Analyst: Starbucks 'Racial Bias Training' Likely Won't Promote Any Change

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Starbucks’s racial bias training Tuesday afternoon isn’t likely to be effective or do anything to promote change in the company, an analyst wrote on Tuesday.

Research shows that even when racial bias trainings are done correctly, they are not always effective. Studies surrounding the trainings are flawed, but despite this, the racial training industry is incredibly profitable.

“(R)esearch suggests that just one half-day of training is unlikely to turn things (at Starbucks),” Maggie Koerth-Baker, a science writer at FiveThirtyEight, wrote on Tuesday.

Frank Dobbin, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, told her that “these types of trainings probably aren’t the best way to reduce discrimination in the workplace, even when they’re done well.”

“Recent reviews of research literature suggest that these trainings are often implemented without much follow-up on whether they actually work and that most companies are implementing the least effective forms of training,” she added.

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Every Starbucks in the U.S. closed Tuesday afternoon for so-called “racial bias training” (or “unconscious bias training”) after a highly publicized arrest of two black men on April 12 at a Philadelphia store that caused public outrage.

The studies surrounding that show the results of the training are “deeply flawed,” Koerth-Baker wrote.

A 2009 literature review found that most papers about diversity training did not look at experimental results but rather surveys or descriptions,” she added.

Do you think 'racial bias training' is necessary for Starbucks employees?

“Meanwhile, the ones that were experimental in nature looked at very small groups of people, who were usually taking training courses under conditions that were very different from real world corporate settings.”

What else is known is that the racial bias training industry, while ineffective in creating change, is extremely profitable and has infected corporate America, academia and many other places.

“A one-day class for 50 people is estimated to cost as much as $6,000, and large corporations budget hundreds of millions of dollars for diversity initiatives annually,” Koerth-Baker wrote in the analysis.

On top of the cost to train the employees in the afternoon, a Quartz analysis estimated Starbucks will lose $4.4 million in profit.

But that’s just one drop in the bucket for a corporation that made $22.4 billion in sales in 2017.

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