Starbucks Corporation’s Organizational Culture & Its Characteristics

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Table of contents

  1. Background
  2. Starbucks Coffee’s Organizational Culture Type and Features
  3. Servant Leadership.
  4. Relationship-driven Approach.
  5. Inclusion and Diversity.
  6. Note on Starbucks Coffee Company’s Corporate Culture
  7. References


It all began in Seattle as apart of a hippie culture in 1971. A decade later Howard Schultz was working for a houseware company and was making a delivery to a new client and they offered him some of their coffee. So, impressed by this, he wanted to bring this experience to the United States. At first, he joined the company, then split off to create his own brand “Il Giornale coffeehouses” not being a success he returned to Starbucks in 1987 and took over as CEO.

The warm and inviting environment in these cafes was inspired from Howard Shultz’s trip to Italy as he was looking to bring the coffee experience to a whole new level. This concept of Italian culture and life style became part of the company’s cultural distinction from its American competitors, which include Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s McCafé. Starbucks has an organizational culture that relates with the company’s strategies for effective brand development regardless of challenges tied to economic instabilities and industry-specific movements.

Starbucks Coffee’s Organizational Culture Type and Features

Starbucks Coffee’s organizational culture is a culture of belonging, inclusion and diversity. The blend of the company’s crucial cultural characteristics is exclusive and specific to the nature of its coffeehouse chain business. The internal cultural situation is through the company’s human resource development programs and baristas’ interactions with customers.

In this regard, the main features of Starbucks’ corporate culture are: Servant leadership, Relationship-driven approach, and Inclusion and diversity

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Servant Leadership.

Starbucks Corporation has a servant leadership method, which the behavior of the company’s organizational culture that is among leaders, including corporate leaders and team leaders. With this approach, leaders, managers and supervisors emphasize support for subordinates to ensure that every employee grows in the company. This characteristic of Starbucks’ corporate culture translates to the employees-first approach. The company highlights the consideration caring for employees as a way of improving employee morale and customer satisfaction. Former Starbucks President Howard Behar developed this feature of the firm’s organizational culture because he believed that employees who are cared for are the ones who care about customers.

Relationship-driven Approach.

Starbucks also has an organizational culture that supports inviting and friendly relationships. For instance, at the company’s cafés, baristas exhibit warm and friendly bonds with each other. This feature of the company’s corporate culture extends to customers, who are also treated with warmth.

Inclusion and Diversity.

Starbucks has an anti-discrimination and anti-bias policy that defines its organizational culture. This policy forbids any procedure of discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, cultural background, life experiences, thoughts, and ideas. Through this objective of the corporate culture, Starbucks can facilitate information sharing and positive rapport among employees, as well as innovation based on diverse ideas. This idea supports employee motivation and helps employee retention. This aspect of the company’s organizational culture also makes customers feel welcome and at home even when they are away at Starbucks

Note on Starbucks Coffee Company’s Corporate Culture

Today, the company’s organizational culture is a distinct characteristic that builds competitive advantage and develops a consumer population of loyal Starbucks fans from which the business derives stable financial performance.

The main corporate strategic management challenge lies in the effective implementation of this culture in the human resources of franchisees and licensees, as these business partners arguably have their own approaches to human resource management and associated organizational culture development.


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  4. Guiso, L., Sapienza, P., & Zingales, L. (2015). The value of corporate culture. Journal of Financial Economics, 117(1), 60-76.
  5. Koehn, N. F. (2002). Howard Schultz and Starbucks Coffee Company. Harvard Business School.
  6. Marques, J., Camillo, A. A., & Holt, S. (2015). The Starbucks culture: responsible, radical innovation in an irresponsible, incremental world. In Handbook of Research on Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibilities (pp. 302-312). IGI Global.
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  8. Starbucks Coffee Company – Diversity and Inclusion.
  9. Starbucks Coffee Company – Our Culture of Inclusion.
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  11. U.S. Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service – Food Service Industry – Market Segments.
  12. Voigt, K. I., Buliga, O., & Michl, K. (2017). Globalizing Coffee Culture: The Case of Starbucks. In Business Model Pioneers (pp. 41-53). Springer, Cham.
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