At a recent company conference held in Chicago, with 12,000 store managers participating, Starbucks made the announcement that it would commit to improving employees’ mental health for the sake of productivity and engagement. The coffee giant hopes to encourage its workers to make use of the company’s healthcare package.
According to Starbucks, the company is in a tight spot due to its ambitious expansion plan, which calls for speedy hiring. Currently, though, the national unemployment rate is at an historic low. The brand must therefore prepare for a fierce fight to attract talent to the company.
“The more thoughtful we are about creating a range of benefits that matter to our partners—that helps us attract new partners,” says Kevin Johson, CEO of Starbucks. “Over this past year, one of the things that partners have highlighted is the need for increased focus on mental health.”
According to John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs and Social Impact, only four to five percent of employees use the company’s mental health support. In order to raise that number, Starbucks will spend the next several months figuring out a better plan that tailors to the needs of their employees, such as the ability to text therapists instead of calling or setting up an appointment.
At the Chicago conference, Starbucks offered a “mental health session” in which store managers could consult with psychologists to learn about a range of mental problems, what their signs are, and how to correctly approach them.
“Events like the ones held in Chicago can make store managers feel good about their jobs,” reports CNN. “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 the past, the company has also launched a number of employee benefits and an engagement program. Specifically, in 2014, Starbucks introduced the Starbucks College Achievement Program, which gives employees a full and free ride to Arizona State University. It also offers stock options, and the company has tested a program that enables employees to spend half of their workweek at a local nonprofit.
“In a lot of ways, the most important role in the company is the store manager,” says Johnson. “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.”

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