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Tina Casey headshot

How Walgreens Has Stepped It Up and Hired More Veterans

By Tina Casey

Last year, Walgreens added itself to the growing list of employers actively recruiting military veterans – and for good reason. Veterans come into the civilian labor market with an impressive set of work skills that can translate into store aisles and on to top management positions.

Walgreens launches the HERO Program

Walgreens launched the Helping Veterans with Educational and Retail Opportunities (HERO) Program on Nov. 8, 2018, with the aim of adding 5,000 military veterans to its workforce of approximately 230,000 over the next five years.

Those relatively modest increments could have an outsized impact on employee culture at the company.

The aim is not simply to bring more veterans on board. Walgreens plans to hire veterans directly into junior leadership roles, as shift supervisors or assistant managers, as a first step toward becoming a store manager.

A look at veterans’ workplace skills underscores why Walgreens is targeting veterans for hiring.

As described by the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), military training goes far beyond the ability to stick to a schedule, follow rules and perform assigned tasks. Veterans also become accomplished in teamwork, responsibility, accountability, confidence, organization, discipline and the ability to handle difficult situations, adapt to new circumstances and solve problems.

Today’s military veteran has also worked extensively with computers and other new technology.

Making the pitch

Walgreens recognizes it has to compete with other employers to attract top workers who previously served in the military.

In pitching the HERO program last year, Walgreens noted that store managers have the potential to move into field or corporate leadership positions.

The company also stated that veterans can contribute to the company’s mission of championing the “health and well-being of every community in America.”

That could easily include a veteran’s own community. According to Walgreens, about 75 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of one of its thousands of locations. That provides prospective hires with a chance to work where they live rather than relocating.

Adding punch to the program

Walgreens also knows the offer to move up the corporate ladder is a hollow one unless it includes the kind of educational opportunities that qualify workers for senior management positions.

To that end, Walgreens launched HERO as part of a five-year partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, a school that already has a long history of education programming tailored for veterans.

The new partnership will assist Walgreens employees who are veterans in obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree from the school, with tuition discounts added to any other financial assistance they may have.

In addition, Walgreens will train its new hires in store management skills. This includes customer relations, managing teams of more than 20 employees and overseeing sales and merchandise.

Walgreens is stepping up to the plate for veterans

If that sounds challenging, it’s because it is.

Managers also tend to the operation of in-store health clinics and other health services at a growing number of Walgreens locations. They must be alert and responsive to the company’s business model as it evolves in the hotly competitive retail health-care environment.

That’s the kind of challenge that attracted Arin K., a veteran who is currently in the HERO Program.

“I was intrigued by a company the size of Walgreens making a commitment to hire veterans into a position where the opportunities are endless,” she wrote in an email interview with TriplePundit. “I decided to apply because I was new to the area and wanted to find something where I could utilize my leadership talent and try something new.”

In addition to the skills cited by the VA, Arin listed trust, integrity, attention to detail and superior planning and execution skills as intangibles instilled in veterans from their military training. Being able to utilize these, she said, contributes to her appreciation for the work environment at Walgreens.

“My coworkers are the most unique and amazing team that I have had the honor to work with since serving in the military,” she explained. “My store manager allows me to work independently and trusts me to make sure tasks are completed to expectation.”

That’s quite a compliment from someone who served as an air defense artillery captain at several domestic bases and spent time working on the PATRIOT missile system across Kuwait.

Last June, the VA sent a bulletin to its subscriber list to help publicize the HERO Program through an online lunch-and-learn session.

Walgreens is ramping up its efforts to recruit more like Arin – before someone else does.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force/Flickr

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey