Career Tips

Spartan Insights: A Linkedin Discussion. December’s Featured Spartan: Calvin McDaniel, Associate HR Manager at General Mills.

Our featured Spartan for the month of December was Calvin McDaniel, Associate HR Manager for General Mills. Calvin offered to answer any questions about his background, General Mills, and any other professional topic. This conversation was open from 12/03/14 until 12/16/14. You may continue the conversation here, but Calvin may not be available to answer questions here. (The link to his Linkedin profile has been included in this blog post.)

Spartan Insights is a regularly scheduled Linkedin discussion thread that is meant to give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding one Spartan’s experience within a specific company, industry, or occupation. Answers will be given at the convenience and discretion of the featured Spartan and will be answered from the Spartan’s own personal experiences and opinions which are not meant to be representative of his/her company’s official position. Please be aware that questions related to your status as a job candidate, or confidential information (such as trade secrets) will be ignored and comments that we consider to be disrespectful, rude, or otherwise inappropriate will be removed. If you would like to be a featured Spartan here, please contact the Assistant Director of Professional Enrichment at the MSUAA: Dave Isbell – write “Spartan Insights” in the subject line.

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Greetings everyone- I’m looking forward to great discussions over the next couple of weeks! I’m ready and willing to converse with you all regarding human resources, career information or general business topics. I also have passion for community involvement and diversity/inclusion. However, if you are interested in chatting about other topics, please don’t hesitate to engage!

A few bits of information about my journey thus far: I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, attended MSU from 2004-2009 and graduated with a degree in Business Management, worked for Kroger as a Management Trainee from 2009-2011, attended MSU’s Master of Human Resources program from 2011-2013 (studied abroad in South Africa), worked for General Mills Human Resources in our Cincinnati location and now currently rotating in our Atlanta facility.

Ultimately, I will transition my career to teaching college level HR strategy, working in human capital consulting and becoming more involved in the community. If this doesn’t keep me busy enough, I’ll open a restaurant…or 2!

Enough about me, let’s get some dialogue going!

Dave Isbell: Hi Calvin, Thanks for your willingness to help Spartans! I’ll kick this off with the first question. I understand that you have been in a rotational training situation at General Mills. Can you talk a bit about what that is like? For example, how much exposure are you getting to different departments/locations, how are you integrating your awareness of these things into your role with the company?

Richard, Chief Information Officer (CIO) / Senior IT Executive: Hi Calvin, Can you address the issue (or perceived) that HR departments are solely in existence to support senior management and the company? How can new graduates utilize their HR department or protect themselves from non-employee friendly ones?

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Thanks for the questions, Dave and Richard. Dave I’ll start by answering yours.

To give everyone a little more context, I’ve had 3 different rotations with General Mills: My 1st rotation was a summer internship in 2012 at the corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. There I supported the Marketing function and focused primarily on talent management. My 2nd rotation was in our unionized Cincinnati plant where I supported only wage employees. My 3rd, and current, rotation is in a non-unionized, high performance plant where I support salary technicians and exempt support staff. All 3 experiences have been great but very different!

Because over half of our employees sit in the supply chain (plants), General Mills rotates early career HR professionals to various locations to see how HR is done differently. This allows me to see and learn how to handle a wealth of situations, better preparing me to spend the remainder of my career at our corporate headquarters or one of our international locations. Professionally, this is EXACTLY what I want.

That being, there are personal sacrafices that I have to make: It takes roughly 6-12 months to truly feel comfortable in a new city and I rotate every 18-24 months. That means a new city, new home, new coworkers, new friends and new “family” to acclimate myself to approximately 4 different times in roughly 6 years. It’s not always easy and not for everyone. There are definitely emotional highs and lows early on, but at the end of the day I will look back at these years of my life and be so grateful for the experiences. I’ll get to say I spent my 20s moving around the US meeting great people!

Marvin, Consultant and Marketer of Automotive, Industrial and Hi-Tech Businesses seeking new opportunities: Hello Calvin, What advise would give someone wanting to change industries? I am currently tied to the automotive industry. When I talked to other HR people I am told I have too much auto experience.

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Richard, good question. HR has transformed and redefined itself as a function over the last ~40 years. We now “have a seat at the table” and are strategic business partners to our business leaders. We are consulted in big decisions, privileged to very important information and at times are the bearer of bad news on behalf of the company.

There are several things that we as HR professionals can do to represent our respective companies but also have our employees’ best interest in mind:

•Get to know the employees we support on a deeper level. Learn about their families, understand what their professional aspirations are, give ongoing constructive feedback, coach them on their strengths and opportunities, encourage them to have open dialogue with their managers about their performance and standing with the company, and foster a diverse and inclusive environment so people feel welcome and comfortable at work

•Be a confidant. Protect any confidential information shared by employees unless there is a requirement to disclose that information
•Be transparent. Share ANY pertinent information regarding employees’ position or standing with the company AS SOON AS we are allowed to. This will help them be at ease during ambiguous times

•Create a comfortable environment. Reassure employees that HR is not here to be the police, get people in trouble or spy. We are the moral compass of the organization but want people to be able to have fun while bringing their whole selves to work

At the end of the day, the nature of our jobs requires us HR professionals to make very difficult decisions. But if we work at gaining employees’ trust on an ongoing basis, employees won’t assume that HR is an enemy vs. an ally.

Patrick, Risk and Insurance Services: Calvin,  In many areas of business, HR management is largely responsible for anticipating, planning for, and responding to different risk factors their workforce may face. How has your experience at such a large corporation prepared you to anticipate hot-button issues in workforce risk, and how has your share of responsibility for ensuring a safe environment grown with tenure? Is that added responsibility a task you’ve been excited to embrace? Is that responsibility one you anticipated when getting started in the industry? What advice could you give to new newcomers to show just how versatile you must to be in your role to succeed?  Thanks!

Dennis, Professor: I teach management information systems (MIS) for the MBA program at my university. We are discussing whether MIS should be included in the MBA for students in a HRM concentration because it is not required by SHRM guidelines for an MBA with HRM. Any thoughts on the value of a graduate MIS course for HR professionals?

Shawn, Associate Director of Career Services:  Hi Calvin, Thanks for taking questions in this discussion. How have you seen corporate Human Resources adjust to their employee’s increased individual public presence, via social media? Who is retaining the best talent: those who strictly apply their employee handbooks, or those who allow a degree of latitude?  Thanks!

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Marvin, that is a concern that many people have when they work the same industry an extended period of time. I would say your ability to transition to different industries is somewhat dependent upon your function. The more technical your function (e.g. engineering vs. human resources), the more difficult it may be to transition. That being said, I think it is important to build your professional “story” and be able to convey how your skills, experiences and technical expertise would lend well to the company you are interested in (it may not be apparent to the recruiter/interviewer). This can be done through crafting a we well-written cover letter, using specific buzz words on your resume and preparing well-thought-out responses to behavioral-based interview question.

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Patrick, that is a very good question. From my experiences at manufacturing facilities, a majority of what I do focuses on risk-management. I approach every decision with the goal of avoiding an employee or labor relations conflict. That means anticipating and having a solution to every outcome. It also means being strategic with compromises. It is not always possible to avoid conflict because sometimes tough business decisions need to be made, but those tough calls need to have the least impact possible. I will also say that as we HR folk at General Mills move up from Associate HR Manager to HR Manager on so on, that responsibility increases. We go from providing HR support for a couple client groups to having site or business HR ownership.

I did not anticipate this level of responsibility when I decided to go into HR and if I’m being honest, it can be a bit difficult at times. But I like the challenge. The advice I would give to any new HR person when making a decision or taking action is to always ask yourself: “what are all the ways this will be received?”, “how will those that are affected react?”, “how will I respond to any adverse action?”

Patrick, Risk and Insurance: Calvin, Thank you for that thoughtful and well-conceived response.  In my position, I work directly with those responsible for managing workman’s comp, business interruption, employee practices, and many other programs. It’s nice to hear candid first-hand feedback about the internal thought processes you go through.  Good luck in your ever-evolving position!

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Dennis, I think an MIS course would be very beneficial for HR professionals, especially since we can be known for relying on intuition, rather than data, to make decisions. If given proper training to analyze, manipulate and report data effectively, HR professionals can make much better business decisions. Also, being able to back up decisions with data helps give more credibility and trust with business partners.

Calvin McDaniel, Jr

Associate HR Manager at General Mills

Shawn, thanks for the question. Quite honestly, I’m not well-versed in this area given my limited experience at corporate. However, I would assume companies that allow more latitude with their employees’ social media presence retain the best talent. According to a recent SHRM publication entitled Workplace Visions, “By 2020, Millennials will comprise nearly half (46%) of the U.S. labor force”. With the growing millennial population in the workplace (most of which use some form of social media) companies should positively influence how and when their employees engage online. Strictly applying handbooks or legal standards will only disengage employees and lessen their personal connection to their organizations.

Dave Isbell: Thank you for your participation in this Spartan Insights discussion. This conversation has now been closed. However you can view it and continue the discussion on our blog (sorry, Calvin may not be available to answer your questions in that format.)


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