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April/May 2011



Diversity/Careers April/May 2011 Issue




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Diversity In Action

Sodexo offers comprehensive service solutions

"We feed inclusion to grow the business," says the chief diversity officer. "At heart we are a culture of inclusion; it's a holistic approach!"


Both IT pros and MEs are needed at Sodexo, the international service provider. The company is expanding its client offerings into sophisticated facilities management and actively recruiting.

Dr Rohini Anand, SVP and global chief diversity officer, explains that Sodexo is "looking to tap into a pool of diverse experience through schools and associations reaching African American, Asian and Hispanic students.

"We bring them in as interns, about eighty to a hundred a year," she says.

Sodexo delivers comprehensive solutions to clients in food service and facilities management. The company also offers business strategy and motivation solutions. Its clients are hospitals, services for seniors, colleges and universities, school districts, independent schools, corporations, the federal government, military bases, remote sites, conference centers and the leisure and entertainment industry.

The corporation funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Foundation, an independent charitable organization. Since it was started in 1999 the foundation has made more than $15 million in grants to fight hunger in America.

Anand notes that Sodexo has "engaged in systemic culture change" for the past few years. The changes are centered in areas of executive-level support, robust metrics and accountability. "We measure things that change behaviors, and link them to the core business strategy. And we feed inclusion to grow the business.

"From top-down to bottom-up and middle-out there is executive commitment and middle-management implementation. It's a holistic approach!" Anand says. "We've been recognized for many important initiatives, but at heart we are a culture of inclusion."

Working at Sodexho, engineers handle everything from energy management services to equipment maintenance. IT pros sustain the global employment force of 400,000 people, 120,000 of them in the U.S. IT needs are handled in-house; Sodexo's strong international presence means there are also opportunities abroad.

In the U.S. Sodexo recruits more than 3,000 people a year for management positions, Anand notes. Experience required depends, of course, on the specific job. To ensure a diverse pool of candidates, recruiters travel to a variety of job fairs and to campuses of HBCUs and Hispanic-serving institutions as well as events put on by the National Society for Minorities in Hospitality. Universities with hospitality programs are prime targets.

Once hired, employees, including tech pros, go through a basic diversity training module. Within their first two years of employment they must complete manager-led "Spirit of Diversity" training: eighteen skill-based modules including sexual orientation, hiring the best talent and generations at work.

Sodexo's diversity leadership council is chaired by the CEO and includes the chief diversity officer and HR staff. Members of regional councils are leaders in their own markets and report to the lead council about their activities, Anand says.

There are eight employee network groups with a total of fifty-five regional chapters. There's an African American leadership forum, a women's network, and groups for Asians, Hispanics, LGBT employees and military vets. "Generations" brings people together across age and experience, and the Sodexo Organization for disAbility Resources (SOAR) supports people with disabilities.

Sodexo also offers Impact, a structured mentoring initiative for 125 mentor-mentee pairs that's been in place five years. There's also a "Peer2Peer" mentoring initiative provided by the employee network groups.

Sodexo has a corporate program for outreach to community organizations, and each employee network group has a scholarship program to allow members to attend programs targeted to its own focus: the National Organization on Disability or the Susan G. Komen Foundation conferences, for example.

Every April there's an employee service day, and people can also get individual time off to participate in community activities.

Finally comes the "very well-defined work-life effectiveness program," Anand says. "It's not necessarily balancing work and life, because sometimes one comes first, sometimes the other. It's finding an effective rhythm between the two."

Employees have an interesting selection of forward-looking initiatives: job share and telecommuting, for example. They can also put in a proposal for special requests, including how their ideas will benefit the business. A manager must approve the request. "It's not an entitlement, and we have to make sure business needs are met," Anand says. "It's based just on the business impact."

Sodexo employees also have the informal flexibility to take off for events like a child's important soccer game. "At a time when other employers have lost ground in employee engagement scores, we have continued strong," Anand says.

Sodexo's domestic partner benefits stretch to cover bereavement leave, relocation policies and more. There's also an employee assistance program.

D/C




Sodexo, Inc
www.sodexousa.com

Headquarters: Gaithersburg, MD
Employees: 120,000 in North America; 400,000 globally
Revenues: $8 billion in 2010
Business: Designs, manages and delivers comprehensive service solutions for food and facilities management; also offers business strategy and motivation solutions.

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