recognised

At the helm of Starbucks’ people initiatives is June Beh, director of partner resources and compliance. At the recent Malaysia HR Awards 2015, Beh, who joined Starbucks in 2005 when there were only 60 stores, was recognised with the prestigious HR Leader Gold Award.

June Beh_Starbucks

We ask her a few questions about the win:

1. Congratulations on the award. How do you feel about this win?

I think the win is not just about me but rather the company as a whole. We are all so proud of this recognition and to be a part of this company. We are constantly looking into ways where we can improve/enrich our partners’ lives.

2. What are Starbucks’ future plans on the people front?

We hope to be able to continue to strengthen the brand in terms of attraction and retention, and to upgrade our HR system. Technology now plays an important role in the industry and we will be investing in our systems to further enhance our business experience.

3. Words of wisdom on leading human capital today?

HR is beyond administrative work; we are the pulse of the business. In today’s market we can no longer rely on transactional methods (pay slips, approving leave, etc.) to run the business, but we have to evolve towards having an emotional connection. We carry the voice of our partners and we have to ensure that this integral part of the company is taken care of.

Fellow partners in Starbucks have these words of commendation for Beh:

“June has a unique mix of HR skills and business experience which allows her to ensure that HR decisions are considered in the context of achieving Starbucks’s strategic goals while maintaining the morale of the partners.”
Sydney Quays, managing director, Starbucks Malaysia & Brunei

“June leads with authenticity and humility, and ensures the teams are heard and are involved.”
Cheyanne Koh, head of operations, Starbucks Malaysia & Brunei

“June has uncanny way of knowing what people are thinking and will go out of her way to helping any partner who needs help.” – Lim B-Bee, operations manager, Starbucks Malaysia & Brunei

Starbucks stats

Interested to embark on an exciting career with Starbucks Malaysia? To know more, check out For more Company Profiles, click here.

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Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.

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