Universum interviewed Patricia Freshwater, Senior Communications Manager of Talent Acquisition, to get insights on Sodexo USA’s award-wining talent mobility program. The program helped create an evolution for the company from traditional external candidate sourcing to directly sourcing internal candidates for more than half of its recruitment needs.
Internal mobility has now become ingrained in the Sodexo USA’s culture and business practice. Moreover, it has contributed to making the organization an attractive employer, as recent graduates as well as current employees know that there is tremendous focus on professional development and that the company offers endless opportunities.
However, the process to take the company from traditional sourcing to cross-divisional internal hiring and promotions wasn’t established overnight. Hiring managers hadn’t expected to source internally all of a sudden; rather, the process was gradually implemented in a number of stages to become a highly valued program that has benefited Sodexo through enhanced employee engagement and retention.
At first, internal promotion was valued within individual business lines. While this helped build a culture that embraced professional development, it also was problematic for employees if the next career step was not available in their unit or division. For example, a hiring manager in the Healthcare division was inclined to promote somebody with healthcare knowhow. It meant that the hiring manager was less likely to consider a Sodexo employee working in another division like Education, because the manager valued healthcare experience more highly. To ensure the success of the program, the organization’s way of thinking needed to be transformed.
Initially, there was some internal resistance to the idea of hiring employees from other areas of the business. Through the talent acquisition team’s leadership, Sodexo’s Human Resources and Operations leaders worked together to change the internal mindset of the organization.
The company, therefore, had to make the case and show the benefits of cross-divisional, cross-functional hiring internally. After doing research and studying performance ratings across business lines, they learned that there was no difference between employees who were promoted within their division and those who moved across business lines. Through this research and review of additional studies, they demonstrated the empirical advantages of hiring an internal candidate – regardless of the division where the employee worked.
Internal hires had company knowledge and an established network, knew processes and fit well with the culture and values of the organization. Moreover, an internal hire had a number of transferable skills that were applicable to various business areas. Lastly, the internal mobility program also helped contribute to employee engagement and retention, as high potentials could seek out new opportunities within the company and develop further. The benefits of the program were made clear.
Aside from educating hiring managers and communicating and reinforcing the benefits of the internal mobility program, the success of its implementation can also be attributed to the “leading by example” efforts at the top management level, whereby one manager would take on another role and become responsible for a different business area. This role modeling at the executive level created a trickle-down effect. From that point, the internal mobility program transpired to others in the organization and became what is today, a commonly adopted practice and part of the Sodexo culture.
Again, although the process was gradually implemented, it has shown its rewards. Sodexo did a soft launch of the internal mobility program back in 2006, advertising for employees to make referrals. Then, employees started referring themselves for open positions. In 2007, the program became a formalized process and then Sodexo established a special front-line supervisory training program in 2009 – to help promote the mobility of front-line employees into management positions.
Today, the organization has seen that an internal hire takes half the time of an external hire to perform at full potential. Moreover, the company has maintained strong employee engagement with 76% of their employees saying they would not hesitate to recommend Sodexo as an employer and overall engagement reaching levels just shy of best in class. Lastly, about 50% of overall hiring is done internally, which certainly brings down employment marketing costs. Clearly, the benefits of Sodexo USA’s internal mobility program are outstanding.
Sodexo USA implemented its internal mobility program because it saw the benefits of internal hires already being well adapted to the organization. The company started off by educating hiring managers and proved not only that internal candidates had company knowledge that allowed them to advance quickly in their role with a lower learning curve than external hires, fit in culturally and understood processes, but also that they had a number of transferable skills that could be used in new business divisions. The talent acquisition team waited a year before making it a formalized process in 2007 and used top management to set the example for the rest of the company, which led the way to its adoption by the whole company. Today, the talent mobility program has become one of the many success stories at Sodexo.
Sodexo is the world’s largest Quality of Life Services Company, with three activities in On-Site Services, Benefits & Rewards services and Personal & Home Services. The company has approximately 420,000 employees globally and is the 20th largest employer worldwide.