Michael Norris is a passionate and visionary leader for Sodexo, the 18th largest employer in the world and the leader in delivering integrated facilities management, foodservice operations and recognition programs in 80 countries. He currently serves as CEO of Health Care, North America, responsible for a business with $3.2 billion in annual revenues.
Mr. Norris began his career with Sodexo in 2005 as Chief Operating Officer and Market President of its $9 billion Business & Industry and Sports & Leisure Divisions in North America. In 2007, Mr. Norris was appointed as Group President of Sodexo’s International Large Accounts, guiding growth and development of the company’s the largest and most complex global accounts.
Shortly after joining Sodexo, Mr. Norris led the development and implementation of SodexoMAGIC, LLC; a joint venture partnership with basketball legend and business entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He has an impressive background in various industries, with a proven track record of driving sustainable sales growth and increasing market share.
Before joining Sodexo, Mr. Norris served as President and CEO of Loews Cineplex Entertainment (a Sony retail company) with annual revenue of $2 billion. He gained experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry both domestically and internationally, as a partner and President & COO of Chili’s Bar & Grill in Asia. Earlier in his career, he held positions of increasing responsibility at General Mills Restaurants, Inc., rising to become Director of Operations throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Norris was a Vietnam era veteran who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1976. He earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of East London, London, UK in 1995. He currently is a member of the National Press Club in Washington, DC. and proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. He is also serves as chairman of the World Affairs Council in Washington, DC and SodexoMAGIC. In addition, Mr. Norris has served as past President of the National Association of Theater Owners, Variety -The Children’s Charity and the Will Rogers Institute, among others.
Sodexo, Inc., the leading Quality of Life services provider in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, delivers On-site Services in Corporate, Education, Healthcare, Government and Remote Site segments, as well as Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo, Inc. is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. and funds all administrative costs for the independent and charitable Sodexo Foundation — granting more than $27 million since 1999 to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at SodexoInsights.com. Visit Sodexo on Facebook and follow on Twitter @SodexoUSA.
The dynamics of the global economy are evolving and to achieve sustained economic growth, business and education must place a stronger emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math fields. In the 21st century jobs-driven economy, companies are demanding a workforce armed with STEM skills, along with effective team building, communication and problem-solving ability. Many of the most valuable and useful innovations and advancements are coming from industries and occupations focused in these areas.
Over the past few years, there has been a concerted effort to encourage young people to choose STEM educational and career paths, partly due to fears that there will be a shortage of workers in these fields in the future. In fact, US News & World Report states that STEM education is the key to the U.S.’s economic future. The time has come for business leaders, industry experts and academics to collaborate to develop a solid, sustainable strategy that ensures the next generation of STEM-educated leaders is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. Just like an Olympic athlete who invests years of training to prepare for an event, our talent development strategy must reach future employees long before they enter the workforce.
I am passionately committed to developing the next generation of STEM leaders and for that matter, helping to prepare all young leaders entering our workforce to be successful. With the global marketplace expanding at unprecedented rates, demographic shifts and emerging global trends playing an ever-increasing role in the U.S. economy, it has become apparent that we as business leaders, industry experts and academics can offer a more comprehensive approach to preparing our future leaders to successfully enter the workforce.
Employers and institutions of higher education must work together to fill the STEM pipeline and advance the economy. Based on my own learnings, shaped by a range of experiences across different industry sectors over the past 30 years, I have five essential recommendations for business leaders who want to better support students considering a career in the STEM fields.
- Apply Theory to Practice – No age is “too early” to expose children to how education aligns with jobs. STEM students need exposure to practical applications of their subject matter in STEM fields. One idea is to involve students in STEM Career Accelerator Day, a nationwide event that brings students into major STEM facilities to experience firsthand the excitement and potential of a STEM career.
- Move Beyond People Skills: Instruct Students on the “Art” of Social Influence and Persuasion – I firmly believe that the ability to be persuasive—as well as using social influence appropriately and ethically—are some of the key skill sets today’s students need to be successful in the future, along with:
- Goal setting
- Evidence-based decision making
- Data visualization
- Story telling (as an art of persuasion)
- Stay Relevant – To cultivate interest in STEM fields, business leaders, industry experts and academics share a responsibility to provide relevant and exciting examples of STEM job opportunities to students. Recently, I spoke to the head of the National Facilities Management Association, who noted that if we provide a “big picture” simulation of the roles and responsibilities of engineers and facilities managers, we would generate more interest in the field, rather than lessons plans about the tactical aspects of the day-to-day jobs.
- Actively Seek Educational Partnerships – The first step for any business leader is a commitment to understand the mission, goals and strategies being pursued by potential STEM partner organizations. Visiting high schools, vocational schools and community colleges is a must, and listening to their frustrations and aspirations is required. Only then can you look for ways to establish a mutually beneficial partnership.
- Be a Mentor! – Research on mentor-student relationships shows dramatic impact on a mentee’s performance. We must challenge students with meaningful engagement, treat them with respect and ask for their ideas. Feedback and recognition of their success can capture the attention and imagination of these young minds.
I am so enthusiastic about the promise of our future leaders and the opportunity we share to serve as catalysts for long-term success. I hope my recommendations open a dialogue among stakeholders who are committed to creating a better future by developing a more engaged workforce, stronger communities and a vibrant economy.