Avoid discrimination with better communication

Wednesday August 1, 2018

Starbucks coffee is known and sold worldwide. And whether you love or hate it, it’s so prolific that the wordless logo is easily recognisable without the brand name.

Along with Starbucks’ commitment to providing the highest quality coffee in the world, it is also positioned as an ethical company with a commitment to the communities it serves. Starbucks has shown this through varied social impact activity, such as the innovative “We Sign Café” programme in London which promotes deaf awareness.

In theory, this makes Starbucks an attractive choice for a caffeine pick-me-up on a street crowded with coffee shops. But, recent 2018 news stories suggested that all was not well in the Starbucks community camp.

Earlier this year the coffee connoisseurs provoked outrage in the U.S., along with protests against racially biased treatment towards two men in one of its cafés. Although it was the franchise employee that instigated the incident, it was the employer who was responsible and the brand that took the flack.

If your employees deal directly with your customers, you will want to ensure that they are not only offering excellent customer service, but are also trained when it comes to equality and discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

And this is the approach that Starbucks then took. They closed 8,000 of their stores to conduct racial bias training. This showed their customers that their promise of commitment to their community still stands.

Well done to Starbucks for their continued community projects, and for positively reacting to the recent issues in the U.S.

Regular training can protect you, your customers, your employees and your business.


What can employers do to ensure their employees are informed on equality?

Brush up on your knowledge

For you to understand how your employees should conduct themselves around your customers, you will also want to be well-informed on protected characteristics and discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

If you are new to the subject, you may well be asking: “What is a protected characteristic?”.

A protected characteristic is a characteristic that is protected under the Equality Act 2010. There are currently nine protected characteristics which are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation.

The Equality Act 2010 is publicly available, but if you have any questions speak to your HR Dept professional.

Set a great example

The way in which you behave at work, and particularly towards your employees, will set a standard for your team. If your employees feel that they are treated fairly, they are more likely to respect you and your business.

In earning your employees’ respect, you are also setting an example of how you expect them to treat your customers. It’s worth remembering that sounding off about a difficult customer in front of your employees could give them the impression that this is acceptable behaviour.

Create a fair environment for your employees and demonstrate how this attitude should also form part of the customer service that your business provides.

Leave no room for assumptions

Whilst setting a good example will encourage fair behaviour and positive morale, it won’t necessarily stand up in court. So to cover yourself and your employees, you may wish to explore equality training. In the training you can not only discuss how you expect your employees to behave towards your customers, but also towards each other.

As an employer you can be held legally responsible for the actions of your employees at work. Speak to your local HR Dept professional today to set up training and protect your reputation.

Preventing People Problems

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