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HR transformation vision map inspired by Cheerios!

General Mills uses cereal’s attributes when designing new employee service experience

How does a 150‑year‑old U.S.‑centric company begin to transform itself into a modern global enterprise? That was the question for General Mills, a leading consumer packaged goods company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when they decided to start their corporate‑wide transformation. The answer was to begin within their human resources department.

“The HR initiative was one of several General Mills is undertaking and it was the first and at the forefront of what transformation looks like at General Mills,” said Lynsey Wherry, vice president of talent acquisition and HR strategy.

Lynsey led the three‑year HR transformation project at General Mills, which has 38,000+ employees worldwide and owns numerous world‑famous brands—including Cheerios, Betty Croker, Pillsbury, Haagen‑Dazs, Progresso, and Yoplait—sold in over 100 countries.

The leaders at General Mills wanted a more agile company. They needed more visibility into the HR inquiries General Mills global workforce were making so that they could be better informed and make decisions faster. “You have to know who your people are because people are such a differentiator for companies. We feel like it’s THE differentiator,” said Lynsey.

As the company became more global…

General Mills employees also had needs that weren’t being met. Lynsey explains, “Depending upon where you were sitting, you had a very different HR experience. Sometimes you’d get the right answer and the right tool to solve your problem and other times you didn’t. As the company became more global, it was decided that we couldn’t have that drastic a difference depending upon where an employee happened to sit. There should be some commonality as a General Mills employee.”

A major element of General Mills HR initiative was to build an online portal (called “G&Me”) that could be a one‑stop shop (platform) for all employees needing information or to interact with human resources.

“My role was to lead the various teams through our HR transformation journey. That included coming up with our overall plan, our strategy, as well as our vision map and execution plan for each work team.”

Using the HR department’s vision statement [see inset] as a guide and inspiration from the attributes of Cheerios (standardized, trusted, connected, and user friendly), Lynsey and her team developed a successful HR transformation vision map.

How Cheerios inspired the vision map

According to Lynsey, “Cheerios were created in the 1940s. They were intended to be a transition from a hot cereal (oatmeal, porridge, and such), to a new kind ‘of platform’: cold cereal with milk. It was an innovative feat at the time because no one had made that leap yet.”

“Those little Os that you eat actually had 10 different prototypes. They look really simple and easy because they’re just Os. How hard could it be? But it actually took a lot of engineering and strategic thinking to land on that O shape. And when you look at the O shape and pour out a box of Cheerios, they are all the same and uniformed. It’s not a bad thing. It actually provides a consistent consumer experience. You know what to expect. You know that a Cheerio is meant to be round.”

“It seems simple, but it was hours upon hours of hard work, engineering, and dedication to making that product remarkable. So when you think about it against our vision map: standardization, for instance, it’s okay that they’re all little Os, that actually make the product remarkable.”

“Another key concept is trust. People have trust in Cheerios. It’s usually a baby’s first finger food. And Cheerios are often talked about in connection. It usually passes down, generation to generation. So the connection concept is really strong, too.”

“And, finally, they’re really super‑user friendly. Babies can eat them as can Boomers. It doesn’t matter. It’s a really simple platform that people can resonant with. So as we roll through our transformation principles (our vision map), we just reminded staff that sometimes the best things come in the most standard and simplified ways. And that doesn’t mean it’s simple. A lot of work went on behind the scenes to make it appear as simple as it is. There’s a lot of value in having that common platform that folks can rally behind. This is how we made the concepts in our vision map more real and the G&Me portal like Cheerios: standardized, trusted, connected, and user friendly.”

To facilitate their HR transformation, Lynsey and team chose ServiceNow® HR Service Delivery because it had “a good balance of being able to customize, yet also have the capability that was there [built‑in]. We liked that approach. ServiceNow came with an approach of how to get things done, and we were able to adopt that to what our needs were. That was a big selling point for us. The consumer experience was very important to us. ServiceNow powers our G&Me portal.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team for leading and showing what a global system, tool, and process looks like. And not doing it all by themselves, relying on partners like ServiceNow and Workday. That was a huge change for us culturally. Our internal mantra was #workdifferently. It was hard, hard work but when we were done, it was like those Cheerios flowing out of the box, it looked pretty seamless. It seems like it’s not that hard, but if people only knew the effort and background…”

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