No. 1 General Mills, 'Company of Champions'

A time-honored IT staffing strategy of hiring the best -- and doing everything right to keep them -- catapulted this food maker into our top spot.

Since joining Golden Valley, Minn.-based General Mills Inc. as an intern five years ago, Karla Juarez has worked on projects as varied as the food giant's lineup of breakfast cereals. First there was a project to enable the company's high-profile United Way campaign to go paperless, then a data analysis project for the customer insights group. Next, she moved to an SAP project in the finance organization, and now she's working on developing and managing consumer Web sites.

The 26-year-old computer science graduate came to frigid Minnesota from balmy Miami, and she says she's found home. "Right now, I don't have plans on moving anywhere," Juarez says. "General Mills has done a good job of wanting to keep me here and given me enough support and benefits that I want to do just that."

In a nutshell, Juarez could be a poster child for the company's highly successful IT staffing strategy, which revolves around hiring the best and the brightest people and then keeping them engaged and challenged enough to want to spend the rest of their careers with the $13.6 billion company. The average tenure at General Mills is about 13 years for an IT staffer and 16 years for an IT manager. Turnover is under the industry average of 5%, and this year, it is trending downward still, as older employees opt to keep working in the face of a shaky economy.

"We've got three beliefs: Recruit like crazy, don't settle for anyone but the best people you can possibly find, and then give them the opportunity to do great work," says Vice President of IS Mike Martiny. "The tagline we use is 'company of champions,' " which is, of course, a play on the "Breakfast of Champions" slogan the company uses for its popular Wheaties brand cereal.

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