Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
10 Oct 2013

Getting to the heart of business

10 Oct 2013 • by Changeboard Team

HR at Sodexo

My greatest career achievements have come when, as a company, we have created a new operational reality from defining a clear vision and strategy with the board, engaging with the workforce to ensure they are aligned to the business and people agenda. I delivered this at British Gas, Land Securities and Blackwell’s.

I joined Sodexo to help create a global, customeraligned organisation that improves clients’, employees’ and shareholders’ quality of life. My greatest career achievements have come when, as a company, we have created a new operational reality from defining a clear vision and strategy with the board, engaging with the workforce to ensure they are aligned to the business and people agenda. I delivered this at British Gas, Land Securities and Blackwell’s. I joined Sodexo to help create a global, customeraligned organisation that improves clients’, employees’ and shareholders’ quality of life.

In July we announced a new HR structure to help us become fully integrated into the business. Historically, each segment ran its HR service alongside a small central resource of L&D, talent, resourcing and reward support. We have created a central people centre which houses all HR shared service and runs centres of excellence in organisation design and development, engagement, client mobilisation and senior talent management. The segment HRDs retain HR responsibility and accountability for their business areas and deliver through teams of HR business partners. Some of the HRDs also have HR functional responsibility for a Centre of Excellence such as employee relations, reward or mobilisation with others aligned to executives in functional teams.

Driving the diversity agenda

Together with another executive director who chairs the Diversity and Inclusion Council, I lead activities that champion diversity and inclusion, bring talented people into employment to provide a high quality, affordable service for our clients.

A key area of focus is gender and generational diversity – we want women to make up at least 25%-30% of our senior positions, to reflect our client base and the communities in which we work. We are also looking at how to increase the range of ethnicity and develop greater understanding of the different age demographics in the organisation – this includes creating more opportunities for older people as well as school leavers.

I love that the customer is at the heart of our business and the decisions we make. The culture is positive and constructive and there is a genuine desire to ‘do the right thing’. I also love the diversity and the opportunity to share best practice internationally.

Creating an agile workforce

From an HR perspective, the biggest challenge we face as a business is ensuring staff are engaged and motivated to deliver our service proposition at an affordable cost for the client in a tough economy. Our focus is on developing the capabilities of all our employees as the business moves from what was historically a food services provider to partnering with clients to deliver integrated facilities management services. 

The business needs to be dynamic and agile to scale up and down according to client demand, which can peak during the high-end catering events we manage such as Ascot, RHS Chelsea and the Open Golf Championship. We also need a multiskilled, mobile workforce that can operate across segments. As well as our sports and leisure services we also deliver to a diverse client base across defence, healthcare, justice services, schools and universities and corporates such as HSBC and GSK. To address the diversity of our customers, we are creating a central point of learning with a curriculum mapped against the business priorities.

Upskilling through training

Not all employees have access to PCs, so we deliver our training modules via local managers and training teams as well as online. At leadership level, we run face-to-face, tailored training and development programmes.

We also have a solution centre where our employees can reach a multiskilled and knowledgeable person – online or via a live telephone helpdesk – who can help them to support our clients quickly and efficiently.

I’ve devised a people plan that is integrated into the overall business plan. It has clear, measurable targets and associated costs across five key areas: engagement and D&I, employee capability, organisational readiness, reward and recognition, and employer brand – which were mapped out during group discussions across the business. The executive team has contributed to and approved the approach with the aim that it will show ROI by August 2014.

Angela Williams

Angela WilliamsHR director, UK & Ireland

Angela is an experienced, global HR executive with expertise in creating customer-focused businesses and teams in changing environments.