Starbucks makes quick change to shift policy after Times article

Sometimes HR needs a nudge to change a bad policy. Starbucks’ reaction to a critical feature on one employee’s experience holds lessons for HR at all levels.

Starbucks makes quick change to shift policy after Times article
A policy can seem like a good idea but be detrimental to employees and an organization, and without a line of communication to the front line HR might never know.

When the New York Times ran an article about  Starbucks employee Jannette Navarro, who was struggling to balance her disjointed work shifts with her ability to care for her sone, the international coffee giant acted immediately.

Jodi Kantor was looking for information on how scheduling software could make workers’ lives more difficult. Software can be a boon for HR, but it is often implemented without making the changes necessary to ensure it meets the needs of the workforce, as well as the organization.

“Within a day of arriving in San Diego, I saw that her life was coming apart and that the Starbucks software had contributed to the crisis,” Kantor wrote. “She desperately needed money, so she was afraid of asking for more stable hours, for fear less availability would mean smaller paychecks.”

The article was posted online on Wednesday. On Thursday Starbucks announced changes to its scheduling  practices.

“Their response was so fast that I worried it was more about public relations than substantive change,” Kantor said. “But since then I’ve heard promising signs from the workers I’ve kept in touch with: conference calls with managers across the country, a new standard of 10 days’ notice, paid time for managers to create more worker-friendly schedules.”

Navarro has seen an immediate change. She is now working weekdays while her son is in daycare, and she has seen considerable support from customers.
HR senior manager Sandra McDonald told HRM it was in Starbucks’ best interest to react quickly, and not just for image reasons.

“Starbucks is in the spotlight so it’s important to react quickly, but really this is about introducing policies that will be better for the company and its employees,” McDonald, whose organization juggles 24 hour shifts for more than 200 full-time and part-time employees, said. “It sounds like they were losing good people or not making the most of the people they had. Stability is really important, especially for workers who are part-time or who have families.”

A common mistake that companies make when automating scheduling systems is just moving their current practices into the software, Kronos presales manager Charis Sie told HRM.

“Technology is a tool to help organizations complete their core competencies, but they still need the right processes,” she said. 

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