Vice President of Operations, Eastern Canada at Costco Wholesale, David Skinner, never anticipated how much an inclusive workforce would enhance his company’s success and corporate culture.
“The outcomes are a lot better than we could ever imagine,” says Skinner, describing the candidates Costco has hired with intellectual disabilities as generally “model employees” who over time have “integrated seamlessly” into their corporate culture.
Having worked at Costco for two decades, Skinner has seen firsthand the positive impact inclusive hiring has had on teams across the country and wanted to grow the initiative. When the Costco senior leadership team realized the potential, they were not sure where to start.
Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) introduced the company to a promising pool of potential candidates.
“Our partnership with Ready, Willing and Able has brought us some of our most committed employees,” says Skinner. Since Fall 2013, Costco has hired nearly two hundred individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The results are strong: productivity and efficiency figures are solid; attendance records are great; turnover rates are very low; but most importantly, Costco staff is incredibly engaged. The corporate culture is terrific because staff members enjoy their jobs and get along with their teams.
“We took the approach of focusing on ability, instead of disability,” he says. Costco does not create different jobs for their RWA hires or make many special considerations; the individuals they hire are fully capable of the work that needs to be done, and are paid the same as all other employees.
Over the last two years, RWA has come to understand Costco’s specific needs very well and has developed a screening process to help pair the business with well-suited job seekers.
“RWA is able to give us three or four people to interview in a given city and can identify the people who can be successful in our environment.”
The employees who have joined the staff through RWA tend to exhibit remarkable attendance rates, work ethic, and reliability, says Skinner. The Costco environment can be extremely fast-paced and demanding, and all employees are held to the same standard and given the same expectations.
“I thought for sure we’d have a good result, but I never imagined it would be this good,” adds Skinner. “It’s a labour pool that is available, and I don’t know that everyone knows how strong it is or how to get it started. That needs to change.”
Funded by the Government of Canada and active in 20 communities across the country, RWA is a national partnership of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL), the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) and their member organizations.