Starbucks's Christine McHugh Speaks About Training

Redfin has been hiring plenty of folks lately, mostly because we have the best recruiter I’ve ever seen in Sophia Gray. Even for Sophia, it has been hard to find the best people, and get them through our behavioral interviews (the discipline here is to ask people about a specific accomplishment and its result, rather than general preferences and traits), and our savage grading system. The challenge with so many people applying to work at Redfin is how to avoid a bozo explosion, where a good little company loses its way as it grows.

But it has been just as hard to train all the new folks on our values, our history and our strategy, on what to look for in a house or a contract, and how to handle a negotiation, so that every Redfin person you meet is an exemplar of the company we want to be. We’ve started developing tests, workbook exercises, role-playing cues. We still have a long ways to go.

So we’ve been looking for someone to run our training program. But in the meantime, we asked Christine McHugh, director of global learning at Starbucks, to host a brown-bag talk on how Starbucks has been able to open a thousand stores year, all around the world while still maintaining a consistently soothing, warm experience for consumers. She’s speaking today at noon, here at 2025 1st Avenue, 6th floor, in a talk that is open to the public.

To get ready for the talk, she asked us to send over some of the questions we’ve been wrestling with; here’s what we came up with:

  1. How do we know that people have actually absorbed what we’re teaching?
  2. How do we avoid death by PowerPoint? How large can a class be and still be interactive?
  3. Do you try to teach just facts (like what Starbucks stands for) or also skills (like how to manage the people in your store)?
  4. Does a trainer in the Starbucks organization actually teach the class, or just work with line managers to put together the right kind of materials?
  5. What kind of training do you provide to people on an ongoing basis? Is training available just when folks are newly hired or promoted?
  6. How do you scale training in a distributed organization?
  7. How has online training worked for Starbucks? Do people actually watch web videos?
  8. How much training does a barista get? A store manager?

As always, we’ll post a write-up of the talk, probably later today. If there are questions you’d like to add to the list, just suggest them below. And if you’d like to see Christine in person, leave a comment here to let us know you’re coming, and then swing by! We’ll order lunch for you…


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  • TomPier

    great post as usual!

  • chris neitzert


    are you no longer doing the technical aptitude tests? You may not be aware of this but when I was doing the hiring for IT and Data Center Operations I gave a thorough technical aptitude test prior to even bringing the candidate in for an interview.

    I certainly enjoyed answering those questions for you and Mike Young way back when you interviewed me at the Red Robbin, however, I agree that testing is key to keep the bozo factor down and quality up.

    good luck!


  • Anuj Kumar Saini

    Thanks so much for this post. There is very good and helpful information in this post. Keep up the good work.


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