The Gatehouse Blog

Improving line of sight at Sodexo

How do you turn 34,000 hard-to-reach employees into knowledgeable brand ambassadors? Senior Internal Communications Manager Christina O’Donoghue at Sodexo explains how.

Sodexo is a global company. In the UK and Ireland we’ve got over 34,000 people working at over 1,850 sites. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for over one million customers per day wherever they are; at work, in hospitals, schools, universities, army barracks, prisons, banks, or building societies. Our background is food service, but over the last few years we have extended our offering to integrated facilities management. Besides catering, we provide a wide range of services which include cleaning, reception services, security, grounds and building maintenance.

Sodexo

No line of sight

Our employees are spread across a number of sites all over the country, so it’s sometimes quite difficult to connect with them. They’re focused on providing services to their customers  so they might be unaware of all the amazing things we do as an organisation. In a lot of locations our employees work ‘unbranded’ at our client sites and often identify themselves with the organisation they’re working at rather than Sodexo.

“We want to give our employees information about the company to help them feel connected and proud to work for Sodexo; we want them to be able to talk positively about the company, and to be brand ambassadors.”

Part of the challenge is to help our employees feel part of Sodexo and valued. We want to give our employees information about the company to help them feel connected and proud to work for Sodexo; we want them to be able to talk positively about the company, and to be brand ambassadors. The result… they would really understand how what they do every day helps improve the quality of life for their customers.

However, the challenge we face in communicating with the majority of our employees is that only our managers are connected digitally – they have access to our intranet and are accessible via email but their teams don’t.

The solution

We decided to address this and created a three-module training programme which encapsulated what the company is all about and was to be delivered by managers to their teams. This new programme was launched at our manager’s conference.

The objective of the programme was to get teams to understand the scope of the business, what we stand for and how their role contributes to our mission of improving the quality of life. The discussion focused around the added value they bring, i.e. “You’re not just a cleaner, you’re helping to prevent disease at a hospital”.

Sodexo_poster

We distributed toolkits to all managers and asked them to deliver the programme within three months. The toolkit was a comprehensive step-by-step guide built around each of the three modules. Each module was about 30 to 40 minutes long and covered a different topic. The first had amazing facts about Sodexo, the markets we operate in and the services we provide, the second was about our values and the third was about our mission and how we improve the quality of life for our clients and customers.

The toolkit included posters for each session to put up on the walls, a USB stick with films and each team member got a workbook with some information to take away. We made the sessions interactive by asking teams to take part in a quiz, and discuss how they live the values and improve quality of life for our customers.

Giving autonomy to managers

We found that not being too prescriptive was important. We gave the managers flexibility on how they wanted to roll out the sessions to their teams. It was interesting to hear the stories afterwards about how they did it. One manager held a barbecue for his team afterwards, making it into a really nice social event, whilst others incorporated games and things like that. The important thing was that it wasn’t rigid, and the managers could personalise it and make it their own.

“We found that not being too prescriptive was important. We gave the managers flexibility on how they wanted to roll out the sessions to their teams.”

Some of our managers are not natural communicators, and a few openly said that they didn’t feel comfortable delivering training to their teams. However, the toolkits were designed to help them feel more confident. We also offered some support via our learning and development team.

Measurement

At the back of the workbook, we encouraged teams to fill in postcards with feedback about how they improve the quality of life and more: ‘Do you have any amazing facts about your job that you’d like to share? What were your three actions? How do you improve the quality of life of our customers?’ We asked the managers for feedback as well: ‘What were the top three things your team learned? What improvements would you suggest to make these sessions better?’

We had really great feedback on the programme and it created a real buzz around the UK and Ireland business. Around 90% of managers believed their team found the programme useful and will be able to apply the learning to their job and do something differently as a result. The programme was so successful that we are now working on a global version.

 

BIOGRAPHY – CHRISTINA O’DONOGHUE

Christina O’Donoghue is currently Senior Internal Communications Manager and has been at Sodexo for 20 years.