Starbucks and Its Approach to Employee Relations

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This assignment analyzes the management of employee relations at Starbucks UK. The beginning introduces the company as a whole, yet the information on its employee approach is only applicable to Starbucks in the UK, as employee approach varies in different countries, due to different legislation and cultural issues. The following paragraphs break down the management approach and style as well as the internal communication of the company.

1. The Company
1.1 An overview
When people are asked about Starbucks, the most common answer given is „it is a Coffee Shop". Starbucks is indeed a premium seller of Coffee and therefore based in the retail sector. However, there are additional fields in which it operates. Today, Starbucks does not only purchase and roast coffee beans from the coffee-growing regions such as Central America, Africa and Indonesia. It has gone further and diversified its product range. Together with its espresso based drinks it offers a range of pastries and confections as well as coffee related equipment for home usage. Starbucks has built up a subsidiary named Tazo Tea Company, retailing premium tea, and a number of Joint – Venture Companies such as the one with Pepsi Cola Co. selling Frappuccino coffee blended beverages in selected coffee shops and supermarkets throughout the United States.

1.2 Starbucks' development
Starbucks started off with one coffee shop in Seattle, Washington in 1971. The concept of an Italian Coffee Shop as Starbucks is known today was introduced in 1984. The idea derived from a visit in Italy by the former company head and became very popular in its starting location Seattle. Due to its rapidly growing success Starbucks was able to establish a leading position in the US and is operating more than 7000 company operated and licensed coffeehouses. The company is present in 34 countries outside of the United States these days. (Company Fact Sheet, 2005; Company Profile, 2005; Company Timeline, 2005) The European market was entered with the takeover of an existing coffee shop chain in the United Kingdom. The concept of Starbucks was applied to the 65 stores and enjoys a successful development today. There are over 6000 partners working for Starbucks in the UK (Starbucks in the UK, 2005).

In matters of employee approach there is not only the UK legislation Starbucks has to comply with but also EU laws seeking for a better treatment of the employee. The UK has adopted EU instructions such as predefinition of working time or laws to narrow discrimination, which can be found in Starbucks' contractual terms and conditions.

2. Employee representation
Not only legal influences impact the approach to employee relations. Starbucks Coffee Company has installed Partner Blend, an organization for "giving information and receiving feedback from partners on a regular basis" (Partner Blend booklet, 2005) The representatives – a selection of both hourly paid and salaried partners to ensure a range of view and experience - are elected by the partners. Elections are held every two years and elected partners meet on a quarterly basis to receive an update about business performance and changes planned. Comments and questions can be discussed in those meetings – outcomes are considered in further company action. (Partner Blend booklet, 2005)

3. Approach to industrial relations
3.1 Employment organization
In terms of employment organization Starbucks mainly embodies the unitary perspective as well as elements of the pluralistic approach. Following the unitary perspective, employees are regarded as a group with common values, striving for objectives shared by all members. Starbucks' partners aspire to "establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles as we grow" (Starbucks Partner Guide, 2004, p.1) Partners also aim to maintain the values of the company namely:

"- passion for everything we do
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