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How Racial Bias in a Starbucks Challenges Us at Benchmark

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By Tom Grape, Benchmark Senior Living Founder, Chairman & CEO  

On May 29, Starbucks closed more than 8,000 U.S. stores to conduct anti-bias training with 175,000 employees.

When reading about Starbucks’ planned response to the April racial bias incident in one of its Philadelphia stores, this comment from executive chairman Howard Schultz caught my eye:

“The company’s founding values are based on humanity and inclusion. We will learn from our mistakes and reaffirm our commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for every customer.”

At this very moment in time, as we at Benchmark are redoubling our efforts to rename and refresh our own “founding values,” the Starbucks experience serves as a wake-up call for us.

“Being anything less than fully inclusive is not OK.”

Although we have a diverse team of 6,100 associates, we have much work to do when it comes to being truly inclusive. And being anything less than fully inclusive is not OK.

We are not immune to the same sort of conscious and unconscious bias that the Starbucks anti-bias training was designed to help overcome. And, like Starbucks, we know that one afternoon of diversity training cannot eradicate stereotyping or prejudice. However, with our Benchmark beliefs as a compass, we can make strides together toward changing ourselves so that we, in turn, can transform the lives of others.

I strongly believe that, if we truly strive to “deeply understand people, meet them where they are, and connect them to what’s meaningful and possible at every stage of life,” as our mission states, we will look at one another, our residents, our families and neighbors and look past their race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation or any other point of differentiation.

At Benchmark, we see a world in which every person feels meaningfully connected to what matters most throughout their lives. Not only must you and I “see” that for everyone, we must also attract individuals to our company who “see” it, too.

With that in mind, an important step we’re taking is to hire individuals across our company who not only represent diversity but also command our respect by demonstrating that they, like you, are Called to Care and believe in and practice inclusivity.

As I stated after last year’s unfortunate events in Charlottesville, Va., we want everyone to feel valued, safe, welcome and included at Benchmark, and we are opening a dialogue and implementing training programs to help us live our values and break free from cultural bias and racism within our ranks. Last week, senior company leaders met with a seasoned diversity specialist who will contribute his guidance as we assess what to do from an organizational learning perspective.

For us to create the culture we desire and produce life-transforming experiences for our residents, family members and fellow associates, each of us must uncover the conscious and unconscious bias holding us back from treating everyone equally. Only then can we reshape our organization and Be the Benchmark for inclusiveness. And only then will we truly connect to what matters.


* This article was re-published from "Tom's Grapevine" - How Racial Bias in a Starbucks Challenges Us at Benchmark

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