Starbucks recently held a one-day training on racial bias for its employees, impacting more 8,000 stores as corporate leaders worked to show commitment to change. But according to entrepreneur Piyush Patel, an author and expert in corporate culture, a single day of training isn’t enough.
“Diversity training on its own is not the answer. If you hold a training session and call a problem solved, it will never get solved,” said Patel. “However, if leaders at Starbucks begin continuous training, massive change can be achieved—for everyone involved.”
While Patel commends Starbucks for recognizing that something needs to be done, he recommends that companies that want to make a change in corporate culture need to have continuous training that does not disrupt the flow of work.
For example, Starbucks' one-day training is the first step.
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"From there, the leadership at each store needs to be held accountable to adhere to their company’s core values. They need to give, and receive, constant coaching. You can’t wait until a monthly, quarterly or annual review to know if you’re moving in the right direction," Patel told FierceRetail.
Patel stresses that, like a great sports team, a company needs to constantly practice its values every day and they should be at the core of everything the businesses does.
"Make them a part of your morning meetings and talk about them on a regular basis," he said. "Clarify what they mean so there’s no miscommunication around them. Point out when you notice your employees are living your core values." Once a retailer undergoes all these steps, it will become second nature for all employees, and it will be noticed by customers.
And it's the job of the CEO to make sure these issues are being addressed. Patel recommends identifying red flags by creating a litmus test to see if employees are paying attention to the little details.
For example: In an employee-only restroom, why would someone ever leave an empty roll? This means someone made a conscious decision to inconvenience the next person. If someone is OK with cutting corners on such a minor task, what work-related details are being overlooked while no one watches?
Patel notes that leaders need to keep in mind that the message they are sending isn’t always the one that gets received on the other end. (Think of the classic children’s game of telephone).
"To combat this at my company, I’ve run all my employees through an activity called 'Listening as an Act of Affirmation,' which helps us practice using active listening skills. For example, use eye contact to let the other person know you’re paying attention to what they’re saying. Then, rephrase what they’ve just said to help them know you understand what they’ve said," Patel added.
"The next time you’re chatting with one of your employees, feed what you heard them say back to them. Have them do the same for you. Turning this simple practice into a habit can help make sure everyone is on the same page. Sometimes that means hearing things you don’t want to hear. Sometimes your company’s best ideas will come from your employees who have a different perspective on things than you do. Building trust with your team requires you to have an honest willingness to hear the truth—no matter what it is."
In conclusion, Patel stresses that it is the job of a good leader to take care of their employees, who will, in turn, take care of customers.
"We all know about the golden rule, but we often don’t treat our employees that way. When you see your employees as your most valuable customers and treat them that way, you’ll model how they should treat other customers and their peers," he said.