Sodexo is the world leader in Quality of Life services, employing 5,000 people in Australia and more than 460,000 people in 72 countries.
In 2014, a Sodexo site manager in Australia with a personal experience of suicide felt it was critical to start an organisation-wide conversation on mental health. The team leader shared his experience with both operational leaders and the executive team. This presentation triggered the development of ‘I Hear You’, an Australian initiative that promotes suicide prevention with a simple message – know you can be heard; believe you will be listened to. The purpose of ‘I Hear You’ is to:
- assure employees that support is always available
- raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing among employees by circulating support network information and contact details
- provide employees with the skills to address mental health issues through onsite training sessions and workplace resources.
In 2015, Sodexo surveyed employees to gauge the company’s progress in mental health awareness and the results from this survey informed Sodexo’s approach. The next steps were to:
- review of the health and safety policy to promote positive mental health and reduce preventable mental health issues
- equip managers with mental health first aid training through a 'micro-learning' program and training app for which they won the 2018 Australian Mines and Metals Association award for Workforce Innovation
- launch of ‘All of Me’ e-learning modules (developed with Tap into Safety) to provide mental health assessments, support and workplace training for all employees
- launch Sodexo's of ‘I Hear You’ mental health initiative globally.
Sodexo strongly believe that if they have saved a life, their work is a success
– this isn’t necessarily measurable, however, it’s fundamental to their approach. Since rolling out organisation-wide initiatives, Sodexo have reported a stronger awareness of the importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workforce.
Ensuring employee mental health and wellbeing while managing competing business priorities still remains a challenge, particularly during times of change. Sodexo developed a Mental Health Working Group with representatives from different areas of the business (HR, communications, safety, operations and health and wellness) to help maintain the strategy’s sustainability through all areas of the business, all year round.
Sodexo’s approach to mental health has evolved over the past four years and is now integrated into Sodexo’s ‘Quality of Life’ mission, making mental health a day-to-day priority. Sodexo recognise that employees' mental health goes beyond the workplace, so they have made support services available to families of employees and the ‘I Hear You’ initiative available to the industry.
Conducting an employee mental health survey was key to Sodexo’s success, as it helped inform their mental health strategy. By listening to staff, Sodexo were able to create initiatives and provide access to intervention and prevention services most beneficial to needs identified by employees.
Sodexo has continued to survey their workforce year on year, and results are used to ensure their strategy is on track and where necessary tweaked to ensure the best for their people. Sodexo also found that strong leadership commitment was essential to the development and success of their initiatives.