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As Starbucks Canada looks to reopen in May, its president pens a letter to employees

Lori Digulla's message to staff and customers an example of corporate communications in the pandemic era


April 29, 2020
By Talent Canada Staff/Starbucks Canada

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Starbucks said it typically closes about 100 company-operated stores each year in North America, mainly due to leases expiring. (Photo: Starbucks.ca)

Starbucks Canada has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in numerous ways — including efforts to protect the safety of both its workers and customers.

It closed seating areas, and limited its services to drive-thru, delivery and take out.

But now the company is preparing to resume operations in “as many stores as possible by the end of May,” it said.

This will be determined on a community-by-community basis as Starbucks continues to prioritize the health and well-being of its customers and partners,” Starbucks Canada said in a press release.

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Lori Digulla, the president of Starbucks Canada, sent a letter to all of its partners today.

Below is the full text of that letter — a useful example of corporate communication from the top down.

Full letter from the president of Starbucks Canada

Partners,

These last six weeks have been challenging in every sense. Everything about our lives at home, at work, and how we interact within our communities has changed and taken an emotional toll on each of us. The impact of COVID-19 has been unimaginable, and it requires us to re-imagine our future, our new normal, and then the next normal, as we navigate out of this crisis together.

Throughout this ever-changing situation, every decision we’ve made has been rooted in our Mission and values. They are, and always will be, our compass. We’ve prioritized the health and well-being of our customers and partners, made decisions grounded in facts and science and showed up in a positive and responsible way to serve our communities.  Thank you for your commitment throughout these changes. Your care, participation and leadership has allowed us to accomplish so much in a short period of time.

Together, we have completely reimagined how to operate our stores safely, for partners and customers, often exceeding guidance from government and health authorities. We made the decision to continue to pay all our partners even if they weren’t working, and paid you even more if you were, while offering comprehensive mental health and EAP support. And we developed the biggest and most comprehensive community support program in our history, including food donations, financial grants, and prioritizing support for First Responders and Front-Line workers.

I am so very proud of you and your unwavering support for each other and the communities we serve.  During this time of uncertainty, you have been there for each other and our customers in so many creative and deeply compassionate ways.  I am humbled to stand beside you as a partner and am constantly inspired by each of you.  Our customers have shared with us that we are playing an important role for them during this difficult time. We have received letters, and cards and posts, and heard stories that the sense of normalcy and respite we bring is important to them. Front Line workers have been deeply appreciative of our “surprise and delights” and free coffee.  And I hear from many of you that you are eager to get back to your stores and reunite with your customers and your communities.

Our open stores have helped us learn so much about our new “take out” model and we have changing patterns and busy day parts we are adjusting to.  These stores have helped us test and refine new ways of working and new operating models, designed specifically for this social-distancing environment, and we will now roll this out more broadly.

Starting this week, customers will have access to more stores, and we expect to resume operations in as many stores as possible by the end of May.  To start, these stores will offer our current Drive Thru, delivery and pick-up only service.  From there, we will monitor and adjust our operations, making decisions to open additional stores or expand services (like curbside pick-up or walk-in orders) on a community-by-community basis working closely with local leadership, health authorities and provincial governments as the environment and regulations change.

To facilitate the best decisions in each market across the country and support our field leaders in this work, we have developed a data-rich dashboard to provide comprehensive information, including store format details, government data on confirmed cases and trends about COVID-19 and how that may influence decisions at the individual store level. As the ability to test for COVID-19 increases, we’ll be able to continuously enhance our monitoring capabilities.

Of course, we have a number of previously announced mandatory measures that remain in place to run safe stores for partners and customers:

  • Facial coverings: All partners are required to wear a facial covering if they are working at a store. Partners are reminded not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth, and to wash their hands, maintain physical distancing and sanitize high touch surfaces frequently.
  • Partner Pre-checks: As an additional safety measure, ahead of each shift, all partners are required to take their temperature and use the Covid-19 Virtual Coach to ensure they are ready and able to work. This ensures every member of the team feels confident while working together.
  • Extra cleaning protocols and precautions: We continue to observe elevated cleaning and sanitizing protocols to help prevent the spread of all germs in our stores.
  • Plexi-shields: As we prepare for the future, we’re sourcing plexi-shields to be installed at the POS, so we’re ready when we re-open our physical cafés.

We will also continue to provide Catastrophe Pay through June 14th for any partner:

  • who is required to self-isolate, has been exposed to someone with symptoms or may have symptoms of COVID-19 and is unable to work
  • whose home store is closed, and no other work is available in close proximity
  • who is unable to work because of childcare limitations
  • who is working reduced hours that fall below their average hours

A lot has changed over the last 6 weeks. As we welcome back thousands of partners who have not been working since mid-March, understandably, you will experience a variety of emotions and have questions about our modified operations. All partners will attend two blocks of training over two days, to reconnect on supporting partner care, community building, and the safety and operational changes we’ve put in place in our stores. It will be important to come together as a team and familiarize everyone to the way we will work for the foreseeable future. We will continue to lean into the many safety measures we’ve already put in place, and as we monitor and adapt, we will invest in new solutions, if needed, to ensure you feel cared for and supported.

As we enter this new phase, we know that we can evolve how we serve our customers as restrictions begin to lift and we are ready to continue to be fluid in how we serve our communities. I also ask that we continue to care for each other. Throughout this, we’ve all tried to do what is right, follow guidelines and help those around us the best we can, but now more than ever, as we begin to come together again, we need to treat each other with compassion and empathy.

The impact that this pandemic has had on the world has been widespread, yet unique to each of us, and wholly unimaginable. Coming out of that, we must acknowledge and grieve what we have lost and then work together to collectively reimagine our future. I know that together, we will recover from the events of the COVID-19 pandemic and while we won’t be the same as before, we will be stronger. The resilience, commitment and care you have demonstrated at every step is proof of that!

It is with optimism and gratitude that I welcome you back to do what we love to do, serve our communities and be with our Starbucks family.  I look forward to welcoming you back home.

With respect,

Lori Digulla