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Hiring People with Disabilities, is it Good or is it Better?

By Jerry Daskoski M.Ed., CBIS, Minds Matter LLC Employment Specialist

 

Randy Lewis, Walgreens Pharmacy Senior VP of Supply Chain and Logistics, has a son with Autism. As any parent would, Randy worried about the future his son would have, if he could secure employment, and what opportunities he may have. Randy feared his son would require complete support for the extent of his life. This problem sparked a new idea, an innovative way to approach productivity, efficiency, and a means of creating opportunity. Randy wanted to create employment for people with disabilities who had not had the chance before. He accomplished this by creating the “Next Generation” of Distribution Centers by Walgreens.

In 2007, Walgreens opened its 14th Distribution Center in Anderson, South Carolina, as part of the company’s Southeast expansion. What made this center so unique is that a significant amount of its employees had disabilities, a first in the distribution industry. More than 40 percent of the 800+ employees have a physical of cognitive disability, such as Autism, Mental Retardation, vision or hearing impairment.

New systems, workplace processes, compatible machinery, and a universal design made this a $175 million investment. Walgreens worked with technology and training experts to develop a plan to create the “Next Generation” of Distribution Centers to be applied to other centers within the chain. “We’ve worked technology and creativity into every inch of this place, but it’s the PEOPLE here who will amaze you,” said Walgreens’ Randy Lewis. The new Distribution Center created new opportunities for people with disabilities seeking jobs where their positive attitudes could thrive.

“Broadening the workforce by employing people with disabilities is not just a nice gesture, it makes good business sense” Randy about the new model, “this has led to the conclusion that hiring the disabled is not only as good—it is better”.  The correct formula of training, knowledge, awareness, and technology created a more efficient and productive Distribution Center than Walgreen’s other thirteen. The Distribution Center in Anderson, South Carolina, with a staff makeup that is 42 percent disabled, is more efficient and productive than all of the other centers by 20%.  That statement says a lot, when Walgreens is the largest drugstore chain (8,213 stores, with fiscal 2013 sales of 72 billion, proving the model effective on even when used by the largest scale businesses.

Working with local agencies, Walgreens was able to attract and train people with disabilities in the Anderson area. With the help of an on-site training facility, employees with disabilities were trained so that the entire workforce could operate at the same level. Training was completed with the assistance of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) staff in Anderson, who taught the employees how to integrate with the Walgreens workforce. Because of this extra consideration, all 800+ employees work evenly, with uniform expectations throughout.

The success of this model has prompted interest by other companies, to follow Walgreens, leading the company to offer guidance, training, and mentorship to those considering the change. Over a dozen large U.S. companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Lowe’s, and Best Buy are now following the Walgreens Model. The goal is to employ enough workers with disabilities to make up 40-50 percent of the distribution center workforce, while keeping an equal working environment, including equal responsibilities, expectations, and most importantly, opportunities.

What about your company? In Anderson, South Carolina, and in the Kansas City Metro Area, hiring individuals with disabilities, “is better.”  We hear from companies in the Kansas City Metro Area that it is difficult to hire individuals who have the right attitude and the right work ethic.  There is a large pool of individuals with disabilities that have the right attitude and the right work ethic, and this pool of people often goes untapped.

If you want to do “what is better,” then contact Minds Matter, LLC and we will help you find candidates that when hired and properly trained, will increase your productivity and efficiency.  It just makes good business sense!

If you want to do “what is better,” then contact Minds Matter, LLC and we will help you find candidates that when hired and properly trained, will increase your productivity and efficiency.  It just makes good business sense!

 

 

If you are interested in expanding your workforce, give us a call at 866.429.6757 or send us an email through the Contact Us page.