Employee Benefits Awards 2009: Most effective benefits strategy for organisations with 1,000 or fewer employees

General Mills UK General Mills UK Employee Wellbeing Strategy

This organisation, which produces brands such as Haagen- Dazs, Old El Paso, Green Giant and Betty Crocker, has carefully aligned its business strategy of “Nourishing lives” and “Bringing food to life” to its benefits strategy, which is “Bringing employee wellbeing to life”. It aims to help its 150 employees directly with their health, as well as make their lives more enjoyable.

Despite being a small organisation, it regularly surveys staff and speaks to its Vision & Values team to understand what new benefits staff would value. It also benchmarks its benefits against those of its competitors and scouts for new ideas to implement.

The firm has implemented health and wellbeing strategies that lead to healthier lifestyles, such as increased physical activity, improving diets, giving up smoking, and nutritional advice. It has also looked at the work environment and created a chill-out zone, where mobile phones are banned so staff have a place to be quiet. Other benefits include free Haagen-Dazs products, filtered water, Nature Valley snack bars, free parking, company car allowance, relaxed dress code, long-service awards, comprehensive pension scheme, bonuses, special achievement awards, Christmas parties for staff and children, and charity and community work.

These strategies have contributed to a drop in staff turnover, from 19% in 2005 to 10% in 2008. Productivity – a measure of business performance – is also high, with General Mills outperforming the market by a factor of two.

Pictured (from left): Helen Branscombe, employee services manager, and Michelle Meldrum, HR advisor. Branscombe said: “The key thing for us is listening to our employees and sticking to company values – such as integrity and care.”


  • Cofunds Coflex (entered by Thomsons Online Benefits)
    A new benefits strategy was implemented for the 397 employees of this investment firm. It included offering an extra pot of money to spend on flexible benefits. A key aim was to standardise terms and conditions and to reward staff for their contribution. Since launch, staff turnover has dropped from 19% to 14.7%.
  • Live Nation Live Nation (entered by Foster Denovo)
    Mergers and acquisitions had led to a diverse range of benefits strategies and a “do not discuss” culture. By implementing a clear communications strategy to promote the newly aligned benefits, 92% of staff said the perceived value of their benefits had increased.
  • RiskMetrics Group RiskMetrics Employee Benefits (entered by Jelf Group)
    This firm has striven to introduce a benefits package that is equal for all staff, regardless of seniority. Its central tenet is “do the right thing” and it wanted a package that gave something back to staff. As part of a wide range of changes, including a three-way merger and the introduction of flexible benefits, it brought in a flat contribution rate (instead of based on a percentage of salary) for members of its pension scheme.
  • TD Waterhouse Investor Services TDWFlextra
    For the first time, this financial services firm looked at its reward holistically instead of salary plus a few benefits attached. In the 18 months since it launched the new scheme, it has made adaptations to react to the recession, in particular a pre-paid “Spree flex” Mastercard card that includes retail discounts for its 550 staff. The judges called this a “stealable idea”.
  • Towry Law Total Lifestyle
    This firm of financial advisers used its in-house expertise to set up its own self-invested personal pension and design a fully flexible package. It needed to have a model that could be used as an example to clients. Its costcutting exercise was particularly effective.