Human Resource Plan for Starbucks

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Companies have to undergo shifts to meet the demands of the modern fast-changing world, and Starbucks is an example of such an organization. Sokolowsky (2019) states that with the help of Microsoft, Starbucks has been implementing advanced technologies to elevate connections between customers and coffee stores. For instance, the coffeehouse chain has been using reinforcement learning technology in its mobile application for clients to receive order recommendations concerning various factors, such as weather and local store inventory (Sokolowsky, 2019). Starbucks’s innovations in its mobile application have contributed to the company’s later change in its organization, which may need a new human resource plan.

One should review Starbucks’s organization before its recent shift to understand the importance of the changes. The company’s former CEO, Howard Schultz, has introduced its brand as the third place between work and home for people to socialize and relax (Bariso, 2020). Therefore, the organization focused on advancing the corporation’s stores, from training baristas to designing decor and selecting music and aromas (Cook & Blackiston, 2021). On the other hand, drive-thrus, which presented another way of purchasing products, used to be associated with fast food, failing to reflect Starbucks’s image (Cook & Blackiston, 2021). For years, Starbucks prioritized customers’ in-store experiences, organizing the company’s work towards indoor operations.

Lately, Starbucks has shifted towards offering different options to purchase food and beverages. In 2020, the corporation announced closing hundreds of its stores to invest more in the drive-thru and pickup locations as a response to the pandemic (Bariso, 2020; Meisenzahl, 2021). Instead of spending time within coffee shops, Starbucks presented clients with the opportunity to have on-the-go orders, referring to pickups and drive-thrus (Meisenzahl, 2021). The change did not alter the company’s culture but modified its processes. According to Bariso (2020), such a shift made Starbucks’s perception as the third place less literal and more symbolic, but it can also allow the brand to offer an efficient and improved consumer experience. Innovations in Starbucks’s mobile application enabled on-the-go ordering. The app provides the company with customer data and the clients with recommendations they used to receive from baristas, allowing people to order and pay with smartphones (Bariso, 2020; Cook & Blackiston, 2021; Sokolowsky, 2019). As Starbucks had decided to focus on drive-thrus and pickups, the corporation’s organization changed, suggesting the need to open locations in new formats and train employees differently.

Since its implementation, the shift was associated with profitability and productivity. Although Starbucks decided to close a considerable amount of its regular shops during the pandemic, on-the-go orders accounted for 80% of purchases in the US before the spread of COVID-19 (Meisenzahl, 2021). The corporation has added double-lane drive-thru lanes, implemented video ordering capabilities, and provided baristas with tablets to take orders (Meisenzahl, 2021). The modifications decreased wait times and made purchasing more efficient, but the overall success, especially considering drive-thrus, was due to human resources management (Cook & Blackiston, 2021; Meisenzahl, 2021). Starbucks has been re-evaluating and redesigning the ordering experience for some time, but the change resulted from technology improvements and was supported by separating drive-thrus into several customer zones (Bariso, 2020; Cook & Blackiston, 2021). Drive-thrus represent a significant part of Starbucks’s shift towards on-the-go ordering and require re-training employees to communicate with people in varying customer zones, such as entry, pre-order, and pay and pickup (Cook & Blackiston, 2021). The change was quite prosperous due to using technologies, adjusting new stores, and instructing employees.

Shifts in such a people-oriented company as Starbucks require developing a human resource (HR) plan to enhance the work of those who directly interact with customers. Although Starbuck’s recent decision suggests that clients are not spending much time within stores, contacts with employees remain (Cook & Blackiston, 2021). Firstly, the HR plan should examine employee motivation, which is important in accomplishing the organizational strategy (Goodin & Davis-Ngatai, 2018). While wages and compensations matter, people appreciate acknowledgment, praise, and feedback, which should come from the company when employees have less personal contact with customers (Goodin & Davis-Ngatai, 2018). Secondly, employees need to undergo training on new technologies concerning different questions, like how to react if a tablet does not work properly (Meisenzahl, 2021). Thirdly, employees’ communication skills during on-the-go orders should be advanced, considering serving people with disabilities who, for example, experience difficulties in understanding employees’ voices through drive-thru speakers (Edwards et al., 2018). Finally, the HR plan needs to specify timely assessments to evaluate performance and make corresponding changes (Dabab et al., 2019). The human resource plan for Starbucks should consider how prioritizing on-the-go orders affects employee productivity and competencies.

To summarize, Starbucks’s mobile application innovations have supported the company’s decision to close multiple regular stores during the pandemic and focus on on-the-go locations, such as pickups and drive-thrus. While the corporation obtains customer data and preferences from the app, clients receive personalized recommendations and quickly make orders. The shift improves the process of purchasing Starbucks’s products but requires organization transformations considering new work formats. On-the-go locations must maintain the Starbucks experience without customers spending much time indoors, and employees need to know how to provide high-quality service without personal contact with clients. Therefore, the HR plan should motivate employees who are used to directly interacting with customers, teach baristas to use technologies and communicate better, and assess performance to estimate changes in the labor force. The plan should not prioritize hiring new employees but rather train and improve the competencies of people who have been working with Starbucks’s customers for a long time and know and appreciate the corporation’s values.


Goodin, T., & Davis-Ngatai, P. S. (2018). Implementing a human resource plan. Kings & Queens Journal, 1(1), 11-17.

Edwards, K., Rosenbaum, M. S., Brosdahl, D., & Hughes Jr, P. (2018). Designing retail spaces for inclusion. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 44, 182-190. Web.

Dabab, M., Anderson, T., & Bakry, D. (2019). Performance assessment of service system efficiency: Illustrative example of drive-thru service chain. American Society for Engineering Management, 1-11.

Sokolowsky, J. (2019). Starbucks turns to technology to brew up a more personal connection with its customers. Microsoft. Web.

Bariso, J. (2020). Starbucks just announced a drastic change: What every company can learn from it. Inc. Web.

Cook, T., & Blackiston, H. (2021). The secrets of Starbucks’ success at the drive-thru. QSR. Web.

Meisenzahl, M. (2021). Starbucks is leaving some of America’s dying malls and focusing on drive-thrus. Insider. Web.

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