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Sohini Bose Roy

Labor Union Offers Valuable Experience at General Mills Internship

by Sohini Bose Roy Thursday, December 29, 2016

After a long winter in Madison, Wisconsin I was eagerly looking forward to summer, not just for warm weather but also my MBA internship. I interned with General Mills this summer in the role of Associate HR Manager. I am a career switcher with no prior experience in HR functions and I was unsure of what to expect. I was ardently hoping for a challenging summer with a lot of learning opportunities and General Mills ensured that I got the most fantastic summer experience. I worked in their Cincinnati plant which produces Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Chex cereals. Needless to say, I had my fair share of cereal all summer. What made my experience truly memorable were the four impactful projects I was entrusted with, which I will discuss.

The plant was unionized and all my projects included not only working extensively with the other cross functional teams but also with unions. This really helped me gain insights into the layers of complexity that union adds to the business function. The plant was on the brink of a lot of changes with an increase in volume of their Cinnamon Toast crunch cereal and addition of another cereal line. Their business goals had also evolved to higher reliability, and zero waste. It was a very exciting time to be there and I knew that all my projects were actually going to create a lot of value and would steer the plant closer to its business goals. Throughout the summer I was challenged as I completed a total of four projects, two strategic and two tactical.


Strategic Projects

  • Starting with my most challenging operations wage lead job creation project, I developed an extensive proposal for a Wage Lead position for the Cincinnati Plant. This included building a strong business case for this job new role. I worked with the finance team along with the operations team to understand the return of investment (ROI). I completed internal and external benchmarking of other organizations that utilize wage lead positions. My proposal detailed the cost, benefits, challenges, risks and pilot strategy for this job position. I also developed the job specific details like the job title, selection criteria, performance evaluation, tenure, contractual modifications and compensation. 
  • My second project was contract negotiations preparations. The plant is going to negotiate its contract after four years in February, 2017 and I initiated the preparation process by leading focus groups from all departments. I analyzed the data from the attendance, and corrective action database along with the ideas generated from the brainstorming sessions to arrive at the most important change areas to focus on during contract negotiations. These areas were attendance, training and work rules. I developed extensive proposals on those areas after a lot of research on manufacturing industry practices.


Tactical Projects

  • My third project was to develop an electronic solution to a paper based system used weekly by the wage workers. This change was to reduce a lot of manual effort of the HR team. I successfully negotiated with the union to get their buy in on this change. I worked with the IT department to get the solution ready for use. I also created the change management and the training plans to be used by the HR and the wage workers to use the system.
  • The fourth project was to create a standardized job description template and update all the job descriptions in the plant. This required me to work extensively with all the Subject Matter Experts in the plant along with the operators. I also worked to create an online repository for these job descriptions. Easily accessible, standardized and updated job descriptions were really crucial for the Team leaders for their daily task assignments and for training purposes.

Apart from these four projects, I also understood more about an HR generalist role by shadowing my HR manager in the employee relations meetings, recruitment and training sessions. My biggest takeaway this summer was the understanding of the significance of company culture. I thoroughly enjoyed working in General Mills’ collaborative and inclusive culture. Even though, I had to really stretch myself to complete the assigned projects, I never felt stressed out. I thoroughly enjoyed my work because everyone at General Mills wanted me to succeed and they went out of their way to guide and provide constructive feedback throughout the internship. It was not just only all work, I had my share of great fun with lot of team lunches, barbecue parties, baseball games along with a great team of colleagues. I also got the opportunity to volunteer on three occasions and be a part of the great socially responsible company that is General Mills.

Professor Barry Gerhart and Professor Maria Triana helped me with their guidance on my projects this summer. I also received tremendous support from Bill Brennan (MS, '82) for my projects. As I long back, I can easily say that this was one of my best summers ever. I am really excited to be back to school and I am looking forward to a lot of learning and sharing ahead because Together Forward is the best way to succeed!