When Eric Pokorny first donned the green apron at Starbucks 27 years ago, he was a new barista, unsure where the journey would take him. Now, as a Media Content Manager at Starbucks, Eric is responsible for producing and distributing video and photography content for the brand’s core training and some of its enterprise learning programs. 

To turn training programs into an engaging educational experience for partners (employees) around the globe, the team relies on video as a key medium to deliver engaging virtual trainings for new baristas around the world. “We’re a large organization, serving up content to over 350,000 partners around the globe. Vimeo is the center of that when it comes to hosting and having a center of deployment,” he says.

In tackling the challenge of streamlining and standardizing virtual training for thousands of employees across time zones, continents, and languages, Eric quickly realized the importance of having a single source to manage and distribute video content. And this need has only grown more critical since 2020. “We started our digital transformation about seven years ago,” he says. “Now, our mass communications, live streaming, and focus on keeping everybody informed all skyrocketed with the pandemic.”

Here’s what the team at Starbucks has learned along the way to optimize and improve virtual trainings for their colleagues worldwide.

Starbucks at a glance

Industry: Retail food and beverage

HQ: Seattle, WA

Employees: 349,000

Locations: 33,295

Nasdaq: SBUX

Virtual training strategy:

  • Live + on-demand content
  • Optimized for mobile and desktop
  • Educational materials and courses
  • Centralized video content library
  • Videos to GIFs for content development and interactive learning

A blended approach with purposeful, supporting media

When Starbucks first prioritized video as a medium to help create, produce, and distribute training for its workforce, it was with the intention of designing an onboarding process that was educational, thoroughly engaging, and enjoyable to complete. 

To that end, there were a few key factors in order to best serve their global partners:

  • A single source of truth to store, manage, and distribute training videos from anywhere
  • Full control over managing their content, like pulling or updating videos across their asset library in real time
  • A device-agnostic platform that streams seamlessly across desktop and mobile devices
  • Robust security and permissioning, so only the people they choose to view their videos, can
  • Detailed video analytics to measure engagement

With user-level video analytics, Eric and his team can see how much of a video an individual has completed, ensuring that they’ve received the information they need to be successful. And with a completion rate of around 90% on some of their most watched videos, it’s clear that video is an engaging medium to train learners.

“It’s very important for us to know that our partners understand the information we’re putting in front of them via video,” he says. “To see a 90% completion rate means that our partners aren’t dropping off until the very end.”

Training tip 💡

Don’t use fancy fade outs or lengthy end slates when your video wraps up.

“A couple years ago we just started ending the videos: No more fade to black, no more empty space, nothing,” says Eric. “By doing that, it actually shows our true capture rate,” he explains, versus having viewers drop off for the remaining 2-3 seconds as closing slates and legal statements glide across the screen.

With fast-paced growth comes a need to stay organized

Training a workforce tens of thousands strong requires a lot of content. Content that requires managing, updating, and redistributing on a regular basis. With so many moving parts, it can be easy to lose track of it all.

“I’ve been in many situations where I was asked, ‘Eric, do you have that video from 2001?’ and I’d have to say, ‘Okay, let’s go to this hard drive, and that hard drive, and this shared drive…’ just to find it,” Eric says. (Something many of us can relate to, right?)

Early on, the Starbucks team realized that having all video content stored in a single location, that could be easily accessed and updated, was essential to alleviate this pain point. “I call it good digital hygiene,” Eric says, referring to proactive measures his team takes to ensure consistent content discoverability. 

“When I think about all the places video can live, a single source of truth for that one video is so important to us,” he says. “What if a policy or procedure changes, and we need to pull the content on that topic? If we don’t have control over all the places that video went, it’s a nightmare to find it, tell people to stop using it, and re-share a new link to an updated asset.”

Fortunately, the right kind of platform can make a world of difference when mitigating these changes. “Having a platform like Vimeo that can house the single source of truth, let us push it as a link or embed code, bring it into any learning, and still swap it out without the links or embed code changing — that has saved us so many times over the last several years.”

Asset management is just part of the challenge teams like Eric’s faces in the day to day. As a collaborative team, Eric needs to make sure his colleagues can efficiently weigh in on training content as needed. “I’ve been using Showcases, which are a beautiful and organized way to serve up content to my teammates,” he says. “If I have all of the training videos for the Barista Basics program in one place that’s easy to look at, then whoever’s going to revise the program doesn’t have to manually click through multiple pages. They can just bring it up and have this really elegant viewing experience for themselves, or whoever else on my team is managing those programs, it makes their lives easier, too.”

Training tip 💡

When retiring outdated training content, update the thumbnail image.

“If we sunset a video, we change the thumbnail to something like, ‘No longer in use as of this date’ with a brief explanation why. That way, anybody moving into that role working on that program can just get the context they need from the thumbnail, without clicking into the video,” says Eric.

“We have a lot of videos, and a lot of use. If I didn’t have all of this in one place, in neatly organized folders, I don’t actually know how I would keep it all straight. I don’t think I could.”
Eric Pokorny, Media Content Manager at Starbucks

Creating inclusive trainings

The Starbucks team understands that effective virtual training is accessible virtual training. For new hires to feel energized about starting a career at Starbucks, they need to see themselves reflected in their onboarding experience. That means ensuring the viewing experience is optimized for all learners, and that the content itself reflects the diverse audience it serves.

“Inclusivity is really important. Sometimes it just takes looking at your content and pausing to ask, ‘How am I speaking to everybody?’” says Eric. “It’s really important to know your audience and represent them in these videos.”

 “Accessibility in the form of captions is very important to us,” Eric explains. “We don’t post a video unless it has captions as an option.”

Ultimately, creating meaningful training videos and keeping up with your audience’s needs takes intention. According to Eric, all it takes to tell the stories that need to be told is to be honest and human.

“We’ve been talking a lot at Starbucks about what I’ve heard called the great human reconnection,” he says. “It’s about taking the time to look at things differently, feel what we’ve all been through, and incorporate some of that in your next production. Keep it human, keep it real.”

Organize all of your company’s videos