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Diversity in Action

Staples seeks diverse techies in IT and engineering

"Diversity and inclusion are a cornerstone, part of the DNA of this company," the director of associate relations and diversity explains

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Doreen Nichols: reflecting customers in many shapes, forms and walks of life.

Doreen Nichols: reflecting customers in many shapes, forms and walks of life.

The overall goal of diversity at Staples is to reflect the face of our customers," says Doreen Nichols, director of associate relations and diversity. "Our customers come in many shapes and forms and from different walks of life, and our associates need to reflect that as well."

In 2001 Staples conducted focus group studies across the country to better understand what diversity and inclusion mean to its employees and customers. "We wanted to make sure that diversity and inclusion were a cornerstone, part of the DNA of this company," Nichols explains.

As a result of the study a plan was put in place to ensure that diversity is an integral part of Staples' culture. The effort has paid off: among other recognitions, Staples won a Mosaic award for diversity in 2005 from the American Advertising Federation.

Diversity is also a key point of discussion during Staples' global leadership and sales meetings. "A diverse workforce creates diversity of thought and ideas, which creates a competitive advantage," says Nichols. She believes that Staples' diversity keeps the company on the competitive edge, in its IS and IT groups and throughout the organization.

The company's diversity profile includes minorities as senior leaders in the organization, including facilities engineering, logistics and the IT group, Nichols reports.

Emphasis on diversity and inclusion has been a strong recruiting tool. Staples partners with the NBMBAA and NSHMBA for recruiting, frequently inviting candidates to tour the home office and facilities in Framingham, MA. Diversity recruiting efforts also include partnering with the Urban League, NAACP and Women for Hire at diversity career fairs. The IT group recruits at many colleges and universities, including Northeastern University and Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts.

Staples' Foundation for Learning, established in 2002, has contributed to hundreds of nonprofit groups across the U.S., especially in supporting community grassroots organizations. The foundation provides job skill training and educational opportunities for people of all backgrounds, with a special emphasis on disadvantaged youth.

The foundation's partners include Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Earth Force, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and the education foundation of LINC TELACU (www. telacu.com), one of the largest community economic development corporations in the nation.

Staples often reaches out to the community by hosting business and learning seminars. In 2004 the company worked with Latino business leaders to conduct a six-week seminar in New York City on starting and running a small business. The company also sponsored math, science and business teachers to intern at Staples over the summer and apply their experiences in their respective classrooms.

Staples' work/family balance benefits include an onsite childcare facility at Framingham HQ. Domestic partner benefits are available.

The company develops its future leaders through its succession planning process. According to Nichols, "Succession planning sets a long-term strategy for associates who are rising stars. It puts them in stretch assignments so they can excel."

To support the company's North American retail business, which has 1,491 retail stores in the U.S. and Canada, and the North American delivery business, Staples has organizational teams for real estate, facilities engineering and logistics, among others. Its delivery organization, complete with fulfillment centers and a truck fleet, spans North America. Its IT department employs more than 600 pros, most of them working at HQ.



Headquarters: Framingham, MA
Employees: 40,000 U.S., 65,000 worldwide
Revenues: 2004 sales of $14.4 billion
Business: Retailer of office supplies, business machines and technology, office furniture, services (Copy & Print Center, packing and shipping)
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