Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has been named Disability:IN’s Employer of the Year for 2023. The award recognizes a company’s achievement in exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain.
"Thank you Disability:IN for this honor and for the work that you do to promote disability inclusion in the workplace," says Holly May, executive vice president & global chief human resource officer of WBA. "We are so proud of Walgreens Boots Alliance's leadership in the space, which we credit to our values, commitment, signature Walgreens disability hiring and inclusion programs and partnerships."
This follows seven consecutive years of recognition from Disability:IN and The American Association of People with Disabilities with a 100% score on its Disability Equality Index. Disability advocates and business leaders developed the index, which is the most comprehensive benchmarking tool for corporate disability inclusion.
WBA was recognized with the award on July 11, during Disability Pride Month, a time to celebrate the strengths and achievements of people with disabilities around the world, and for us, a time to look back on our progress through the years.
While Walgreens has always championed a commitment to hiring individuals with disabilities and equal opportunity, our revolutionary “same job, same expectations, same pay” operating model was developed more than 16 years ago with two signature programs: Transitional Work Group (TWG) and Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI). Since then, Walgreens has further expanded our commitments to disability representation through our work with Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, the establishment of a neurodiversity hiring program for corporate roles and the redesign of the annual incentive plan to create leadership accountability for diversity representation. Through this work, Walgreens has enabled thousands of people with disabilities to build lives they may not otherwise have been able to, simply because opportunities were not presented to them.
A Turning Pointe Autism Foundation student ringing up a customer in the mock Walgreens store.
- Transitional Work Group (TWG): Started in 2007, TWG is a placement program for people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities. Students complete a 10-13-week program that includes classroom and warehouse training, social skills practice and education in workplace policies.
- To date, more than 1,000 people with disabilities have been hired at 12 Walgreens distribution centers and regional warehouses across the country, with a successful 75% training-to-hire placement rate. The ripple effects of the TWG program continue—new hire orientation for supply chain team members now includes a two-hour training on disability awareness and etiquette.
- The TWG program was recently expanded into Walgreens micro-fulfillment centers.
- Retail Employees with Disabilities Inclusion (REDI): REDI is a program that trains individuals with disabilities for customer service associate roles at Walgreens stores.
- REDI, first launched in 2010, consists of a 3-6 week in-store training program, where participants learn valuable retail and customer service skills, qualifying hundreds of potential team members for retail roles. By the end of fiscal 2022, there were nearly 1,900 trainees enrolled in the program in more than 413 Walgreens stores across 38 states.
- Turning Pointe Autism Foundation: Walgreens partners with Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, a nonprofit that educates people with autism in the life skills necessary to live and work independently. A fully operational retail store was built within Turning Pointe’s center and supported by actual Walgreens store managers. A 9-month training program was developed for students learn how to work within a team, interface with customers and manage the cash register. After graduating, participants become “Walgreens Certified” and are eligible to be hired at any Walgreens store.
- Neurodiversity in the Workplace: In 2022, WBA formed a partnership with Neurodiversity in the Workplace™ to design plans and programs to recruit, attract, hire and retain neurodivergent talent in Walgreens offices.
- Neurodiversity in the Workplace provides education and greater awareness around neurodiversity by training hiring managers about what neurodiversity means, how to be an ally, and how to provide supportive workplace accommodations. The first cohort is expected to begin work at WBA’s global support center in Deerfield, Illinois, this year.
In addition to training and work placement programs, WBA sponsors a disAbility Alliance business resource group (BRG) that educates and supports individuals with disabilities and allies by providing informational content, fostering an inclusive workforce and furthering disability-related initiatives. The BRG hosts educational programming and learning experiences for team members throughout the year, welcoming those with all abilities to join, learn and network.
A lasting impact
Due to the success of this progressive and inclusive hiring model, other businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, have taken note, asking, “how does Walgreens do it?” Rather than withhold the knowledge, the company decided to share it for the greater good, establishing Walgreens Inclusion University.
Through the program, companies can tour TWG- and REDI-enabled distribution centers and stores and sit in on disability training curriculum to learn how a properly equipped working environment can empower team members of all abilities.
“We’ve always been proud to open our doors to other companies interested in learning about our approach, programs and practices, as others set up their models, through Walgreens Inclusion University,” says Holly May, executive vice president & global chief human resources officer of WBA. “The invitation is always open.”
A commitment that continues
To ensure accountability among our leadership, last November, WBA became the first company in the S&P 500 to redesign our annual U.S. bonus plan to include a standalone disability representation metric.
This new metric will unlock a pipeline of talent and help foster equity for a previously underrepresented sector of the workforce.
As an award-winning employer, WBA continues to combine both our past emphasis on disability support with our future in leading new initiatives to create opportunity and access the value provided by our diverse workforce.
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