Upskilling 101: Why Starbucks Singapore's Partner Resource Director believes plans should have 'white space'

Upskilling 101: Why Starbucks Singapore's Partner Resource Director believes plans should have 'white space'

It gives room to better manage the unexpected, or use that space to better the physical and mental wellbeing of the company’s employees through engaging activities, says Celestina Lee, Partner Resource Director, Starbucks Coffee Singapore.

Q How has your learning strategy today evolved from what you’d planned out last year?

At Starbucks, we have an in-born focus on people connections – this includes prioritising our employees, whom we call our 'partners', in all mission, values and our processes. Our partners embody these values embracing the robust learning programmes and strategies that are built around Starbucks innovation and sustainability plans and our culture of excellence. Our partners frequently hone their knowledge and skills on products, new systems, business processes and standards, typically via a well-balanced mix of classroom and in-store training.

We feel that in-store trainings help us build a sense of community and support with our partners, in line with our culture of warmth and belonging. Fortunately, Starbucks had already been six months into our digital transformation roadmap when the pandemic struck. This accelerated our digital transformation further, as we brought forward the launch of our e-learning platform – just in time as we suspended physical large group training sessions as part of safety measures.

Our diverse group of partners stepped up to the training with open minds and adapted as the new format allowed us to build new and interactive training methods, and partners could experience the training in the comfort of their stores. We seized the opportunity to enrol ourselves for training programmes focusing on leadership and change management – skillsets that are critical as we continue to evolve our way of work amidst the pandemic.

The past year has also shown us the resilience of our partners and how we can overcome challenges and uncertainties with a strong, bonded community.

Q What are the hottest, function-agnostic skills in your industry today – skills that will never fail you?

Operations excellence, data analytics, design thinking and robotics process automation are some of the transferable skillsets for any professional in the world today – not just in human resources but also in all other industries, including in the F&B industry for Starbucks.

Soft skills such as clear communication, empathy and maintaining a positive attitude are also crucial skills that our partners develop themselves in. The F&B industry is dynamic and fast-paced – a good grasp of these skills will enable our partners to provide customers with an enjoyable and authentic Starbucks Experience.

Q How are you building these skills in your workforce? Essentially, how do you help employees accelerate their learning (especially when it comes to soft skills)?

Our operations excellence guide is our secret recipe. Firstly, our partners are introduced to the Ops Excellence guide to understand their role and how each role helps to drive the Starbucks Experience. Then, we put them into the core retail programmes for each individual to understand their roles and tasks. To complement the learning experience, we also provide core courses on our e-learning platform, such as Starbucks Experience, Shift Supervision, Serving to Lead – each an effective blend of technical, adaptive and people management skills.

If the operations excellence guide is our secret recipe, then our quarterly performance and development conversation is our secret ingredient. We seek to inspire and nurture the human spirit at the heart of everything we do. Instead of a formal review, the conversation is meant to be a two-way street where partners can provide suggestions and comments about the company. These conversations are opportunities to engage our partners to deliver their best and help them develop a growth mindset, as well as create a meaningful career path for themselves.

The first part of the conversation reviews recent work challenges and lessons learnt while the second part aims at helping them set achievable goals. Such forward-looking conversations have helped us navigate the ever-changing landscape in the food and beverage industry, strengthened our partners' trust in their leaders, and kept us nimble and mentally resilient in the face of the pandemic.

Q On the HR front - what are the top 3 critical skills for HR to have in and beyond 2021?

Business acumen, planning and organisation, and collaborative skills. The business environment is constantly changing, hence having business acumen will enable us to adapt our people and plan as fast as we can read what is going on in the business. In HR, one of the most important skillsets would be the ability to connect the dots between business numbers and people needs. Planning and organisation skills form the foundation for those in a HR role as there is a wide range of responsibilities and duties that we carry out.

Collaborative skills are equally important because we work with cross-functional teams all the time. As a HR specialist, it is imperative that we can connect people and constantly find innovative ways for teams to work together to unlock further potential.

White space - personally, I would like to encourage HR leaders to create more white space in their plans, to give us room to better manage the unexpected, or use that space to better the physical and mental wellbeing of the company’s employees through engaging activities.

Q Lastly, if there was a magic wand and you could do anything within your power to build a future-fit workforce, what action would you take?

I wish I could implant a funny bone in every Singaporean. You can have all the hot skills and new skills, but it’s what in your back bone that keeps you moving! When we have humour, positivity and fun with our community at work we can be ready for whatever the future brings.

Photo / 123RF

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