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February 03, 2022

How General Mills Is Embracing Mental Health

4 minute read

Customer Stories Workplace Wellbeing

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Key takeaways from The Conference Board’s Annual Employee Health Care Conference featuring a conversation between Chris Brunson, VP of Total Rewards at General Mills, and April Koh, CEO and Cofounder of Spring Health.

4-minute read

We’re entering into our third year of a pandemic that has brought mental health to the forefront of HR and board room conversations, with increasing calls for organizations everywhere to better prioritize the wellbeing of their employees.

According to Chris Brunson, VP of Total Rewards at General Mills, one way to measure the success of a wellbeing program is by whether or not your employees believe you truly care. In their annual engagement survey, employees are asked, “Does General Mills care about my wellbeing?” They’ve been scoring in the 90’s, despite running redline since the pandemic began. 

Chris is responsible for roughly 30,000 employees globally for benefits, wellbeing, and compensation, and is transforming the mental health culture at General Mills. Within eight months of their Spring Health launch, 23% of their employees were enrolled and 88% of those enrolled members completed their mental wellness assessment. Additionally, 59 employees who had suicide ideation and intent were supported by Spring Health. 

Spring Health CEO April Koh sat down with Chris during The Conference Board’s Annual Employee Health Care Conference to talk about how they’re achieving these impactful results and eliminating the barriers to mental health for their employees.

Prioritizing employee mental health

April: Tell us about the moment when you decided mental health needed to be a priority at General Mills?

Chris: This epidemic of mental health has been going on for a long time, and the solutions out there haven’t been able to help us get to real clinical outcomes—helping people when they’re hurting. 

At General Mills, mental health was popping up as a top five cost driver for us, and I felt like that was unique. So we knew even pre-pandemic that we wanted to try to address mental health. 

One of our core company values is to do the right thing all the time. And this felt like a place for us to do the right thing and get after mental health.

Selecting an effective solution

April: How did you think through the different categories and characteristics of mental health programs? 

Chris: We looked at driving clinical outcomes and changing things for our employee population. That was most important for us. 

When we started seeing the Spring Health platform, what quickly evolved for us in terms of a rallying cry is that we wanted a partner that was going to ensure our employees and their loved ones would never have to go it alone when it came to their mental wellbeing. We wanted to be able to surround their families with care and lower the barriers to care.

Measuring impact

April: What is the business impact of something like Spring Health?

Chris: If you’re sitting in my seat, in the midst of everything that’s going on in the world, [you wonder], how do we help? Now I have an answer. It’s Spring Health. My only regret is that we didn’t have it in place sooner.

With 23% engagement, obviously we’re getting folks help. Fifty-nine members skewed high on suicide ideation and intent—that’s where I get goosebumps. I know we’re helping people get better. 

When we’re struggling with things like employee relations and terminations, [people] don’t wonder where to go. Our ROI is on the straight care that we’re giving to our people in the medical spend.

Being a champion for mental health

April: Tell us about the process of selling this vision, and ultimately Spring Health to your leadership.

Chris: For us, it was really about creating that compelling vision of what the future could be and why we needed to get after [mental health]. There are four things employers who are leading in this space do:

  • Actually have a strategy
  • Run an anti-stigma campaign
  • Lower barriers to clinical care
  • Provide a low cost, clinically proven behavioral health solution

We believed we had a way to address all four of these things with Spring Health, and that allowed us to streamline. 

The future of benefits

April: What are you most excited about for the future of benefits at General Mills and for the future of Spring Health?

Chris: One of the things I’m most excited about is dependent care. Kids need to be treated differently than adults, and I’m excited about the continued investment that Spring has to push that age gap down to six years old. 

Substance abuse has been huge for us, too. We saw that pop during the pandemic to the point where my CHRO was looking at the data and saying, “that looks problematic.” She asked, “What’s your solution?” I said Spring Health, and it was a good answer. 

Watch the full video to learn more about how to support the wellbeing of your employees. 

Watch the Video

About the Author

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Spring Health

Spring Health is a comprehensive mental health solution for employers and health plans. Unlike any other solution, we use clinically validated technology called Precision Mental Healthcare to pinpoint and deliver exactly what will work for each person—whether that’s meditation, coaching, therapy, medication, and beyond. Today, Spring Health supports over 4,500 organizations, from startups to multinational Fortune 500 corporations, and is a preferred mental health provider to companies like General Mills, Bain, and DocuSign.