FRESH RECRUITS: Interns learn from Sodexo Live! Chef Lenny Martinsen during the 2022 NCAA Final Four in New Orleans. Martinsen oversees a work-based learning program for students who want to work in the culinary field. (Courtesy vendor)

Women, Minority Advancement Priority for food vendor

As companies come out of the pandemic, new business models and strategies have been developed to address staffing issues and labor shortages that continue to affect the hospitality and live entertainment industry.

The supply chain may be slowly getting untangled, but staffing is still a top concern linked to future success.

Sodexo Live! has invested time and resources over the past 12 months to redefine how the hospitality company attracts, retains and develops the future of their 40,000 employees spread across 500 sites throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Spain.

“We conducted in-depth interviews across all different operations and functions and carefully analyzed the competitive landscape,” said Tracey Jenkins, senior vice president of human resources for Sodexo Live! North America. “This also comes at the most pertinent time for our industry.”

Tracey Jenkins

The result is People Ambition, the company’s refined Employer Value Proposition aimed at current and future employees. The new initiative reflects the company’s increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in recruitment and management. The program leans into career development with deeper training and mentor opportunities. In addition, Sodexo will also provide more mental health resources as part of its increased focus on well-being.

“The People Ambition proactively addresses our resolve to be employee-first while engaging team members to build fulfilling lifelong careers here,” Jenkins added. “Working for us is truly becoming part of a global organization — from Super Bowls to the Hollywood Bowl to the Eiffel Tower, and even the upcoming Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, it’s truly a world of possibilities here. We are hiring.”

Sodexo Live! leaders identified four pillars for the Employer Value Proposition and what it represents: Belong, Act, Thrive and Be Live.

Belong ensures a sense of community and purpose rooted in family and teamwork. The organization maintains an 80% employee engagement rate and offers nine Employee Business Resource Groups, which foster a culture of inclusion and provide networking, learning and development opportunities.

The Act pillar values diversity, equity and inclusion as a key performance driver. Sodexo Live! received a perfect score on the 2022 Disability Equality Index (DEI), was named by Forbes as a 2022 Best Employer for Diversity and a Best Company for Multicultural Women by Seramount.

Thrive promotes personal and career growth opportunities and establishes opportunities for employees to succeed and advance internally. Over the past year, Sodexo Live! promoted 142 employees across the company – 46% of promoted employees were women.

Be Live ties into the company’s history and experience in the live event space, including 21 MLB World Series, 15 NFL Super Bowls, 14 college football championship games, 12 NCAA Final Fours, six of the top 10  meeting destinations in North America, 15 LEED-certified convention centers and 170 airport lounges.

NEXT GEN: A student intern in a Sodexo Live! training program serves food in Florida. (Courtesy vendor)

As part of this new initiative, Sodexo Live! will be creating and implementing new DEI programs including She Leads, which is a global mentorship program for women. Launched this past October with an inaugural class, participants are taking part in a nine-month program which will introduce them to other female leaders globally within the organization.

Sodexo overall is committed to having women represent at least 40% of its global leadership by 2025. Currently, women represent 60% of Sodexo’s board members and 45% of the executive committee.

“We have been making great progress, but it’s imperative to push ourselves further,” said Jenkins. “Gender balance fosters creativity and innovation, and ultimately drives better business results. We have come a long way, as an industry, but much work remains to be done. Sodexo Live! is happy to lead the charge.”

The average tenure for Sodexo Live! full-time employees is seven years, company officials said.  In contrast, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers overall in leisure and hospitality have an average of 2.3 years per job. Sodexo Live! also achieves an 80% satisfaction and engagement rate among employees. Over the past year, Sodexo Live! expanded its number of employees in management positions by 68% and increased its African-American representation in senior leadership roles by 28%.

SERVICE WITH A SMILE: Staffing shortages have prompted creative recruitment solutions. (Courtesy vendor)

Additional programs include the Diversity Learning Lab, a mandatory program for upper-level management; Tomorrow’s Leaders program, designed to accelerate employees’ development and improve their current and future leadership skills; a dedicated mentorship program that gives employees and an opportunity to learn from upper-level management; and a retooled internship academy, which has 50 active students across different disciplines, from operations, finance, human resources, data analytics and more.

It’s just the beginning. In the next 12-18 months, Sodexo Live! plans to add a new employee engagement program Inspirus Connects, to empower employees at all levels of the organization to share feedback anonymously 24/7. They also have plans to improve the frontline hiring experience with the implementation of Dexi, a digital interactive candidate experience platform, and are gearing up to provide a global hospitality management program, and the Global Chefs Excellence Program.

“Our people are our greatest asset. The more we can invest in our workforce, the more we can attract top talent, increase employee retention, and build brand ambassadorship, as we distinguish ourselves from our competitors as an employer of choice and a great place for individuals to work and grow,” said Steve Pangburn, CEO of Sodexo Live! North America.