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Kathleen Wilson-Thompson EVP, global chief human resources officer, Walgreens Boots Alliance

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — The pandemic has had a significant impact on Kathleen Wilson-Thompson’s work as Walgreens Boots Alliance’s executive vice president and global chief human resources officer.

Kathleen Wilson-Thompson

Kathleen Wilson-Thompson

In the U.K., WBA staffed for pharmacy and core health care and spent all of its energy keeping colleagues and customers safe, informed and reassured in these uncertain times. In the U.S., the company has hired almost 10,000 new team members. It instituted a new temporary hiring process that allowed it to quickly fill open positions for which it saw great demand.

The crisis has accelerated the shift to digital, says Wilson-Thompson, adding that there will be lasting implications for office workers and their expectations about the ability to work from home “now that they’ve learned they can do so effectively.”

In stores, workers will have to cope with demands from customers for higher levels of cleaning and the use of personal protective equipment by those assisting them in close contact, as well as increased concern for their own health and safety, she adds.

WBA operates around the world in more than 25 countries from China to nearly all of Europe to North and South America, and it must adhere to every country’s laws. “My team members are all experts on their local countries and regions, and all of them have an international background reflecting the global footprint of our group,” says Wilson-Thompson. “I rely on their expertise and local knowledge, and we continuously reflect on this in the context of the group’s values and vision.”

WBA is optimizing diversity and inclusion companywide as a strategic business imperative, she notes, by leveraging its Global Inclusion Council to help prioritize the D&I strategy with maximum impact. “We also are emphasizing leadership accountability for driving an inclusive climate across our teams, especially as we are having to adapt to new ways of working.” And as part of its diversity strategy WBA reached out to suppliers with support on how to partake in federal relief programs.

The company is committed to demonstrating good governance and remaining compliant with regulations in all of the countries and localities in which it operates. The board of directors meets regularly throughout the year and takes an active role in corporate governance Wilson-Thompson says a major influence on her career came when she was an English literature major at the University of Michigan, and her professor Robert Hayden — the first African-American to be named consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (a role known today as U.S. poet laureate) — encouraged her to pursue her interests in labor, which led her into employment law.

Additionally, her mother was a teacher for almost 30 years, and also a University of Michigan graduate. “She was an amazing inspiration to me and gave me advice at the start of my career: ‘I want you to work as hard at being happy as you have at being ­successful.’ ”

From a reverse mentoring perspective, her daughter, who is a Gen Z Barnard graduate, has taught her “immeasurable lessons with respect to how companies may work more effectively with a multigenerational workforce in 2020 and beyond.”


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