Starbucks to close more than 8,000 US outlets for unconscious-bias training binge

Barista behemoth Starbucks has announced that all 8,000-plus of its US branches will shut down on the afternoon of 29 May for a mandatory, company-wide training session on unconscious bias and conscious inclusion. The measure follows an incident last week in which two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia outlet after an employee called the police to complain that they were trespassing. The individuals – who have not been named – were waiting for a friend. Video footage of the arrests went viral, spurring protests outside, and inside, several US Starbucks stores.

In a statement, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said: “Since landing here in Philadelphia two days ago, the leadership team and I have been on a mission to listen and learn, with an objective of understanding how this situation could have ever happened – and to begin to take the steps necessary to ensure it never happens again. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with the two young gentlemen who were arrested last Thursday in our store. I sat in front of them and I apologised personally to them for what happened. They didn’t deserve this. They shared with me their personal experience of going through this, and we had a very emotional and a very constructive conversation.”

However, some commentators are unimpressed by the firm’s decision to focus on unconscious bias. Writing in The Guardian, Hina Tai argues: “While the line between implicit bias and explicit bias can become murky at times, the Starbucks incident is a clear case of explicit bias and to call it anything less is outrageous. To consciously pick up the phone to call the police on two black men sitting at a table doing nothing is an explicit act.”


Musk urges Tesla staff to walk out of draggy meetings amid Model 3 assembly drive

Tesla boss Elon Musk has called upon his staff to exit unproductive meetings part-way through, as his firm gears up for a manufacturing surge to build at least 6,000 Model 3 cars per week from the end of June onwards. In a staff-wide email obtained by online journal Elektrek, Musk provides a few “productivity recommendations” that workers should mull over as they square up to the daunting task of meeting their leader’s target.

“Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time,” Musk writes. “Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short. Also, get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved. Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave – it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

He also advises staff against taking matters through proper channels if they can be resolved by quicker means, noting: “Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command’. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain-of-command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.”


WPP keeps Sorrell report under lock and key

Advertising giant WPP has committed to maintaining a wall of secrecy around the findings of its internal probe into the circumstances behind the departure of former CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, who resigned on 14 April. Sorrell, 73, was forced to leave the firm he founded amid allegations of personal misconduct and misuse of company assets.

However, despite the gravity of those claims, WPP has no intention of releasing the probe into the public domain, saying: “As soon as the allegations were reported in the media, we confirmed in a formal statement that there was an independent investigation in process regarding allegations of personal misconduct. That investigation has now concluded and Sir Martin Sorrell has stepped down. WPP will be making no further comment.” The firm added that the allegations “did not involve amounts that are material.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable is reportedly considering the use of Parliamentary privilege as a means of cracking open WPP’s report, citing a “real lack of transparency” over how the firm has swept the claims “under the carpet”.


Investment Association calls on FTSE 350 firms to embrace gender diversity at the top

Trade body the Investment Association (IA) has written to 35 FTSE 350 firms to challenge their lack of gender diversity at senior levels. In a 17 April statement, the group said that it had asked for formal explanations from companies with all-male executive committees (such as BP and Smurfit Kappa Group) and those in which the executive committees and direct reports combined have low proportions of women (eg, Persimmon and TUI).

It has also approached 11 FTSE 250 firms with all-male boards (eg, Sports Direct and Stobart Group) and 10 that failed to provide gender diversity data to last year’s Hampton-Alexander review (eg, The AA, JD Wetherspoon and Wizz Air). IA CEO Chris Cummings said: “Research is clear: firms with a diverse management team and pipeline make better decisions and drive innovation. The target of 33% for women in senior leadership positions by 2020 absolutely aligns with investors’ desire to see the companies they invest in recognising diversity as a critical business issue.”

Pointedly, he added: “A number of key investors have told us that they will vote against AGM resolutions on the grounds of gender representation. With the AGM season now in full swing, companies who are falling short should take urgent steps to outline what they plan to do to increase diversity.”


Wetherspoon’s boss pulls firm out of social media channels

Tim Martin, the outspoken boss of pub brand JD Wetherspoon, has closed down the chain’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, citing negative publicity around the use of such platforms in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion,” he said in a statement, adding: “We are going against conventional wisdom that these platforms are a vital component of a successful business. I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever, and this is the overwhelming view of our pub managers.”

Martin later denied that the move was just a publicity stunt.

Image of Starbucks cup courtesy of weedezign, via Shuttestock