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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 Questions with Denise Inmon

Monday, October 10, 2011  
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Trade Director, Yoplait
General Mills

"By keeping highly experienced and talented mothers in the workplace, we’re...closer to our consumers.”

Denise Inmon has worked for General Mills for 10 years, serving in various roles of increasing responsibility and accumulating broad customer and brand experience. She now serves as trade director of the company’s’ Yoplait division. Inmon is a mentor for a number of young women in General Mills’ sales force and is the company’s Network of Executive Women ambassador. She also serves on the NEW Twin Cities committee. The married mother of three young children is involved in her daughter’s sports, Girl Scouts and school activities.

What is General Mills' Great Manager Initiative?

The Great Manager Initiative is a high priority, innovative initiative designed to develop the skills and abilities of all managers throughout the divisions, functions and plants. It is a long-term cultural reorientation of the company emphasizing the importance of involved leadership in employee development and companywide productivity. Through analysis of climate survey data, the company identified three common characteristics that distinguish a great manager – they invest in employees to help them succeed, they value employees as partners and they stretch employees to make a difference. Inspired by the impact that great managers can have on employees, such as higher loyalty to the company and better engagement with their job, the company developed a program to train and engage all leaders to become better managers.

General Mills promotes flexible schedules, grants 26 job-guaranteed weeks off for a birth or adoption and, at its headquarters' building, offers an on-site child care center for children from six to 16 months old, plus discounts at 63 near-site child-care facilities. Why do these family-friendly practices make good business sense?

Providing flexibility and resources as part of work/life balance allows us to recruit and retain talented employees who look for support in accomplishing career goals as their lives change. Although we receive a lot of recognition as a great company for working mothers, our flexibility and work/life resources are valued by employees at any stage of life – a new dad, a recent college graduate or someone nearing retirement. It’s also important for General Mills employees to reflect diverse consumers around the world, which include people with different ethnic and cultural heritages, as well as genders. By keeping highly experienced and talented mothers in the workplace, we’re fundamentally closer to our consumers. In terms of the on-site family-friendly perks we offer, we’ve found that they result in higher productivity and increased innovation and focus and allow employees to spend more time with their families in the evenings and on weekends.

In what ways does General Mills strive to help women, in particular, advance their careers?

General Mills deliberately and proactively develops talented women for leadership roles and we believe that representation of women in leadership positions at General Mills is very important to our success. And that’s true across all of our functions, whether it’s marketing, IT, finance or supply chain. In fact, there’s a statistic that companies with the highest number of executive women had a 35-percent higher return on equity and a 34-percent higher return to shareholders compared to those with few women at the top. Created more than 10 years ago, the Women’s Leadership Network is a formal way for women to exchange ideas with management on women’s issues in the workplace. The Women in Leadership group, which serves as an umbrella group for all 14 General Mills women’s networks, strives to be the voice of women to the company’s senior leadership. It also stresses development of women leaders through the Women’s Forum and annual speaker series.

How does General Mills’ mentoring programs work?

The mentoring programs are dedicated to developing high-potential female employees capable of reaching the officer level. Executive Co-Mentoring is an 18-month program that enables director-level women and people of color to share from the perspectives and experiences of senior leaders. Menttium 100 pairs high-potential mid-level women with leaders outside the company.

What are some real-world results of these policies, networks and programs?

We take great pride in the fact that the majority of our U.S. retail businesses are led by women – which reflects that we’re serious about supporting women in pursuing their career goals as their lives change. The family-friendly opportunities have helped me, personally, in many ways. I have been lucky enough to take advantage of paid-maternity leaves for each of my three children and have also utilized flex work schedules as I transitioned back to work. Additionally, our vast array of remote communications technology including Office Communicator and Live Meeting have allowed me to effectively work when I am not in the office and to also operate a high-functioning team, remotely at times.

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