Phil Turner - HR Business Partner

Published on : 4/18/24
  • Phil knows more than most that life can change in an instant, and as a Sodexo Disability Champion, he knows the importance of employee empowerment through business diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and programs.

    Using his qualification as a chef to join a FIFO (Fly-In, Fly-Out) company based in Perth in 2006, Phil thought he had made the best choice for his lifestyle. He’d appreciated the scheduled hours, the generous pay, and the variety of on-site activities. 

    But when Phil woke up while on holiday and discovered he was unable to walk, his life changed forever. 

    After a long diagnosis, Phil was told he had a rare disease called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a neurological disorder that involves progressive weakness and reduced nerve senses in the arms and legs. 

    In any one year in Australia, it is estimated that the prevalence of CIDP in the community is approximately 600 people. Only an estimated 12 to 15 people are diagnosed with the condition annually.  

    A change of heart

    After moving back to Melbourne for his rehabilitation, Phil knew he eventually had to get back into the workforce. 

    “I had to quickly change my mindset—there is always someone worse off, always someone better than you, so just deal with what you’ve got and move on. It’s really up to yourself as to how far or how much you want to make a disability a disability, rather than an ability,” said Phil. 

    “I wasn’t content sitting idle for the rest of my life, so I began my second career journey in an office based environment through Government Agencies and being introduced to Human Resources. It prompted me to get my Bachelors in Business and Human Relations, majoring in Industrial Relations”

    After working his way up in various Human Resources (HR) positions in landmark companies across Australia, Phil joined the Sodexo team in 2021. 

    If you had asked him then if he envisioned himself as Sodexo’s leading HR Business Partner for the business’s largest contract and disability champion and mentor, Phil would have laughed you off. 

    “Back then I don’t think I realised that disability doesn’t define you or limit your capabilities to participate in work or the community. There are many opportunities here at Sodexo for those who have visible or invisible disabilities. It’s our job to support and be committed,” he said.

    “Communication and understanding is key, feeling supported and equal in the workplace is vital for those with a disability.” 

    Welcoming disability in the workplace

    At Sodexo, Phil is committed to creating a work environment where every employee feels valued, supported, and empowered to succeed. In particular, providing mentorship and support to those with visible and invisible disabilities so they have the right tools for career growth and development.

    “Accessibility is a huge part of the job—when I worked FIFO I certainly took my mobility for granted. The reality of on-site mobilisation is one that favours abled people to perform the tasks, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said. 

    “Everyone has the capacity to perform well, regardless of physical or mental limitations, so long as they are supported.” 

    Phil said that this inclusivity starts with looking at the potential of the individual to contribute to the workload, culture, and environment. It is more than simply addressing stereotypes or stigmas, but investing in the championing of disability in the workplace. 

    “1 in 5 Australians have a disability—we need to ensure everyone in the community has the same opportunities for meaningful employment, which is what we are addressing at Sodexo,” Phil said. 

    “I’m proud to be part of this change and see 100% of our workforce have access to initiatives supporting the inclusion of people with disabilities by 2025—which is outlined in Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow CSR Roadmap.” 

    Championing inclusion everywhere

    As a Sodexo Disability Champion, it’s no surprise that Phil is a champion for those in the community away from work—as a coach for the Western Australian Junior Wheelchair Basketball team for the past three years, Phil acknowledges that sport has been a powerful way to empower those with all disabilities. 

    “Sport is such a great way to connect and empower your mental health—and this applies to those who aren’t disabled too,” he said. 

    “I’ve been fortunate to participate in the National Wheelchair Basketball League over the last 10 years, and the friendships and community formed have given me a firsthand opportunity to see the importance of representation of those with disabilities within the community.”

    Throughout his coaching of his team, Phil has become a mentor to a number of young players, watching them grow over the past couple of years. His leadership in his personal life is reflected in his role at Sodexo where he goes above and beyond to ensure everyone is given the opportunity to succeed. 

    “If you have the knowledge to help the person next to you thrive, you do it. It is rewarding to be able draw on personal experiences to help others with a disability or who may be supporting someone with a disability,” Phil said. 

    “I am proud to be a part of Sodexo and contribute to their flourishing spirit of inclusion.” 

    Phil continues to help drive inclusivity and safe initiatives for all at Sodexo, encouraging and empowering those around him. 

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