The Continuing Journey

By Sheryl von Westernhagen
OfficeMax®
Dir, Metrics & Compliance
Diversity & Inclusion

As a company that emphasizes equal employment opportunities, OfficeMax® has had on its radar the hiring and retaining of individuals with disabilities.  There are different ways to accomplish this goal.  Some companies do a minimal of outreach and if an individual with a disability happens to apply and then happens to be a successful hire, it is counted as a win.  Others develop multiple programs, set goals, and drive a culture shift to ensure that all individuals can be successful in the workplace and be valued for who they are.

OfficeMax is on a continuing journey to be the latter type of organization.

The OfficeMax People with Disabilities and Veterans Initiative started as part of our Diversity & Inclusion strategy to expand beyond current disability law and the Americans with Disabilities Act into a program that shifted our corporate culture so that we would look for and embrace all who wanted to be successful in our company.  It was a slow start, as the economy took a downturn and hiring significantly slowed, but our mission was alive and there were champions within OfficeMax that wouldn’t let the mission fade.

During the economic downturn we were developing relationships with partner organizations to ensure they understood our jobs and the OfficeMax culture, so when hiring picked up everyone would be ready.  We trained our managers and our associates how to be aware of different ways we could work to help everyone be successful and productive through our focus on inclusion.  This included adjusting interview processes and guides to improve the experience for candidates with disabilities, which in turn improved the process for all candidates.

Additionally, we worked with Turning Pointe Autism Foundation in Naperville, IL to build a Career Development Center.  In this space, individuals with Autism can learn to work in a “mock” OfficeMax Distribution Center or Retail space at their own pace, and will be able to graduate and qualify for an open OfficeMax position when one is available.

Today as hiring has increased, we have hired associates with disabilities to work side by side with our current associates as a true member of the team, same pay for the same work.  The value that these associates bring to our workforce in both productivity and in a cohesive culture is immeasurable.

And the mission and journey continues.  We continue to expand our program throughout the U.S., looking at different ways for individuals with all different types of disabilities to be successful within our company.  Not only do we directly hire individuals with disabilities who have applied, we are also working to find additional partners to field candidates for our Transitional Work Program, which allows more time for a candidate to meet productivity standards.  We are also working to develop additional pre-training environments for those candidates who could be successful with some additional training.

Look for OfficeMax to soon be leading the way in the hiring of people with disabilities.

2 Responses

  1. The combination of direct hiring and partnerships for transition seems golden to me. Historically, there’s a real knee-jerk opposition on the part of the disability community to anything with the words “transitional” or worse, “mock” when used to describe jobs. And may I add, that is usually a very legitimate response. In this case, however, I like the way OfficeMax has made it legit – in short, they kept their promise to move people into competitive jobs as part of an actual business-based decision based on productivity standards. Good stuff.

  2. [...] to ensure that all individuals can be successful in the workplace and be valued for who they are. Read the whole thing here. This entry was posted in Blog by SQRMarketing. Bookmark the [...]

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