Employee Relations and Ethics Best Practices: General Mills

General Mills

In 2009 alone, General Mills received over 20 awards recognizing the company for their corporate reputation and human resource and employee relations leadership – including awards for managing diversity, working mothers, ethics and corporate citizenship.

General Mills was listed to the Glassdoor.com Employees’ Choice -50 Best Places to Work” and after reading employee comments and rankings for General Mills on the Glassdoor.com website, employees consistently give the company high ratings and praise the company for employee benefit and wellness programs, rates of pay, flexibility for employees with families, commitment to employee development and growth and its supportive culture.

Code of Conduct and Leadership

In the opening address from the CEO, the General Mills Code of Conduct states:

“We hold ourselves to a very high standard at General Mills. Nowhere is that more true than in our expectations for ethical conduct in every aspect of our business. For General Mills, high ethical standards are not something new. It is who we are.”

At General Mills, they address the fact that ethical dilemmas can occur, and if you are faced with one, they have outlined questions to ask and steps to take when faced with such a decision:

  • Speak Up- At General Mills, employees are trained to know what is expected and what is considered ethical practice. They encourage employees to ask questions and speak up if they are aware of actions taking place within the company that compromise their commitment to ethics. Employees are free to talk to managers about these issues, but they can also call the Ethics Line if that makes them feel more comfortable.

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  • Set Examples- General Mills addresses the increased risk for encountering an ethical dilemma when you manage a team- making answers difficult to find. In this situation, remember that ALL employees are accountable to the company and other members of the team, you want to create an open environment, consult available resources, support employees who raise questions and have concerns, as well as report any matters that don’t comply with the company code of ethics, other company policies or the law.
  • Ask Questions- The General Mills Code of Conduct also lays out some questions that employees should be able to answer “yes” to when making a decision: Would you feel comfortable with this news in the media? Will my decision protect the reputation of General Mills as an ethical company? Am I being fair and honest? Are my actions consistent with the law and company policies?

Focus on Employees

At General Mills, it’s extremely evident that they provide a high level of support and take a lot of pride in their employees. General Mills provides a number of benefits to their employees- including pension and retirement funds, benefits for new mothers and fathers, as well as adopting parents, medical, dental and insurance benefits for both families and same sex partners, education advancement benefits and local perks for employees working out of the General Mills HQ in Golden Valley, Minnesota. In Canada and the US, all employees at General Mills qualify for their incentive program, as the company values each member’s contribution to the team. General Mills offers flexible work arrangements whenever possible to assist employees in balancing their work and home lives.

The company also offers extensive training programs for employees within various divisions of the company, for example, “HR U” has been created for further training of HR professionals, “Champ Camp” has been created for new marketing professionals and technical professionals may end up training at “Cereal School”. Employees can also undergo formal training sessions at the General Mills Institute, where they create programs aimed at developing employee skills to create future company leaders. The different training environments and formats available for training- they also offer web based training and individual development plans, make training more exciting for employees, allowing them to achieve greater benefits from training and better retention of information.

The Importance of Workplace Diversity

In the General Mills Code of Conduct, they state that they value diversity in the workplace because it brings new viewpoints to the table. When looking at the number of awards General Mills has won, many of them mirror the company’s commitment to diversity, as General Mills has become a preferred employer by a number of diverse groups. A diverse workplace can also allow for greater understanding of consumer wants from the company, allowing General Mills to create and develop new products that meet the changing needs of their consumers. The corporate culture at General Mills is one of respect and inclusion, creating a mutual respect between employees at all levels.

In the article “Up Close with Mike Davis: General Mills’ Playbook for Challenges in Unprecedented Times”, Mike Davis, Senior Vice President of Global HR at General Mills stated:

“This year alone, I have been to India, China, and Europe. I have found that in spite of all the cross-cultural differences, all human beings like to be valued, be listened to, be developed, and feel like they make a difference. All of these commonalities are part of the cultural core of General Mills. Even our long-term view of career development works well cross-culturally, as employees everywhere appreciate an organization that values them.”

The observation and contact between global employees and top level executives further demonstrate the commitment General Mills places on workplace diversity. Through observation, discussion and travel, the global HR team at General Mills is able to gain a stronger understanding of what their employees seek in an employer, as well as measure their satisfaction with their roles at General Mills. Understanding the common traits across geographical divisions of the company makes it easier to develop unified plans and policies, as well as deepen the corporate culture and commitment to common goals.

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Article Published April 19, 2010

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