To reflect the needs of a diverse global market, companies need to encourage diversity and inclusion within their own organizations. Along with creating a more representative workforce, diversity also helps to build a more successful company. A two-year research study by Deloitte  shows that companies who embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.
Deloitte’s findings are in line with research  carried out by Sodexo that highlighted the business benefits of gender equality. Workplaces that are gender-balanced show a higher employee engagement (+4 points), a stronger brand image (+5 points), increased gross profit (23%) and consistently higher organic growth (13%).
At Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services – including Inspirus, the Benefits and Rewards Services entity in the U.S. – embracing diversity of age, gender, nationality, culture and personal characteristics is part of the Group’s culture and a key driver of its growth strategy. In 2017, external recognition of the Sodexo Group’s commitment included a place in the top 10 of DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity - for the ninth consecutive year. Today, 45% of Sodexo’s managers and 53% of all employees are women, with career development for women at senior management level supported by 15 gender networks in 14 countries.
Along with the international policies deployed by Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, numerous initiatives are carried out at a country level. These include, among others, condensed working hours, which allows mothers to more easily combine work with childcare, and special events around International Women’s Day. In Brazil, a series of talks by guest speakers, staff social events and personal care sessions were held in March to coincide around the date of International Women’s Day, with the company’s print and online media also focusing on women’s issues during this time. Meanwhile, a research paper entitled “Gender (In)equality in the Job Market” and an accompanying press release were published by Sodexo in Portugal to mark the day itself. Other year-round initiatives are tailored to the local environment, such as Immersion 45+ in France to help the unemployed and disadvantaged into the world of work, the Diversity Club in Morocco, and Odyssey Mentoring for women with senior management potential in Czech Republic.
Clearly, many of these initiatives are designed to provide greater opportunities for women and for people with disabilities. The following two case studies in Tunisia and Mexico look in greater detail at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards programs that focus on both these audiences. Both studies underline the value of working with local non government organizations to promote diversity in the workplace.
Case Study 1
In Mexico, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services is involved in two initiatives to promote diversity and create opportunities for disadvantaged people.
Working with Inroads, a local NGO, final-year and high-potential students from low-income families are offered valuable work experience with Sodexo. “It’s hard for graduates from public universities to get a job – especially if they haven’t worked before. The program helps these young talents to have access to great job opportunities in big companies, like Sodexo,” says Victor Lara, Talent and HR Development Manager. Students spend four hours a day at Sodexo under the supervision of an internal mentor and have a very strict training and community service program within Inroads. Since 2016, 10 students have taken part in the program, with two of them already being hired by Sodexo in permanent positions.
The second initiative, entitled INLASO, aims to help people with disabilities – who struggle to find employment in a country where workplace facilities are often lacking. In Mexico, there is no quota scheme to incentivize companies to hire people with disabilities; which means that socially responsible companies and institution are carrying out this kind of initiative voluntarily. An internal awareness campaign has promoted the idea within Sodexo, while local recruitment agency Manpower has been selecting candidates. One person with disabilities has already been hired, and the aim is to recruit two more by the year end. “The Inroads and INLASO employees are very committed to Sodexo and are very motivated at work. Our main difficulty with INLASO has been to find candidates with disabilities in the labor market in Mexico. But we have established challenging goals for inclusion for the years ahead.” says Victor Lara.
Case Study 2
In Tunisia, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services supports a local initiative based on France’s FACE program to promote gender equality.
“Although the gender balance at Sodexo in Tunisia is almost 50/50, those figures are not typical for the rest of the country - where 66% of women are inactive,” says Hazar Chebbi, Marketing & Development Director. “So, we were very willing to get involved,” Sodexo provided financial and practical support for FACE (Foundation Against Exclusion), which included creating training materials to help firms’ HR departments to promote gender equality. “We gave HR staff the means to benchmark gender balance in their companies, to design action plans and to incorporate Best Practices in the form of a guide,” Hazar Chebbi says. “FACE also held recruitment events in five cities, where women could learn presentation skills and potentially be taken on by employers as ‘stagiaires’ (interns).”
Over the initial three-year period since it was launched in 2014, about 120 companies sent HRs for FACE training, 1,200 women became interns and 20% of them secured a permanent job after their internship. A new phase of FACE is being prepared, with a focus on creating awareness-raising videos that can be used in schools.
As the research shows, diverse companies are more successful, and a more accurate reflection of the societies in which people live and work. Promoting diversity, through HR policies and working with NGOs, delivers a competitive advantage that also helps to address some important issues in today’s world, both inside and beyond the workplace. Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services is proud to play its part in this agenda for change.
 Sodexo Gender Balance in Management Case Study.
 Sodexo Gender Balance in Management Case Study.