Starbucks — Creating Excitement for Training

The Business Need

In 2008, Starbucks Coffee Company had experienced phenomenal growth and expansion. They had created three leadership training programs focused on management styles and techniques that align with their unique culture. The programs complemented each other, provided foundational knowledge and insight, and developed capabilities. The programs were offered to store managers, district managers, and retail leaders. Starbucks needed a way to create excitement about the programs to drive enrollment, which was optional.

Not only did Starbucks want to drive enrollment, but people needed to see how the three programs worked together and could be used in a very practical way to drive performance and results. An important part of the solution needed to be storytelling – a core part of Starbucks culture, which centers on an informal working environment that embraces diversity in every sense, and builds engagement and commitment by encouraging freedom of self-expression.

The Solution

Cathy Benson, Director, Learning and Partner Development, had worked with Root with another employer, and she saw an obvious fit between Starbucks needs and Root’s methodology. Together, they developed a Strategic Learning Map® module for an upcoming series of conferences to be attended by 10,000 Starbucks managers. The 90-minute experience focused on the content of the three training offerings, with an emphasis on practical application. People were challenged to explore things they could do to share their new knowledge with their employees, and were asked to document what they would do differently and how they would hold themselves accountable for bringing the initiatives to life in their stores.

The session was presented at seven conferences in seven consecutive weeks – all over the U.S. At each event, the Strategic Learning Map® session was the first activity of the three-day agenda – designed to inspire the delegates and provide a “springboard” for the rest of the meeting.


The Strategic Learning Map® module engaged people in the details of the training, but also went beyond content to capture people’s “hearts and heads.” Leaders agreed that this was a great opportunity for people to interact and connect with peers and enhance learning retention. Following the session, there was a major lift in enrollment for the three leadership programs.

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