CVS Optimas Award Winner for Partnership

The drugstore chains forges alliances with government agencies and nonprofits that help meet business needs and also serve the communities in which it operates.

September 7, 2011
When national drugstore chain CVS turns to the government and churches to help it recruit the unemployed and former welfare recipients, the company is not acting out of altruism; it is seeking an edge in the competitive retail market. CVS utilizes one-stop federal employment centers and faith-based organizations to find and screen job candidates.

    CVS doesn’t just work with these groups in one-off recruiting drives. It has developed partnerships around the country to improve recruiting, training and retention. The company has established seven Regional Learning Centers that are co-located with local government employment offices.

    In Washington, the front of the building is a one-stop center. In the back is a mock CVS facility—including a pharmacy and photo lab—that is used for training.

    A smaller version of the simulated store will be set up in a building owned by Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, a 1,500-member congregation that has worked with CVS since 2001.

    These relationships not only help CVS find people, they also lower the company’s recruiting and training costs. But the emphasis is on the talent hunt.

    In Washington, when the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services interviews someone who matches CVS qualifications, it sends that person to the company for further talks. If the person is selected, he or she may be sent back to the one-stop center—this time for training in the mock CVS store.

    Once a hire has been made, the D.C. government stays involved. It helps connect new CVS employees to services like transportation and child care that help them make the transition to work.

    CVS thinks highly of the candidates the government sends its way. "These are really good people," says Steve Wing, CVS’ director of government programs. "They’ve been screened umpteen times. They’re much better candidates than the ones just walking into the stores."

    The partnership between CVS and the government—and faith-based organizations—benefits all the parties. CVS staffs its stores. The public sector moves people off the unemployment rolls. Churches minister to their congregations’ economic needs.

    But for CVS, it’s a business imperative. An upcoming study by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning will show that CVS stores that use the learning centers achieve higher sales and profits and provide better customer service than other CVS locations, Wing says.

    On average, each center trains about 1,500 people annually, according to Wing. The retention rate is between 50 percent and 60 percent, a high level for the retail industry. In addition to the Washington location, CVS has centers in Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, New York and southern New Jersey. The newest one opened in Cleveland in November.

    In areas where there aren’t enough stores to support a learning center, CVS has developed other approaches. For instance, it works with the National Retail Federation and a local workforce board in Providence, Rhode Island, to sponsor a skills center in the Providence Place Mall that provides customer service and pharmacy tech training.

    CVS excels at these kinds of relationships because it knows that everyone has to win, says John Kraczkowski, director of business services for the Workforce Development Board of the Treasure Coast in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Kraczkowski has worked with CVS to staff a company warehouse.

    "They’re a good corporate partner," he says. "It’s a lasting relationship."

    For creating relationships that serve business, workers and the community, CVS wins the 2007 Optimas Award for Partnership.

Headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, CVS is among the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, operating 6,196 retail and specialty pharmacy stores in 43 states and the District of Columbia. CVS employs 170,000 people and reported $7.5 billion in revenue during the first two months of the year, a 23.3 percent increase from 2006.

CVS is a retail pharmacy chain. In addition to dispensing prescriptions, it sells a range of traditional drugstore items for health and personal needs, such as cosmetics, household items and medical supplies. Each store also offers food and beverage items and has a photo lab. In the past three years, CVS has added nearly 2,000 stores through acquisitions.

Workforce Management, March 26, 2007, p. 30 -- Subscribe Now!