In another episode of the #HRSpotlight series, Business Review sat down with Florentina Ciontea, HR & CSR Director at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, Romania & Bulgaria, to talk about the latest developments of last year from an HR perspective, employee wellbeing, the future of the working place, CSR and Sustainability programs for employees, and the HR trends of 2023 and beyond.
- How was 2022 from the HR perspective and what were the most important actions and programs you undertook for your employees?
2022 was a full year for us: full of changes, of projects, and achievements. We started by changing our organizational model to fit our future ambitions and also by attracting new competencies that we were missing internally. We also looked at how we can enhance collaboration and work in a more agile way across departments. We implemented new ways of working with autonomous, cross-departmental teams that drive the company’s strategic projects.
We invested time and energy in our culture of listening as we believe that a great employee experience starts with this; we have a tool that enables us to listen to our colleagues. I think we are unique on the market as we do this on a weekly basis and thus are able take action, on the most important topics, when needed.
This year we also brought to the market a unique system called The Happiness Index, with which we are able to have a holistic view of how our people are thinking and feeling at any moment in time and also take specific actions accordingly. The system is backed up by neuroscience and is super user friendly, we plan to use it even more in the future and assess our organizational culture with it.
We are super proud that we managed to surpass the global engagement target of 80%, global Sodexo Currently we are at 84% with a weekly participation rate of over 92% – this shows us that colleagues see that their feedback are being listened to and leadership decisions starting also from there.
We also continued to invest in our talents through our Talent Booster Program, local stretching assignments or international exposure, like a Data Hub that we are currently building in Romania and that will coordinate the data management activity for our Region Europe. The Talent Booster program is very well received by leaders and key talents, and I think it differentiates itself on the market by the amount of training budget we offer but also by its flexibility, as we allow each talent to own his development plan and choose the learning experience they want.
We also believe in caring and empowering our colleagues, in trust and transparency and we try to illustrate as much as possible of what it means to be a Sodexo BRS employee. We’ve started to work in the last couple of months on a new Employee Value Proposition campaign and we’ve asked our colleagues to share with us what it is like to work within Sodexo, what impact it has on their personal & professional life and how they feel about our development programmes within the company. #BeTheChange it is a powerful and positive Manifesto of the employees and it shows how a workplace can give individuals confidence and inspire them to take on ambitious professional journeys. The campaign is public, and you can find the stories on our social media networks.
We are also looking, constantly at our benefits package as our aim is to lead the way and offer to our employees’ flexibility and various wellbeing options.
All these actions kept us to a churn level of 10% which is below the market rate.
- Employee wellbeing is no longer seen as a benefit, so how can employers and HR leaders take this concept to new heights and get more involved in the personal wellness of their people?
In Sodexo BRS we have a culture that is oriented towards people and offering them a personalized and sustainable experience at work and beyond. We have all seen (or even experienced it) that when people are stressed, exhausted and feel that they aren’t listened to in the workplace it’s detrimental to their health, happiness, and performance.
As an HR professional I believe we must coach our leaders to make taking care of their employees as their new normal and place this subject in their ongoing dialogues close to the performance topics
From my point of view, this focus on employees’ mental health is mandatory: it doesn’t matter if you offer a gym subscription if your employees cannot take lunch break, for example. Here, leaders play a key role in supporting their teams prioritizing and developing work patterns that will enable them to have better results and less stress.
Also, focusing on flexibility is an aspect that can improve the overall wellbeing of the employees. As a manager is very important to get to know your people and see what works best for each of them and adjust accordingly.
In Sodexo BRS, we offer full flexibility while still getting together for those moments that matter from an organizational culture perspective. I see this as our superpower and employees tend to really appreciate it.
I believe that employers need to make employees’ wellbeing practices (meaning offerings for mental health, physical health and also organizational support) as their new normal and offer personalized benefits if they want to retain their top talent. Here, I would mention just a few options that employers have and can use anytime:
I am thinking of a tourist card, which is basically a holiday voucher that can be used for spending quality time with loved ones, or the cultural card, through which employees can buy tickets to different theater shows, films, sports events, books or musical albums just to mention a few.
Also, we have available some more complex services like stress management, wellbeing, psychonutrition, and sleep disorders that we offer for all our employees that have a meal card with us through our partner in telemedicine, Telios.
- We can’t talk about the #futureofwork without talking about the future workplace. Flexibility remains a priority: companies want to increase their physical presence in the office, but they face resistance from employees. What are the future plans in your company? How does the WFH impact HR activities?
Working from home gives employees a lot of benefits in terms of reducing commuting time and a better work & life balance but as human beings, we are wired to seek social interaction and to feel that we are part of a tribe/ group, too. In Sodexo BRS, we adapted to a hybrid way of working and we decided to come to the office in those moments that matter: for example, for department/cross-departmental meetings, 1 to 1 meetings, all staff events, etc when we need to connect, be more agile and efficient.
We are proud to have a modern office with many collaboration spaces; we implemented any desk policy – so no more designated offices, any colleague can work from anywhere when coming to the office.
We also have many coffee corners where we can meet and talk and an agora meal & coffee – resembling to the public markets in Ancient Greek where public gatherings were held, and people came to eat and socialize.
We have an inspiration room resembling a real library where people can work or read quietly and prepare for important projects and brainstorm when needed. We also use our Recognition room- a room resembling a theatre where we get together in smaller groups to discuss and celebrate results.
We also thought about the overall wellbeing and created a sports and kids’ area where colleagues can just relax or bring their kids from school for a period of time.
- Recent studies show that many employees expect their employer, and business in general, to be a force for good in society. How involved are your employees in your CSR and Sustainability programs and what are you doing to increase this involvement?
We see CSR as being embedded in every decision, action, or initiative that we take and not something separate or put on a wall in a formal, rigid way.
CSR actions are within our daily activity and business – so pretty much every colleague is involved towards having a Positive Impact.
To make it more tangible and easier to relate to for our colleagues we defined 4 pillars of focus: being a Trusted Partner, Having an Impact on Individuals, Impact on Communities, and our Impact on the Environment. We did this also to be able and to prioritize actions to leverage on or accelerate, but also to measure where we are versus our ambitions.
A key differentiator for us is that we want to have a CSR strategy developed by our employees and so we will build an Action team made up from colleagues from all departments, having different perspectives and working together towards our CSR ambitions.
5.Summing up the previous questions and adding own insights which might not have been covered so far, what are the most important trends that HR leaders will focus on in 2023 (and beyond)?
Summing up, I see 2023 as a year that will be focused on employee experience & wellbeing, talent retention and readjusting hybrid work models.
After the pandemic, all social insecurities with the war in Ukraine and now raising inflation, HR professionals and leaders, need to make a top priority out of their benefits policies: these need to take into consideration the mental & physical wellbeing but also the organizational support that is being offered to employees.