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How Walgreens Boots Alliance CHRO, Holly May, Prioritizes Mental Health in the Workplace

August is National Wellness Month, so for today’s spotlight, we talk to Holly May, Executive Vice President and Global CHRO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, about her “unapologetic” approach of HR leadership and why it prioritizes mental health for all employees.

May joined the pharmacy holding company in 2021, having served as CHRO at Abercrombie & Fitch and Starbucks, where she served as senior vice president of global rewards and service delivery.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You say you have a “resolutely human” approach to leadership. What does this mean and why this approach?

For most of my career, I intentionally separated my personal and professional lives. I had been taught 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 at a new company, and we were without any semblance of a support network. I didn’t know where to turn. He was my child and I didn’t know where to find him the therapies and medical care he needed. I had a mountain of research and countless appointments ahead of me. Suddenly I knew that I could no longer separate my personal life. I needed to focus on my son. I opened up to my boss and my team about what was going on in my life with tears streaming down my face, crying in the office for the first time in my career. My colleagues, whom I had only known for a few months, reacted warmly and took action to support me and my family.

It was through this experience that I realized that opening up and expressing real vulnerability builds trust and immediately strengthens new relationships. It also gave my team implicit permission to be as raw and as vulnerable as I had been with them. This created an inclusive atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable being authentic to themselves in the workplace. This allowed for transparent conversations and gave me a better understanding of how to help them be the most productive and successful, whether it’s providing flexibility between home and office, development opportunities or to forge cross-functional links. Vulnerability can be as simple as admitting you’re not your best or being open about showing up 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 changed in recent years?

Caring for our team members as whole people means we engage in initiatives and investments that go beyond our team members’ time in the workplace, providing them with both the personal and professional support they need. We know that when we meet the needs of our employees, our team is better equipped to meet the needs of our customers and patients. During the pandemic, the importance of this approach has only grown.

What mental health programs and initiatives does Walgreens have in place 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 free of charge to members of our US team and their immediate family members. Through it, team members will continue to have access to our existing Life365 offering, which provides online tools in combination with five free, in-person and virtual mental health counseling sessions. Additionally, two new platforms have been added: Journey Live, a web-based platform and mobile app that offers live and on-demand classes led by expert instructors where our team members can interact and ask questions. . Course topics include managing stress, improving sleep, and finding work-life balance. The second is IndieFlix, a series of documentary films on mental health topics such as anxiety, social media addiction, cyberbullying and harassment. Each film includes actionable strategies and tips and is “created” with an internal panel discussion led by WBA executives and special guests.

For National Wellness Month in August, we also launched a mini-campaign called “Get Involved in Wellness,” where we showcase our resources and highlight team members who are advocating for various forms well-being, whether mental, physical or financial.

What advice do you have for CHROs looking to promote well-adopted wellness programs?

Listen to your employees. Just because a program or offering is successful in a business doesn’t necessarily mean it will meet the needs of your staff. Understand what your employees need and respond to them effectively.

Give me your news! What are the biggest HR challenges and priorities today? Contact me at I lead 15-minute desksides with HR and DEI executives. You will be able to see your answer in a future newsletter.

Amber Burton

Journalist’s notebook

The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.

On Thursday, Salesforce announced a new goal for representation of women and non-binary employees in the company: 40% by the end of 2026. Women and non-binary employees currently represent 35.7% and 0.2 respectively. % of global Salesforce workforce.

The company released its first representation goal in 2019, when management announced plans to reach 50% underrepresented U.S. employees by 2023. The company met the goal earlier this year. Like many tech companies, Salesforce’s progress has been slow, and its updated gender goal is still a long way from parity. However, the share of women employed globally by the company has surpassed its tech rivals.

By comparison, women made up 30.9% of Microsoft’s global workforce and 30.2% of Oracle’s global employees in 2021. Lori Castillo Martinez, chief equality officer at Salesforce, spoke to with Fortune on the importance of public accountability and its role in pushing the company towards its stated purpose:

“That goal is really tied to the ESG representation goals that we announced earlier this year, which we tied to compensation. I think that was an important part of that, not just for public accountability, but also for making sure we also had executive responsibility… We’ve hired over 20,000 people in the last year alone, that’s really important, especially right now given the macroeconomic situation [events] and what happens to the potential impending recession. We wanted to make sure we really doubled down on our commitment to equality. We wanted to make sure that no matter what happens in the world, equality won’t really waver.

Around the table

– As the demand for talent in the travel industry soars, more experienced workers are stepping in to fill the gaps. Seniors interested in the benefits of travel are finding jobs in the airline and hospitality industries. New York Times

– Middle managers play a key role in aligning entry-level employees with senior management goals, and they will likely take on a larger role as companies try to navigate an uncertain future. The only problem? No one wants to be a middle manager anymore. fast business

– Starbucks workers have gone on strike 55 times in 17 states in the past few months alone. To deter union activity, Starbucks raised wages at non-union stores and, in some cases, fired workers leading the efforts, one of whom had been with the company for 13 years. Guardian

– Dropbox’s virtual priority policy requires employees to work remotely 90% of the time and get approval for larger in-person gatherings in the office. Although a direct link has not been established, the number of job applicants has doubled and the company has seen a 126% increase in job acceptances, according to Melanie Collins, director of human resources at Dropbox. Time

— Walgreens is offering signing bonuses of up to $75,000 to pharmacists in select markets as it struggles to fill jobs due to a labor shortage. The bonuses would be part of a larger investment focused on recruitment and retention. the wall street journal


The latest movements of HR executives.

Eli Lilly and Company announced the upcoming retirement of Stephen FrySVP human resources and diversity. Eric Dozier, the current Vice President of Lilly and Chief Commercial Officer of Loxo@Lilly, will succeed Fry. USAA named Tamla Oates-Forney as its CHRO. Data analytics and consulting firm Escalent named Laura Lopez as a new CHRO.

Do you have a move? Let me know:

Water cooler

Everything you need to know from Fortune.

This stubborn journey. Jobs for offices accepting dogs increased by 23% from July to June, according to a study by Flexa Careers, a website specializing in flexible job offers. It’s a new perk that some employers are offering to entice new and returning employees to come back to the office. (About 23 million households got new pets during the pandemic, so some separation anxiety is inevitable.) —Jane Thier

Job creators vs workers. The term job creator can be misleading because it assumes jobs are paid for by powerful people, which is wrong, writes John Benjamin, a lecturer at Columbia Business School, in a commentary for Fortune. “By using the phrase, we give capital undue credit for creating opportunity and wrongly confuse the interests of owners and workers.” —John Benjamin

Updated COVID-19 guidelines. The The Center for Disease Control has updated its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday. People who have been in contact with someone who tested positive no longer need to self-quarantine. However, those who have tested positive are still required to self-isolate and wear masks. —Mike Stobbey and Collin Binkley

The Crying CEO. The CEO of an Ohio-based B2B marketing company went viral this week when he posted a photo of himself crying after laying off two employees. He said it was the “hardest thing” he had to do. The Internet thought it might have been harder on its former employees. The wealth Paige McGlauflin has a guide on how to fire employees with empathy in the unfortunate event that it is necessary. —Paige McGlauflin

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