Jack Welch, longtime Chairman and Chief Executive of General Electric, knows quite a bit about how run an exceptionally large, and successful, corporation. One of Welch’s strengths as a corporate leader is his understanding and appreciation for loyalty and longevity among GE’s tens of thousands of workers. In a June 21, 1999, interview with the Wall Street Journal, he explained his approach to managing such a large workforce in a way that instills confidence and loyalty among so many employees:
“I tell people to never allow themselves to become victims in an institution. Because many people end up feeling like victims. They are in the wrong job, or they have plateaued or they don’t want to rock the boat. I encourage them to raise their hands, to be seen, to make a statement…And we try to weed out the managers who make employees feel like victims, the managers who lose staff all the time.” [“General Electric’s Welch Discusses His Ideas on Motivating Employees,” Wall Street Journal, June 21, 1999]
As with some other corporate leaders, Jack Welch, now retired, understood the importance of maintain an experienced, risk-taking but level-headed staff, and that that required offering employees the opportunity to grow within the firm, or to survive changes that resulted in the elimination of some jobs. Welch was quoted some years later as noting that, “No company, large or small, can succeed over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” Central to this management philosophy is the belief in the ability and willingness of employees to take measures necessary to improve themselves and, consequently, the fortunes of the company. Adult education, retraining programs, employee incentives, all comprise essential components of this approach.
As important in retaining valued employees is maintaining a constant pipeline of new, young talent willing to start at or near the bottom and work their way up the corporate ladder. GE’s “Global New Directions” initiative was designed to attract fresh talent on a global basis while providing opportunities for employees to train for broader opportunities within the corporation. [see www.genewscenter.com/Press-Releases/Employee-Engagement-Beyond-Rewards-Critical-to-Attracting-and -Motivating-Talent-3f28.aspx] Obviously, the most experienced and dedicated employees will, eventually, retire and need to be replaced. Ensuring that no interruption in the performance of those individuals’ duties, and no decrease in competency, occurs as a result of those retirements is the responsibility of GE’s human resources division, which is vested in its own success at keeping the flow of talent moving along.
Training, development, and learning programs are a key to preparing new employees, and to retaining existing ones, as the corporation moves forward.