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Handshake Honor Roll: Aramark’s Leah Gleason

🎉 Who won this month's Handshake Honor Roll? Leah Gleason, Aramark’s Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Centralized Support & Innovation.

How Leah leads with authenticity to inspire the next generation of hospitality leaders

By embracing a non-linear career path and leading with curiosity, Leah has built a remarkable career in talent acquisition. Throughout her 11+ years at Aramark, she’s held multiple positions in catering, sales, growth, recruitment, and more. This breadth of experience fuels her passion for DEI, brand authenticity, and bringing one’s whole self to work. 

Read on to hear her story and discover the strategies she’s leveraging to develop the next generation of leaders at Aramark

What’s something you wish you knew going into your first job?

That it’s okay not to have it all figured out. When I graduated college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted for my career. Given my experience working in restaurants throughout high school and college, I took the natural step into hospitality. 

I spent the first few years of my career getting curious about people’s work and why it’s important. That exploration led me down an exciting and winding career path that gave me a wide breadth of knowledge and experience that I likely would not have experienced if I had everything planned out.

Why are you passionate about recruiting early talent or increasing DEI?

I’m passionate about increasing DEI because of its benefits to a workplace and organization. Diversity of thought, background, and experience, among so much more, allows teams to be more innovative, engaged, and deliver better products or services. 

Leaders must create an inclusive workplace that accepts and encourages their teams to be exactly who they are so they’re comfortable bringing their best and whole selves to the table. Collaboration, diversity, and inclusion allow us to continue to challenge our way of thinking and work together to build solutions.

For early talent, I’m passionate about providing that diverse experience. Students often enter the workforce knowing what they want their careers to look like. However, it’s those diverse experiences and opportunities that can show them new paths and provide an opportunity to grow.

What early talent initiative would you love to enhance at Aramark?

We’re fortunate to have great connections on college campuses through our Collegiate Hospitality business. We have talented students working for Aramark on campus. I’d love to improve our relationship with them and create opportunities so they can continue their careers with Aramark beyond their time on campus. It’s a bonus when we have talent that has experienced the front lines in our operations, so naturally, these students are set up for success in any role at Aramark.

What is your industry’s biggest challenge, and how could early talent help solve it?

One of the interesting challenges we’re experiencing is how people just want to work differently — whether that be more flexibility, autonomy, or just ownership over their lives. Our customers are looking for the same in their service. They want service that fits their lives and schedules.

The next generation of leaders will have a very different perspective on bridging the gap and can provide the right solution for our workforce and customers.

What’s one of your favorite early talent hire success stories?

There are many here at Aramark, but one who comes to mind is someone on my team, Francesca.

Francesca participated in our StepUp2Leadership internship the summer going into her senior year. She accepted a role in the Accelerate2Leadership program post-graduation in 2019 on the Human Resources team in our Collegiate Hospitality business. If we reflect on that timing, she had about 6 months of work under her belt before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and now the need to be agile and nimble was more critical than ever.

Francesca seized the opportunity and led the management of employee communications. She joined Talent Acquisition in the summer of 2020 to lead innovation in our contingent workforce. Francesca’s ability to leverage her network, manage stakeholders, and empathize with her end-user allowed her to be successful at each point in her career. Today, she leads the implementation of our contingent technology solution.

What excites you about building a workforce for the future?

I love new challenges and find it fun to leverage past experiences to build solutions. The future workforce will be incredibly different than the past and even where we are today. I’m excited to be where I am in my career and to play a role in how we leverage what we do well here at Aramark while evolving and innovating to meet the needs and desires of the workforce.

I’m fortunate to be able to work with and for some incredibly innovative leaders who continue to challenge me in thinking of how we solve for tomorrow and bring our business partners along for the journey.

What key strategy is helping your teams ensure early talent is attracted to Aramark?

Brand awareness and transparency have become essential, especially in today’s competitive market. Storytelling has been really powerful for us as we connect with all candidates, especially early talent, to share what life at Aramark is like. It’s important for us to show our authentic selves because they’re also choosing to spend their time with us. 

We connect with early talent to share our story through blog posts and social media, panels with current Aramark leaders, and more. We’ve also been able to showcase ways our early talent can shine. For example, last year, our early talent program manager held a cooking demonstration led by current and past culinary A2Ls and S2Ls, to showcase their skills and gain exposure to the broader organization.

What advice would you offer to today’s job seekers? Particularly new graduates who are entering the workforce for the first time.

Be authentic and genuine and connect with the audience on what’s important to them. So often, we look at what’s important to the organization rather than how we communicate what matters most to a candidate. Authenticity is essential — if you sell an experience that matches reality, that person’s positive experience will reach much farther than any brand campaign.

Join us in congratulating Leah on this exciting win!