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.

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A quick scan of the company's benefits package makes it clear that General Mills also believes strongly in helping workers achieve a healthy work/life balance. The list includes on-site, company-subsidized child care; an on-site fitness center offering free wellness and exercise classes; flexible working hours; and 15 days of vacation after one year of service, with an option to take two additional weeks unpaid.

But what makes General Mills an especially great place to work for technology professionals is the wide variety of work experiences -- across different departments and using an array of technologies. This, Martiny says, helps individuals discover where they fit best and identify how they can accomplish their best work at the company.

For example, all college hires complete three rotations in their first five years at General Mills. Additionally, the dozen or so summer interns -- who almost always get hired at the company after graduating -- as well as all new hires, including experienced IT veterans, meet with each one of the IT department's directors for at least a half hour in their first few months on the job.

General Mills' strategic focus on hiring, retaining and advancing top talent makes for a multigenerational, career-oriented and highly diverse workforce. The day-to-day working environment is highly collaborative, energetic and, well, fun, says Jonathan Carter. Carter joined the company fresh out of graduate school 12 years ago and completed five different rotations before taking on his current job as manager of a nine-person team of developers and analysts that supports the marketing organization.

Carter is an active participant in IS Diversity Champions, one of dozens of grass-roots employee networks and clubs that, workers say, help foster a supportive, family feeling among all who work at General Mills.

IT director Karine Mensch's group, Global Business Services, is also a pilot site for a new workplace concept called FUSE, which stands for "flexible use shared environment." With the FUSE setup, technology and business colleagues have no set office space and instead share a "neighborhood" providing various technologies and collaborative tools on an as-needed basis. Private spaces are also available for conferences or meetings.

"The point is to look for new ways that people work best, looking at space and technology needs," Mensch explains. "We're looking at what a workday looks like. We're trying to push boundaries. If we're measuring results, does it really matter where we sit?"

Like other executives at General Mills, Martiny is convinced that in the long run, this kind of flexibility, along with the company's deeply rooted culture of inclusiveness, state-of-the-art technology tools and best-of-the-best talent, is essential for staying close to the company's customers and ultimately for achieving business success.

The bottom line, he says, is that "we want to sell a lot of Lucky Charms, but we want to do it in a way that reflects greatly in our community."

Want to nominate an organization for the 2010 Best Places to Work in IT? Fill out this short form! Deadline for nominations is Dec. 31, 2009.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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