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Walgreens changes the paradigm.

The current wave of company-led employment and inclusion programs for people with disabilities didn’t happen overnight. Much can be credited to Walgreens, which in 2007 emerged as a corporate leader in the field by aggressively and publicly championing the business case for hiring people with disabilities. This really was the beginning of a paradigm shift that paved the way for other national employers to carry out their own initiatives.

  • Higher Productivity: In comparing the rates of picking items for orders, people with disabilities had higher productivity on all three split cases.
  • Lower Turnover: Employee turnover for people with disabilities was half that of the employees without disabilities.
  • Better Safety Record: In a study that measured the number of incidents or accidents for every thousand person hours, people with disabilities had a third fewer than the remaining driving population.

With the opening of what was then its newest generation of distribution centers in Anderson, South Carolina, employees with disabilities were trained to work side by side with other team members. Importantly, employees with disabilities had the same productivity goals, the same performance standards and the same pay as the other employees.

Program Highlights

  • Building on that initiative, in 2010, Walgreens launched a program called the Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI) that aimed to hire people with disabilities for 10% of its retail openings at its Dallas–Fort Worth area stores. The pilot was developed in conjunction with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, and training for the pilot prepared candidates for Walgreens positions and other jobs in retail and customer service that called for similar skills.
  • By November 2012, more than four hundred candidates had completed REDI training. Of those, two thirds acquired the full skill set to perform a service clerk position in a similar retail setting. By August 2014, the program had successfully employed more than a thousand people with disabilities, with some sites achieving a one-to-one ratio of employees with and without with disabilities.
  • Walgreens’ hiring of people with disabilities led to some very positive national publicity. This YouTube video, “Walgreens: What Works, on NBC Nightly News,” talks more about the positive human and business impacts.
  • To hear from Walgreens employees—including people with disabilities, their managers and their families—take a look at this YouTube video, “Walgreens Distribution Center in Anderson County, South Carolina.”

Source: James P. Kaletta, Douglas J. Binks and Richard Robinson, “Creating an Inclusive Workplace,” Professional Safety, June 2012