General Mills boosts employee benefits: ‘We needed to shift and modernize’

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

The expanded benefits apply to salaried and hourly employees, the company said.
The expanded benefits apply to salaried and hourly employees, the company said.
General Mills has expanded some of its core employee benefits including more than tripling the paid time off period for birth mothers, birth fathers, partners, and adoptive parents following an industry trend of other major CPG companies boosting their benefits.

General Mills previously offered six weeks of paid maternity leave for new birth mothers and two weeks of paid parental leave for fathers, partners, and adoptive parents. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the company will provide 18 to 20 weeks of paid time off for new birth mothers and 12 weeks of parental leave.

The prevalence of paid maternity leave offered by US companies increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 including paid paternity leave, adoption, foster child, and surrogacy, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

Source: SHRM

In CPG there has been a push to boost benefits for employees over this same time period. In 2016, Chobani announced its new paid parental leave policy that included six weeks of 100% paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, including hourly and salaried employees.

In the same year, Campbell Soup Company increased its paid leave for primary parents to 10 weeks.

“Family values are at the core of everything we do, and we needed to shift and modernize along with them,”​ Jacqueline Williams-Roll, chief human resources officer, General Mills, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“We recognized that evolving our leave polices would be in the best interest of our employees and their families, helping them live happier, healthier lives both at work and at home—and at every life stage.”

General Mills has also added a new caregiver leave benefit of two-week paid leave for the care of immediate family members with a serious health condition. Employees are also given up to four weeks of paid bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member and 100% short-term disability leave for up to eight weeks and 65% of pay for up to 25 weeks.


All US employees are protected by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees to take  up to 12 weeks of unpaid​, job-protected leave during any 12-month period.

These new benefits apply to both salaried and non-union production workers in the U.S. and are intended to help all General Mills employees live happier, healthier lives both at work and at home, General Mills added.

What benefits do employees value?

Companies are vying for top talent just as much as candidates are searching for the right position, which has expanded the laundry list of perks offered to potential employees, in some cases including new-pet owner leave and daily catered chef-made lunches.

However, paid time off benefits remain the most attractive perk offered to new potential candidates behind “better health, dental, and vision insurance”​ and “more flexible hours”​,  a survey of 2,000 people conducted by Fractl​ showed.

Paid parental leave follows further down the list of the “most desirable” ​employee benefits after work-from-home options and student loan/tuition assistance, according to Fractl.

Asked whether the new benefits would help attract new talent to the company, Williams-Roll said, “We know that young candidates value time off, but we also know that’s true for our current employees. We listened to their needs and are re-establishing General Mills as a leader in the U.S. market, offering some of the best parental leave benefits in the industry.

“We think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be working in the CPG space. While there’s lots of disruption in the industry, there’s an equal amount of innovation and opportunity. We can’t speak for all CPG companies, but at General Mills we’re proud to attract the best and brightest from all over the world who are helping to transform the food industry and put their critical problem-solving skills to the test.”

Is there a talent shortage?

The CPG industry has been able to attract employees, but the real issue lies in pulling in the right person for the job, according to Jennifer Britton, managing director, CPG, Versique​, a Minneapolis-based consulting and executive recruiting firm.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say there is a talent shortage,”​ Britton told us.

“There is a lot of talent out there, but one of things that’s kind of more difficult, is companies are being a lot more selective and are not looking to bring over candidates that necessarily have the runway, they want someone who has done the job."

What’s more, CPG firms historically don’t make hires outside the food industry (e.g. if you worked at a bank it’s going to be harder to sell yourself to a snacks company), according to Britton.

That, coupled with downsized or sometimes non-existent training programs has created the appearance of a talent shortage​.

“They don’t have the ability to train as much, so they’re really looking for someone who’s done the job, knows the category… The people are out there is just the CPG companies are being extremely selective,”​ she added.

Britton added that CPG companies are realizing that they may not be able to hike salaries when recruiting new candidates, so expanding their benefits package to incorporate additional paid leave and other perks has been their main strategy in recent years.

“Companies are, I think, struggling, they’re starting to think about ways to offer up some type of different benefit, but I don’t think a lot of them have figured it out yet,”​ Britton said.

“The thing that people are trying to share is culture, but culture is something that until you get there you can’t really prove it.”

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