Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



October/November 2013

Diversity/Careers October/November 2013

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Diversity In Action

Walgreens aims for enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion

Walgreens’ comprehensive diversity and inclusion program has gained momentum in the last two years. Its quarter of a million employees are all involved in the process

'With more than 8,000 locations across the United States and Puerto Rico, our company strives to be ‘My Walgreens’ for everyone,” says Rick Harris, director of diversity and inclusion at Walgreen Company. “We have a diverse workforce of nearly 250,000 people who are recruited from, and understand, the local communities we serve.

“In 2007, we became a federal government contractor, and our commitment to diversity expanded to include affirmative action,” Harris reports. “Moving beyond compliance, Walgreens’ leadership recognized the value of, and business case for, diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage. A diverse and inclusive environment is one with engaged employees who deliver the best customer experience, which contributes to the company’s continued success.”

Aiming to be an innovator
Walgreens brought aboard its first chief diversity officer in 2011. In the last two years, the company has built a diversity vision, team and strategy. “Our vision is to be a ‘next practices’ company for diversity and inclusion. By ‘next practices,’ we mean we are focused on solutions that are innovative and lead the industry,” says Harris.

“This vision supports our core strategic growth objectives to deliver the wellness experience, transform the role of community pharmacy, and create an efficient global platform,” Harris says. “In this way, diversity and inclusion is fully aligned with our business. We have a team of seventeen professionals whose work includes diversity strategy, training, affirmative action compliance, networks and communications, and supplier diversity. Our culture, people, perspectives and workplaces will reflect the customers we serve while delivering superior business performance.”

In fall 2012, Walgreens’ diversity and inclusion department partnered with human resources to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy plan for each business unit and function. Each strategy is designed to support specific business objectives and opportunities, and align with the corporate diversity and inclusion strategy of culture, partnerships and accountability.

“As part of measurement and assessment,” explains Harris, “we developed Walgreens’ first-ever methodology that utilizes U.S. census data to define the benchmark for each business unit by pay grade and demographic subgroup. This way, business leaders get an accurate picture of the available workforce in their geographic areas. That lets them focus their opportunities for hiring, development and retention on the appropriate groups.

“We also provided leaders with employee engagement survey results via survey and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. The result has been an integrated approach to diversity and inclusion across the business with shared ownership and accountability.

“We’ve accomplished several milestones, including the launch of our first enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion awareness training, and the launch of regional diversity councils.”

Harris notes that Walgreens has a longstanding partnership with historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and women’s colleges. It targets diverse student populations on other campuses.

Getting employees involved
Walgreens employs a variety of IT professionals: SAP experts, business analysts, IT architects, application developers, Cisco network infrastructure specialists, Unix developers, VoIP experts and more. The majority of Walgreens IT pros work in the Chicago area.

Walgreens encourages technical employees to participate in programs sponsored through professional organizations like the Black Data Processing Associates (www.bdpa.org), and often takes its technical employees to career fairs at community colleges and elsewhere.

“Diversity and inclusion is integrated throughout Walgreens’ programs and initiatives as well as through traditional communications like our annual report and newsletter,” Harris notes. “It’s incorporated into business objectives through our diversity and inclusion strategy plans, and part of our performance management processes, including evaluation and succession planning.

“Although each employee receives diversity and inclusion awareness training, we’ve partnered with our Walgreens training organization to ensure that a diversity and inclusion component is incorporated into every level of leadership training. Diversity and inclusion is also promoted through our regional diversity councils and business resource groups. This allows our employees to engage in work that helps us recruit top talent, develop our employees and engage internal and external communities.”


Headquarters: Deerfield, IL
Employees: 240,000
Revenues: $71.6 billion
Business: Retail prescription and nonprescription drugstore and general merchandise chain

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