Coffee juggernaut Starbucks has a new CEO named Laxman Narasimhan. As part of his list of leadership commitments, Narasimhan will work a shift as a barista at random U.S. locations each month.
The new position of CEO was announced in the past week, with former founder Howard Schultz stepping down amidst mounting scrutiny over Starbucks' labor practices. Over the past six months, Narasimhan has worked at Starbucks locations while preparing to take over the company. He called his face-to-face interaction with customers an “immersive experience.”
As The Hill reports, business executives rarely do front-line work. A study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2018 revealed that only 6 percent of their time is spent with front-line employees, while 72 percent is spent in meetings.
The study says, “CEOs face a real risk of operating in a bubble and never seeing the actual world their workers face. Spending time with the rank and file, and with savvy external front line constituencies, is also an indispensable way to gain reliable information on what is really going on in the company and in the industry.”
Starbucks’ change in guard comes amid widespread unionization efforts across the U.S. Even The National Labor Relations Board has received 75 complaints about Starbucks’ treatment of workers. Although the company has pushed hard against it, over 280 locations have undergone the union voting process.
“If a significant portion of our employees were to become unionized, our labor costs could increase and our business could be negatively affected by other requirements and expectations that could increase our costs, change our employee culture, decrease our flexibility and disrupt our business,” Starbucks shared with the Securities and Exchange Commision in its 2021 year-end filing.
Hoping to sow faith from their customer base, Narasimhan plans to support employees, “including long-term hiring and retention, and continuing our investment in partner wages and store operations.”