MINNEAPOLIS — From the store floor to the corporate boardroom, Supervalu has embarked on a mission to create an inclusive environment where women and minorities have an opportunity for advancement, according to the company's chairman and chief executive officer, Jeff Noddle.
Speaking here last week at a conference sponsored by the Chicago-based Network of Executive Women, Noddle pointed out that the company's 14-member board has three women and three minorities, making it one of the most diverse boards in Minnesota. The company has five women in top leadership positions at Supervalu, including two in such male-dominated fields as supply chain management and labor relations, he said.
“These women are key role models at the highest executive levels of our company for both men and women,” he said. “They are women breaking the glass ceiling.”
After the 2006 merger with Albertsons, Noddle created a new group of business partners, merchandising officers and marketing officers. Called “Super Fusion,” the division has worked to give Supervalu a broad national scope of food choices while allowing its local stores to maintain a neighborhood flavor representing their cultural and economic mix, he said. More than 200 new employees were hired to part of the new effort.
“We knew the diversity factor was utterly important in this,” Noddle said. “They are working hard to create shopping experiences, which we hope is exactly what our shoppers are looking for, whether in Boise [Idaho], Minneapolis or Washington, D.C.”
To appeal to ethnic consumers, Supervalu has begun partnerships with various minority suppliers, including a Middle Eastern bakery in Minneapolis. The company celebrates Black History and Hispanic Heritage months with in-store specials from ethnic vendors and by making donations to nonprofits.
To recruit and retain talented women, Supervalu has created several partnerships with nonprofit organizations. To prepare women for executive positions and for membership on corporate boards, the company has collaborated with Catalyst, a New York nonprofit working to advance women in business. And several female executives have been presenters at Network of Executive Women national events, as well as leaders in local chapters of the organization, where they share best practices and hone leadership skills, Noddle said.
To reach out to newcomers entering the workforce, Supervalu has created a partnership with Students in Free Enterprise, an international group consisting of 30,000 students in business, as well as partnerships with the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.
The company nurtures diversity and women in other ways. A two-year-old work-based learning program that selects candidates with high leadership potential has attracted 32 women and 14 minorities out of 78 participants. The program creates cross-functional teams that tackle real problems in the company, Noddle said.