Starbucks is pretty well-known for its Annual Shareholders meetings. This spring, at one of those special meetings, the charismatic Howard Schultz gave a speech, and a surprise musical guest entertained the audience of thousands.
At such events, it is difficult to really make an impact on the people or to stand out. Yet, Lucy Helm, Starbucks’ former top attorney and its current head of human resources was able to leave a great impression on the company’s shareholders.
Taking the stage at McCaw Hall, Helm managed to get the audience laughing at the most mundane of meeting items. Through her speech, she delivered reports, but also took time to address the many pressures of the global workforce.
“I realize in my heart of hearts, that this is the part of the meeting that you value the most, anxiously considering the results of your shareholder vote on the proposals in the proxy statement,” she said, before riffing on her nervousness in reading important results after a recent snafus by presenters at the Oscars and Miss Universe pageant.
“So, you guys,” she said, holding up a smartphone, “if I get anything wrong, texting seems to be working, and I think tweeting is big in the administration right now, so please — let me know and I won’t embarrass myself.”
Her appointment comes at a time when the company is undergoing a performance slump. She faces major challenges including low and declining sales growth that has disappointed investors and analysts. Traffic at the company’s outlets in the U.S. grew by just 1% in the most recent quarter after two quarters in which it was flat.
In response to Helm’s appointment as the company’s new HR head, new CEO Kevin Johnson said she is “ideal for this role,” citing her comprehensive understanding of Starbucks’ culture and operations gained over 18 years at the company, her advocacy for diversity, and her passion for supporting employees.
“Lucy also is a leader who listens, and she comes to her new role with deep connections to partners in the field, at the support center, and in our plants,” he said.
Here’s all you need to know about Lucy Helm:
Title: Executive vice president, chief partner officer (i.e. head of HR) at Starbucks
Former positions: Executive vice president, general counsel at Starbucks; principal at Riddell Williams law firm; assistant director and advocacy director at Center for Accessible Living in Louisville, Kentucky
Education: J.D., Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville;
B.A., political science, University of Louisville
Lives in: Seattle
Volunteer work: Board of Directors at Mercy Corps and Washington’s YMCA Youth & Government Program; Campaign for Equal Justice at Legal Foundation of Washington; Parkview Services
Hobbies: Attending outdoor festivals and fairs, reading, baking, music