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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

A “Think Different” Case Study in Hiring: Walgreens

People Make things happen……Or Not Happen.

One of my favorite Axioms in business. Several businesses get the “people side” right and vibrant cultures are all around us.

Apple is known for innovation, and the core of that competency is their “THINK DIFFERENT” mantra.

Innovation is about introducing something new or doing something in a different way. It’s the catalyst for growth and avoiding the race to the bottom (margin erosion through price declines).

True innovation almost always goes against conventional wisdom.

Employees (or “labor) represent a major cost that hits every company’s P&L. Forward thinking businesses view labor as investments, or assets. Regardless of the view and where we are in the economic cycle, finding good, capable, motivated people to do the job is a never-ending challenge.

Who comes to mind in the “Think Different” area of employment?


Walgreen’s factoids:

1) They are a huge retailer, with over $70BB in revenue. In retail, success is measured as earning pennies on the dollar.

2) They operate a ton of Distribution Centers (“DC’s”) across the country that aim to keep 7,500+ stores in stock with products. These are classic “high turnover” employment centers across the retail landscape.

#2 is where I’m fascinated. Walgreen’s has demonstrated “Think Different” better than any big business I’m aware of.

They are proving that they can generate fantastic business results in their DC’s with unconventional, innovative hiring practices.

Quick Overview

Walgreen’s is out front & leading, they are no longer experimenting.

Lesson’s From Walgreen’s

  • Every big dream, initiative or “new” approach needs a champion, the higher up in the organization structure the better.

  • If you have multiple choices for a Champion, pick the one with the biggest “fire in the belly.” I would argue that the person with stronger fire will trump organizational rank. Arguable, but when you review Randy Lewis’ presentation below, you may agree.

    • For Walgreen’s, Randy Lewis is the champion, and he is driven by more than just the need for better business results.

    • Champions with senior titles are important, but when there is a fire in the belly driven by something personal, that’s a champion on steroids. An extra “edge” is always critical when you are looking for break-through leaders.

  • Data and facts almost always win. Set your experiments up correctly on the front end, and how the test will be measured.

  • You will have surprises and new learning’s with experiments. For tests that work, you cannot predict them on the front end, but those surprises will provide fuel to move faster than originally anticipated

    • If it’s throughput, get a baseline and how it changes. Compare group A vs. Group B. Turnover, do the same.

  • ACT ON THE DATA! If the results are measurably better, INVEST! Why else would you test something if this were not the expectation in the first place?

    • Nothing kills momentum more than organizational inertia, especially when the data tells you to move, and move quickly.

  • Spread the story. Put it on websites. Speak at conferences. This is not only good PR, it creates a “multiplier impact” as other businesses take notice and follow suit.

The videos tell the story better than I can. But I will say this:

When a high ranking executive of a $70bb company says “Wow! This is not just as good, this is better!” and what he’s talking about is a practice that nearly all businesses are NOT executing, he’s onto something. He’s out front and leading, innovating.

Yes he’s accomplishing social good with the practice and that is smart to be a great corporate citizen. When you do that AND it generates better results? No-brainer territory to move quickly.

Plenty of info below to absorb below, hard data and “soul stirring” videos.

Part of “Hustle” is having the energy & discipline to let EXCELLENCE inspire you. Role Models matter.

For the Quant Jocks. Hard Data that speaks for itself. “Creating an Inclusive Workplace. Integrating Employees With Disabilities Into A Distribution Center Environment”

* March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day which provided the inspiration for laying out this case study in “Thinking Differently.” This is a day where people celebrate the ABilities of people with special needs, not their DIS-abilities.

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