question archive Employees Gobble Up the Benefits at General Mills Number one on Fortune ’s 2009 list of Best Companies to Work For

Employees Gobble Up the Benefits at General Mills Number one on Fortune ’s 2009 list of Best Companies to Work For

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Employees Gobble Up the Benefits at General Mills

Number one on Fortune ’s 2009 list of Best Companies to Work For. Voted by its employees as among the top five on’s Best Places to Work. Placing on Working Mother ’s list of 100 Best Companies and among the top five of its Best Companies for Multicultural Women. And finally, number one on Computerworld ’s 2009 list of the 100 Best Places to Work in IT. With all that praise, General Mills must be doing something right by its employees. And much of what people are talking about involves employee benefits at the company, whose products include Yoplait yogurt and Progresso soup. Some of the benefits are flashy: the company’s headquarters near Minneapolis boasts an on-site health clinic, fitness center, auto service center, and grocery, plus a concierge service to run errands for employees at the low cost of $6. Other benefits are practical for busy employees: flex-time, on-site infant care, and backup child care. Use of the infant day care is subsidized by the company. Still others are ideal for those with career ambitions: employee scan take an educational leave for up to two years with tuition reimbursement or (in the case of R&D employees) an “innovation sabbatical” of up to six months of paid time to do research in their field. General Mills sees the benefits as more than frills. According to the company’s senior vice president of global human resources, Mike Davis, a flexible but challenging workplace “is critically tied to attracting and retaining top talent, driving innovation and, ultimately, connecting with customers around the world.” Chief executive Ken Powell agrees, explaining that the company seeks to build a culture that is “performance-driven, where people work hard to achieve goals and are excited by the challenges of their jobs” but do not “lose sight of family and community”—a balance that, Powell says, helps the company keep “the best talent.” The benefits also are not simply a way to buy loyalty. The company’s leaders see benefits as one expression of a company that cares about its people. Speaking of the intangible ways the company lives these values, Ken Charles, vice president of diversity and inclusion, says, “Inclusion is free, respect is free, having a manager who listens is free.” One benefits objective, Charles explains, is to keep employees on board “for 35 years.” Turnover among employees in the Twin Cities facilities is just 3 percent. One of those dedicated employees is Karla Juarez, who joined General Mills as an intern earning a degree in computer science and stayed with the company, tackling one challenging assignment after another. Juarez told Computerworld, “General Mills has done a good job of wanting to keep me here and given me enough support and benefits that I want to do just that.” For information technology workers like Juarez, though (and perhaps for many of its other great people), what they appreciate most is not the fitness center, but rather the chance to do interesting work in a challenging environment with other talented people.


1. What employee benefits that are not described in this case would you expect to be important to employees at General Mills? Why do you think they aren’t mentioned?

2. What evidence can you find in this case that benefits at General Mills are tied to benefits objectives and corporate objectives?

3. How can General Mills ensure that its benefits are not just luxurious expenses but also contribute to business success?


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