Sodexo teams have implemented significant initiatives to support people with disabilities worldwide. Discover our focus in France, Italy and the US.
Sodexo employees in the US are driving the change in attitudes towards people with disabilities. The Network SOAR – Sodexo Organization for Disabilities Resources – helps shape diversity and inclusion within the Group and in the communities where it works.
Created in 2008, the SOAR network today has over 570 members across the US. They are individuals from a range of business backgrounds, but all are united by the desire to make working practices more welcoming, inclusive and supportive of people with disabilities. Only 4% of the network identify themselves with a disability – the vast majority are people who may have a connection, through family or friends, to someone with a disability and that’s what inspires them to advocate for others. Despite the commitments of busy day jobs, each SOAR member is very serious about their volunteering and gives about 20 hours a month to the network’s activities. As one volunteer put it, “Reaching out to the organization, we always find the time.”
SOAR volunteers are active in a number of Sodexo programs that aim to make employees more aware of what people with disabilities can bring to the workplace. These include workshops to improve communication, inclusive recruitment strategies, a special Voice training program and peer-to-peer mentoring. SOAR is also active in the community through scholarship programs and partnerships with, amongst others, Veteran networks. In SOAR the focus is on abilities, not disabilities. This ensures that Sodexo continues hiring and promoting the best talents, regardless of their disability status, and that every employee has the right working environment to achieve his or her potential.
Created in 2006, Mission Handicap is dedicated to implementing Sodexo’s policies in favor of people with disabilities in France. It has set up a framework that is key in employing, integrating and retaining people with disabilities. It also has contributed to increasing awareness among Sodexo’s employees. Here is a look at Mission Handicap’s most significant achievements.
Mission Handicap’s primary goal is to promote and facilitate the hiring of people with disabilities: “Aude and I help smooth out the recruiting process,” says Alain. “We match candidates with disabilities to specific recruitment needs, we give managers advice on how to adapt the workplace environment if necessary, and we provide financing if necessary.”
But hiring people with disabilities is only the first step. What matters even more to Alain is keeping them employed. “At Mission Handicap, we spend most of our energy finding solutions to make employment permanent for people with disabilities. And it makes us very proud when we are successful” adds Alain.
“There are over 2,500 Sodexo sites in France, too many for Aude and I alone to cover efficiently,” says Alain. “That is why we decided from the outset to create a Disability Network, comprised of 80 members in all regional management offices. They help us promote our actions locally and achieve our targets.”
All members of the network follow a two-day training program. “Among other things, it increases their understanding of the different types of handicaps and of the workplace challenges people with disabilities face,” says Alain.
“It is critical to have strong and frequent communication around disability and raise employees’ awareness, because if you don’t, the issue is pushed aside,” says Alain. “To do so, we publish on the intranet every three months a newsletter called ‘Lettre Info Handicap’ and we have recently sent a ‘User Manual’ on disability to 22,000 employees in France at their home.
“What Mission Handicap has achieved is real transparency on the topic of disability,” concludes Alain. “Unlike many companies, we do not pretend that disability does not matter or make a difference. The truth is it does! Employees living with a disability often have a positive impact on team spirit and engagement. And strong engagement at every level of the organization is at the core of the Mission Handicap”.
Our work with the municipality of Morbegno in Italy
Sodexo has been working with the Italian municipality of Morbegno in the Lombardy region since 2007. The contract was initially won thanks to Sodexo’s strong commitments in favor of people with disabilities; it was renewed in 2012 and extended for a further 4 years. Alessandra Saligari, Sodexo’s Site Manager in Morbegno since the start of the contract, tells us more.
“We manage the food services for all six kindergarten and primary schools of the Morbegno municipality where we serve 600 meals every week day. Out of the 30 people in our team today, 12 of them live with a disability, some mental and some physical; there were 8 when we started, but we welcomed 4 more in the last two years. Their responsibilities include setting the tables, distributing the meals, cleaning the tables and dishwashing.”
“They work among the pupils who accept them as they are. It is actually interesting to see that young children have an open mind about it; they hold no preconceived ideas, so to them it is not an issue. Conversely, it is quite important for workers with disabilities to help the children, as it makes them feel more valued.”
“Last year, a special educator joined my team to help me evaluate the work of our employees with disabilities. It is critical we do our best to make them feel part of the teams. We collaborate closely with the social services of the municipality, and thanks to this partnership, we have won an award in 2011 from the Sodalitas Foundation, a reference in Italy about sustainability and social responsibility. Our team and I are particularly proud of this distinction; it is proof that we are doing something valuable for the Morbegno community and for all our employees.”
Sean Callaghan manages a team of four persons with disabilities in Canada.
Key figures on Disabilities
For Sodexo, diversity and inclusion are priorities. They represent a competitive advantage as well as a business imperative.
Read our Global Inclusion News (Dec. 2012)