Jun 28, 2011 • By

Challenges provide chances to grow

General Mills was recently named to the National Association for Female Executives’ prestigious Top 50 Companies and 10 Nonprofits for Executive Women list.

According to NAFE, General Mills ranks the highest of all 50 companies on the list when it comes to advancing female employees, and ranks within the top 10 overall.

I recently talked with Tiffanie Boyd, vice president of Human Resources for General Mills’ Bakeries and Foodservice business, to get her firsthand perspective on how General Mills lives out its commitment to supporting the advancement of talented employees.

I also tapped into her HR expertise by asking about how people at any stage of their careers can take charge of their own development and how managers can help the people they manage reach new heights.

Which moments in your career have brought you the most development and growth?

Boyd: I feel fortunate to have had lots of great development opportunities, and every assignment over the last 14 years has allowed me to grow as a professional and a leader. I have worked in our manufacturing plants with different types of work environments, worked with business and HR leaders from around the world, and relocated my family to a different country. In each of my assignments, I have been stretched out of my comfort zone, forcing me to learn quickly and develop new skills rapidly. I have welcomed these opportunities and appreciated the company’s confidence in my capabilities.

Why did you decide to work at General Mills?

Boyd: When I made the decision to begin a career at General Mills, it was for three main reasons.

First, I believed that the company had a tremendous focus on development.

Secondly, as an African-American woman, I was drawn to the company’s inclusive environment and believed that I would have an equal opportunity to work hard, succeed, and be recognized for my results with new opportunities.

The third reason, and probably the most important, is that people at General Mills are a special combination of what I call ‘highly talented and genuinely nice.’ I love working here because I am surrounded by high-performing people who make me want to be better and who I enjoy spending time with. I’m proud to say that the company’s commitment to development, diversity and attracting and retaining great people has remained true throughout my career.

What advice do you have for young professionals or mid-career professionals who haven’t advanced as quickly as you did? What would you say to people who have hit a career hurdle?

Boyd: Make sure that you are crystal clear on how your manager is measuring your performance and what relationships you need to establish in order to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. Seek people out who can help influence your career and who can guide and encourage your advancements.

I’d also say that sometimes development looks different than you thought it would – you can often find it in places where you least expect it. Focus on the points of your current role where you can add value to your team and to the company and shine doing what you do best.

What advice do you have for managers on how they can help employees develop to their fullest potential?

Boyd: I have a lot of passion for helping people reach their full potential. One way to help employees reach the next level is to clarify priorities, which frees them up to focus on the things that really matter. When people aren’t bogged down with things that seem trivial or unimportant, they can focus and contribute more.

It’s also important to help people see how what they do relates to the bigger picture and how it helps the company accomplish its goals. Finally, an important part of a manager’s role is also to help build confidence and connect people with the right resources to succeed.

What makes General Mills stand out? Why was the company recognized by NAFE?

Boyd: The senior leaders of General Mills have an outstanding commitment to advancing and supporting the achievements of women. We don’t have to convince our leadership that diversity is the right thing to do – they have a genuine commitment to doing the right thing but also a keen understanding of the business case for diversity and inclusion.

I’d also cite our efforts on recruiting a more diverse pool of talent, which has fostered the environment and culture we have today. Our conversation around diversity has moved beyond the numbers (which we still measure) to focus on maintaining an inclusive work environment where everyone is empowered to be who they are. I also believe that having women in senior leadership positions has helped bring focus to work/life balance and flexibility challenges that can positively impact the careers of all General Mills employees.