Sodexo’s Secret to Attracting Employees Could Fix All Your Talent Problems in 2019

July 22, 2019 by Aley Brown

I’ll cut to the chase.

The unemployment rate right now is making it ROUGH for human resources teams to effectively attract and retain talent.

So rough, that organizations are having to be more creative than ever at recruiting top talent!

I heard a story just yesterday about a recruiter sending pizza with a note written on the inside of the cardboard box to a candidate every day for a week to convince them to interview for a role.

My first thought was: WOW.

Things have changed so much from just seven years ago when I first came into the workforce. I remember friends just trying to get into the door at companies by doing crazy things like taping their resume to the end side of a pizza box. Now, it’s the other way around somehow.


Also, as a quick side-note, how come no one has ever tried to recruit me with pizza?

But anyways, so many creative ideas have come out of this era of talent management because the tight labor market requires recruiters to basically turn into marketers who are tasked with creating campaigns to hire skilled workers.

So how are you supposed to pull this off? (Don’t worry we’re not going to suggest that you use pizza, though it does seem like it may work). To help, let’s take a real life company and see what they’ve done using a common sense approach.

Sodexo: A Case Study

Have you heard of Sodexo? If you haven’t, you’ve still probably interacted with them at some point even without realizing.

Sodexo is a huge corporation that provides both food and facility management to companies across the world. I’ve literally eaten in over 30 Sodexo kitchens in my lifetime. I’m not joking.

So, why are we bringing them up right now? What is there secret sauce that helps them attract and retain talented workers?

Simple: Employee alumni programs.

I’ll say it one more time for the people scrolling who just missed that line.


Let’s start from the beginning.

You’re probably an alumna of some school. This means you likely get emails from your school’s alumni association. I know I do. They often send full of career advice and tips on jobs that I might be interested in. I also go to their events and network with other alumni members.

Well, an employee alumni program is pretty much the same thing. But for people previously employed by your company.


I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone join one of these? When employees leave aren’t they usually displeased with the company? Or, if they aren’t, don’t they simply put the company in the past and move on?

While that can happen, more often than not employees are leaving because somewhere else had a better career development opportunity, a higher salary, or a better commute time for them. Or they could of had a life event that caused them to need to take some time off.

It may have had nothing to do with their day-to-day job at the organization. Everyone’s different, after all.

And who’s to say that once a position opens up at the appropriate level, or when a child get’s over an illness, that they wouldn’t want to come back?

Sodexo’s alumni program, dubbed Reconnexions, is proof of just that. Let’s dig into that a big more:

Boomerang Employees: So Hot Right Now

Boomerang employees are employees that leave your organization, then, obviously, come back.

They are an amazing source of talent for your recruiters because they already know what your company is about and they are actively seeking to come back. Why wouldn’t you want to rehire a worker who knows how the job workers, already has a connection to the staff (probably where the program’s name comes from), and can hop right into work?

Sodexo has found that their boomerang employees have a 44% higher retention rate than when compared to other sources.


See, now that is something to write home about!

So, an alumni program’s real goal is to nurture departing employees so that they can become an impactful stream of candidates in the future.

Another stat that will blow your mind? 20% of Sodexo’s hires are from their alumni program. That’s an amazing result. Not only does this help them save money on training and things like that, but it helps them defeat the labor market no matter how tight it is.

In other words, this simple, common sense program can work wonders.

Tips on How to Make an Amazing Employee Alumni Group

If you’re sold on starting an employee alumni group, here are some tips to make sure it’s successful:

  • Like any other online community, there has to be an incentive for members to join. And “having the opportunity to work for your company again” is just not good enough. Develop a networking platform that allows members to interact with each other, and provide regularly occurring development resources like blogs, webinars, or events.
  • Have a great tracking system in place, so that you can measure the success of your alumni program. Work with a developer to integrate it into your ATS.
  • Send out emails to the community on a regular basis so that they stay engaged with all of the content and your company.
  • When a boomerang employee reapplies, have a structured process mapped out as to how their candidate experience will be different.
  • Make sure that your employees are the type of professionals who would benefit from this type of program. For example, traveling nurses might not be the best fit. But call center workers located in Phoenix, AZ might be perfect!
  • Also, be cognizant of the different types of employees you have and what their distinctive needs might be. Use this to segment. For example, you can create an alumni program for all of your directors or above, and then another group for truck drivers in the field where you can cater to the different community needs in each.

The Key Takeaways

The biggest takeaway here is that there are many different, creative ways to beat the tight labor market and attract great talent. One of the best ways is to look at talent pools that other companies are ignoring, such as previous employees.

Sodexo is a prime example of how previous employees can boomerang back to an organization, bringing with them the skills and training that they learned in the past.

To do this, they created an alumni program that works a bit like college associations. This community provides a pool of people who may come back to the company if they should choose to.

With this program, Sodexo has been able to defeat the tight labor market and reduce their hiring costs.

Aley Brown

Aley Brown

Aley is a versatile global business leader with proven experience managing high-performing teams and engaging a data-driven approach to strategies that exceed company objectives.

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