Best Practices: General Mills Inc.

Dec. 21, 2004
Food manufacturer's efforts to keep talent have a high ROI.

Just like many of the cereals it produces, General Mills the company has a special prize inside. Several prizes, actually, especially if one is a woman with aspirations to advance her career and keep herself and everyone at home happy and healthy. General Mills, the $10.8 billion food manufacturer, has gained a reputation as a top company for working women. Specific policies and benefits have achieved this but perhaps most influential has been CEO's Steve Sanger's infusion of family-friendly policies throughout every aspect of the company. "I've been offered a lot of opportunities, and every single time I have been offered an opportunity, personal factors are considered," says Covington, Ga., plant manager Cindy Hultine, who joined the company in 1993. "And so if there were an opportunity that I couldn't take advantage of because of a personal or family circumstance, that was OK. I didn't get kicked off the fast track and never asked again." In the moves that Hultine did make, family obligations were still a large consideration. She worked at three sites before moving to Covington and asked that her stint there be long enough to have her two sons finish high school. The company agreed. Hultine says what attracted her to General Mills and keeps her there is that the company's values match her own. "To me, if I'm a fantastically successful plant manager with a dysfunctional family, that's not my definition of success," Hultine says. "So having a company that works with me is important." In addition to balancing personal and career advancement, General Mills has several formal family-friendly programs including on-site daycare centers, sick-child care, back-up child care, flexible scheduling, job shares, and benefits for 20-hours-weekly workers. Several diversity-promotion, mentoring and networking programs exist, and managers' pay is tied to the advancement of women. And how does the company benefit?

  • Professional turnover is the lowest in U.S. consumer products (5% versus 10% for industry average).
  • Job acceptance level is highest in industry.
  • Average tenure is 18 years.
  • Women comprise 48% of the workforce and 32% of the company's top earners.
"We started by taking small steps, and then it continued to grow," Hultine says. "Once a company sees the benefits first-hand of retaining a great workforce and recruiting top talent, then those types of programs become part of the company's culture as opposed to short-term perks."

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