Sodexo Mentoring Case Study

A Best-in-Class Mentoring Program

Food services and facilities management company Sodexo is known as the world leader in Quality of Life services. They are also known for their commitment to diversity and mentoring.

In 2004, Sodexo started their Spirit of Mentoring program in support of their diversity and inclusion efforts. They wanted to increase the number of women, women of color, and minorities in operations (food and facilities) who were promoted within the company. They met these goals, and then some. They extended their program goals over the years to now include:

  • Enhancing employee engagement, retention, and promotions
  • Facilitating cross-segment talent sharing
  • Honing cross-cultural skills

Spirit of Mentoring

Sodexo Spirit of MentoringWhen Sodexo began their mentoring program in 2004, they started as most companies do with a hand-matched, manually run system. Their program was a success, and as a result, more and more employees wanted to take part in mentoring. To accommodate this growth, Sodexo made the leap from manually running their program to using River mentoring software in 2009…and they’re still going strong.

Now in its fourteenth year, the Spirit of Mentoring program leverages highly structured formal mentoring programs, as well as more informal mentoring. It includes:

  • IMPACT: Sodexo’s acclaimed formal mentoring program that connects high-potential managers with senior leaders cross-culturally and across business lines in paired relationships that last 12 months.
  • LEAD Mentoring Circles: A formal mentoring opportunity tied to leadership training, designed to accelerate the promotional rate for women and minorities with profit and loss responsibility in the U.S.
  • LIFT: A formal mentoring program for frontline employees.
  • Peer2Peer Mentoring: An informal mentoring program through Sodexo’s Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs).
  • Self-directed: Sodexo offers all employees access to River’s web-based mentoring platform for informal mentoring, where individuals can initiate one-to-one or group mentoring engagements.

Sodexo’s mentoring initiatives take advantage of many forms of mentoring, such as traditional, reverse and peer. The informal programs are growing rapidly through a number of global efforts, some of which are cross-country and cross-cultural connections using reverse mentoring through their SWIFt task force that focuses on gender balance. In fact, Sodexo launched a global mentoring roundtable in 2016 in support of various countries where employees are actively launching their own mentoring programs. This roundtable meets quarterly to encourage synergy among the various mentoring activities around the globe. There are 11 members from 9 global regions. The roundtable creates a sense of community and a support mechanism to:

  • share best practices and ask questions
  • help sustain/grow mentoring programs


Brandon Hall Group Gold Mentoring AwardSpirit of Mentoring is helping Sodexo achieve their organizational goals for building a more diverse workforce and employee pipeline. A repeat DiversityInc. honoree, Sodexo was ranked #6 on DiversityInc.’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2017. They were also ranked #15 on a separate list by DiversityInc. for their mentoring program.

Results from multiple areas of the Spirit of Mentoring initiative provide compelling evidence for how to successfully run a mentoring program. These results also helped Sodexo and River win a 2017 gold Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Leadership Development Awardin the category of Best Advance in Coaching and Mentoring.

For example, the IMPACT program showed a strong return on investment, with $2 saved for every $1 spent. The IMPACT program also reported a:

  • 10% increase in promotional rates for women in the program compared to the general managerial population
  • 5% increase in promotional rates for minorities
  • 4% increase in promotional rates for women of color


“IMPACT has grown from 45 partnerships in 2004 to more than 150 partnerships over the past several years. It is a highly acclaimed program that has a waiting list to join and which has become a differentiator for us as an employer. The model that we built for IMPACT with our U.S.-based employees has been well received by the entire organization, with our framework expanding for use globally within Sodexo in 2009,”says Laura Antal, Sr. Manager of Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives at Sodexo.

Additional metrics from IMPACT participants show:

  • 96% feel IMPACT is a worthwhile career investment
  • 98% of mentees reported enhanced job performance
  • 90% of mentees and 78% of mentors are more engaged
  • 80% of mentors enhanced their cross-divisional knowledge
  • 70% of mentees gained confidence

Year after year, in the final surveys that participants complete as the IMPACT year closes, mentees often speak of their:

  • enhanced ability to think strategically (69%)
  • enhanced overall leadership skills (69%)
  • improved ability to lead change (64%)
  • increased networking and building of strategic relationships (63%)

Mentors consistently find value as well, reporting that mentoring leads to:

  • stronger interpersonal relationship skills (54%)
  • enhanced cross-segment knowledge of the industry (50%)
  • increased ability to develop their employees and teams (50%)
  • improved networking and strategic relationships (50%)

Laura Antal“As the appetite and demand for mentoring continued to increase among our employees, we launched additional formal and informal mentoring programs to bring this critical practice to more Sodexo employees. From our formal LIFT Frontline Mentoring initiative and formal Mentoring Circles program, to our more informal Peer2Peer and self-directed mentoring initiatives, we have built a robust mentoring program under our Spirit of Mentoring umbrella that offers something for everyone when it comes to mentoring,” says Antal. “We’ve also seen this demand grow outside of our U.S. operations. In 2015 we launched a global mentoring roundtable in support of Sodexo branches in various countries who are actively launching their own mentoring programs.”

LIFT, the formal frontline employee program, began in 2013, has aided 130 participants, and has had a positive impact on retention and promotion of employees.

  • 92% employee retention rate
  • 9 promotions including:
    • 4 from hourly to supervisory/lead
    • 1 cross-divisional
    • 2 from hourly to culinary (cook)
    • 2 to management to executive chef/manager
  • >75% of mentors report mentees’ overall job performance has improved as a result of mentoring experience

“LIFT has helped people transition within Sodexo through transfers, promotions, and job classification changes,” says Antal. “But some of the greatest results can be seen in the participants’ own words.”

LIFT participants said:

  • I was able to get a promotion before finishing the program.
  • My mentee’s overall work ethic has changed to positive role model.
  • Both mentees at my location were promoted while in the mentoring program.
  • I think anyone in a leadership position should get their frontline employees involved in this. It is a huge eye opener and can only make us better leaders.
  • This program was key in the progress I have made in my career and toward my future career goals. It has given me the confidence to apply for job positions, and competitions that I would never have tried before.
  • I would strongly recommend this program to anyone who’s trying to get to the next level in their career.

Mentoring CirclesLEAD Mentoring Circles, Sodexo’s formal mentoring opportunity tied to leadership training, launched in 2016. While Antal points out that it is early days still for this program, Sodexo has already seen a 33% promotion rate among participants.“We conducted a mid-point (6-month) survey for which we had a 100% response rate. Not only did everyone respond to the survey, but everyone agreed that the mentoring circle demonstrated Sodexo’s commitment to career development and that they were a worthwhile investment,” says Antal. Among mentees, the results also showed that:

  • 83% developed a greater appreciation of cross-functional/cross-segment challenges
  • 66% enhanced their relationship building skills
  • 62% feel more connected to the organization
  • 59% enhanced their communication skills
  • 55% are better able to give and receive constructive feedback
  • 52% expanded their knowledge of the business

A sampling of the comments from mentees who are participating in LEAD Mentoring Circles:

  • This is the best mentoring program that I have participated in. I have really gained confidence while working with my group.
  • The program is a great start for learning in a virtual environment.
  • A strong indicator of how the company values its employees.
  • I was doubtful at first when my DM and Senior GM suggested that I participate. What I gained is a network of professionals within Sodexo who are high performing leaders. My 1:1 and group sessions have challenged me to sharpen as a leader. I have two incredible and exceptional Mentors that I can’t wait to connect because every call is like having my own coach.
  • This program is a good tool for cross-development of leaders.

Global Mentoring ProgramSince its inception in 2004, the Spirit of Mentoring program at Sodexo has opened up the wonderful practice of mentoring to thousands of employees. Through both formal and informal programs, Spirit of Mentoring has provided a 2:1 ROI, helped women and minorities gain promotions, created a more engaged and confident workforce, broken down silos across divisions and departments, built a foundation for cross-cultural connections and networking, grown the skills and job prospects of frontline employees, and created an impressive mentoring culture around the world.

“Sodexo’s mentoring culture was not built in a day and was a focus early on in our diversity and inclusion efforts. Our Spirit of Mentoring program has evolved and grown over the years, particularly as our team responds to changing employee demands and employee development best practices,” says Antal. “One thing we hear from people at all levels in the organization is that their mentoring relationships have had a tremendous, positive impact on their lives, whether professionally or personally. Our goal is to continue to improve the quality of life for our employees through this enriching culture of mentoring.”

Spirit of Mentoring at Sodexo provides a phenomenal example of how to successfully run, manage, and scale a global mentoring program.


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