When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the business world, Sodexo USA leads the way. For the last six years, the Quality of Life Service company has placed in the top five of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity. That annual survey is conducted by DiversityInc., a web, social media and print publisher whose mission is to promote diversity in the workplace.
“I don’t think anyone is doing better than us. We make sure we always include everyone,” says Chef Sterling Smith, CEC.
“It’s a great company,” ADDS Chef Michael Kester, CEC, CCA, AAC.
Both men share Sodexo’s corporate commitment to diversity and participate in the company’s diversity and inclusion programs on both professional and personal levels.
Corporate chef of Sodexo HQ Culinary Innovation Center, Smith, who has been with the company for 21 years, manages and oversees the development of new menus and recipes for Sodexo clients. Working in the field, he is also culinary adviser to the external diversity team. That team works to enhance Sodexo’s relationships with the community. An example is its partnership with the National Urban League in Houston.
“We work with them to create a holistic approach to health and wellness in the African-American community,” Smith explains.
Sodexo also partners with clients to create similar programs of value to the community. These community partnerships are one way Sodexo works to improve communities while promoting its brand.
Kester, a 20-year Sodexo employee, is senior culinary development manager. His duties include responsibility for the training curriculum for new hires in the company’s health care division. That training has a diversity component to “make everyone aware of what we look for and how we respect diversity,” he says.
Diversity and inclusion training focuses on enhancing awareness and skill to positively impact behavior and share the company’s culture. Part of the training is the Spirit of Inclusion program. Conducted by Sodexo trainers as well as external consultants, it is a full-day, in-person, mandatory program for all managers and salaried employees.
That commitment to diversity is apparent in client operations where specific menus are developed for serving ethnic groups who may be hospital patients. A hospital in California, for example, has Vietnamese, Hispanic and Chinese menus.
Ethnic menus alone do not make for diversity. Sodexo also works with clients to help them develop diversity programs for their employees. The company also seeks diverse suppliers whose business practices mimic their own. Diversity and inclusion are inherent parts of the Sodexo culture.
“The use of diverse vendors and partners throughout the organization brings better value to our customers, clientele and the communities in which we live, work and serve. Not only is it part of our ‘DNA,’ but Sodexo also realizes that a strong supplier diversity program helps grow our business,” says Marianne Marseglia, manager, D&I projects.
Sodexo’s commitment to diversity and inclusion begins in the company’s headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and spreads throughout the world. It became a formal resolve in 2002. The program went global eight years later. Its purpose was to secure the best talent by reducing barriers to the recruitment, development, retention and promotion of women and people of color. In 2004, the company made a commitment to remove barriers related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
As part of the diversity and inclusion program, Sodexo supports nine Employee Business Resource Groups:
- African American Leadership Forum
- Honoring Our Nation’s Finest with Opportunity and Respect
- Intergenerational Network Group
- Native American and Aboriginal Council
- Pan Asian Employee Network Group
- People Respecting Individuality, Diversity and Equality
- Sodexo Organization for disAbilities Resources
- Sodexo Organization of Latinos
- Women’s Network Group
These groups provide an opportunity for people to come together with others who share their culture. They sponsor various activities and provide opportunities to share workplace concerns and accomplishments. Both Smith and Kester participate in one or more of these groups.
Today, the diversity and inclusion program is part of the fabric of the company. It is a key business driver, expands business development opportunities and increases employee engagement. It helps the company build a diverse team that respects the differences that make each member unique. These differences include race, color, ethnicity, religion, age, physical and mental ability, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. The program clearly communicates and reinforces the goals of the team. This allows Sodexo to make the best use of the diverse talents of our work force.
By Suzanne Hall