Coinciding with Mexico's national Grandparents' Day (Día del Abuelo) Starbucks Mexico has opened its doors to its first store entirely staffed by older adults, reports Tina Nielsen
The initiative is part of a collaboration between the coffee chain and Mexico’s National Institute of Older Adults (INAPAM), which dates back to 2011 when the two agreed to work together to improve the working conditions for older people.
Back in 2013 Starbucks Mexico and INAPAM signed an agreement to work together with the objective to offer opportunities for this group of the population to enjoy improved levels of wellbeing and quality of life. This initiative is an effort to help older workers, aged 60-65, reintegrate into the labour market.
“It took us two years to get the best scheme off the ground to contribute to the community of older adults in Mexico,” said Christian Gurria, director of Starbucks Mexico. “Opening our doors to older adult baristas was not a special goal, it is congruent with Starbucks’ philosophy of inclusion.”
A stabilising presence
William Bender FCSI, founder and principal of W.H. Bender & Associates says initiatives and programmes like the one offered by Starbucks to attract an older workforce serve a valuable purpose. “As long as a person is capable – physically and mentally – of working they should be candidate for employment. If a senior stays fit they can work to a much older age,” he says.
“Older workers have life experience and maturity that can be beneficial to many brand. They can be a stabilising presence in an operation and serve as mentors to others if they have the right leadership or personality profile.”
According to Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics (INEGI) there are 12.4 million people aged over 60 in the country, making up approximately 10 per cent of the population. Aracely Escalante, director of INAPAM says other companies can learn from the model. “This store is a great example for other businesses and together we can create more opportunities for older people who would like to continue a productive life to benefit them and their families,” she said.
This first store, in Corporativo Coyoacán, is set to be joined by several more staffed by older adults as Starbucks Mexico aims to employ 120 older workers by the end of 2019.
Gurria said the Starbucks experience is about empathy and care for the communities that the stores serve everyday. “We want to be a point of reference in labour inclusion, breaking down stigmas and cultivate the professional development of each of our partners,” he explained.
Adapting to the specific needs of an older workforce, Starbucks only employs the senior team members in single-story branches and they further help by lowering the height of shelves and limiting work shifts to a maximum of 6.5 hours. The older workers, initially trained by a team of younger colleagues, are guaranteed two days off per week as well as health care providing them with insurance for major medical expenses.
Bender says he has seen this development among clients and in the wider industry. “With the economy growing again and the workforce tightening, it becomes necessary to expand the pool of workers. So this is a smart tactic by Starbucks and one that I recommend to all operators that want to staff and grow their business,” he says.
“This is not the sole solution to the labour shortage going forward. It is just one more idea that is smart and part of an overall solution strategy of being the employer of choice in every market you enter.”