Starbucks’ Now Serving: More Mental Health Benefits

September 16, 2019
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Author: Stephanie Ludwigsen

Starbucks is leveraging its global dominance to responsibly spotlight new employee benefits and initiatives related to mental health issues. The changes may also help the coffee chain bolster its efforts in talent acquisition and retention.

Starbucks Adds Mental Health Based on Employee Feedback

The company, which is 300,000+ employees and 30,000 stores strong, recently announced at a conference in Chicago that it was making enterprise-wide changes based on employee requests and feedback. First up: enhancing the current employee counseling program with input from mental health experts.

The company will also train its 12,000 store managers in best practices for helping someone who is mentally ill. The training will be inspired by Mental Health First Aid, a skills-driven course used to help people assist someone with a mental health problem or substance abuse issue.

Finally, Starbucks announced that by January 2020, all U.S. and Canadian-based employees will have subscription access to an app called Headspace that offers guided meditation. The app is designed to help reduce stress through mindfulness.

Competitive Differentiator

Even for employees who earn minimum wage, Starbucks’ benefit programs align more with executive-level perks. Employees can opt for medical, dental and vision coverage, as well as life insurance. The company also offers tuition coverage, pre-tax payroll deductions for commuting expenses, paid time off, in-store discounts and of course, free coffee.

With an already robust benefits and perks package, Starbucks’ impetus for the increased focus on mental health initiatives could be a way to help the company differentiate from other brands, further bolstering recruitment efforts in the current tight labor market. This year, Starbucks reportedly has plans to open 600 new stores and shows little sign of slowing down, so the drive to find and retain workers is strong.

While Starbucks is opening new doors, its competitors are watching, adding new offerings to their menus in an attempt to earn customer loyalty. Starbucks remains the king of coffee houses, but other chains, like Costa Coffee (the second largest coffee chain in the world behind Starbucks), McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts and Café Coffee Day continue to gobble up market share—and they’re bringing baristas with them.

To remain relevant, Starbucks has to focus on taking care of its employees in the ways that matter the most. Increasing benefits addresses the needs of a diverse workforce—and keeps employees content to wear their green.