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Sodexo exec: Engaged employees help boost productivity

It’s easy these days for employees to worry and become distracted when they are surrounded by news of layoffs and other cost-cutting measures. Now more than ever employers need to step up communication efforts so employees stay engaged and motivated, said Peri Bridger, chief human resources officer for Sodexo, the Gaithersburg, Md.-based foodservice and facilities management firm that has approximately 120,000 employees in more than 6,000 locations. Bridger joined Sodexo 27 years ago as a registered dietitian. She has led the human resources division for the past five years.

Why is employee engagement so important?

Documented studies on engagement show it drives business outcomes. Highly engaged employees talk positively about the organization, they do not think about leaving and they want to come to work and do more. It drives productivity.

How do you measure engagement?

Every two years, we do an engagement survey of our population—15 percent are management and 85 percent are hourly.

What do you learn from the surveys?

Communication has been one of the top three drivers for engagement. They want more communication and they want that communication to be two-way.

How else do you communicate with so many employees in so many different divisions and locations?

Employees first and foremost want to hear from their site manager at each location. Another big focus of our communication is electronically—we have a company intranet and email addresses for employees. We do live interfaces, webinars, teleconferences.

With all this communication, what are employees more interested in learning?

In economic times like these, employees are very interested in hearing from senior leadership—what is the company strategy, where is the company going? No matter what your role is you want to have a good sense of what the company is about, that it is secure and has a focus. They want to know that senior leadership is trustworthy.

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