Turning Awareness Into Action: D&I Planning with Emmy Kan, Chief Corporate Services Officer of Starbucks Asia Pacific

January 24, 202011:32 am645 views
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Recent PwC research found that organisations in APAC are struggling with translating D&I strategy into action, despite their publicly-declared commitment to the programme. While studies have shown that D&I in companies lead to higher productivity and profitability than those with more homogenous demographics, why are organisations still progressing slowly with such initiative?

There is no doubt that developing a D&I that actually works is no easy feat. To shed a light on this matter, we talk with Emmy Kan, Chief Corporate Services Officer of Starbucks Asia Pacific. Read on..

Emmy, many believe that D&I planning is the key to better business outcomes. So how does Starbucks foster the implementation of this strategy?

From the beginning, Starbucks set out to be a different kind of company. One that not only celebrated coffee and its rich tradition, but that also brought a feeling of connection. Everything we do is through the lens of humanity, including our commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment for our partners (employees), customers and the communities we serve.

In a region as dynamic and diverse as Asia Pacific, we aspire to make every Starbucks store a welcoming and inclusive third place. Each market has its own unique cultural values and workforce demographics. Hence, we must equip and empower our partners to take action and promote diversity in a way that is relevant for their communities. Our partners have ongoing dialogue with their customers and local communities to ensure we are always aware and considerate of their specific needs.

PwC research revealed that about 1 in 2 employees feel that diversity is a barrier to progression. What is your opinion on this finding? Do you find similar sentiment in your organization?

Diversity and inclusion have always been at the heart of how Starbucks operates as a business. Embracing diversity not only enhances our work culture, it also drives our business success. It is the inclusion of these diverse experiences and perspectives that create a culture of empowerment, one that fosters innovation, economic growth and new ideas.  

What are the benefits of hiring a diverse workforce? And why?

Having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture – where everyone feels empowered to challenge, innovate and make a difference – gives us deep understanding and insights into the communities we serve. Having a culture that celebrates different perspectives not only contributes to our business success, but crucially also helps us create relevant initiatives that enrich local communities in meaningful ways.

One of the examples we are most proud of is opening the first global Starbucks Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur in 2016. Since then, the overwhelming success of our Signing Stores has reiterated the importance of representation and creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. In addition to creating new career opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people, our Signing Stores also serve as a third place for both partners and customers to connect and learn sign languages and more about Deaf culture.

Related to Starbucks recent opening of Penang Signing Store, how do you think this innovation will impact the deaf community in Malaysia, and even globally, in terms of career opportunities for people with disabilities?

The opening of the Penang Signing Store, the second in Malaysia and fourth globally, is a key milestone in terms of creating career development opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing people at Starbucks. In partnership with the Penang Deaf Association, the store offers partners professional training and development, as well as internship opportunities to the local Deaf community. The store also serves as a platform to host sign language workshops and career development seminars.

These stores also span across our other Starbucks locations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Guangzhou, China; and Washington D.C., U.S.A – the first signing store in the United States that was inspired by the signing store in Kuala Lumpur. 

Our partners bring a wealth of experience to Starbucks, helping to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by Deaf and hard of hearing people in the workplace. They also serve as positive role models for their local communities. As a leading employer in Asia Pacific, we believe we can help drive positive change by focusing on human connection and compassion.

At Starbucks, what is the best formula to successfully create an environment of inclusion that is accessible and welcoming to all?

Starbucks mission and values of inspiring and nurturing the human spirit through shared moments of genuine connection over coffee, reflects our fundamental principle that we welcome everyone. We honor the diverse perspectives and experiences of each partner, as these are central to Starbucks culture and success.

Along with having a strong vision, we must also take action and deliver on our promises to partners and communities. This includes providing diversity education to partners and training to managers in order to foster an inclusive culture and drive accountability amongst leadership.

Globally, Starbucks is recognized as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion, scoring 100 on the Disability Equality Index (DEI), the most comprehensive benchmarking tool for disability inclusion. In China, we were also recognized as one of the best employers by Aon Hewitt for introducing innovative partner investments and benefits like the “Critical Illness Insurance Plan for Aging Parents” which demonstrates our respect for the central role that family plays in Chinese society.  We are proud and humbled by these recognitions, and will continue to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion, making Starbucks a place where everyone is welcome.

About Emmy Kan

As chief Corporate Services Officer, Emmy Kan is responsible for Starbucks Finance, Partner Resources, Safety & Resilience and Technology functions across the Asia Pacific region. She partners with 14 diverse and dynamic markets to help them unlock fast-paced, sustainable and scalable growth, underpinned by a disciplined, responsible and profitable business planning. Committed to achieving outstanding results, as she has risen through every level of the finance function, Emmy has methodically introduced robust frameworks and processes to build the capabilities of both regional and local market teams, as well as share best practice and drive efficiency.

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