Designing Workforce Development for the Next Generation of Leaders

Designing Workforce Development for the Next Generation of Leaders

By: George Chavel

George Chavel, President & CEO, Sodexo North America

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A healthy plan to develop and keep a workforce must become hard-wired into the DNA of the business model @SodexoUSA
Monday, October 26, 2015 - 11:50am


A corporation is nothing without its people.  They are the heart and soul of any company and can be the factor that sets an organization apart from its competitors. Developing that workforce in a way that helps maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace has become more critical than ever.

The two most basic priorities for workforce development are attracting the most talented people and then keeping them. So how do you position your company to be a place where people want to work? Then once you get them, what do you do to ensure they are not only content in their work, but are on track to develop their careers in a way that benefits both the individual and the company?

Most modern organizations host a diverse workforce which includes people from different backgrounds and of different generations, and at varying stages of their careers, all working side-by-side.  With each new generation comes a new level of expectations and the “Millennials”, those born roughly between the years 1982 and 2000, are no exception.

As younger workers enter the workforce, they are finding themselves well positioned to break down the traditional workforce, but without attacking it.  Millennials simply want their employers to provide something different than “Baby Boomers” or “Generation X” ever demanded.  There exists a great opportunity to engage that generation by finding new ways to develop the workforce.  In this sheer battle for talent it often comes down to what a company stands for, rather than what it pays or where it’s located. A company may no longer silo efforts like corporate social responsibility apart from its efforts to recruit top tier talent.

For these younger workers, a crucial question is how will their own personal “brand” be impacted by the “brand” of the company they work for? When you think about social media and how people position themselves in public forums, what you find as a result of the recruitment process is essentially a “co-branding” between the individual and the corporation. A worker used to say ‘I work for this particular company’. Now that worker and the company are coexisting in a very different and very public way. This matters to the newest generation of workers and it needs to matter to employers too.

It’s essential to remember, however, that workforce development is a two-way street. It’s not just about what the company can do for you, but about what you can do for yourself.  A company can attempt everything within its power to create a healthy working environment designed to nourish an employee and encourage access to available opportunities to develop careers, but the employee must take ownership of their own development. My generation often waited for a company to come to the employee to present the next opportunity. That doesn’t happen anymore. A company’s responsibility now is to offer the tools with the expectation that the employee will take the lead.

These components of a healthy plan to develop and keep a workforce must become hard-wired into the DNA of a business model.  Through them, a company can find itself positioned to win the battle for talent, but also through that process become a better version of its corporate self.

George Chavel is CEO of Sodexo North America (U.S. and Canada) and CEO Sodexo Healthcare Worldwide. He has announced that he will retire at the end of this calendar year after more than two decades at Sodexo.