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Sodexo launches diversity and inclusion programme

Published 10th March, 2010 by Neil Nixon

Sodexo launches diversity and inclusion programme

Sodexo has launched a company-wide programme aiming to raise awareness of diversity and inclusion issues within the workplace. As part of its Diversity and Inclusion strategy, Sodexo has trained over 40 employees to facilitate ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ workshops for its 4500 managers.

The facilitators have been selected from all areas of the Sodexo business, including operators, learning & development executives and central support function staff.
The programme aims to raise awareness of diversity, enabling Sodexo to attract, retain and develop the widest and most diverse pool of talented employees - reflecting the local communities and businesses it operates within.

The workshops are designed to be interactive, thought-provoking and practical, encouraging managers to devise tailored action plans that will maximise diversity and create an inclusive work environment for its staff.

The main objectives of the workshops are to:
• Enhance knowledge of diversity and inclusion and Sodexo's commitment to it.
• Describe Sodexo’s six main stands of diversity and the changing demographics.
• Help clarify and understand the business case for, and the benefits of, maximising diversity and inclusion.
• Explore some of the barriers and solutions to leading a diverse team.
• Understand more about prejudices, stereotypes, discrimination and harassment.
• Explore how behaviours impact on others.
• Develop skills to effectively manage a diverse population.
• Increase awareness of and ways to maximise all employees' potential.

The one-day workshop, compulsory for all managers, has been developed by Sodexo’s head of diversity and supported by Sodexo’s executive Diversity and Inclusion Council.

Sodexo aims to have 65% of its 4500 managers complete the course in the next 12 months, and 100% in 18 months time.

Since the inception of the programme in September 2009, approximately 500 employees have attended the workshops already. Such has been its popularity that waiting lists have formed across the business and some Sodexo clients have requested the company’s support in shaping and developing their own diversity and inclusions strategies.

Diversity and inclusion forms a key part of Sodexo’s newly announced ‘Better Tomorrow Plan’, which aims to to consolidate Sodexo’s sustainability performance and provide a framework to measure the impact of the company’s actions worldwide.

Sodexo’s Diversity and Inclusion Council also recently celebrated the addition of another four members to its team, extending its membership to 20 people. It now consists of a member of staff from every segment of the company, be it operational or management. Four members of Sodexo's executive team also sit on the council, chaired by Michelle Hanson, commercial director.

Ian Simpson, Sodexo general manager at Everton Football club and one of the internal facilitators, said: “ Not only have I benefitted personally from my involvement in Spirit of Inclusion, becoming a facilitator has helped me deal more effectively with some difficult issues that may arise in my workplace. My client is so pleased with the programme, that he has asked me to deliver it to some of his own management team.”

Sharon Kyle, head of diversity, Sodexo UK and Ireland, said: “It is important for us to provide our managers with an environment where they can openly and honestly explore what diversity means to them and some of the issues they face. Diversity is not a 'tick box' exercise or list of laws and legislation. We believe that by taking a long-term approach to diversity, we are really able to get to the human and behavioural roots of understanding - something that is far more valuable than learning a list of statistics or acts of parliament.

Fundamentally, it is of paramount importance that we make the most of the talent we have in our business, particularly in challenging economical times.”
Aidan Connolly, chief executive, Sodexo UK and Ireland, added: "Diversity matters to us and our clients. Our dedicated strategy, coupled with investment in a business-wide diversity and inclusion council, represents my belief that diversity and inclusion are matters of competitive differentiation, as much as they are the right thing to do. Other companies may be cutting back on investment in this difficult financial climate, but we continue to invest in our people and our business.”

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