HMP Peterborough

Developing talent in a prison by the Head of Rehabilitation

Published on : 6/22/20
  • Chris Evans, Head of Rehabilitation discusses his development experience through Sodexo's Talent Pathway.

    I was selected for development via the Sodexo Talent Pathway in August 2019. Based on my previous work within the rehabilitation function of the prison, it was felt that I had potential to develop further as a senior manager and I was put forward for the programme. Here is what I learnt…


    One piece of feedback I had previously received was that I needed to be able to ‘sell’ myself better. I used every opportunity to network with key representatives from other parts of the Sodexo Justice business and I visited other prisons that Sodexo manage. 

    On one such visit, I provided specialist guidance to their management team on operational effectiveness with regards to decision making. I was able to share best practice with them, in terms of processes within the Healthcare and Separation & Care units, helping to ensure that core services are delivered to the highest standard across Justice sites. Upon return to my prison, I was able to implement best practices learned from other prisons to enhance the induction process within the female prison.

    I attended a talent networking event in London in November, meeting with a variety of people from across the different Sodexo segments who had also been selected for the Talent Pathway. It was a great opportunity to speak to others across the business who had experienced the development programme and see how it could be of benefit to me. During the event there were presentations from CEOs of two Sodexo segments who spoke about their careers, how they developed their own pathways and providing guidance to the assembled audience. I came away from the event feeling highly motivated, thinking of how I could build my profile within the prison, but more crucially, externally. I am big believer that you have to go out there and get what you need, so it’s important to make things happen for yourself. 


    Not long after being put onto the Talent Pathway event, I decided to engage with a coach to help identify how best to network and progress my career. This was a steep learning curve for me but my coach, our Human Resources Director, helped boost my confidence in being able to reach out to other people to expand my contacts, moving beyond the bounds of my prison and into the wider Sodexo Justice network. This has enabled me to increase my understanding of how other establishments operate, engaging with colleagues across a variety of functions to broaden my knowledge. 

    I also put time aside to schedule a career development discussion with our Talent Manager, working through my CV to identify development opportunities outside of the justice segment. This was extremely useful as it is easy to become focused within one’s own area of the business, but there is a wealth of knowledge and guidance available from colleagues across the other areas of the business that can be accessed via effective networking.

    Following my talent conversation, I took the initiative to arrange to facilitate networking events for colleagues from across other areas of Sodexo. This will involve hosting visits to our prison so that colleagues gain a better understanding our work, as well as our contribution to the company as a whole. With Justice being a specialised area within Sodexo, this will provide not only an opportunity to demonstrate our work to others, but also to put into practice the networking skills I have developed through working with our Human Resources Director. 

    It is down to the individual – the opportunities are there and the system is in place, so it is down to the individual to invest in themselves and engage in the process

    Chris Evans, Head of Rehabilitation


    After spending six months working with my coach, the natural development step was to move on to working with a mentor. Through conversations with Human Resources, I identified a prison director from one of our other Sodexo prisons.
    This was ideal for me, as it was someone who was external to where I worked and with whom I had previously had little interaction so that there were no preconceptions on either side. This enabled both of us to approach the mentoring from a neutral perspective, looking to achieve the best out of the experience for both parties. To ensure I maximised the opportunity of working with my mentor, I first arranged a telephone-based meeting to discuss how the process would work and to set out a clear development plan for achieving the agreed objectives. I established developmental milestones and targets to ensure I could measure my progress and the impact of the mentoring programme.
    Working with my mentor has enabled me to clearly identify key areas for development and methods by which to expand both my knowledge and experience. By looking at her own methods for developing her career, I have been able to learn from her experiences, identifying appropriate elements for me to incorporate into my own progression. Following her guidance, I have been able to delve more into Sodexo’s Senior Management Competency Framework on Aspire. This has enabled me to communicate more effectively how I demonstrate specific competencies through my current role. The process has provided me with an excellent opportunity to evaluate where my career sits at the current time, together with the tools to progress further within my chosen field of expertise.

    During the Covid-19 pandemic we have been able to continue the mentoring process via telephone discussions and email conversations. Despite the additional pressures on each of our roles, it has been important to maintain the momentum of the mentoring process. In fact, it has been helpful to be able to continue my personal professional development given the challenging operational climate. It has provided me with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to both myself and others, that I have the abilities required to be adaptable and flexible during an extended period of crisis, whilst still maintaining the stability required to deliver my core role.

    Talent management

    I strongly believe that the Talent Management and Aspire processes that are ongoing within Sodexo are extremely beneficial. I have gained a lot from it and have experienced the benefits of the opportunities. But it is down to the individual – the opportunities are there and the system is in place, so it is down to the individual to invest in themselves and engage in the process. The Talent Management programme is a great pathway for anyone wanting to push forward in their career and challenge themselves to be the best that they can; you get out what you put in.

    We offer a range of exciting and rewarding jobs. Please visit Sodexo Jobs for our current vacancies in Sodexo Justice.