Scientist of the week

April West

The scientist of the week is senior Kelsey McNellis whose two-term anthropology senior project was a self-designed research project titled “Strong Corporate Culture and Employee Relationships.” Basically, Kelsey studied whether or not employee relationships — how employees interact with one another — affect the atmosphere of a store, with her focus being on the popular coffee shop Starbucks.
“Starbucks is the kind of place where the cup of coffee you order in small-town Wisconsin is supposed to be the same as the cup of coffee you order anywhere, but I have found from working in Starbucks for the past five years, in California and Wisconsin, that the experience is not the same,” said McNellis.
She continued, “This led me to want to look closer at how employee relationships affect the culture of a corporation at the larger scale and store to store.”
She focused on the importance of the employees’ ages, previous work histories and education backgrounds. She wondered, “Do all these factors work into how people interact on a daily basis?”
“Starbucks’ motto is that they are ‘your third place,’ with the office and one’s actual home being the other two places. I wanted to look at how this motto was conveyed across several different types of environments.”
In her designed study, which she may carry out later on, McNellis would look at three different types of Starbucks locations: a drive-through Starbucks, a location in suburban area and a downtown location like the one on College Avenue, to see if employee relationships were different and the effect that the relationships did or did not have on the store’s environment.
She would obtain the data by conducting participant observations where she would actually work in these locations and would therefore actually be witnessing and be involved in these interactions. McNellis would also conduct open-ended and informational interviews.
The open-ended interviews would consist of questions such as how they feel about work or what their ideal day at Starbucks would be like. The informational interviews would deal mainly with general information like name and age.
Her prediction for the study’s results is that strong employee relationships, or locations with high employee morale, would lead to strong corporate culture or environment.
“Just from working in a California Starbucks and a Wisconsin Starbucks I can see a change in the mentality of the employees and a change in age range. In California the employees tend to be more high school or college-based, whereas here it could be a more stable long term career for some.” McNellis said.
“What I have seen is that the atmosphere of a store is set largely by the employees,” she added.
Much of this project stemmed from McNellis’ true passion for Starbucks. After school she would like to be a Starbucks store manager and eventually work for corporate Starbucks in their home base of Seattle.
Said McNellis, “When I came to Lawrence I was far from home and I found a second family in Starbucks. For me the culture at Starbucks was so strong it was so easy to find a place here. I love what Starbucks is about … I have had nothing but a positive experience with Starbucks.