Sodexo’s 2017 Global Workplace Trends Report Offers Thought Leadership from Leading Voices

Leading Voices Offer Thought Leadership in Sodexo’s 2017 Global Workplace Trends Report

With the release of the Sodexo 2017 Global Workplace Trends Report comes a compendium of rich content from one of the world’s largest employers along with global news sources and nearly 50 subject matter experts from renowned academic institutions, associations, consultancies, foundations, NGOs, research groups, think tanks and more.

Sodexo explored 10 workplace trends in this extensive report: organizational and employee agility; collaborative work spaces; the impact of societal issues such as migration and cultural integration; the new generation of robotics; the evolution of learning at work; the overlap of personal and corporate brands; design thinking principles in the workplace; sustainable development goals; the potential of millennial talent; and the workplace as a wellness destination.

Why do we invest in a study of this scope? Quality of life is the cornerstone of our business, so the accompanying thought leadership is fundamental. We want to elevate the discussion around the ways the workplace is changing and the vital role that quality of life plays in those changes. That extends to what we are able to offer our clients at Inspirus to help them gain a competitive edge.

Forward-thinking companies know that employees are the foundation of culture, and their everyday experiences are key to the organization’s success. It’s why Inspirus has always focused its mission and business purpose on the employee experience, and we are now seeing the rest of the industry pivot from ad hoc employee engagement activities to employee engagement strategies that include the employee experience. When employees feel valued, they enjoy coming to work, they invest in meaningful workplace relationships and they connect to the company’s mission. It’s been proven that these things drive performance, so let’s focus on cultivating workplaces that build the types of organizational culture where employees want to come, stay and give their best.

Following is a summary of the trends that we explored for our 2017 Workplace Trends Report. Inspirus is already responding to many of them, and by sharing our findings, we hope to inspire wider audiences to discussion and action in the quest to create the most seamless employee experience through quality of life improvements.

1. The Agile Organization: Striking a Balance Between Speed and Stability

Organizations are seeking the holy grail of agility — speed plus stability — with the ultimate goal of responding to new conditions, all while keeping employees agile, too.

By definition, an agile organization is nimble and responsive, characterized by a common orientation toward organizational goals, an emphasis on teamwork and a principle of adaptive performance. Agility is achieved by working across cultures, borders and workplaces; moving quickly to market; and being an early adopter of technology.

Employees gain agility with help from a team culture that includes disciplines like mindfulness, which creates accountability, promotes compassion and a sense of community, and helps them focus and achieve greater calm.

One way that Inspirus has successfully addressed agility is through the addition of Inspirus Learning, which meshes with our overall recognition and employee experience offering. Our solution combines micro-learning (short bursts of content in smaller, “bite-size” chunks) with a game-based approach to retention. This provides our multigenerational workforce with informative and relevant content that is reinforced with games and knowledge checks, creating enthusiastic learners. Employees learn where and when they want with the Inspirus Learning solution.

“. . .an agile organization is nimble and responsive, characterized by a common orientation toward organizational goals, an emphasis on teamwork and a principle of adaptive performance.”

Item 2 visual2. The Rise of Cross-Workplaces: Accelerating Innovation Through Chance Interactions

As innovation moves from optional to essential, the newest iteration of collaborative workspaces takes co-working to a new level, with organizations not only sharing physical space and resources but also intentionally structuring interactions across boundaries and a multigenerational workforce to encourage problem-solving approaches that combine strengths to address complex issues.

Working in silos with the same people leads to stagnation, tunnel vision and groupthink, inhibiting new ideas and positive change. Leaders must foster the mindset and environment that make productive cross-pollination more likely, by mingling skill sets, disciplines, generations, cultures and backgrounds – this is why team building is important. We must encourage listening, curiosity, lateral thinking and the belief that anyone can innovate.

At Inspirus, we agree it is important to provide activities and processes that require members of different teams to collide and collaborate. Key to this approach is encouraging intentional interaction through employee engagement strategies such as peer recognition, an important tool that helps create a collaborative, team culture resulting in performance-driven returns to the business. Our extensive experience in recognition program design allows us to customize solutions for unique company values and strategy as well as a multigenerational workforce.

Our Southwest Airlines case study illustrates how a large organization has used an Inspirus-designed recognition program to drive behaviors such as creating a collaborative work space. We customized a platform that has allowed Southwest to centralize all of their recognition and incentive programs into one tool. Southwest took this opportunity to create an umbrella brand for all employee engagement activities, including recognition experiences. The centralized platform helps to ensure compliance, reward equity and accountability for the more than 46,000 employees in the company. Since launching the branded platform, Southwest has seen positive changes at many levels of the organization, with more than 95% of their employees participating.

“Leaders must encourage listening, curiosity, lateral thinking and the belief that anyone can innovate.”

3. Employees Without Borders: Understanding the Impact of Migration on the Workplace

The sheer spread and scale of the relocation of workers in both emerging and developed economies is driving new opportunities to demonstrate inclusive leadership by evaluating skill needs, availability, location benefits and effective cultural integration.

73% of migrant population are working age

244 million migrants worldwide

Corporations that make demonstrable efforts to promote a sense of belonging and a team culture of inclusion among their multigenerational workforce will be better equipped to fill talent shortages, enhance talent mobility and facilitate the ease of movement of loyal and engaged workers between countries and places of business. In the years ahead, those companies that already have corporate cultures with deep foundations in diversity and inclusion will be best suited to rise up to help their communities and, in turn, their countries by recruiting and integrating migrants.

To encourage more companies to follow suit, it is critical that business leaders cultivate a better understanding of migration and that they learn how to assess migrants’ skills so that they can be transferred in a way that ensures their long-term employability.

To gain an understanding of the many facets of migration is to start making sense of the contribution businesses can make alongside public sector and NGO partners. A diverse, skilled, engaged multigenerational workforce with high levels of participation is more likely to be resilient, adaptable and competitive.

“. . . companies that already have corporate cultures with deep foundations in diversity and inclusion will be best suited to help their communities and, in turn, their countries by recruiting and integrating migrants.”

4. The New Gen of Robotics: How Robots are Transforming the Way We Work

Robots have been in the workplace for years, and advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have led to organizations increasingly using them for jobs that humans used to perform. With the rate of technological progress increasing exponentially, the newest discussion focuses on exploring the success of robots, especially as they collaborate with people on uniquely human jobs.

All organizations must address the challenges that automation, AI and robotics present to their workforce. As they explore new types of organizational culture, they will need to help human employees embrace their new “co-bot” colleagues. Businesses will benefit from carefully considered adoption and use of technology in the workplace. Instead of wholesale personnel downsizing, employers have a responsibility to train and develop their people, retraining as appropriate to empower their multigenerational workforce to take on new and different roles. They also have the global responsibility to be vocal about the significance of the changes in labor patterns, being sure to collaborate with other stakeholders who are looking to continue to thrive in a brave new world. Smart companies will be those welcoming the change.

"Employers have the global responsibility to be vocal about the significance of the changes in labor patterns, being sure to collaborate with other stakeholders who are looking to continue to thrive in a brave new world."

5. Intergenerational Learning: A New Model for Talent Development

Companies are being forced to think differently about hierarchical and traditional employee learning because people are living and working longer. Employees of multiple generations are teaching one another from their own experiences and driving new types of organizational culture that include personal development.

Advances in technology, shifts in demographics, a multigenerational workforce and the competitive need to upgrade workforce skills are creating market pressure to improve learning and development. These forces are pushing companies to develop new ways to put employees in charge of the learning experience, foster a culture of learning and enhance internal programs aimed at developing people when and where they want, with a more manageable time commitment.

We know that learning is an essential tool for engaging employees, attracting and retaining top talent and developing long-term leadership. In fact, learning is quickly becoming the heart of talent management. Yet organizations continue to struggle with static learning models and internally focused platforms that are not user-centric.

We place great emphasis on growth and development with Inspirus Learning. Our programs and tools facilitate internal proprietary company learning with an emphasis on bringing together the diverse experiences, expertise and thinking inside an organization. Our differentiated approach curates user-generated content and meets learners where they are, through the use of solutions that are available on all devices and provide the advantages of convenience and fun.

As learning brings people together in the workplace and steers them toward a shared purpose, look for a “back and forth” in which the skills of a multigenerational workforce are valued.

6. Personal Branding Goes to Work: A Powerful Tool for Employees and Employers Alike

Personal and corporate brands, once entirely separate entities, are now overlapping, as organizations realize the value of the influencers in their workforce. Personal branding is taking on a new life and receiving deeper scrutiny as employers look to leverage the power of employees’ personal brands for the good of the company.

As more companies come to view their employees’ social presence and personal branding websites as always-on (and no-cost) marketing channels for the corporate brand, they’re looking for new ways to ride along with their social reach, to shape personal messaging to the corporation’s benefit and to protect their interests when employees use social media in ways that can be harmful to the organization and its team culture.

This has given way to the rise of companies with social employee advocacy programs as part of their employee engagement activities, social listening programs and professional development plans that include instructions and governance models on how employees can enhance their personal brands while supporting company goals.

Inspirus solutions support the ability of employees to build their own personal brands, and in the process, companies promote team culture, gain brand ambassadors and increase employee loyalty.

Brand messages are re-shared an average of 24x more frequently when distributed by an employee vs. the brand

The Benefits of Engaging Employees in Corporate Branding 

Engaged and socially valued employees are:

27% more likely to feel optimistic about their company’s future

20% more likely to stay at their company

40% more likely to believe their company is more competitive


7. Redefining Workplace Experience: Putting Design Thinking Principles to Work

With today’s multigenerational workforce expecting more from their employers, designers and strategists are rethinking all elements of the workplace to put the employee experience first. From physical space and technology to virtual work considerations and amenities, the way workers experience their surroundings creates new types of organizational culture and is key to a happy workforce. Design thinking can help optimize this experience so that it is supportive of both employee engagement activities and the employee, both within and outside of the workplace.

Keeping employees happy, healthy and productive requires that companies consider a cultural assessment, and the numerous factors about where they work — the built environment, technology and virtual work considerations, amenities and how people experience their surroundings. However, it’s not just about physical space; it’s also about software, communications, workflow, organizational structure, rewards, learning and development, performance management — in short, any of a number of tools and resources that enable employees to get through their workday.

Rather than expecting employees to adapt to workplaces, the discipline of experience design/design thinking aims to create workplaces adapted to the way employees work and do their jobs.

Design thinking and user experience influence everything we do at Inspirus, both in our own workplace and for our clients. We seek to influence the employee experience through our six Quality of Life dimensions: recognition, health and well-being, personal growth, physical environment, social interaction; and ease and efficiency.

We focus on factors that impact an individual’s ability to carry out activities with ease, efficiency and minimal interruptions — both through the tools that we provide our employees to do their jobs and the products and services that we offer our clients to help them achieve their goals.

By improving quality of life, workplace experience design also plays a significant role in the competition to attract, retain and grow the best and the brightest talent. Becoming a sought-after employer is, in fact, a major benefit to organizations that focus on the employee experience.

Going forward, there is a pressing need for organizations to make a strategic rationale for considering, implementing and integrating experience design strategies with employee engagement strategies. One that is likely to resonate is the desire to attract and retain talent by improving workers’ quality of life, as well as the need to reduce complexity in workplace processes in order to increase efficiency and productivity.

In the future, every aspect of the workplace will be designed with the employee in mind — a process that calls for a human-centric, design thinking approach to the workplace. Inspired by tech companies and other best-in-class organizations, workplace design will blur the lines between work, play and life even more in the years to come. Health and well-being will also move to the foreground, as a foundation for designing workplaces that contribute to our overall happiness and wellness. The focus on the holistic employee experience has intensified, and will undoubtedly increase in importance in the years ahead.

79% of executives rate design thinking as an important or very important issue.



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8. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Reframing CSR Through a Shared Vision and Common Purpose

Once the preserve of the United Nations, leading NGOs and scientists, sustainable development is increasingly recognized as the legitimate responsibility of businesses — and employees are also playing their part. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call on organizations to work together and with government toward a shared vision. The way businesses interpret and adapt practices will affect not only the progress toward meeting the SDGs but also the needs of a multigenerational workforce hungry for positive change.

One of the strongest trends within the sustainable development agenda over time has been the growing realization that businesses must play a pivotal role in support of social and environmental as well as economic ends. Starting with corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the 1990s, soon followed by “corporate responsibility” and “corporate citizenship,” it is now clear to leading companies that their mission, their very purpose and the products and services they sell can be an integral part of sustainable development. And for their efforts toward this end they will be rewarded in terms of brand image, reputation and demand.

The good news is that today’s employees act as intrinsic motivation examples to the entire multigenerational workforce. They want to be part of the solution, too — they’re willing, committed and paying attention. In fact, a new generation of employees and consumers has grown up demanding that the organizations that they work for purchase goods and services that contribute to sustainability.

Companies that are creative, committed and consistently visible when it comes to sustainable development, alongside innovation and technology, are going to be more successful and keep better company in the years leading up to 2030. Theirs will demonstrate a team culture of workplace satisfaction and collaboration that serves today for a better business tomorrow.

71% of businesses say they are already planning how they will engage with the SDGs

90% of citizens say it’s important for businesses to sign up to the SDGs

78% of citizens say they would be more likely to buy the goods and services of companies that had signed up to the SDGs

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9. Unlocking the Potential of Millennial Talent: A New Understanding of What Drives This Generation

Why do we need to better understand millennials? Grasping the unique set of attributes that this generation brings to the multigenerational workforce gives us a view into the future of work.

Millennials tend to be motivated by human contact, continuous feedback from superiors, training and development, and flexibility. These are areas of strength for the Inspirus Employee Engagement Platform, which provides a heavy emphasis on communication, recognition, learning (knowledge and development) and, of course, user-centric technology.

Employers who develop a better appreciation for this over-analyzed yet often misunderstood generation stand to benefit the most from the collaboration, creativity and authenticity they bring to the table.

75% of the workforce will be millennials by 2025.1

The Workforce of Tomorrow

Who They Are

  • Seeking a bigger purpose2
  • Natural innovators
  • Highly educated


What Motivates Them

  • Training and development3
  • Continuous feedback from superiors
  • Flexibility4





10. Wellness 3.0: The Workplace as a Wellness Destination

Moving beyond “fixing” or preventing health problems, the current approach to wellness features the workplace as a potential catalyst for healthy living for employees, their families and the community at large.

As the Workplace Trends Report points out, with the boundaries between work and life continuing to blur, today’s multigenerational workforce is seeking a new and improved employee value proposition — one that offers a focus on all aspects of their health and well-being. They expect their workplace to foster a team culture that supports health through wellness-enhancing amenities, programs and policies. In other words, they wish to see their workplace as a wellness “destination,” designed to enhance their quality of life.

Employees aren’t the only ones with workplace wellness ranking high on their wish list. Due to rising healthcare and insurance costs and the negative impacts of poor health on productivity, employers have a growing and urgent interest in the overall health and habits of their workforce.

But the U.S. employee wellness model is broken: In 2015, $8 billion was spent annually on workplace wellness programs, with only 30 percent of employees participating in them and fewer than 15 percent having achieved their health goals.

It’s no surprise, then, that employers are beginning to realize the importance of taking a customized employee-centric approach to workforce well-being. The innovative, personalized solutions that we’re designing at Inspirus to drive healthy behavior and choices help to advance Sodexo’s broader objectives of improving employee quality of life — including health and wellbeing, recognition and ease and efficiency — and, ultimately, organizational performance. Inspirus Well-being is a model that delivers a key differentiator in the marketplace: true employee engagement and ROI.

$8B spent annually on workplace wellness programs with only

30% employee participation with fewer than 15% reaching their health goals

Find more in-depth insights from the nearly 50 subject matter experts who shared their knowledge with Sodexo’s 2017 Global Workplace Trends Report.

Topics: workplace trends, Sodexo Workplace Trends Report, Employee Engagement Strategies