Meet the Experts Raising the Bar for the Energy Industry: Kathy Whitlow

Over 10 years of industry experience
Supported over 150 sites across Sodexo's 9 US segments
Achieved between $10k to $1M in cost savings for clients

At Sodexo, our leadership begins with a team of experts who are continually driving up service standards, maintaining a focus on safety and ensuring business continuity even in the harshest conditions and environments. Kathy Whitlow, Subject Matter Expert for Facilities Services at Sodexo, North America brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding to the energy industry. Whitlow has supported over 150 sites across Sodexo’s various segments, including energy and resources, healthcare, education, sports and entertainment, and senior living. During her time at Sodexo, Whitlow has helped clients realize anywhere from $10K to $1M in cost savings, depending on variables in contracts, services and capabilities.

We spoke with Whitlow, drawing on her expertise in the field, to gain insight into current challenges facing the energy industry and to learn more about what it takes to design solutions that exceed client expectations.

Interviewer: Can you describe your current role as a Subject Matter Expert for Facilities Services at Sodexo?

Kathy Whitlow: I’ve worked in this specific industry for a decade as a Subject Matter Expert. At Sodexo, I’ve had the pleasure of working in different business segments, which helps bring best practices across the board – from the manufacturing sector, to the pharma and life sciences sector, to the corporate sector.

I spend a lot of time in the world of energy and resources. I’ve worked to support various sites for this sector, from corporate HQ sites, to mining camps throughout Canada and the US. I’ve also worked extensively within refinery and offshore settings. I supported offshore rigs through all the complexities that COVID-19 brought.

Interviewer: What are the major challenges facing the energy and resources industry?

Kathy Whitlow: The biggest challenge we’re facing right now is labor. Often, sites specific to energy and resources are not located in highly populated areas. Procuring and retaining labor can be quite difficult. We’re taking a closer look into employee benefits and retirement packages as big motivators.

My main focus is our frontline employees. I work on providing them with innovative equipment so that they don’t go home exhausted. We’re doing a better job at using equipment to clean, and this is helping alleviate burnout, resulting in long-term, happier employees.

Interviewer: With labor being the biggest challenge, how are we working to recruit the right talent?

Kathy Whitlow: Our HR team studies the living wages for the particular areas we work in. When we look for employees, we want to be sure that we’re paying them a living wage. If they’re full-time employees, we offer them benefits from day one of being hired. And once we bring people on board, we provide them with the proper resources. We’ve found a lot of value in dedicating time to effective training. Effective training leads to better rates of retention.

It’s important to us to find the right employees up-front. And our goal is to ensure their safety and comfort through proper training and the right equipment. It’s a process, but one of our priorities is having the lowest rate of turnover. And I think we can attest to our low turnover rates.

Interviewer: What services and solutions have clients found most helpful? 

Kathy Whitlow: We know that one of the most significant pain points for our clients is labor. If I can come in with innovative equipment to alleviate that need, that strikes a chord with most clients. We introduce them to automated machines like floor scrubbers and vacuums. At Sodexo, we have a vast knowledge of the equipment available, along with the scale to purchase top-of-the-line technology. That’s how we bring value to our clients’ tables. And our clients are able to leverage our internal site management systems for a better understanding of our quality level rate, our inspection reports and our training reports. We want to prove that we’re walking the talk.

Interviewer: You work across different segments and industries within Sodexo. Does your cross-segment knowledge give you a unique perspective that you’re able to bring to your role as a Subject Matter Expert for Energy and Resources?  

Kathy Whitlow: I think my cross-segment knowledge is one of the most valuable things I have to offer. For example, I’m able to pull from my best practices from our hospital sites to ensure we’re properly cleaning the first-aid stations and nurses’ clinics at our refineries. I’m able to use the knowledge I’ve gained from our operations in hospitals, universities and senior living communities to ensure that we’re using the proper chemicals and cleaning frequencies in refineries and offshore settings.  

Interviewer: What are the different reporting facets of the site management tool that clients may find valuable?

Kathy Whitlow: Our site management system — a proprietary tool of Sodexo — is rather robust, equipped with 26 different tools. We use some or all of these tools to track and develop our KPIs. We fine-tune our inspections, which can be specific to certain sites, to achieve the ratings we’ve agreed upon with our clients. We also track safety with our KPIs. We’re able to track our subcontractors and even their subcontractors to ensure that our client’s needs are met. The site management system also allows us to do risk assessments, for example, before and after hurricanes and storms.

I worked to implement technology at their sites that would make cleaning more efficient while keeping their labor costs down. As a result, we were significantly lower in labor than the estimates our clients had initially anticipated. They were very surprised to find that we were able to reduce labor by adding equipment.

Interested in learning more about how we’re driving up service standards in the energy industry? Ask us today.