Sodexo IOptimas Award-i Winner for Vision

By Staff Report

Dec. 11, 2009

Sodexo has leaped into the social media world of Twitter, Facebook and the like. But that doesn’t mean the supplier of food and facilities management services has abandoned traditional ways of reaching out to job candidates and employees.

Job openings for the international firm still can be found on job boards like, and it continues to attend job fairs, says Arie Ball, vice president of sourcing and talent acquisition for Sodexo’s North American operations. She says that by having a comprehensive plan of attack, the company can connect with the four generations in the workforce typically labeled as Gen Y, Gen X, baby boomers and matures.

“You really need to have it all,” Ball says. Several years ago, Sodexo’s 120,000-employee North American division looked at growth goals through 2015 and saw potential talent trouble ahead—it had ambitious plans to expand in areas where it faced a weak pool of talent. To best attract, develop and retain employees, it decided to target various age groups differently. Building a diverse workforce also was a priority for the firm, which is based in Paris and employs 380,000 people worldwide.

To connect with Gen Y’ers, Sodexo launched a new internship program for college students. It also established a social media presence. Its recruiters tweet on Twitter, interact with candidates on Facebook and maintain a careers blog. In addition, Sodexo has sought out military veterans, in part through a project to translate military experience and skills into civilian competencies. And it has reached out to older workers partly through its Alumni Reconnexions program. So far, Sodexo’s multigenerational recruiting efforts have concentrated on exempt employees.

Thanks to the social media strategy and an updated careers Web site, traffic to the firm’s careers page tripled in less than a year, to as many as 150,000 unique visitors a month by August 2008.

The company was able to improve hiring speed and quality even as it cut its annual recruiting advertising budget in North America by $300,000. What’s more, management hires of former military personnel increased 28 percent for the year ended in August 2008, and the Alumni Reconnexions program led to 102 rehires in the year following its launch in October 2008.

The multigeneration talent effort also has corresponded with better business outcomes. Customer satisfaction ratings have risen 0.3 points to 4.5 on a five-point scale since the strategy’s inception. The firm’s global revenue rose 7.9 percent for the year ended in August, and its net income increased 4.5 percent.

Among the happy Gen X’ers at Sodexo is Beverly Thompson. Thompson, 44, spent about 4½ years at Sodexo in food service earlier this decade before taking a job at a nonprofit group serving elderly citizens in the Boston area.

But she missed the career opportunities and professional resources she had at Sodexo. By keeping an eye on the company’s careers page, she spotted a food service management opening at Sodexo and returned two years ago.

Although her boomerang back to Sodexo preceded the alumni program, Thompson believes the outreach to former employees will keep paying dividends.

Sodexo workers who didn’t look closely before they left are likely to be interested in a chance to return, Thompson says. That, at least, was her experience.

“In hindsight, I wish I never left,” she says.

For creating a comprehensive program to connect to workers of multiple generations, Sodexo wins the 2009 Optimas Award for Vision.

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