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HR programs drive employee engagement


Employee engagement and customer experience. These are not just buzzwords or empty promises for Walgreens. 

For the human resources team within Walgreens, this means attracting, training and retaining the right talent, who not only will be actively engaged but who, in turn, will enhance the customer experience in stores, whether it be in pharmacy, beauty, fresh food or any other aspect of the business.

“Our vision [is] helping people get, stay and live well, and to further that we certainly need the right talent pool to be able to support all of the business’ strategies,” said Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, SVP and chief human resources officer at Walgreens. “The progress we’ve made over the last few years in the HR department was the product of true teamwork in action. We are very deliberate in driving change that supports our business and our leadership.” To help support this vision, Walgreens is bringing its pharmacists out from behind the counter so they can provide more counseling to patients and offer clinical services. To further enhance the customer experience, the retailer also is implementing Health Guides as part of its Well Experience concept rollout. These Health Guides are Walgreens team members who are armed with an iPad and are available to answer product and service questions, help customers navigate the store and their healthcare options, and sign up for health-related events. 

“With this increased demand on talent, we know that we need to further our technology, and so we’ve been partnering with [CIO] Tim Theriault’s team … and they are supporting us as we go through an HR transformation. We are also ensuring that we have technology to have a mobile work force because we are advancing our role in health care beyond just traditional pharmacy,” Wilson-Thompson said.

For example, as Walgreens was preparing to set up its new Well Experience stores in Indianapolis, it created a full training center that replicated a pharmacy in order to enable the pharmacists to work with the new technology, conduct practice consultations and engage in other key 
consumer experiences. 

To help drive employee engagement, Walgreens developed an internal quantitative and qualitative program to help discover new ways to drive greater engagement and better understand what is most important to its associates.

“We do have data that indicates that, year-over-year since we’ve had a focus on employee engagement, our most engaged managers have been able to grow total pharmacy sales in [their] stores: front-end sales, private-label sales and even total transactions,” Wilson-Thompson added.

Meanwhile, as the nation readies for the influx of some 32 million newly insured Americans under healthcare reform, Walgreens is taking steps to ensure it is ready for the transition. As part of the effort, Walgreens recently hosted its first Chief Human Resources Officers Summit on health care. The event brought together more than 20 organizations from across the country to engage in a roundtable discussion on healthcare reform. To better understand the role that Walgreens can play to curb healthcare costs and improve employee lives, the event included a tour of the Walgreens Healthy Living Center at Walgreens corporate campus in Deerfield, Ill. 

She noted that Walgreens also tracks accountability for health metrics and has a benefit design in place that incentivizes employees to use its Take Care Clinics, versus such higher-cost alternatives as emergency rooms, and to take a proactive role in living a healthier life through, for example, getting health screenings and immunizations.

“This year, we will be able to show … that we can affect an overall reduction in healthcare costs for those folks who have participated in all of our programs,” Wilson-Thompson added.

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