For One and All: How Reaching out to Millennials Benefits the Entire Workforce

By Beck, Amanda Aiello | Communication World, February 2014 | Go to article overview

For One and All: How Reaching out to Millennials Benefits the Entire Workforce


Beck, Amanda Aiello, Communication World


Sodexo Canada's 10,000 employees include everyone from part-time workers who are also students to full-time employees nearing retirement age, and they occupy a variety of jobs, from finance and IT workers to engineers and chefs. The company--a division of Sodexo, the global food services and facilities management company that counts more than 420,000 employees worldwide--set out to develop a strategy that would put a renewed focus on people and position it as an employer of choice following a 2008 employee survey that revealed engagement was at an all-time low. Noting that employees ranked diversity and inclusion programs as the No. 1 driver of engagement, Sodexo Canada decided to emphasize a range of benefits and programs that, while aimed at its youngest workers, are turning out to have broad appeal among the entire workforce. {Catherine Power, vice president of communications, who is responsible for driving a comprehensive and integrated communication strategy to influence change and engage employees and external stakeholders, spoke recently with CW Managing Editor Amanda Aiello Beck, and explained how the company is making a positive difference.

CW: What are members of the millennial generation looking for in a career?

Katherine Power: Their engagement drivers are different from those of other generations, where work-life balance and work activities--the actual work they perform--have more impact on their engagement. They are definitely looking for flexibility and flexible hours. The millennials would like not to be thought of as a stereotype, and they do want to work hard. They enjoy some autonomy and freedom in their roles, they would like to be trusted to make decisions, and they are very good communicators. I think we all recognize the}' are very good with technology. That doesn't mean they automatically understand the intricacies of the technology, but they know how to use it and maximize its potential.

CW: What are managers' perceptions of working with this group?

KP: Many managers report having difficulties in working with this generation--issues surrounding millennials showing up on time, unreasonable expectations in regard to career advancement, and communication style, to name a few.

This generation has had some challenges finding work, and they have had to be more open to accepting contract roles that older workers may shun. It's hard to say if this is due to the slow economy and the challenges they have faced in finding full-time work, or a work-style preference of the generation. But to some recruiters it may appear on their resumes that they have had too many jobs in a short period of time.

CW: How is Sodexo Canada addressing these generational issues?

KP: We have implemented HR programs that are available to all our employees, so rather than pigeonholing our employees and saying, "You are a millennial so you get X benefit and you are a boomer so you get Y benefit," we provide a wide variety of flexible options for everyone. So whether you are 20-something and wanting to continue your education part time or are preparing for retirement but not quite ready to stop working completely, we can offer job-sharing or part-time options that suit your circumstances. We have a general HR policy of flexibility and a management culture that supports finding unique solutions for unique situations.

CW: What are you doing to specifically engage the younger generation?

KP: As I mentioned, our policies such as casual dress, telecommuting and "pick your own mobile device" apply to all employees. We do have a Rising Stars program, which is an onboarding program for our new managers. New managers who are recruited in their first few years of being in the workforce or are straight out of school can participate in the program. It exposes them to a variety of roles within the organization and also provides them with a year of workshops to develop their management skills. …

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