Walgreens has been training and hiring neurodiverse workers since 2007. “We know from the data and research that this is the highest unemployment rate in the country,” Carlos Cubia, Walgreens Boots Alliance global chief diversity officer, said of workers with disabilities.
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When Cornelia Quinn, co-founder of Go-Be, which makes reusable antibacterial airplane tray covers, needs help packing and fulfilling orders, she only sees her 19-year-old son, Jack, who has autism.
As someone with autism, finding a job can be challenging. More than half of young people with autism are unemployed. The unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is as high as 30% to 40%, three times the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities— Up to 85% of people with autism According to a recent Deloitte report, they lost their jobs. Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of disorders, including autism, ADHD, movement disorders and dyslexia. With one in forty-five adults on the autism spectrum alone, that’s a lot of untapped labor market potential.
In the current labor crunch, this is an important data point for employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly half of the U.S. states now have unemployment below pre-pandemic levels — the lowest in 50 years — and 13 states have unemployment below 3 percent. That means employers are struggling to fill open positions and are more willing to pay closer attention to previously overlooked populations.
John Dooney, HR consultant at the Institute for Human Resource Management, said: “Employers are experimenting with multiple ways to recruit and view resources that may not have been available before.
“Everyone is trying to find talent in the market,” said Carlos Cubia, global chief diversity officer. Walgreens Boots League“We know from the data and research that this is the population with the highest unemployment in the country. That’s people with disabilities. So that’s an untapped resource that businesses can hopefully turn to.”
One stumbling block employers face when hiring neurodiverse individuals is accommodation. Because neural diversity covers such a wide variety of conditions, the conditioning required also varies widely. People who are sensitive to noise may need headphones for noise cancellation. Others with severe dyslexia or other medical conditions may benefit from signage that includes pictures or color-coding.
Since its inception in 2007, Walgreens’ Transition Task Force program has helped place 1,000 people in the company’s distribution centers. The 13-week training program includes classroom and on-the-job training on how to pull and pack orders from distribution centers to stores.
“These people, once they complete the 13-week program, are paid the same as someone without a disability, they have the same expectations in terms of job performance, and are treated as regular workers in the workforce. We’re not going to cut corners and say Where you know, where your productivity might be lower, your expectations or lower, we’re not going to do anything,” Cubia said.
The company has similar plans for its retail stores. Retail employees with disabilities train employees with disabilities to load shelves, unload trucks, greet customers or work as cashiers. To keep the program running, Walgreens’ human resources department and distribution center leadership work with local community organizations and state and local social service agencies to help find and screen candidates.
Job coaching can be a critical part of ensuring success. Wawa, which operates a chain of convenience stores and gas stations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and three other states, breaks down tasks for neurodiverse employees. A typical employee has a range of duties from food preparation to cleaning to customer service. A job coach employed by a coaching organization rather than Wawa will help determine the correct scope of individual tasks, which may vary based on their abilities and aspirations.
Jay Culotta, Wawa’s treasurer and president of the Wawa Foundation, said that when his daughter Hannah, who has Down syndrome, started working for the company two years ago, she worked with a career coach to ensure she could execute effectively Task. “Over time, as Hannah becomes more independent, that career coach will start to disappear,” Kulota said.
Wawa has been with Eden Autism Services in New Jersey for over 40 years. In 1981, a store manager hired Ari Shiner, who has autism, through Eden to start the collaboration. Wawa now works with over 200 different career guidance organizations. Shiner is still with the company, and Wawa has about 30 other neurodiversity employees who have been with the company for at least 20 years.
While some neurodiverse people may need more accommodation, many do not.
“Normally there’s not a lot of accommodation needed,” said Dan Roth, the company’s technical recruiter. Amazon As someone with ADHD, he is also considered neurodiverse. “If someone’s working at 50% capacity, but if you do two or three lightweight accommodations, that gets them to 85% or 95% … see how much ROI you get,” he said. .
exist Go, which employs four neurodiverse people, Quinn breaks down the task to best suit the individual. While her son Jack is particularly good at computer-related tasks, another member really enjoys rolling and folding sleeves. “It was almost therapeutic for him,” she said. “We have sites for them, and we really want to promote their success and give them the opportunity to socialize and work with each other to accomplish their roles or missions,” Quinn said.
Go-Be co-founder Cornelia Quinn with her autistic son Jake. She said the goal of hiring her son and other neurodiversity workers is to make them “feel like when they wake up in the morning, they have something to look forward to and just feel like they’re part of society and they” contribute back. “
While hiring neurodiverse individuals may require some convenience and investment, recruiters and companies that have gone through the process say it will pay off, financially or otherwise.
“From a productivity standpoint, these people are very reliable, very nice … they are very methodical and detail-oriented in their work,” Cubia said.
Personal attrition through Walgreen’s TWG program is 25% lower than normal for Walgreen distribution centers. Retention rates are also higher, Cubia said. “You’ve heard the old saying that it costs less to keep an employee than it costs to acquire a new employee. From that perspective, it helps you save money,” he said.
Additionally, the IRS provides tax credits and incentives to companies that employ people with disabilities, which may include some neurodiverse individuals. Some incentives are designed to offset the cost of accommodation.
For Wawa, returns are not necessarily tied to performance metrics or profit margins.
“We have some people on this project that are as efficient and productive as our typical staff…and we have some people that are impossible, and that’s okay. Their scope of work may be very, very narrow, or they may work at all With their job coach,” said Dave Simonetti, senior director of store operations at Wawa, “but there are other things on the table.”
These other qualities are harder to measure numerically, but just as important. “The colleagues who work with them feel that the community really likes this program. It’s a huge win for customer service, and it’s a huge opportunity in our industry. A lot of times, it’s a big one for customer interaction Positives. It’s a different aggregate indicator,” he said.
Wawa has approximately 47,000 employees, of which 500 are neurodiverse.
While companies like SAP, Microsoft, Ford, Deloitte, IBM, and others have changed their corporate HR practices to attract more neurodiverse individuals to work in coding or other technology, hiring neurodiverse individuals to complete, distribute or Efforts in retail work are more spread out. Part of the bias is the belief that neurodiverse individuals or people with disabilities cannot keep up with businesses that pay such close attention to performance metrics.
Arwyn Swanger, a recruiter for Indeed.com and WilsonHCG who focuses on placement of neurodiverse individuals, says opportunities for neurodiverse individuals can vary by company, store and store manager. She cites the placement of several at Walmart and many at Lowe’s. Some store managers are very familiar with the process and any accommodation, while others are cautious, she said.
Walmart spokesman Jimmy Carter said the company does not have a specific program for recruiting neurodiverse individuals. “We don’t ask specifics, but we are committed to attracting, hiring and developing diverse talent, including neurodiverse individuals, from underrepresented communities,” he said.
Go-Be’s Quinn hopes that as awareness increases, more neurodiverse individuals will find work. The current high unemployment rate “is an alarming number. Going forward, I hope to engage the community in some way,” she said.
“These are great opportunities to help them have purpose, and they feel like when they wake up in the morning, they have something to look forward to and just feel like they’re part of society and they’re contributing,” she added.