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Leadership Lessons
Staff Reporter
update on Saturday, July 31, 2010

Susan Tohyama
Director, partner resources, Starbucks Coffee Asia-Pacific


Partners (employees) are the heart and soul of the Starbucks experience. Our goal is to create the best possible workplace environment for them - one that attracts and retains talented individuals, and is regarded as a great place to work.

One of our guiding principles is to create an environment in which we always treat each other with respect and dignity. With that, teamwork, collaboration and open communication automatically become an integral part of our corporate culture, and in the way we work with each other every day.  

Team building  

We encourage continuous sharing of updates and information via regular coffee tastings, open forums and team meetings. This ensures that the partners are well informed and involved in the business, while having the opportunity to ask questions or provide feedback.


An example is that we had a team building activity for the Starbucks Coffee Asia-Pacific office at Crossroads last month. This was a planned activity designed for the whole office.

The team building exercise was called "struggle to survive", where colleagues were randomly grouped into different "families" to go through a simulation, and experienced life in poverty.  

Feedback and results  

You can say that it is 100 per cent participation for the above activity, as those who did not attend were colleagues who were on business trips or who were on leave.

The positive feedback was that it teamed up colleagues who do not usually work together. It also required the team to collaborate closely to "survive" as a "family", so it brought people closer together.

Janet Bibi Ferreira
Director for human resources and administration, Baker Tilly Hong Kong


Baker Tilly Hong Kong encourages a friendly and learning oriented environment. Our core values are integrity and objectivity, strong team work, and devotion to our profession and community. We select people who share our values and culture.

Our HR leaders regularly attend reviews to monitor trends and developments in the HR arena.  

Team building  

We have an open-office plan instead of cubicles, which is more effective for team work.

We also have a "buddy system" with four to five staff assigned to each "buddy". The group has a mixture of juniors and seniors to encourage interaction. "Buddies" are rotated every year to avoid bias, and to encourage more networking  among staff.

A department heads meeting once every quarter helps strengthen communication among different departments. Problems can be identified and resolved at an early stage to ensure smooth a operation in the firm as a whole.  


We provide funds to support buddy activities: karaoke, dinners, boating and tenpin bowling are some of the more popular activities. Major firm events, such as the annual dinner and Christmas party, are delegated to staff representatives with minimum supervision from management.

In addition, we hire external trainers to help with team building activities.  

Feedback and results  

There are a number of ways to obtain feedback, including staff satisfaction surveys which are organised twice a year. Our "buddies" will collect feedback from their team members.

I make myself available to listen, which is a behaviour that encourages staff to talk openly and willingly.

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