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Diversity In Action

Staples Inc is hiring technical pros this year

Last year the huge office products company launched its first global diversity council, driving diversity from the top down


Last year, mega office products company Staples Inc launched a global diversity council. This is the first time diversity and inclusion has been formally driven from the top down at Staples, notes Joy Errico, the company's director of diversity and inclusion. The council is made up of senior company leaders, including chairman and CEO Ronald Sargent.

Errico's current position was created last year, but she's been with the company for ten years. "It's critical to have our top business leaders engaged in what we are doing in diversity," Errico says. "We needed it to be championed from the top. There were grassroots things happening for years, but we were missing that key element."

Staples' new, more proactive approach to diversity is "focusing activity inward," Errico says. It includes a newly created mentoring group, greater attention to associate resource groups, and a formal diversity scorecard created by tracking six metrics across the company.

"The scorecard gets visibility among company leaders, and our recruiting team works closely with the head of talent acquisition to focus on specific demographics. Recruiting team members become subject experts on those areas," Errico explains.

Staples anticipates hiring in IT this year, says Liz Hartel, senior technical recruiter. The company already has some 1,200 people in IT, located in Framingham HQ and in Broomfield, CO. They work together to roll out updated or new technology and "function in a collaborative team environment," Hartel says.

"We're always looking for people in the technologies we need for our lines of business. For example, we're developing mobile and social apps, and that's where WebSphere Commerce and WebSphere Portal technologies are important.

"Even if we don't have an opening we do a lot of pipeline work. We build relationships for future positions and see if we can line up candidates as positions become available."

Errico explains that although the turnover rate at Staples is not high, succession planning is key. The company tries to give employees opportunities to move between business areas and across geographies. "It's a good chance for leaders to become well-rounded, and that's how we strengthen our pipeline. Development can take so many different forms," she says.

Staples seeks experienced software developers, architects, project managers, development managers, QA and business analysts. On the infrastructure side, covering hardware and everything that runs hardware systems, Staples needs engineers, network experts and architects.

"The people that typically apply might be called software engineers at product companies, but we will hire them in as software developers or systems engineers on the infrastructure side."

Staples is a highly technical environment, Hartel adds. It needs people familiar with many technologies, among them IBM software like WebSphere, and webMethods, an application integration tool.

"As we acquire companies we integrate data," Hartel says. "We have databases running on Oracle and DB2, so software engineers need a broad range of skills to administer them."

The ideal candidate is typically someone who has worked in a large enterprise or with a large global employer. Staples has a lot of matrixed teams so the environment is similar, Hartel says. IT pros who have worked in the retail industry are preferred for some jobs. There are also opportunities for new college grads, Errico points out, either from the company's internship program or those who apply directly.

Staples takes steps to help its employees balance their work and home lives. "Some associates have flexible hours and we're doing more with telecommuting," Errico reports.

There's also an employee assistance program and a daycare program in the main office park. Other perks include tuition assistance and domestic partner benefits.

Diverse employees have a number of associate resource programs for support. Current groups focus on the LGBT community, young professionals, women, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans. Some of the groups' co-chairs are on the company's global diversity council. "They provide unique perspectives," Errico says.

Errico created and manages a mentoring program, currently being piloted at corporate HQs in Framingham and Broomfield. "The resource groups are asked to recommend members to be mentees. This way we have a diverse mix of associates with a lot of potential."

Volunteering "is truly part of our culture," Errico notes. Last summer the supply chain organization stuffed backpacks for children in need as an enjoyable highlight of its annual conference.

The company takes national and local groups like Boys & Girls Clubs of America under its wing. Associates from stores and distribution centers all over the country donate materials. "Community outreach is consistent and ongoing."

Staples is a very diverse, culturally-mixed global organization, so communication skills are important across the company, Errico and Hartel agree.

D/C




Staples Inc
www.staples.com

Headquarters: Framingham, MA
Employees: 92,000
Revenues: $25 billion
Business: Office products

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