Four years ago, generous benefits and opportunities for advancement convinced Leigh Swanson to use her new master’s degree in human resources to manage a Starbucks cafe. She called it one of the best workplaces she had ever experienced.
Then, in 2007, with the coffee chain in the midst of a building binge, the worst downturn since the Great Depression hit, hammering Starbucks’ bottom line. Sharp cost-cuts, the introduction of corporate efficiency tools like scheduling software and an increased emphasis on pushing product sales have helped the company return to record profitability.
They also led Swanson to quit in May. The disappearing perks and the financial fixes dampened her enthusiasm for recruiting potential new partners, as Starbucks calls its employees. “I found it really sad. I was really invested,” said Swanson, who was in charge of a Starbucks in the Florida Panhandle. “I just didn’t feel proud anymore. I wasn’t in it to manage a McDonald’s.”