Earlier this month, two black men were arrested for trespassing at a Starbucks cafe in Philadelphia. They were waiting for a friend but had not bought anything and would not leave, so the store manager called 911. The friend showed up just as six police officers handcuffed the two men and led them away. Viral cellphone videos, news reports and protests made the incident an international example of corporate racial insensitivity.
In response, Starbucks announced last week that it will close all 8,000 of its company-owned stores nationwide for an entire afternoon on Tuesday, May 29, to give all of its employees training in racial-bias reduction. The training is “designed to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome,” according to CEO Kevin Johnson.
We believe that Starbucks is sincere in this effort. After all, the company is sacrificing profits by paying employees for an afternoon of work while taking in no revenue and potentially losing goodwill from customers who show up for coffee and find the stores closed. This is a strong signal of commitment. Starbucks sent another encouraging signal by saying that it intended to evaluate the effects of the training.
Why is this important? In scientific terms, bias-reduction training is a “treatment” intended to have measurable positive effects on behavior, just as medicines are treatments intended to have positive effects on health. And just as in health care, it’s not always easy to figure out in advance whether a treatment will have its intended effects. Some drugs don’t help patients or may even make them sicker. Quacks peddle useless or harmful products and services in every industry, including corporate training. Good intentions in the design of an anti-bias program don’t guarantee good outcomes, let alone the best outcomes that could be achieved.
Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal