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Creating a Culture to Support Internal Mobility

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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Sodexo is a special place to work, with a very distinct culture. As I mentioned in my earlier post about the value of internal mobility programs, career growth and opportunity is the #1 reason new employees cite when asked why they chose to come to work for Sodexo. 

Our goals are simple. We want to attract top talent who will help us meet current and future growth goals—all while providing an atmosphere to grow careers and flourish. And it’s not just what we say. It’s what we do and who we are. We put these principles to work every day, placing a high value on our people while keeping them engaged. 

The challenge

We know from our candidate surveys and our company engagement survey that Sodexo employees want to stay in a company that provides a range of professional opportunities and career paths where they can grow. So, if Sodexo can leverage the opportunity to promote and hire from within the company, it may be able to retain existing diverse employee populations.

But, like any large organization, the challenge lies in the existence of multiple market segments all within our one company. It can be difficult for individuals to plan, identify, and compete for promotional opportunities—especially when those opportunities might be in a different market segment.

Traditionally, promotions across different markets were difficult.  Hiring managers in one market often believed that experience in their own market was a requisite for success. Employees also were reluctant to post to promotional opportunities outside of their market, worried that they might be viewed as “disloyal” if they were not selected. Much of this reluctance stemmed from the mistaken belief that to excel in a particular market, such as health care or education or commercial services required experience in that market.

To overcome that belief, Sodexo conducted research on employee performance ratings and was able to document that internal candidates bring many transferrable skills that are applicable to various business areas. Equally important, these candidates are able to assimilate into new roles within the company much quicker than external hires.  So, Sodexo leaders needed change the way the company thought about cross-divisional, cross-functional promotions and hires. 

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Blazing a better path

In 2006, Sodexo’s internal mobility initiative began with “soft” internal sourcing—sharing job openings with current employees and sending internal e-cards to individuals in the succession plan. As we progressed, we learned that just sharing information with our employees was not enough. We needed to address the organizational barriers making it difficult for our employees to post and compete for positions outside of their markets.

So, Sodexo engaged our executives in panel discussions and held focus groups on internal job opportunities and barriers. We also sought support from the executive level, launching three vodcasts with messages from senior leaders to be used at team meetings throughout the organization and with recruiter training.

And, we were able to grow our culture through role modeling with our executives when our Education Market President was promoted from another line of business within our company. She, in turn, selected executives for her team from our healthcare market and our facilities group. This demonstrated to others in the company that internal mobility was not only possible, but it was also desirable.  

Building a new future

As internal mobility took hold within the organization, we recognized the need to provide our employees with the education and tools necessary to build a rewarding career while exposing them to opportunities throughout the company. To foster this environment, we focused on our employee business resource groups and mentoring programs, our award-winning Come Alive program with its innovative one-year growth plan for new employees, and our Emerging Leaders and Enlightenment programs and more that develop strategic leadership skills and help employees prepare for promotional opportunities.

Today, we have many tools and resources available to assist our employees as they chart their career courses. From content shared on an intranet to social networking to the Sodexo Careers mobile jobs app that lets candidate search and apply to job openings directly from their mobile device, our employees have their career path options at their fingertips wherever and whenever they choose. 

When it comes to internal mobility programs, there’s no one size fits all. Each company needs to look within itself to learn about its own barriers to success and implement programs that meet employee and business needs. At Sodexo, our message is that we invest in our people. After all, our people are the single most important asset to our company.

About the Author

Trish Freshwater is senior communications manager, talent acquisition, for Sodexo USA. A member of Sodexo’s talent acquisition department since 2010, she educates job candidates about the hiring process, networking opportunities, and the culture of Sodexo. A former adjunct professor and professional advisor for the college’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, she enjoys helping students and employees reach for their potential and guide them through the process of preparing for and advancing their future careers.

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