Fostering employee recognition to boost engagement

Published on October 09, 2017

Mia Mends, Sodexo CEO at Inspirus and Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, USA chimes in on creating a positive employee experience.

Mia MendsEmployee engagement seems to be plummeting in the modern workplace. What can be done to turn this around?

Mia Mends: There is a lot of talk about employee engagement – which is how employers measure the strength of relationships between people and the companies they work for. While this is really important, we consider this an outcome. At Sodexo, we believe that companies need to focus on the input, which is the employee experience. Focusing on improving the actual experiences that employees have on a daily basis is the most effective and organic way to build trust and loyalty and ultimately boost engagement.

Can you describe some of the major trends impacting the employee experience?

M.M.: There is an important issue about the use of technology. For a very long time companies focused on creating simple solutions that were easy to roll out and scale; the downside being that solutions ended up looking very impersonal and did not engage employees in deeper, meaningful ways. In order to be successful, companies need to strive for authenticity and remember that the employee experience is not about a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather individual, unique experiences. Technology now allows us to create enhanced user experiences with tools that are accessible anywhere and anytime.

What is Sodexo’s answer to this challenge?

M.M.: We set out to create an engagement strategy that can be customized and adapted to the needs of each and every employee. Our ‘Inspirus’ employee engagement platform is transforming the employee experience – from hiring to onboarding, training, development, recognition, safety and health in the workplace. The platform allows for an exchange among employees – with a focus on everyday recognition. It includes safety programs, service anniversaries, milestone programs, learning programs and health and well-being – all in one simple user experience, through mobile technology.

One global study has revealed that recognition is considered the most important engagement factor for employees. How does the Inspirus Platform take this into account?

M.M.: Recognition is vital for productivity and motivation. With our mobile app, employees can praise fellow colleagues for a job well done, for instance with “thank you” messages that can be liked and shared. Saying thank you reinforces behavior. It’s the simplest concept that has the ability to transform how people see themselves in the context of an organization.

At the same time, it also showcases employees who are having a positive impact in the workplace. It gives management visibility and ultimately creates an information flow that can be part of the management system.

Can you share a success story?

M.M.: Southwest Airlines is an iconic brand synonymous with employee satisfaction and engagement. They came to us to create an impactful recognition program. We have created a customized platform called SWAG — SouthWest Airlines Gratitude — through which employees can send and receive ‘recognition points’ and managers monitor participation.

The whole system promotes a very culture of recognition. And four years after its launching, the platform has a 95% participation rate. This is incredible, seeing as 30% is considered good and most companies aim for 50-60%.


Read Mia Mends' full biography.

Mia Mends will participate on the Panel Discussion focused on Corporate Employees: “What It Takes to Unlock Employee Engagement” that will take place on October 16, 2017, at 4:15 pm London Time.