Reputation, Engagement & The Employee Experience: What Starbucks Has to Teach Us

By Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Even with lowering unemployment and rising inflation, elevated expectations of the employee experience are still ever present. And it’s not going away.

Besides the basic need for a living wage, across every sector, people have a higher expectation of employers, leaders and each other. Being treated with respect, being valued, feeling seen, heard and appreciated, these are things that are never going away. Nor should they.

We need to take this moment to pause and understand what the employee experience truly looks like in our team/organization. We need to do more of what works, humbly experiment with new approaches, and do more of what has always worked…recognizing and truly valuing people in meaningful ways.

image of the Starbucks logo falling off of a pedestalAs we see in the case of the beloved Starbucks, the cost of taking our eyes off the employee experience prize is significant: lost productivity, reputation, profits, and loyalty (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).

Remember when Starbucks was the mental health poster child just a few years ago for supporting their people? What happened between then and now?

I am not entirely sure. Maybe they don’t entirely know just yet (the PR folks have been kept very busy of late).

I’m not trying to bash Starbucks because hey, we don’t always know what’s happening in our own house (ever had a kid come home with a piercing?) But the reality is, the bigger you are (company size), the more you are revered (award-winning), and the more coverage you have (media and community hype), the more painful that fall off the pedestal is.

If the bigger you are the harder you fall., the bigger you are the more intensely you need to focus on the things that matter most in your company. And what can matter more than your people?

At the risk of being overly dramatic (although I did graduate from a performing art high school so it’s a little unavoidable), you literally cannot survive without your people, so it must always be a key performance metric – on your corporate spreadsheets and on your leadership intuition radar.

Turned Inward – Getting Internally Focused

To be clear, we don’t need to be perfect. We need to be partners.

It’s so tempting to focus on what we need to be “out there”. What do our customers say? What’s in the media coverage? What are the industry trends? All are important, and the need to keep an external eyeball on the economy, funding changes, grants and more is key to survival. That said, it is just as important as what’s going on in your own (corporate) house.

image of a rocky landscapeA warning to us all as the external landscape gets economically rockier, don’t let that distract you from what’s happening in-house. Redouble your focus inwardly as what’s happening “out there” will be echoed (and perhaps amplified) “in here”.

  • Inflation is on the rise…can employees pay for their groceries?
  • Mortgage rates increasing…is marital tension rising?
  • Unemployment rates decreasing…are folks staying because they don’t see they have another choice?
  • Loneliness rates rising…are folks needing their peers to be their core source of connection and fuel mental wellbeing?

Looking for Answers Through the Employee Experience

What your employees care about needs to be what we care about too. As we saw in the bullets above, there are direct linkages, if we choose to look at them. We cannot afford not to. (Literally and metaphorically.)

Like it or not, the truth is this: the employment relationship has equalized more than ever before.

The good news is that employees – when we ask, engage and partner – will tell us what they need to thrive and remain engaged. Some things may be harder to fulfill, but if we are willing to listen, understand and co-create, we build a lot of relationship currency. Where are there shared win-wins for all?

And when in doubt, recognize. Say thank you. Ask for opinions. Listen with your full attention. Visit the work area (where the value is created) and ask questions. Put yourself in folks’ shoes. Write thank you’s. Give opportunities for growth and development. And more.

image of a calendar on a clipboard with a pen on top and a pair of glasses and digital clock besideIf the world of work is seeming more confounding than ever (and how is that possible after managing through COVID?), you know we’re here for you. In fact, I’m opening up my calendar for the next few months to try to serve. Book time with me. I’m here for you so you can be there for others.

Be sure to take a look (or another look) at these previous posts for more great ideas on retaining your best and brightest:

Disclaimer/Humble Brag Moment: 100% of this content was human Generated (by us folks here at Greatness Magnified). We are committed to authorship integrity and will inform you what percent, if any, is AI generated.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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