State of DEI in 2023

Tracey Jenkins, SVP of HR at Sodexo Live! North America, reveals her company's DEI strategy

Employers may be cooling off on their efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

DEI currently ranks sixth in HR priorities, falling one level in each of the past two years, according to recent research from McLean & Company. That may be exacerbated by companies looking to trim budgets ahead of an anticipated recession.

In this interview with HRD TV, Tracey Jenkins, senior vice president of HR at Sodexo Live! North America, discusses the state of DEI in 2023.

To view full transcript, please click here

 John: Welcome to HRDTV. I'm John Corrigan with HRD America. And today, I'm joined by Tracey Jenkins, senior vice president of HR at Sodexo Live, North America. Today, we'll be discussing the state of DEI in 2023. Tracey, thanks for joining me. How are you? 

Tracey: I'm great. It's my pleasure to join you. John, Thank you. 

John: Well, let's get right into it. First things first. What is Sodexo's diversity, equity and inclusion strategy this year? 

Tracey: Well, you know, we're very fortunate to be a part of a company that's had a long legacy around DE&I over the past 20 plus years. It's been at the forefront of just about everything we do. As we rolled out our employee value proposition. One of the tenets is around having a sense of belonging, and that belonging is really based on being able to be your whole self or your true self at work and being able to be a part of something bigger. DE&I is at the heart of what we do. It is measured. It is a part of our compensation from a bonus perspective. And we have a couple of things that we do here. I think it's fairly unique. We have something called Diversity Learning Labs, which give our managers and our employees an opportunity to learn about different facets of diversity. And it's something we ask all managers to take at least one course a year in our business. This year, we're also doing something a little bit different. We're asking our leaders to think about how they can impact DE&I and their local community. Case in point is one of our venues in Chicago. The team is working together to do things like celebrate different ethnic backgrounds from a food perspective or from a culture perspective. And they're sharing and they're teaching each other about different parts of DE&I around gender, gender equality, around all sorts of things. And that's really been rich. And that's something, again, that we'll measure at the beginning or at the end of the year. So we're really excited that people have taken upon themselves to think about how they enrich their local community in addition to taking some of the diversity learning lab courses. We also at Sodexo launched a program called She Leads, which is an opportunity to identify some of our female leaders and give them a nine month immersion program. It's a global program, and it's an opportunity to hear from leaders around the world, to partner with local leaders in the region and get an opportunity to just network and really build that sense of pride. You know, Sodexo has a goal of having at least 40% of our leaders be women, 40% or more of our leaders being women by 2025. So we're on the road to do that and we're doing some, I think, really exciting things around DE&I. 

John: Something that you mentioned, I want to touch back on this idea of compensation in the form of bonuses. Could you discuss that a little bit more? 

Tracey: Sure. Our bonus program has a number of different KPIs. One of those KPIs is around DE&I, and I think what gets measured gets done, and it has been a part of our bonus program for many years. But I highlight it because I know DE&I is such a hot topic and a lot of companies are thinking about how do we implement it in our companies. And I think, again, the opportunity to really bring that forward and share that, that is indeed something that we hold very near and dear. And it's important to us. And, you know, we go back each and every year in our objectives and you have to talk about what you've done around DE&I. We give guidelines at the beginning of the year, and that's really a part of the measurement. But I think it's exciting and it really holds people accountable. 

John: Excellent. Now that we know how well Sodexo is doing in terms of DEI, what are your thoughts on the rest of corporate American? 

Tracey: Yeah, and I've talked to a number of my colleagues who are implementing programs for the very first time. We've had the good fortune again of having done this for many years and getting awards for it. You know, I think it's really something that a company needs to think about from their mission, their their values perspective, how and what they do. You know, I think with all of the social unrest a couple of years ago around George Floyd and this awakening that we had around DE&I, each company needs to decide how they want to integrate it, tackle the issues within. You know, we're very fortunate here. And one of the things I recommend to peers who reach out is we have nine EBRGs or resource groups that really are affinity groups for various aspects of of diversity. And that's one step that companies could take is giving employees the opportunity to come together, coalesce around race or gender or veteran status, or maybe it's gen, you know, your younger generation coming together as affinity group. So that could be a first step. And then, of course, many are going out and hiring a leader who can help frame and develop a strategy that is really aligned to the business objectives of a company. So there's a number of things that can be done. But I think taking those small steps and really making it true to your your particular company's culture and mission is really what needs to happen. 

John: That is some great advice for leaders and HR leaders who are struggling right now. And we know that many are because of this phenomenon known as diversity fatigue, where it seems that HR leaders are trying to follow the orders of senior management and CEOs, but maybe they're not getting the support or resources that they need. I have two questions for you. Number one, are you seeing this trend of diversity fatigue? And number two, what advice do you have for HR leaders in terms of combating it or even preventing it? 

Tracey: Yes, it's a great question. And I actually just talked to someone who's experiencing that in their organization. I think, again, we have the good fortune of having a legacy here of doing this for some time. And that's part of the reason why I decided this year to kind of mix things up a little bit and say instead of taking two of our diversity learning lab courses, I said, you know, we'll do one learning opportunity, but let's find a way to make DE&I stick in your local community or at your local venue trying to tie it to something you would do each and every day in your daily work and not make it a requirement or a compliance course, if you will. The one thing I don't want is for any of our employees to feel like this is compliance training, because it's not. There's just such a rich opportunity to do that. But I would say really understand and know your company culture and figure out what works best for you, because something that works really well here at Sodexo may not work well at another company and, you know, be be true to yourself and say we may have to take baby steps to get there, that we can't do it overnight, that we've got to be methodical about this and maybe do something small. Year one and year two, we'll take an incremental step and then build upon it. And I think you have a better opportunity to make it stick and not make it feel like it's some sort of fatigue or there's a requirement that that seems over burdensome. 

John: Well, that is excellent news and such great advice for HR leaders and DEI leaders who are struggling. Tracey, thank you so much for taking the time today to share your insight in. 

Tracey: My pleasure and good luck. 

John: And thank you everyone, for watching. This has been another episode of HRD TV.