On April 28th Talent Rewire hosted a Community Conversation with Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company, about how they’ve utilized their equity and inclusion practices to support frontline employees of color both before and during COVID-19. For a deeper dive on the work Sodexo is doing to support and advance their frontline employees and learn how your company can do the same, we invite you to read the recent FSG and PolicyLink report, Advancing Frontline Employees of Color. Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
1. Equity and Inclusion Efforts Provide a Strong Foundation for Resilience
Sodexo’s practices were forward-thinking in a pre-COVID-19 world but in a post-COVID-19 world they laid a foundation allowing them to adapt quickly. Take their approach to frontline managers – a key stakeholder in any company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Jodi Davidson, Vice President of Global Diversity & Inclusion, shared Sodexo’s intentional approach to ensure their managers have the skills to communicate effectively with frontline employees and have access to training to increase empathy and understanding as mentors. Yes, skills for diversity and inclusion efforts, but also critical skills to leverage in a crisis, particularly when the news changes every day.
2. Redeployment is a Real Alternative to Job Loss
The reality is that Sodexo’s business is being hit hard and unevenly in this moment. Frontline employees are desperately needed to serve food in hospitals and assisted living facilities, but less so in schools and airport lounges. Sodexo’s commitment to their frontline employees translated to a desire to mitigate job loss. As a result, Sodexo has redeployed employees to segments needing extra capacity and leveraged partnerships with other employers needing labor, including Amazon, Unilever, and PepsiCo. This type of movement allows for interesting opportunities for reskilling and cross-training for frontline employees.
3. Culture and Inclusion are Always Important
We have a tendency to put culture and inclusion efforts on the back burner in moments of crisis, but as Jodi shared, “Inclusion never stops. We have an obligation to help individuals feel they belong – because they do belong – and that ultimately enables people to fully contribute to an organization.”
COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on the inequitable experience of people working in this country. People of color are disproportionately represented in America’s frontline workforce, putting this population at greater health risk and greater risk of job loss. There is no going back. We need to have the courage to create a new future in partnership with essential workers in this country. It’s time to dream big and fight for that dream. If you need inspiration on where to start, check out the Opportunity Navigator to help assess your policies and practices for frontline employees.