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Guest Post: @SValderrama: Snr Director Talent Acquisition Sodexo #truAmsterdam


It’s great to welcome @SValderrama, the Senior Director for Talent Acquisition at Sodexo USA to #truAmsterdam. Sherrie will be sharing the impressive Sodexo case study, talking about real world practice and leading a track on internal sourcing and mobility programs.
These are Sherries thoughts:

I am a huge believer in the power of failure—not the small little failures we all experience day-to-day, like not brewing the perfect cup of coffee to start the morning with a clear brain, or overcooking the salmon that you always make perfectly until the night that you are entertaining.  I am referring to big failures—colossal failures—of the type that Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” might call “big, hairy and audacious”.

What do I mean by the “power of failure”? Early in my professional career (in my pre-Sodexo days), I was fortunate to experience one monumental failure that totally transformed my outlook on talent.  Although I still cringe when I recall the failure, what I learned was that if you can face the failure head on, it is almost always a gift in disguise because it can lead you to embrace change.

My “big, hairy, audacious” failure was to take the internal talent pool for granted in the midst of a competitive bid for a major contract.  The cost?  The contract, along with our top employee, went to our competitor. My gift?  An enduring conviction that talent acquisition leaders must not only have an aggressive external strategy to source, attract and recruit top talent, we must also recognize that from the moment top talent joins our company, we play a key role in engagement and retention. If we view our top employees as a highly prized “talent pool”, and continually engage and “recruit” from that pool, we can contribute more to the retention of top, high potential employees than just about any other company initiative, and avoid the failure of losing our top talent to our competitors.

Which brings me to the topic that I hope to discuss at #truAmsterdam—why do so many companies fail to retain their top employees?  We know there may be many different reasons why a high performer decides to leave a company, but when the exit interviews indicate lack of promotional opportunity, to me, this is probably the # 1 failure of any company. How can we, as talent acquisition leaders, take this failure, learn from it, and find success?

Especially when you consider the trends that are impacting the current and future labor markets, the stakes could not be higher:

  • Demographic trends: declining birth rates + aging workforce = shrinking talent pool
  • Education trends: large high school drop out rates + declining college graduation rates for Gen Y students = major skills gap

For companies like Sodexo, with huge growth goals and the need for highly skilled talent, these two trends require a full-fledged strategy that leverages all of the many external sourcing venues, and also engages and retains our top internal employees, recognizing they are a key talent pool to fuel our growth.

So although we have a very robust strategy that focuses on external talent—sourcing, attracting, and hiring top employees through a mixture of aggressive sourcing, leveraging technology, being a leader in social media, building robust talent communities, etc, we  also know that to focus talent acquisition solely externally would be a monumental failure for our company.

Just because it makes all of the business sense in the world, doesn’t mean it is easy. In most companies, there are lots of barriers that prevent internal sourcing and to be successful, you need to be able to identify those barriers and find ways to push through. At Sodexo, we have been sourcing internally for a few years now, and we now have a full-fledged internal mobility initiative that focuses in on “recruiting” our own employees for the next steps in their careers—not only for opportunities in the US, but for all of the 80 countries where Sodexo has operations. We have also deployed our executive recruiters to focus on helping our high potentials prepare for their next step by providing one-on-one career coaching. Our hope is that we never find our hippos in an exit interview saying “but I was not aware of opportunities.”

I look forward to #truAmsterdam next week to share some of the Sodexo experience, and learn more about approaches you have tried in your organizations.

Theres a few tickets left for #truAmsterdam next week. You can get one HERE

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