Case Study

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HR Contributes at SYSCO

Many people in the United States are not familiar with SYSCO, but they see its results because SYSCO is the largest food services and distribution company with almost $24 billion in annual sales. SYSCO supplies food products to customers in restaurants, hotels, supermarkets, hospitals, and other companies. In a firm the size of SYSCO with more than 40,000 employees, HR management is making significant contributions to organizational success. As an indication of this success, SYSCO received the Optimas award for general HR Excellence from Workforce Magazine.

Beginning several years ago, the need to revitalize HR activities was recognized by both executives and senior HR staff members. At the time, the SYSCO operating regions had administered many of their own HR practices. To bring change to HR corporate-wide, while preserving the entrepreneurial independence of the regions, a “market-driven” HR approach was developed. In this approach, corporate HR identified ways it could assist regional operations, and then developed programs and services that met regional needs. However, unlike in many other corporations where corporate HR programs would be “mandated” to operating units, SYSCO took a different approach. Key to market-driven HR is that managers in the regional operations must be convinced to “buy” the corporate HR services. For example, if a supervisory training program is developed by corporate HR, regional managers decide if they want to use the program for supervisory training in their regions.

Another part of creating HR as market driven was the establishment by corporate HR of a Virtual Resource Center (VRC) to provide services to managers and employees. A key aspect of the VRC is use of HR technology to gather extensive data on HR activities and provide that data to operating managers. One source of data is workplace climate surveys of employees. Using the survey data, HR developed initiatives to increase safety, which...
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