Jacqueline R. Williams-Roll, General Mills

Jacqueline R. Williams-Roll

The Evolution of HR

Editors’ Note

Jacqueline Williams-Roll joined the company in 1995 and has held human resources leadership roles in Supply Chain, Finance, Marketing, and Organization Effectiveness. She has worked a large part of her career on businesses outside of the United States. Those roles include an assignment based in Switzerland in which she led human resources for Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and as Vice President of Human Resources for the international segment. Prior to her current role, she was Senior Vice President, Human Resources Operations for General Mills International. Before joining General Mills, she held sales and management roles with Jenny Craig International.

Company Brief

General Mills (generalmills.com) is one of the world’s leading food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world. Its brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki, and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, General Mills had fiscal 2015 worldwide sales of US $18.7 billion, including the company’s US $1.1 billion proportionate share of joint-venture net sales.

How do you define the role of an HR leader today?

There is no better time to be in HR than right now. There is more change now than we’ve ever experienced as a function.

At the center of the plate, our job is to translate business strategy into a talent organization and a cultural strategy that enables our business to win.

The role has evolved to be more strategic. In the past, it was seen as more transactional – we’re now expected to come in with a point of view, and not just on HR issues but for the business. We are expected to have a lot of influence, not just on talent and organizational strategies but on our business strategies – that is probably the biggest shift I’ve seen.

Is there a good understanding among the talent pool about the type of innovative career that General Mills offers?

Our goal is to have a workplace and an environment, as well as an overall proposition where people can come here and truly maximize their full potential.

Our challenge is always to create an environment that makes a big company feel like a small company. We have a series of brands and businesses that give us a lot of flexibility to allow employees to be very entrepreneurial in their roles, but also take advantage of the scale and opportunities that a company like General Mills can provide.

For a very long time, we have had a rich history of employee development. It’s not an option to stop learning here. Being a big company, we have many different opportunities at our disposal to help employees maximize their full potential.

Are we moving toward providing the necessary opportunities for women?

There is certainly room for improvement. Nationwide, only 14 percent of U.S. C-Suite executives are women. I think many would agree that we haven’t made the kind of progress we need to make.

It has to be an integrated and continuous dialogue across the organization. At General Mills, over half of our workforce are women; close to 40 percent of our officers are women; and one-third of our board is women.

I believe diversity and inclusion starts with leadership; we have to track and measure it, and we need to have good programming. Men have to also be advocates for the cause. We offer a Women in Leadership network at General Mills, which is made up of senior leaders – both male and female – who are committed to advocating for new opportunities, roles, and development for women throughout our organization.•