Starbucks plans to improve US employees' mental health benefits

Starbucks is planning to improve mental health...

Posted: Sep 5, 2019 10:22 AM

Starbucks is planning to improve mental health benefits for US employees in one of its latest bids to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market.

In a letter to employees Thursday, CEO Kevin Johnson announced the initiative along with others designed to improve employee productivity and engagement. The announcement came as Starbucks hosted a massive leadership conference in Chicago, at which 12,000 store managers participated.

Although Starbucks did not announce any specific new benefits, it hopes to encourage more employees to take advantage of the company's mental health care package. And the company will engage employees to help tailor a new suite of benefits to their needs.

Keeping partners — Starbucks' term for employees — well and happy is critical to the company's business. To execute its ambitious expansion plan, the coffee company needs to hire rapidly. That has been challenging for the entire retail and food service industries, as the US unemployment rate remains at an historic low. Competition for workers is fierce.

One way to attract talent is by offering robust benefits and unique services.

"The more thoughtful we are about creating a range of benefits that matter to our partners — that helps us attract new partners," Johnson told CNN Business. "Over this past year, one of the things that partners have highlighted is the need for increased focus on mental health."

Spotlight on mental health

Mental health services are not new for Starbucks. Through its health insurance, Starbucks offers inpatient and outpatient mental health care, as well as six free visits with a mental health provider through its Employee Assistance Program

The offerings are "very comprehensive," according to John Kelly, senior vice president of global public affairs and social impact for Starbucks. But, he noted, just 4% to 5% of employees actually use it.

To raise that participation rate, Starbucks will spend the next several months working with employees to figure out a better plan, Kelly said.

He suspects Starbucks employees aren't taking full advantage of what is currently being offered because they may want something different or more tailored to their needs, such as the ability to text therapists instead of calling or setting up an appoint.

With its new efforts, Starbucks is also hoping to "break the stigma," said Kelly, "and really normalize that your mental health is just as important as your physical health."

During the Chicago conference, Starbucks is running a "mental health matters" session with a clinical psychologist. The training is designed to help educate managers about the range of mental health problems, identify signs that someone may be struggling and offer tips on how to approach them in the right way. Starbucks will continue to offer similar training to managers moving forward, Kelly said.

The company has already taken steps to improve mental health benefits in other markets. In 2016, Starbucks Canada started offering $5,000 toward mental health benefits annually.

The increase was a sector-leading move, according to Paula Allen, vice president, of research, analytics and innovation for the Toronto-based human resources company Morneau Shepell, noting that the average plan is about $500 a year.

"That investment was quite well received," she said, adding that in Canada, other companies followed Starbucks' lead.

The changes the company has made in Canada could help guide what happens in the United States, said Kelly.

Labor crunch

Starbucks has launched a number of employee benefits and programs to keep and attract workers. In 2014, the company introduced the Starbucks College Achievement Program, which gives employees a full, free ride to Arizona State University. The company offers stock options to workers, and last year started testing a program that allow some employees to spend half of their workweek at a local nonprofit.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Patrick J. Grismer called the company's benefits "an important asset" to attract and retain employees.

Events like the ones held in Chicago can make store managers feel good about their jobs. At the Chicago event Wednesday, employees were welcomed by cheering, pom-pom waving greeters. They listened to high-profile speakers and learned more about the company and its philanthropic efforts.

"In a lot of ways, the most important role in the company is the store manager," Johnson said. Managers are responsible for hiring and taking care of staff, and for ensuring that Starbucks locations maintain the atmosphere of a "third place" after home and work, he said.

And Starbucks has to do more than just hold on to employees. In the 12 months ended in July, the company opened 641 net new stores in the Americas. To manage and staff those new locations, Starbucks needs to be able to hire aggressively.

It's not alone in seeking ways to bring on new talent. Taco Bell has thrown hiring parties and McDonald's targeted a new, older demographic by partnering with AARP. Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol has called 2019 "the year of the general manager."

By focusing on mental health, Starbucks is highlighting yet another type of benefit.

Improving mental health among employees is also just good business. Many companies are trying to figure out creative ways to help their workers.

"This is an area that, as HR professionals, we weren't talking about quite as much until recent years," said Tracie Sponenberg, chief people officer for The Granite Group and a panelist on the Society for Human Resource Managment's HR Disciplines Special Expertise Panel.

Increasingly, companies are encouraging mental health with counselors, meditation sessions, campaigns designed to reduce stigma and more.

If employees don't get the support they need, there could be "significant" costs to employers, Allen said. Employees suffering from mental health issues are less productive. And in the service industry, where employees may deal with particularly stressful situations, mental health support is especially important, she added.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 707111

Reported Deaths: 13216
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion963501718
Lake51613944
Allen39106671
Hamilton34449405
St. Joseph33979539
Elkhart27255432
Vanderburgh22060394
Tippecanoe21765212
Porter17945298
Johnson17507374
Hendricks16786310
Clark12681190
Madison12338337
Vigo12204244
Monroe11443166
LaPorte11118204
Delaware10341184
Howard9652211
Kosciusko9114114
Hancock7964139
Bartholomew7880155
Warrick7681155
Floyd7555176
Wayne6895198
Grant6837171
Boone6541100
Morgan6390138
Dubois6079117
Marshall5779108
Dearborn569876
Cass5683102
Henry5572100
Noble540683
Jackson493069
Shelby478495
Lawrence4338118
Gibson427989
Harrison427670
Clinton418653
Montgomery417786
DeKalb409184
Huntington378680
Whitley377939
Miami372465
Knox365989
Steuben364457
Putnam352560
Jasper350146
Wabash347678
Adams337952
Ripley334568
Jefferson312980
White308154
Daviess289299
Wells286281
Decatur278792
Fayette277162
Greene270685
Posey268533
Scott261053
Clay253244
LaGrange252470
Randolph235280
Washington230731
Spencer227631
Jennings224747
Fountain208445
Sullivan207742
Starke203952
Owen192156
Fulton191439
Jay186029
Carroll185720
Perry180236
Orange177253
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton160943
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130234
Pulaski113645
Newton103534
Brown100040
Crawford97614
Benton96713
Martin82615
Warren79615
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55711
Unassigned0408

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1052099

Reported Deaths: 18991
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1221671356
Cuyahoga1070432069
Hamilton781801168
Montgomery50040996
Summit45383909
Lucas40122765
Butler37721570
Stark31437895
Lorain24166473
Warren23885293
Mahoning20905583
Lake20009362
Clermont19441229
Delaware18038130
Licking16124207
Fairfield15708197
Trumbull15585460
Medina14868259
Greene14668236
Clark13634293
Wood12767185
Portage12384196
Allen11328229
Richland11041198
Miami10536214
Muskingum8706127
Wayne8576209
Columbiana8546226
Pickaway8436121
Marion8377135
Tuscarawas8376240
Erie7566154
Hancock6714123
Ross6699146
Geauga6537146
Ashtabula6495165
Scioto6289101
Belmont5626158
Union557647
Lawrence5467102
Jefferson5324147
Huron5307114
Darke5273121
Sandusky5174120
Seneca5124120
Washington5076107
Athens501556
Auglaize475684
Mercer471684
Shelby456090
Knox4387108
Madison422859
Putnam421599
Ashland413188
Fulton409467
Defiance402596
Crawford3872101
Brown386455
Logan372976
Preble370398
Clinton361560
Ottawa356978
Highland347059
Williams326774
Champaign320657
Jackson308451
Guernsey306649
Perry289949
Fayette277848
Morrow275339
Hardin264264
Henry263766
Coshocton259457
Holmes253399
Van Wert239162
Gallia233346
Pike233331
Adams228552
Wyandot227253
Hocking209059
Carroll189247
Paulding168638
Meigs141538
Noble132837
Monroe128841
Morgan106623
Harrison105336
Vinton81514
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 37°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 40°
Huntington
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 44°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 37°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 39°
Small chances for isolated drizzle Saturday night & Sunday. Sunday morning starts cold, with the potential for frost area-wide, but warms up to where we should be this time of year.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events