Starbucks: Coffee Enthusiasts Behind The Green Apron

Aug 26, 2016 1 Min Read


A waft of freshly ground coffee bean floats through the air as a cheerful barista greets you with a warm smile and asks, “What would you like to have?”. . . in sign language.    

Starbucks Malaysia recently opened the world’s first Starbucks store dedicated to employing hearing-impaired baristas. In collaboration with The Society of Interpreters for the Deaf, this initiative aims to promote inclusivity and equal opportunities for the disabled.

Here, customers are able to order via sign language or through filling a menu card leaving no one feeling left out of society. Ordering meals does not need to be a hassle or a humiliating experience for those with disabilities.

Dedicated to creating workplace environments that are respectful of diverse backgrounds and cultures, Starbucks cares for the needs of their employees – affectionately known as partners – and their customers by living up to their mission:

To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.

It is with great joy to announce that Starbucks Malaysia won the High-Performance Culture and Best Employer awards for Aon Best Employers-Malaysia 2016.

Sydney Quays promoting the Connecting Communities Project in Malaysia - Mengkuang Series

Sydney Quays promoting the Connecting Communities Project in Malaysia – Mengkuang Series

Managing director, Sydney Quays, says:

It is a great honour to win the Aon Best Employers Award! As the saying goes, ‘We’re known for our coffee, but our people make us famous! This is truly a proud moment for all Starbucks partners.’

Their partners are, after all, the heart behind the Starbucks experience

They are seen as assets, and Starbucks takes pride in taking care of them and making them an integral part of the organisation.

Quays says, “Starbucks grooms talented partners with our outstanding and structured training and development programmes.

Most of our store partners are food service professionals and college students, and what they all have in common is their passion for great coffee and friendly customer service, which ultimately helps them to bond as a family and build satisfying careers at Starbucks.”

Group photo of Starbucks partners from Asia-Pacific who attended the Origin Experience trip in Chiang Mai.

Group photo of Starbucks partners from Asia-Pacific who attended the Origin Experience trip in Chiang Mai.

Starbucks is rooted on four main pillars
Starbucks’ commitment to build a culture that fosters meaningful connections between partners and customers boils down to these points:

1. As our partner, you are important to us (Employer branding)

This aims to strengthen retail and full-time workforce through the Starbucks experience which includes:
• Rewards and benefits
• Opportunities for career development
• Management style
• Work environment
• Culture

2. We want you to grow and develop (Partner development)

through leadership and development programmes for partners. Leadership conferences held each year enable nearly 225 store managers to travel to Asia-Pacific countries in order to support their career growth and to invest in their development.

“The theme for the conference this year was Evolve & Grow—Be The Change, it was such a simple statement yet powerful for us in the company. . . I definitely learnt a lot from this experience.”
—Noor Fara’ Ain Sharif, store manager

3. Your passion leads to valuable connection (Coffee and culture)

Starbucks cultivates a culture that empowers partners to feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work. One such initiative is the Origin experience which gives you the chance to grow your passion through coffee-education trips.


Starbucks partners from Malaysia visited the coffee farm in Chiang Mai as part of the Origin experience.

“I had a truly great experience in Chiang Mai and it was a dream come true to be able to pluck my first Arabica coffee cherry! I was happy to have had the opportunity to meet some of the Thai coffee farmers. . . I particularly took interest in Starbucks’ partnership with ITDP (Integrated Tribal Development Programme). This initiative helped Starbucks give back to the community which aligns back to our goals and mission.”
—Ilyas Abdul Malek, district manager

The Coffee Master Programme helps you delve deeper with your coffee-making skills by training with experts. Through a combination of self-paced learning activities, videos, observation, and practice, this programme allows you to apply and share the skills you attain on your journey.

After passing this level, you will swap from the green apron to the black apron and achieve the highest level of recognition – the Coffee Master.

The more confident partners feel in their roles, the more pride they are able to take in their work.

4. You are able to give back to society (Humanity and love)

Partners are able to help others through The Starbucks Malaysia CUP Fund (CUP for Caring United Partners) where they are eligible to assist when significant hardships such as family emergencies, illnesses, injuries, death, natural disasters or catastrophic events hit. The CUP Fund is supported solely by partner contributions and fundraising efforts.

In December 2014, several states in Malaysia, including Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang were heavily affected by floods due to the North-East monsoon.

It was one of Malaysia’s worst floods on record and many families lost their homes from it.
Through the CUP Fund, Starbucks was able to support partners in Kuantan whose houses were also badly damaged from the flood.

More than just a brew

Millions of customers enter the stores each week yet it’s about the connection created with each individual.

It’s not just about the coffee, but it’s about the experience you gain with each person.
Every person walks in with their own set of joys and worries and Starbucks serves to be a haven to think, work, read, or chat while savouring a fresh cup of coffee.

With their partners, coffee and customers in mind, Starbucks is grounded on these four values:

• Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome
• Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow the company and each other
• Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect
• Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results

Their beliefs stem from a firm conviction that businesses should leave a positive impact on their community.


Starbucks partners visited the mengkuang weavers in Kampung Cherok Paloh as part of the Connecting Communities Project: Mengkuang series

Connecting Communities in Malaysia is a project focused on contributing to small villages in support of local sourcing to make an impact in the families and local communities. To support and enable a sustainable income for them, Starbucks sources from banana farmers and mengkuang weavers. An adequate amount of bananas were purchased from Kampung Lubuk Jaya, a rural village in the outskirts of Kuala Selangor.

Banana Food Products

Banana food products

The bananas were then used to create twelve types of banana-based edible products: muffins, biscotti, biscuits, and many more. These products were retailed at stores nationwide and 15% of the proceeds were channelled to establish a Community Computer Centre for the children at the village to cultivate their learning.

Mengkuang-based products such as the mengkuang hot cup sleeve, coasters, placemats, bookmarks, pouches and cardholders made from mengkuang leaves were also sold at selected Starbucks stores. This project was developed in partnership with Craft CT 01 Enterprise located in Felda Chini Timur 01 in Pahang.

Sustainability is key to Starbucks’ beliefs and positive impact is still seen today from the Connecting Communities in Malaysia project. Starbucks works together with non-governmental organisation HOPE Worldwide Malaysia to provide course syllabus, materials, and class conductions through e-learning programmes at the Community Computer Centre for the children and community at Kampung Lubuk Jaya.

This year marks the second year HOPE Worldwide Malaysia receives the Starbucks community grant to continue to run the Community Computer Centre.

The Connecting Communities in Malaysia project is continuing to flourish. With the continuous support from customers and the positive response towards such projects, Starbucks Malaysia looks forward to engage with more local communities to create meaningful and sustainable projects that will benefit more communities.

Serving a bigger cause

Although Starbucks takes great care to produce the finest and highest quality of coffee beans – it’s not just about the coffee.

Through ethical sourcing of ingredients, being stewards of the environment, and serving the community, they understand that it is about the impact they have on society and the ability to serve a bigger cause.

So much so that every April, Starbucks Malaysia organises community service projects for customers and partners to dedicate their time and energy in creating positive change in their local community.

The principle of diversity is integrated into everything that they do: partners, customers, suppliers, and communities.

They believe that every person has something to offer and no person should feel excluded from society – making their stores welcome to everyone.

Every Starbucks store is a part of a community, and they are committed to strengthening neighbourhoods wherever they do business.

Starbucks believes that the unique combination of talents, experiences, perspectives, and commitment from their diverse partners are the major reasons why they are recognised as the leading specialty coffee company and the industry benchmark in Malaysia.

To find out more about Starbucks, visit

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Tamara was previously an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.

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