Racial Bias Training at Starbucks: Will It Make an Impact?

racial bias training

On the last Tuesday afternoon of May, 8,000 Starbucks stores closed so their 175,000 employees could receive the same four-hour training on anti-bias and unconscious discrimination. (A week later, CEO Howard Schultz announced he is stepping down, perhaps, some speculate, to run for political office. He’s been an advocate for social issues over the years, including impactful work that changes how people view the roles and responsibilities of a company.) Part of the anti-bias training Schultz’s employees participated in across the United States included a racial bias video that asked viewers three targeted questions:

• What can you do to make our schools, parks, stores and restaurants as welcoming and inclusive as they can be?
• What kind of country do we want to live in?
• Who do we want to be?

These are all great questions to ponder. We in other industries should be asking ourselves similar questions in order to expand opportunities for our work, businesses, teams, clients and our goals for being and doing better.

Does Anti-Bias Training Work?

Two employees who participated in the Starbucks training (in their respective stores positioned on each coast) offer compelling insights about how much might actually shift as a result of the company’s efforts to at least raise awareness about implicit bias. Critics note (and some studies strongly indicate) that one-offs don’t work—particularly with training related to racial bias. Unless a company’s culture embraces (new) concepts such as truly understanding and approaching equality, people may actually resent the training. There are clear indications that when these concepts are a respected part of a company’s culture, mission, and values, diversity, equality, and inclusion become inherent in every aspect of the way the business works, the way its teams operate and the way its people talk about how they are represented.

Because experts agree that inherent bias transformation doesn’t occur with one training session, companies must commit to developing continuing education and training programs that effectively address racial bias in the workplace. There needs to be an evaluation component in place to measure impact of such training programs, such as goal-setting for future work and realistic ways for participants to buy into the program and their potential success within. These are the basis of some hard conversations that all companies need to start having, and they need to have them in a way that fosters true evolution rather than just offering up a series of ‘feel-good’ attempts that skirt real issues.

Perhaps to assist in launching that conversation, let’s try these questions (inspired by the Starbucks training video, since that’s top of mind):

• What do we want our businesses to look like?
• How can we make great strides in promoting diversity, equality and inclusion within our organizations?
• How can we best train and support our teams to do the same?

Responding vs Reacting

In a nimble move, Starbucks changed its tune from offering the singular training day (implemented as an initial response to the Philadelphia store incident, which most of us have heard about by now) to publicly declaring that it would be rolling out a longer-term commitment to anti-bias training in its stores.

As the Atlantic states, this light-speed scramble—from a day of training to a full-on anti-bias overhaul—suggests a rapid evolution in Starbucks’s understanding of what it means to take on bias . If Starbucks follows through, it will be one of the first major corporations to develop a comprehensive plan for tackling bias head-on, and potentially forge a new path for its peers to follow. Now, the approach the company takes to the May 29 event will be a litmus test for that larger commitment.

Let’s see what companies like Starbucks actually do, how they commit and respond, rather than just react and move on. Let’s research and observe which training programs for important topics like combatting inherent bias, racism and sexual harassment actually make measureable impact. Let the success stories be inspiring for us all as we commit to evolving. Our businesses, teams and world can only be the better for it.

ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.

New Rules for Collecting Data that Every Freelancer Should Know

data protection rules

This past spring proved to be a challenging time for those involved in processing, storing and using data through online platforms. Between Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance on Capitol Hill explaining the damage caused by Facebook’s data breach and privacy violations and the new regulations imposed by the European Union, it could leave your head spinning, wondering how to make sense of it all. If you create or edit content for digital platforms — perhaps a website contact page, or a pop-up option for a newsletter, or a landing page to collect consumer data — this information is for you!

What exactly are the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)?

The GDPR is a new set of regulations for online businesses in the European Union (EU) with the hope of accomplishing two goals: 1) To ensure users know their data is being collected when accessing websites and interacting with other online platforms. 2) To ensure businesses are clearly and properly communicating information to their users regarding how and when their data may be accessed. The idea is to give users more power and knowledge by more easily allowing them to opt out, modify or remove their data.

Why is it important?

The global market shrinks considerably with the click of a button and as freelancers, you frequently interact with clients and consumers from all over the world. Regardless of where your business is located, you must comply if working with clients from the EU Researchers suspect that parts of the new regulations could soon be adopted in the U.S. According to publicknowledge.org, “Many in the United States are looking at the GDPR for ideas of what to do and what not to do.” Although these new regulations became effective May 25th, it will take a few years to fully enforce this system in the EU. Organizations that are found out of compliance could be fined.

What do freelance writers, editors, or copywriters need to know?

Some practical changes you will see to align with these new regulations are (but not limited to): double checking opt-in options, discontinuing pre-ticked boxes, using only positive opt-in options, clarity regarding what the consumer is signing up for, and notifying consumers within 72 hours of a data breach.

What’s Next?

Privacy Policy

Above is what you might have already seen while logging into your favorite website. The privacy policy is now front and center for users to engage and make an educated decision. For most users, it will be business as usual, you click, “ok, got it!” and move on without a second thought. But, for others, this knowledge gives them a sense of control over the data they share. As a freelancer, it is important to communicate with clients to ensure they are making the changes needed for compliance and that you, as the freelancer, is up-to-date with compliance as you keep collect client data. The key is striking the right balance between gathering information that would be beneficial to you and your client’s business or marketing goals while respecting users’ information.


ABOUT Arris Shabaglian

For more than a decade Arris has worked as a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. She has also taught university level courses on the art of communication, public relations and journalism. Arris is a Pinterest addict who loves a good night’s sleep and a nice cup of coffee. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three kids (hence the need for a nice cup of coffee).

The Myth of the Five Dollar Logo, and Why It Matters for Your Brand Strategy

brand strategy

The conversation always goes something like this:

“So, I’m starting a new business and well…I need a logo. Interested?”

If we’re on the phone, what usually follows is a pause. If we’re communicating by email, there’s usually a suspiciously long time before I hit “reply.” And, if we’re speaking in person, the look on my face is usually enough to communicate my answer.

Because…I don’t do logos.

Why a logo is part of a much bigger branding puzzle

Actually, that’s not true. I do occasionally agree to take on a logo project, whether through loyalty, guilt or by just not being particularly good at saying “no.”

See, if the request is for a larger branding project then I’m all ears. A logo will always be a part of that. But, the simple request for a logo, like it is nothing more than some necessary evil—and not part of a larger branding strategy—is what turns me off.

Truth be told, there is nothing most designers want to be asked less from a friend, a neighbor or a client than to create a logo. It’s not that we have anything against creating logos. Rather, it’s that logos, like so many other aspects of the creative business, have been devalued to the point of not being worth our time. Inevitably, the work that will be involved will far outweigh what the requestor is willing to pay.

There’s probably some psychology at work here, too. Logos are small in size, so they are perceived by some as having inherently less value. True story time: I once had a client scoff at the idea of paying x amount for a logo, but, after we enlarged that same file to billboard size, and added a line of copy, well…”now we are getting our money’s worth!”

Recently, I posted to LinkedIn an article written by Sacha Greif about the devaluation of the logo. The article described how the author commissioned three logos—for a made-up company—through the website Fiverr, which offers (or at least did at the time) logos for the low, low, price of just five dollars each. What, exactly, did the author receive for her $15? Well, the results were both entirely predictable, and, shocking.

Two of the three logos Greif received were literally copy-and-pasted from existing, stock logo designs. Her company name was simply swapped out. The same logos were already being used by several other companies. The third logo was, as far as she could tell, original work, but, was so generic as not to matter. Oh, and if Greif wanted files that would allow her to actually use her new logos, that would have cost extra. Ditto for copyright permissions and expedited service.

While Fiverr seems to have evolved their business model a bit since Greif’s article was first published in 2014, the fact remains that you will always get what you pay for.

There’s a much larger discussion, here, of course, one about the general undervaluing of creative work, the offshoring of creative production and the democratization of what were once exclusive tools of the creative trade. But, the story of the five-dollar logo pretty well sums it up: a good logo has value. A good logo takes time. A good logo costs money. And a good logo should always be considered in the context of a larger brand strategy.

ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.

Understanding Implicit and Unconscious Bias in the Digital World

implicit bias AI

In my ongoing search for savvy resources about building equity, inclusion, and diversity into online training courses, I stumbled across some fascinating studies on implicit bias, and how bias impacts the apps and online services we use as well as the artificial intelligence (AI) that fuels those apps and services.

For context, there are two terms commonly used in these discussions. Implicit bias includes attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Unconscious bias spans our backgrounds, experiences and stereotypes that impact our decision-making, including our quick judgments of people and contexts without realizing what’s actually at play, or at least what’s under the surface. What I found most compelling in these studies is the notion that many of our deeply rooted associations do not necessarily align with our declared beliefs or even reflect stances we would explicitly endorse. Wow. (To dive right in and see where your biases might be lurking, I encourage you to take Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) – and then spend the week questioning everything you think you thought.)

Reinforcing What We Hope to Erase?

AI-powered systems use historical data to make judgments just like our brains do. (Well, not quite always just like our brains, but tech is getting close.) Fun fact: historical data is often chock full o’ bias as it encodes information (and, thus, all that bias) into the programs it feeds. One study cautions that AI has the potential to reinforce existing biases because, unlike humans, algorithms may be unequipped to consciously counteract learned biases. Examples of sexist and racist bias appear in algorithms that make language and facial associations. What we’ve already seen pop up across platforms are linguistic connections between traditionally gendered roles – matching “female” and “woman” to “homemaker” and arts and humanities careers, and “male” and “man” to science, tech and construction professions. Even Google Translate has shown signs of sexism, automatically suggesting words like “he” for male-dominated jobs and vice versa, when translating from a gender-neutral language like Turkish.

It gets worse, at least linguistically. AI systems have shown to more readily associate typical European (read: white) names with positive words while African American names are more than often associated with negative words. (Everyone can see this is problematic, correct? Again, take the Harvard IAT and have your mind blown even more.)

There’s Work to Be Done

The good news is we can shift far, far away from our learned biases, lose those crappy stereotypes and attitudes, and not make them worse, which is, unfortunately, what some programs and apps might actually do. Tech challenge: Can we program algorithms…to consciously counteract learned biases? We’re going to have to if we want to hack away at, rather than reinforce, systemic sexism and racism. (Is it just me or does there seem to be an opportunity for implicit/unconscious bias eradication training for all AI programmers across the land?)

It’ll be interesting to see where such studies and awareness actually lead the tech world. For those of us building our own platforms for learning, we can always do better by constantly considering the race, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability of our audiences and choose language and imagery to represent that rich diversity. And, when we uncover and understand our own implicit bias, we’ll be able to better address equity and inclusion opportunities in all aspects of our professional and personal lives.

ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.

Why a Blogging Break Might Be the Best Thing for Your Business

blogging break

Do you ever feel sometimes that you’re a slave to your blog?

If you’re also a content creator, please know you’re not alone.

Whether you’re a writer, a photographer, an artist or a creative, sometimes you need to step away from the work instead of forcing yourself to keep moving.

This may be an unpopular opinion for the entrepreneurs who glorify all-nighters and wear their exhaustion like a badge of honor.

But I’m a firm believer in making time for sleep, regular meals, a healthy social life and disconnecting from work on the weekends if you can help it.

Shocking, I know!

Which is why I decided to take a break from writing on my blog for a few months in 2016.

Here are the 3 lessons I learned from taking a break from blogging, which you can apply to building your business.

Reconnect with the why behind what you do. I’ve been cranking out content in English and Spanish every week since I started. And it got…exhausting! When a boom in client work came in after I was published min El Pais (the largest Spanish news outlet in circulation worldwide), I knew I didn’t want to reach breaking point. So I decided to take a step back from my business and focus my energies on where I could give the most value. Because here’s the thing: I didn’t start a business just to make money. I started it to serve others with my talents meaningfully, in a way that allows me to make an impact. I started it to create more freedom in where I work, what my schedule looks like, and how I spend my time and with whom. I’ve already experienced burnout working for others. Why would I want to push myself to burn out on something I actually love-…and have a hand in creating? So ask yourself…why did you start this business in the first place? Use that question to filter out what’s working and what isn’t. Use that question to start getting rid of the things and people that no longer bring you joy. Which will then lead you to…

Determine your priorities. Does this kind of “slow” and “organic” approach mean I’m going to be an overnight billionaire? No. And guess what? That’s OK. Contrary to what you read about online marketing and entrepreneurship, you don’t need tens of thousands of subscribers on your list. You don’t need to be pumping out blog content monthly. You don’t need to be on every new social media platform just because someone tells you “that’s where the money’s at.” I call B.S. I know my bustle has a purpose. I have a clear vision of what I’m building. And that taking time to figure out how to move forward will always serve me and the people I help in the best way possible. At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are just one person. Even superheroes need their rest. So focus on what actually brings you joy. Determine whether or not that aligns with your talents, your mission and your purpose. Then either outsource or walk away from the rest.

Create blank space. I believe that creativity in business and in life can only flow when you take care of your mind, body and soul. That the best decisions are made in the blank space. When you’re well-rested, well-fed and attuned to what makes your soul light up. So my challenge to you if you’re feeling stuck in your business is this: create blank space. You don’t have to take a year-long sabbatical. But you can disconnect in little ways. Carve out anywhere from 10-30 minutes for yourself every day. Meditate. Dance. Take walks through the park with your dog. Grab coffee with a friend. Read a good book. Indulge in that glass of wine. Close your laptop for the weekend, go on a drive somewhere and blast your favorite song.

And here’s the hardest but most important part: don’t feel guilty about taking that break!

Recharge, refresh and watch how you tackle your next goal with renewed purpose.

Have you ever taken a break from blogging? Or anything else in your business that wasn’t working for you? What did you learn?

This is a repost from Kay Fabella’s blog, where she writes all about entrepreneurship, storytelling, marketing and business.

ABOUT Kay Fabella

Kay Fabella is a storyteller and communications strategist. She helps entrepreneurs and professionals around the world develop a communication strategy to meaningfully connect with their audiences — and meet their business goals. Kay is also world-recognized author, speaker, and trainer. A Los Angeles native, she’s built her dream business from Spain to train her clients in the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia to help bring their brands to life. She's also been featured in international media including The Huffington Post, El País and EFE Emprende. Check out Kay’s stories, tips, and insights on life and business at kayfabella.com (y en español: kayfabella.com/inicio).