How Starbucks moved 23K tablets for its day of bias training
- How do you deliver simultaneous training to around 175,000 workers around the country on three weeks’ notice when the majority of staff doesn’t sit at a computer? The team at Starbucks had to figure it out in advance of their May 29 store closures for bias recognition and avoidance training, a new blog post explains. With a hard deadline looming large, Mary Stumpf, director of collaboration products at Starbucks, and her team tossed television rentals, employees crowding around manager’s laptops, and other options out as unfeasible before they determined tablets were the way to go.
- Live streaming the training was not an option; too much traffic would cause a bottleneck, the company said. The training had to be pre-loaded on almost 23,000 iPads before shipping them to 8,500 locations. Loading the four-hour training session (and creating a path for future training) required help from vendors. Starbucks called on PlayerLync, a company that compresses and distributes e-learning across networks, to create the app in the company's Seattle HQ. In Chicago, another partner, Zones, was unpacking, charging and configuring the 23,000 tablets, spending about 10 minutes per unit.
- Stumpf used an app on her own phone tracking progress and delivery. Only a single location did not receive its tablet by the morning of the 29th, but a Zones employee drove an iPad to the location with hours to spare, Starbucks said.
If anything, the episode is a case study in how to get same-time training to disparate employees in a timely, accessible manner. Within days of an incident in which two black men were escorted out of a Philadelphia location, Starbucks' president announced that the company would close all stores for a day of bias training. While many speculated about the type of training and its potential effect, few likely considered the logistics behind the request.
The ability to deliver training to scale on such short notice clearly required an exceptional team of organizers, but without the availability of e-learning, they might not have been able to pull it off. Traditional training in classrooms would not have fit the bill with such a distributed team and so the effort — and the positive public relations message the company was trying to convey — demanded synchronization across devices and locations.
The event also points to the power of new learning tech overall. For companies with disparate employees that want to train without shutting down business for a half-day, bring your own device (BYOD) policies may form a key part of a new learning strategy. By unifying the learning experience across different phones through an app, for example, employers can deploy development materials in a way that improves engagement and compliance.