August is National Wellness Month, so for today’s spotlight on Friday, we speak to Holly May, executive vice president and global CHRO at Walgreens Boots Alliance, about her “unabashedly humane” approach to HR leadership and why she prioritizes mental health for all employees.
May joined the drugstore holding company in 2021, after several years as CHRO at Abercrombie & Fitch and Starbucks, where she served as SVP of global total rewards and services.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
You say you have an “unabashedly human” approach to leadership. What does that mean and why this approach?
For most of my career I have consciously kept my personal and professional life separate. I had learned that this was the way to model professionalism in the workplace. Four years ago, my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My husband and I had just moved to a new city for my new job in a new company, and we had no semblance of a support network. I didn’t know where to go. This was my child and I had no idea where to find the therapies and medical care he needed. I had a mountain of research and countless appointments ahead of me. Suddenly I knew I could no longer keep my private life separate. I had to focus on my son. I told my boss and my team what was happening in my life with tears streaming down my cheeks and crying in the office for the first time in my career. My colleagues, whom I’ve only known for a few months, responded warmly and sprang into action to support my family and me.
Through this experience, I realized that opening up and expressing true vulnerability builds trust and instantly strengthens new relationships. It also gave my team implicit permission to appear as raw and vulnerable as I had been with them. This created an inclusive atmosphere in which everyone felt comfortable in the workplace. It enabled transparent conversations and allowed me to better understand how I can support them to be most productive and successful, whether that be flexibility between home and office, development opportunities or forging cross-functional connections. Vulnerability can be as simple as admitting you’re not at your best or being open about being late so you can be there on your child’s first day of school.
What does it mean to take care of team members as “whole people” and how has that appearance changed in recent years?
Caring for our team members as whole people means committing to initiatives and investments that extend beyond our team members’ time in the workplace, providing both the personal and professional support they need. We know that when we meet the needs of our people, our team is best equipped to meet the needs of our customers and patients. Over the course of the pandemic, the importance of this approach has only increased.
What mental health programs and initiatives has Walgreens established to support employees and their families?
I’m very proud of Be Well Connected, WBA’s new mental health and wellness program that we launched in May. It is available for free to our US team members and their immediate family members. As a result, team members will continue to have access to our existing Life365 offering, which offers online tools along with five free mental health counseling sessions, both in-person and virtual. In addition, two new platforms have been added: Journey Live, a web-based platform and mobile app that provides live and on-demand lessons led by expert instructors, where our team members can interact and ask questions. Lesson topics include managing stress, improving sleep, and finding a work-life balance. The second is IndieFlix, a documentary film series on mental health themes such as anxiety, social media addiction, cyberbullying and harassment. Each film includes strategies and best practices and premieres with an internal panel discussion led by WBA leaders and special guests.
For National Wellness Month in August, we also launched a mini-campaign called ‘Commit to Wellness’, where we showcase our resources and showcase team members who champion different forms of wellness, be it mental, physical or is financial.
What advice do you have for CHROs looking to promote well-being programs that are well accepted?
Listen to your employees. Just because a program or offering is successful in one company doesn’t necessarily mean it fits the needs of your workforce. Understand what your employees need and deliver it effectively.
I want to hear from you! What are the biggest HR challenges and priorities today? Contact me at [email protected]. I organize 15 minute desks with HR and DEI managers. You can see your response in a future newsletter.
The reporter’s notebook
The most appealing data, quotes and insights from practice.
On Thursday, Salesforce announced a new representation target for women and non-binary employees at the company: 40% by the end of 2026. Women and non-binary employees currently represent 35.7% and 0.2% of the global workforce, respectively. salesforce.
The company released its first representation target in 2019, when leadership announced it plans to reach 50% of underrepresented U.S. workers by 2023. The company reached the goal earlier this year. Like many tech companies, Salesforce’s progress has been a slow creep, and the updated gender target is still far from equal. However, the company’s share of female employees worldwide has outpaced its tech rivals.
By comparison, 30.9% of Microsoft’s global workforce and 30.2% of Oracle’s global workforce were women by 2021. Lori Castillo Martinez, Chief Equity Officer of Salesforce, spoke with Fortune on the importance of public accountability and its role in pushing the company toward its stated goal:
“This goal is really connected to the ESG representation goals we announced earlier this year, which we linked to compensation. I think that was an important part of this, not just for public accountability, but also to make sure we also had management responsibility… We hired over 20,000 people in the last year alone. It’s really important, especially now given the macroeconomic [events] and what’s going on with the potential looming recession. We wanted to make sure we really doubled our commitment to equality. We wanted to make sure that no matter what happens in the world, equality really doesn’t waver.”
Around the table
– As the demand for talent in the travel industry skyrockets, more experienced workers are stepping in to fill the gaps. Seniors interested in travel benefits find jobs in the aviation and hospitality industries. New York Times
Middle managers play a key role in aligning entry-level employees with senior leadership goals, and they are likely to assume a greater role as companies attempt to navigate an uncertain future. The only problem? Nobody wants to be a middle manager anymore. Fast company
– Starbucks employees have gone on strike 55 times in 17 states in the past few months alone. To discourage union activity, Starbucks has raised wages in non-union stores and in some cases laid off workers in charge of the effort — one of whom had been with the company for 13 years. Guardian
– Dropbox’s virtual-first policy requires employees to work remotely 90% of the time and receive approval for larger in-person meetings at the office. While no direct link has been established, the number of applicants has doubled and the company has seen a 126% increase in jobs, according to Melanie Collins, Dropbox Chief People Officer. Time
Walgreens is offering pharmacist signing bonuses of up to $75,000 in some markets as it struggles to fill jobs amid a staff shortage. The bonuses would be part of a larger investment focused on recruitment and retention. Wall Street Journal
The latest developments in HR executives.
Eli Lilly and Company announced the impending retirement of: Stephen FrySVP of Human Resources and Diversity. Eric Dozier, Lilly’s current vice president and chief commercial officer for [email protected], will succeed Fry. USAA appointed Tamla Oates-Forney as his CHRO. Data analysis and consultancy called Escalent Laura Lopez as his new CHRO.
Do you have a move? Let me know: [email protected]
Everything you need to know about Fortune.
That rabid commute. Jobs for dog-friendly offices increased 23% from July to June, according to research by Flexa Careers, a website that specializes in flexible vacancies. It’s a new perk that some employers are offering to lure new and existing employees back to the office. (About 23 million homes have been given new pets during the pandemic, so some separation anxiety is inevitable). —Jane Thier
Employees versus work doers. The term job creator can be misleading because it assumes that jobs are paid by powerful people, which is incorrect, John Benjamin, a teacher at Columbia Business School, writes in a commentary for Fortune. “By using the phrase, we are giving capital undue credit for creating opportunity, and we are unduly confusing the interests of owners and employees.” —John Benjamin
COVID-19 guidelines updated. The Center for Disease Control has updated its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday. People who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive no longer need to be quarantined. However, those who have tested positive will still need to self-isolate and wear masks. —Mike Stobbey and Collin Binkley
The Crying CEO. The CEO of an Ohio-based B2B marketing company went went viral this week when he posted a picture of himself crying after two employees were laid off. He said it was “the hardest” thing he had to do. The internet thought it might be harder for its former employees. fortune Paige McGlauflin has a guide on how to empathetically fire employees in the unfortunate event that you need to. —Paige McGlauflin