2008 will mark the 18th year anniversary of the passage of The Americans With Disabilities Act yet yesterdays ABC News Broadcast with Charlie Gibson shows how newsworthy it is for a corporation to actually comply with the spirit and intent of the law. Walgreens has a distribution center in Anderson, SC staffed with a workforce which is 40% disabled.
The quiet revolution happening in Anderson is the brainchild of Walgreens executive Randy Lewis, who has a 19-year-old son with autism.
"As a parent, I saw the future and so the question is, given our position, what do we do about it? Maybe we could be an example, maybe we could use our position of leadership to try to change the work environment."
NBC News Brian Williams covered the story as well last July.
Evidently, what was news last July is still news today. Randy Lewis deserves credit for focusing attention on functionality, choosing to see what people can do versus what they cannot. A stable workforce that is 20% more productive than other distribution centers
As our workforce ages and the baby boomers gray it will become important for many companies to consider functionality and ability both in hiring as well as stay at work and return to work programs for existing employees.
Mr Lewis is correct and on point IMHO both in hiring as well as stay at work and return to work programs for existing employees. Too often companies take an all or nothing view of work in regard to the disabled which prevents them from equally obtaining talent as well as retaining it. In their disability programs such assumptions manifest in higher than average disability costs to the company as well. This phenomenom has been apparent to me on multiple occasions while analyzing diability loss experience in Fortune 1000 business'.
Lewis says the distribution center in Anderson is no less productive than others. In fact, Anderson is more productive. The training and technologies that help disabled workers do their jobs better help all employees do their jobs better, he said."People come to me and say, will this work in my environment? Yes, it will. This is not just a good thing to do, the right thing to do. This is better," Lewis said.
One of the most profitable studies an executive could commission at their company would be to consider the ROI possible from re-examining the impact of attitudes in hiring and retaining the disabled. This is not just a good thing to do, the right thing to do. This is better. Indeed. As we approach Valentines day this week Mr Lewis reminds us having a heart is better than the right thing to do.