Sodexo Uses Social Media in Recruiting Hospitality Professionals

A number of weeks ago I met Kerry Noone, Marketing Communications Manager for Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition Group over Twitter. While I do not remember the context of the original dialogue, we’ve chatted at length about Sodexo’s use of social media – especially in recruiting top talent for their organization. Kerry has over 3,000 followers on Twitter and 228 on Facebook.

Sodexo recognized the proposition value of using social media in recruiting in 2007, more than tripling the traffic to their career website. Perhaps the strongest statement from dialoguing with Kerry is this – “In order for a company of any size to use social media successfully for recruiting they have to be consistent, honest, genuine and, most importantly, they have to be responsive. We respond to every wall post or discussion question related to the culture and experience of working for Sodexo because we want potential candidates to know there are real people ready to help.”

The formal interview is here:

When and how did Sodexo see the ROI and value of using social media as a platform for recruiting top professionals?

Sodexo’s Talent Acquisition team set out to create positive experiences for our candidates through Social Media marketing in 2007, which in turn has helped us to strengthen our employment brand and drive traffic to our Careers website. Soon after we started using social media marketing, we more than tripled traffic to our career site and these tools have helped us reduce our investment and reliance on job boards. If there is a number to track, we track it. We look at the number of Facebook members, LinkedIn group members, Twitter followers, YouTube video views, returning and unique visitors to our blog, click throughs on the links, trendlines, etc.

Other tangible results include :

· Increased traffic to Sodexo Careers web page of 182% since launch of our initiative

· Sodexo Careers social media properties provide approximately 142,000 page views and more than 5 million media impressions per year

· Sodexo Careers Blog: The blog site has been visited over 22,000 times since it’s launch and now receives about 3000 unique visitors per month

· Sodexo Careers Facebook fan page now has over 1200 fans and receives more than 4000 page views per month.

· Sodexo Careers LinkedIn group has almost 1400 members and over 100 discussions have been started or commented on by our members.

· YouTube – over 60,000 video views since the launch of the channel in 2008.

· Sodexo Careers on Twitter has more than 3000 followers.

· More than 50 members of our recruitment team and several other Sodexo employees are active on twitter, greatly expanding the reach of our brand and helping to grow the targeted talent networks that will fill our positions.

How long and how complicated of an assessment process was it for Sodexo to arrive at a decision to use social media in human resourcing?

Even before participating in the first Second Life Virtual Careers Fairs with Sodexo in May 2007, we realized the future of recruiting would include online social spaces. We saw an opportunity to use Social Media marketing to audit our brand, participate in conversations, increase our positive footprint on the internet and to build personal relationships with potential candidates and current employees. In November 2007, we created our Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Linkedin group and, in January 2008, we launched our Careers blog. More recently, we have started using Twitter and Flickr. Soon after establishing a company presence on these sites, we trained our team of more than 50 recruiters to use these tools to network and communicate with potential candidates. With more than 110,000 US employees and 6,000 client locations we have career growth opportunities that need to be creatively communicated. Most candidates know us as a food services management company, however, we are a leading facilities management provider and part of a global organization with talent needs in IT, Marketing, sales, etc. We are able to highlight unique jobs on our blog by highlighting some of our employees and their experiences in and out of work.Our goal is to give our visitors the opportunity to take a look inside Sodexo, to interact with us and to strengthen our employment brand and improve our candidate experience.

Is social media paying off for Sodexo as a human resource strategy? If so, any success examples?

Once we started using social networking sites to connect with people, it didn’t take long before we started to build relationships with potential candidates. We look at the interactions and discussions within the groups and can easily determine the great value and therefore success of our social media strategy. As an example, if you are familiar with the Sodexo Careers Facebook page, you’ll see we are talking to candidates every day. Our candidates are reaching out to let us know how much they appreciate the access to our recruiters. Our recruiters have embraced social media in their jobs as recruiters. Without them we would not be actively communicating with candidates across the country about their career opportunities on Facebook, Linkedin, our blog, and on Twitter. The active participation of all of our recruiters is what sets us apart from other companies using social recruiting. Our social media marketing has become a valuable online resource for candidates across the country seeking more information about Sodexo and for employees around the world with the desire to connect with their colleagues.

Did Sodexo try any strategy that ultimately proved not to work and was discarded?

The ultimate goal of any recruitment strategy is to generate candidates and hires and we have several examples where Social Media has played an integral role in identifying and/or attracting a recent hire. Traffic and hires are tracked as best as they were able (recognizing that hires often come from multiple sources). As I mentioned before, if there is a number to track, we track it — Facebook members, LinkedIn group members, Twitter followers, YouTube video views, returning and unique visitors to our blog, click throughs on the links, trendlines, etc. By looking at the numbers monthly we are able to see the growth and activity. We are also able to identify activities that have increased or decreased traffic and make adjustments to our plans. We look at the interactions and discussions within the groups and how they all work together to promote each other.

What are the networks being used and why?

We started with our careers blog, Facebook, Linkedin, and a You Tube channel in November 2007. In 2008 we added Twitter and Flickr to our social media marketing. The purpose of our social networking efforts has been to build personal relationships with potential candidates and current employees and our goal is to give our visitors the opportunity to take a look inside Sodexo, to interact with us and to strengthen our employment brand, which is why we have been careful not to take on too much and remain focused on building the networks we have.

What recommendations would you give an independent or small unit operator in using social media to find good people?

Companies that are not using Social Media for recruiting are missing out on the opportunity to connect with candidates. The easier you make it for candidates to connect with you through social networking sites the more successful you will be with your social recruiting, which is one of the reasons we created a “Network With Us” page on our career site. We want candidates to reach out to us. In order for a company of any size to use social media successfully for recruiting they have to be consistent, honest, genuine and, most importantly, they have to be responsive. We respond to every wall post or discussion question related to the culture and experience of working for Sodexo because we want potential candidates to know there are real people ready to help. Of course when an organization decides to create a Social Media strategy for branding or recruiting, it’s important to consider the risks. For example, as a publicly traded company, there are issues we are unable to discuss legally. We’ve made a conscious decision to allow virtually any discussion, positive or negative, as long as it isn’t offensive and is related to the culture and experience of working for Sodexo. As the voice behind our social media marketing, I am often the first person to welcome a candidate to this space on the internet we call “Sodexo Careers” but ultimately the goal is to connect candidates with recruiters and our Hiring Managers. It’s also important to communicate your brand consistently on all of your social spaces and avoid copying and pasting corporate press releases into your sites to maintain a genuine and personal approach.

Foodservice companies of all sizes can effectively use social networking to meet their human resource acquisition needs. It’s likely to source better candidates than traditional print media and has a much lower cost to execute. The other tangible benefit is that it markets your organization brand to the public through one more channel.

But please, don’t just put out a message that anonymously says:

“Needed: Chef with experience. Send resume via email with cover letter stating why you want to work for us.”

Everytime I saw a job announcement like that I was confounded on how the heck I would know why I would want to work for you – if I couldn’t know who you were…

You can contact Kerry Noone via the Sodexo Career blog at http://www.sodexocareersblog.com/

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