A flexible working partnership

Starbucks is one of workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employers. We asked Sandra Porter, director of HR for Starbucks UK & Ireland, about the company’s family friendly policies and why they are keen to employ working mums.

Workers in office

Flexible working could help to reduce the rising employee absence trend

What do you think the benefits are of hiring working mums and specifically targeting this group for recruitment purposes?

SP: What we tend to find is that working mums, and indeed working dads, really enjoy and add to the family environment we try to create for our partners (employees) in store.

They are often active in their local communities and enjoy working in the areas in which they live. Many of the mums working for us tell us that they want stability and flexibility.

This is good for them, but also good for Starbucks because we know that our customers like to be served by members of their community, and to build genuine relationships with their store teams.

When you visit a store where partners have been together for a long period of time, you can feel the team ‘togetherness’ and this results in a better experience for our customers.

A great example of this is a partner working up in Leeds, called Cathy Barwise, who is a working mum and has found working for Starbucks helps her and her husband (also employed by Starbucks) to balance family and work through flexible working.

What kind of flexible working do you offer? Is this offered to all staff, including managers?

SP: Being a hugely flexible business, where some stores operate 24/7, we offer an enormous range of working hours and patterns. This applies to all partners, including managers, and is dependent on what that store and its customers want from Starbucks.

What kinds of issues are covered on Partner Life and when was it set up?

SP: As well as offering financial benefits to our partners, such as shares in the company  through Bean Stock and high street discounts through our benefits programme, we also offer help and advice through a service called Partner Life.

There is a section dedicated to parenting, which includes support on improving children’s well-being, childcare provision and also tackling difficult situations such as bullying.

We also offer a wide range of guidance on other topics, from managing your work life balance through to supporting care for the elderly.

This support is available around the clock, both on line and on the telephone with a dedicated councillor.  We are working with organisations such as Workingmums.co.uk to further identify areas of support that will further enhance Starbucks as an attractive employer for working parents.

Do employees have any way for feeding back on work life balance issues?

SP: At Starbucks we have an open culture and are committed to gathering feedback from our partners to enable the leadership team to make changes and improvements that are important to our partners.

One of the ways we do that is through something called Partner Blend, which is where a group of elected representatives gather feedback from their peers, which they then discuss face to face with the leadership team.

However, this is only one way that we encourage feedback. Work life balance issues are often particularly specific to that partner and their circumstances, so we encourage and support managers to have these individual conversations with their teams and consider any changes that need to be made.

Starbucks has been talking about introducing a performance-related bonus scheme for hourly paid staff. Has that started yet and if so, what does it involve? What other new benefits have you introduced recently?

SP: Last year when we were meeting with our partners to discuss what was important to them, one of the things they told us was that they wanted us to help their money go further.

We therefore launched last year a bonus scheme for all of our baristas and shift supervisors that gives them a cash bonus based on the collective performance of the team in areas such as excellent customer service.

To provide consistently great experiences for our customers, it is essential that the team works well together and that each person plays their part. This is a central element of this scheme.

Following on from partner feedback, we have also made additions to our benefits programme which now includes discounts for all our partners with other high street brands among those on offer.

We have also changed our Bean Stock programme and this January partners, both part-time and full-time, received stock options worth around £4m, which is between £370-500 for a barista, based on today’s prices, so that partners have a real stake in the business and are able to share in our success.

In addition, partners told us they wanted us to help them build transferable skills. Last year, we announced a multi-million pound investment in the training of our partners and we are currently working with organisations to map our current training programmes with external qualifications so that our partners become even more qualified. We are also working with Ashridge Business School to give our district managers and business leaders the opportunity to undergo MBA style development programmes.

We have recently completed a significant survey of over 92% of our partners where they had the opportunity to tell us what is important to them at Starbucks and help us to consider how we might further evolve our benefits programme.

How much maternity/paternity leave to do you allow?

SP: Partners  who have been with us for a year are entitled to 8 weeks full maternity pay and those who have been with us for three years or more are entitled to 13 weeks full pay.

We allow the full 12 months maternity leave. New fathers are entitled to up to 2 weeks full pay depending on their length of service.  In addition, when mothers and fathers return to work they receive a “return to work” bonus, as well as a maternity/paternity gift.

You promote staff working in community-based schemes. How does this work?

SP: Starbucks, since its very beginning, was set up to be a different kind of company – one that balances profitability with social responsibility.

When we are recruiting new partners we look to employ people who share our values and one of the many reasons for this is that volunteering is part of the job, whether that is through very local community events that are run by our store teams, such as local fundraising, or through our partnerships with The Princes Trust, helping young people with their CV writing skills or providing work placements to young people who want to get into a work environment.

We also have partnerships with the National Literacy Trust, where partners can get involved in reading programmes.

Partners are encouraged to get involved – not that they need much encouragement as I am always awed by the wonderful things our partners do for their communities.

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