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General Mills HRD: HR should think about values ‘all the time’

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HR needs to think about company values “all the time”, says General Mills HRD, UK, Ireland and Nordic region Sue Swanborough

Swanborough told HR magazine it’s important to “continue to focus on culture”. “One of the dangers is that you develop values but then they just stay on the wall,” she said. “If you don’t think about them all the time then what’s the point? Leadership and cultural development are where HR really adds value and can create a difference in the business."

It’s important to connect the values of the organisation to the individual values of employees, she added. “Business can enable those conversations,” she said. “You can help your people go home and talk to their families about their values. It helps us make better choices in life. It’s all about the environment you create as a leader.”

Swanborough added that at a recent charity quiz night a question on the values of the company was answered correctly by every team. “That shows we are getting it right,” she said.

Having transparency in the senior leadership team is critical, Swanborough explained. “Be transparent and open,” she said. “Trust breaks down when we make assumptions about other people based on our view of the world. If you create an environment where people can be themselves you release that untapped potential.”

General Mills is focusing on experiential learning for leaders and looking closely at career paths, rotating people around business units and regions. “We talk about what energises people and the different areas [of importance] for them,” Swanborough said. “We prefer to recruit from within and build that capability internally. Why wouldn’t you look at your own people first?”

General Mills UK, Ireland and Nordic recently made two high-profile internal hires, appointing Trevor Callander as UK sales director and Markus Muehleisen as vice president, managing director, UK. Both have been with the company for more than 15 years.

Going forward, Swanborough said key areas for leadership development in the company include becoming more agile. “How can we equip our leaders to deal with increasing uncertainty externally?” she asked.