Allyship is a journey of authentically supporting individuals and communities who have been marginalized or overlooked. These communities include people of color, women, those who identify as LGBTQ+, veterans and those with disabilities. The broad-based nature of allyship is what makes it so powerful and impactful.
We often get asked where to start. Honestly, there is no one or right answer, other than to start somewhere and do something.
Our Allyship Journey
General Mills kicked off its Allyship program in 2019 with our Courageous Conversation series. We invited an NBA player to come and speak to employees about his allyship journey as a white male, which was followed by breakout sessions for employees to share their own thoughts and experiences on the topic.
One attendee expressed "I'm not sure what to do. Very, very, very rarely have I been a minority and when I have it's been for short periods of time. I like to think I am an ally but have no idea if I'm doing a good job."
To help build awareness, empathy and action among colleagues, we introduced our REAL Allyship framework, a series of scenario-based e-learnings, and worked to build an Allyship community.
Fast forward to May 2020, when the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd.
Wanting to take action, many employees asked, “What can I do?” And within one month, more than 3,500 employees committed to intentional work to progress on their allyship journey. These employees stepped outside of their comfort zones and looked inward to identify their biases, practice listening, and establish empathy.
Since 2020, we have created more than 50 workshops and training opportunities for employees to listen, learn, practice and grow in their allyship journey.
Topics range from foundational elements of allyship to Courageous Conversations about race, gender identity, authenticity, bias, hate against underrepresented communities, healing after trauma, and disability inclusion.
We are proud to have so many employees committed to this work, but we also know we can do better.
In 2021, we established monthly virtual allyship Cohort Connections providing employees an opportunity to progress on their allyship journey. It’s an opportunity to share experiences, resources, processes and challenges. While we may not always feel a sense of urgency, it is critical we take intentional action to listen, form genuine connections, and champion inclusion for everyone.
Modeling inclusion is one of our core leadership competencies and is something we are working to integrate into all that we do.
We have recently assigned “Activating Allyship” training to all managers of people in the U.S. and Canada to ensure they are clear in the role they play in the day-to-day experiences of their teams, building inclusive leadership skills and progressing on their individual allyship journeys.
The training also aims to help recognize and mitigate bias in our hiring and talent processes and is complementary to our required diverse candidate slates and just-in-time bias training for anyone who is part of a hiring team.
We also believe in sharing our learnings and best practices.
Our allyship program is no different and in 2020, we committed to making our allyship resources publicly available on our website. Since then, we have heard from countless peer companies about the applicability of the tools and the meaningful conversations being initiated.
Make it Yours
Resources include everything from an allyship glossary and videos on practicing active listening, to 6 ways allyship shows up.
There is a plethora of content available to tailor for your workplace or day-to-day life, but we have learned that the richest journey is one that is taken slowly, where you can sit with the content, let it sink in and find intentional ways to weave it in to how you approach the world and show up for others.
This journey is about progress, not perfection. Start wherever you are, enjoy learning along the way, and invite someone to join you!