April 30, 2014 in Events (live blogging), CIPD L&D Show 2014

#cipdLDshow – Linking development with employee engagement initiatives

Sue Swanborough, HR Director, General Mills UK

Lisa Ives, Senior HR Adviser, Alcoa


Sue Swanborough opened by talking about General Mills’ purpose of ‘nourishing lives’ and how this applies to customers, employees, and partners. They have a set of corporate values and Sue talked about the importance of being clear about them, articulating what they mean, and embedded them into processes and decisions (especially recruitment).


There are a multitude of definitions of engagement, and Sue talked about fostering the sense of connection that employees feel. Employee engagement at General Mills takes many guises and Sue talked about tying to make things fun and in line with the fact that they are a food business and making sure that employees are listened to (amongst many other things).


Employee development at General Mills is linked to strategy (to make sure that development is focused on future needs and has a really strong connection to their values. Their development planning starts by looking at people’s strengths (I’m delighted to hear!) and encourages employees to reflect on what it is that really brings them alive.


How do General Mills connect their employee engagement to development? Predominantly through the business leadership, their values, and the real needs. It is interesting to hear lots of mention of higher organisational purpose and the importance of trust… a definite theme for this year!



Lisa Ives then talked about how Alcoa in Exeter had a bit of a shaky time following a fire; they were constantly behind with orders and were already having a difficult time before the recession had an impact and engagement scores hit an all-time low. Alcoa have turned engagement around and have now been recognised with the CIPD award for employee engament. I was pleased to hear Lisa hear say there is nothing hugely complicated in what they’ve done. However, they have increased their engagement score from 23% to 77% in 3 years so they are definitely doing something right!


Their engagement survey is at the heart of their activities, providing them with plenty of raw data about issues. Workshops followed on defining the desired leadership behaviours and an L&D strategy then followed, designed to increase engagement.


Lisa recommended the book ‘Closing the engagement gap’ (by Julie Gebauer) as a great resource of really simple activities, in the following categories:


Know your employees

Grow them

Inspire them

Involve them

Reward them


Lisa also talked about the importance of identifying the areas that can make the biggest difference, talking about how 3 of their managers were leading a lot of people and had really low engagement scores; executive coaching worked really well as an intervention, with a significant increase in engagement.


Plenty of practical ideas about focusing L&D strategy on achieving strategy through employees, with a focus on the simplicity of employee engagement.



Live-blogged from a session at CIPD L&D Show – 30th April 2014

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