Get into the CSR Game with a Low Cost, Low Risk & High Impact Activity

By Leslie Bennett & Elizabeth Dove

In our pursuit of finding organizations that have corporate culture alignment and lead from profit with purpose, we had an opportunity to speak with Chris Roberts, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Sodexo Canada.

But first what is Corporate Culture Alignment?

Over 70% of organizations today do not have any real alignment between their corporate culture and their business strategies. As a result, these companies typically struggle to make strategic headway in their businesses. Something is not quite right. Moving forward is harder than it seems it should be.

When corporate cultural alignment exists, employees of the company all speak from the same resonant values and purpose. They operate in peer-to-peer partnerships based on honour and trust. They experience the sense of being supported, of not spinning their wheels, and of finding efficiency and innovation more easily.

Incredibly, key performance indicators can increase by 300-500% when organizations focus on the three key ingredients of alignment: strategy, structure and culture.

  • Strategy: your offerings to the market and the driver of your success or failure.
  • Structure: how you organize people and make decisions so that your organization can fulfill on its strategy.
  • Culture: unwritten rules that govern behavior. People operating from shared values in pursuit of a common and noble purpose.

Simply put, Corporate Culture Alignment is focusing on and creating coherence between strategy, structure and culture. When Corporate Culture Alignment is achieved, companies experience exponential performance increases.

At Open Spaces Learning we are committed to bringing our clients best practices and examples of leaders in the private sector who can share their knowledge, insights and challenges so we can all learn how to lead from profit with purpose.

Sodexo on Culture

Since its beginning (1966) in France; Sodexo had its eye on three areas: organic growth (of the business), a client-centered approach and a unique company culture shared by all of their employees.  During our conversation we focused on the culture and its commitment to taking care of people, the environment and the communities in which Sodexo does business.

Within seconds of speaking with Chris Roberts, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Sodexo Canada, he started speaking from Sodexo values, namely:

  • Service Spirit
  • Team Spirit
  • Spirit of Progress

When corporate cultural alignment is present, people speak from their heart in a way that is authentic and engaging.  This is what it was like to talk to Mr. Roberts. One of the values we were struck by was that of team spirit. Sodexo Canada has a highly engaged workforce but what was more profound for us was that the value of team spirit extends beyond the walls of the Sodexo offices. For its Feeding Our Future initiative, Sodexo Canada has hundreds of community partners. It was remarkable to us how Mr. Roberts knew so many of the details of the challenges of such external partners – indicative of the attention being on their partners, not on Sodexo – consistent with a culture that embodies team spirit.

Sodexo on Strategy  

With the odds against most organizations to successfully fulfill on their strategies (70% of all business strategies fail because the culture of the organization is not pulling for it), we were delighted to hear the ways Sodexo extends their strategy to take care of the communities they serve as well as to their employees.

One example we discussed was Sodexo’s Heroes of Everyday Life program. It celebrates their employees who do have exceptional volunteer commitments to any hunger projects, not only to Sodexo’s own initiatives.  They have noticed this initiative and others focused on employee recognition has increased overall employee engagement.  The Heroes of Everyday Life has grown from two or three nominations with winner recognition in the form of an email, to today where more than 30 nominations are the norm along with an annual dinner that celebrates the winners and all nominees for their achievements.

Like Sodexo, when companies put their focus on supporting and providing empowerment to things their employees value, often a workforce can be leveraged up to a more collaborative and high performing culture.

Sodexo on Structure

Sodexo listens to their employees instead of having a top down approach. They know that fulfilling on strategies depends on their employees being empowered to take action.

Like most companies, Sodexo does an employee engagement survey on a regular basis. A few years ago, they received the feedback that their benefits package, just wasn’t up to par with industry standards. Other companies could have easily used economic circumstances as reason enough to stay far away from souping up employee benefits. Not Sodexo. And employees have noticed. In a more recent engagement survey, employees cited their satisfaction with the improvements.

Employees that feel listened to are more likely to want to contribute constructively to organizational strategies.

Final Thoughts:

A lot of the success at Sodexo can be attributed to the organization seeing that taking small steps provides the structure and progress towards the outcomes they are committed to:  taking care of people, the environment and the communities in which they do business. One important piece of advice to other companies that want to lead with socially responsible strategies is to start with a low cost, low risk and high impact activity that is aligned with the company’s values and social purpose.