GE’s Talent Machine

Leadership development is a heavy priority for GE. The company put a great emphasis on building leaders. Four successive CEO each made contributions to the development of management talent.

The CEO Cordiner implemented a decentralization practice that broke the company into various departments. The new company structure was more manageable but required more delegation. As a result of the decentralized structure, GE put a great emphasis on developing organizational learning. GE spent a lot of money on management education to expand managers’ leadership ability and general management skills. Education is one of the three life and work experience that contribute to leadership development (P479). The first corporate university was built by Cordiner where provided programs on executive education and management training. Those learning programs focus on personal growth that help employees to improve themselves continuously in GE’s learning culture.

GE had various programs for finding potential leaders and preventing brain drain. The Session C was a performance assessment process that implemented to promote “high potential” employees. It included the individual evaluations, the career forecasts, and the succession plans. Subordinates were placed on a six-point scale from “high potential” to “unsatisfactory”. This feedback-intensive program helped the potential leaders to understand their behavior patterns, and they were able to find more constructive ways of achieving their objectives (P488).

Another GE’s leadership excellence named disciplined performance management analysis, also known as the “vitality curve” was added to Session C. The incentive ranking system help GE to seek the best talents and to sustain a high-performance workforce. In addition, the CEO Reg Jones initiated a more structured practice to strategic planning to make the review process more manageable- the strategic business unite (SUBs). All those programs help GE to build a results-driven workforce. That is why GE is a “CEO factory.

The forced ranking system put much pressure on employees for improving performance and productivity. The system feed on favoritism, and managers as rankers may intentionally give the high assessment to the people who are close to them. My suggestion for the vitality curve is to add a peer evaluation into the ranking system. However, fairness could also be questioned in this case, because some people end up at the bottom even thought their performance may be perfectly satisfactory when judged in isolation.

Also, it is easy to present the blind competition because the success of one employee is a lost opportunity for others. Additionally, I suggest having the 20% highly progress reward from the highly valued 70%. Recognition and rewards for the top 20% should keep the same, but add more recognition to the average performers who improved a lot compared with last year. This practice will boost the confidence of average employees who think they will never be rewarded. On the flip side, it may be more complex and take longer time to evaluate the performance.

Since GE conduct business all around the world, a more aggressive international approach is needed. I suggest GE to focus on global recruitment that can provide more opportunity to hunt talents. One thing GE could do is partnerships with universities overseas, and open training and developing programs in the universities to attract potential non-American young talents. GE could provide internships and jobs for high performers who enter the programs. The programs may require a lot investment, and the benefit is unknown. People may use the programs as stepping stones to their own career.

Great leaders are great learners. Learning does not end when I get out of college. Learning is a life long process. As a potential future leader, I have to adopt continuous learning as my personal leadership priority. As I learned form the ITO (Individual, Team and Organization) class, knowledge could be classified into explicit knowledge and tactic knowledge. Explicit knowledge could be learned though training and books. It is beneficial for me to read more books to enrich the knowledge, and keep my knowledge updated to the current world. Also, I need to learn to be opportunistic, and take advantage of training programs.

Tactic knowledge, in contrast, is what I can learn through experience. I could take advantage of networking, and meet new people to build week ties. Therefore, I could have more opportunities to experience different things though those week ties. Finding a good mentor in the organization is also good for my learning development. Also, ask for feedback. Another thing I learned from GE is the goal orientation. The company set a clear objective of building leaders, and all the leadership development practice were build to fulfill that goal. I have to set both short term and long term goals that motivate me to achieve. Finally, be self-awareness. I need to take time to think about my strengths and weaknesses, and do self-evaluation regularly to summarize areas that I need to improve.

What do you think?

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