Engaged Employee Communities = Best Practices

Published on : 6/16/22
  • Strong organizations understand that sharing and embracing best practices is fundamental to holistic success. They understand companies thrive when vibrant communities of internal rock stars are actively engaged in helping each other solve problems and exceed goals.  

    Sodexo has a long history of gathering like-minded practitioners to collaborate on shared concerns and passions, forming and growing groups as needs emerge. In that spirit, Sodexo North America recently relaunched its best practices group as the Better Tomorrow Community of Practice (BTC).  

    Fueled by invigorated executive support from our Better Tomorrow Leadership Committee, the group’s mission has expanded from environmental and sustainability topics to broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practices.  

    Meeting virtually, the group is more accessible. It currently has about 200 volunteer members, referred to as Subject Matter Enthusiasts (SMEs), many of whom are district managers, general managers, operators or marketing managers. BTC members receive Better Tomorrow content, share best practices and updates in a quarterly newsletter, participate in focus groups, attend monthly meetings and train quarterly on tangible actions. 

    The gatherings are a highly effective learning tool, says La’Shaune Barker, BTC Co-Chair and Program Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  

    Anyone can lead a focus group to collectively address a challenge or present something that’s working in the field, from achieving green cleaning certification to cutting food waste, conducting sustainability audits to improving employee health. Subject matter experts lead in-depth quarterly trainings, such as a recent session on plant-based eating with sustainability and CSR experts and certified dietitians and nutritionists.

    Communities of practice allow people to learn hands-on, Barker says. You’re learning what works well and what doesn’t from someone in your field.

    Details may differ between business segments and sites, but practices can be adapted. The best ideas can trickle up, down and sideways across segments and functions. 

    It saves time not to have to reinvent the wheel, Barker says. A lot of times we think we’re working in a vacuum. We think we’re working alone to solve a problem for a role or site. You’re not.

    We can share successes and challenges and work collectively toward our shared CSR commitments. The aim is to seamlessly weave best practices into everyday duties. Examples include weighing and tracking food waste, sourcing from local and diverse suppliers as a first option and serving plant-based menu options. 

    A Plant-Based Champion

    Andy Lockwood, General Manager at Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a BTC member whose best practice took center stage at a recent meeting. 

    His employee Energy Reboot Program, promoting plant-based eating, is aligned with Sodexo’s CSR commitments, including improving employee quality of life and reducing carbon emissions. His idea was so successful, he won Sodexo North America’s 2022 #mygreenidea contest.  

    Lockwood created an intensive, eight-week program focused on plant-based eating and mindful practices, such as exercise, meditation and sleep. A Master Wellness instructor, dietitian and physician oversaw the initiative. One hundred and forty client employees received surveys and baseline biometrics for body mass, blood sugar and cholesterol to start. They also received weekly health coaching, a discount on healthy meals, instruction, cooking lessons and questionnaires. Energy level was a major focus. 

    One hundred percent of employees who followed the plant-based diet saw their cholesterol levels drop to a healthy range and every participant lost weight and lowered their blood pressure. The program was so effective, the team extended the concept to the retail environment, creating lower-cost plates with central plant-based items. 

    Participants reported the hands-on cooking lessons made all the difference. One reported, "I have lost 43 pounds on this journey. This program has changed my life. I plan to continue this plan for the rest of my life. I can’t believe healthy food can taste this good.” 

    After Lockwood’s BTC presentation, colleagues clamored for details and the program caught the attention of Sodexo’s global CSR team. It is now under evaluation as a model for a global strategy around employee well-being and healthy eating. For leaders, Lockwood’s exemplary idea illustrated our company commitments coming to life in practice. 

    Big Goals, Big Plans

    The BTC is ambitious. Barker says they want to create a formal Better Tomorrow Champions Network, with incentives for members committed to meeting KPIs. They also want to work with Sodexo’s Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) to welcome more diverse members, presenters and content. 

    She says the new group is already highly engaged and a champions network will promote even more pride, ownership and accountability. I can feel a shift in the culture and energy, she says.  

    Barker reminds us that sharing simple best practices can deliver a powerful impact. She remembers one site that shared its practice of packing heavy, wet food compost in smaller bags to make it easier (and safer) for employees to lift. 

    It was a simple solution that greatly improved employees’ work experience and well-being, she says. Sometimes innovations can be really small and make a powerful impact.

    About the Expert

    La’Shaune Barker is Program Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Sodexo North America. Visit her LinkedIn profile.