Reinvented talent management guides GE’s transformation

I have long felt that nothing is worse than a big company that can’t grow organically. So, writes retiring GE CEO, Jeff Immelt in a piece for the Harvard Business Review on the eve of the transition of GE’s leadership.

What a difference the Internet of Everything and a CEO make!

I remember his predecessor, Jack Welch, discussing his criteria to decide which companies to buy and what companies to sell: The M&A approach to growth for classic conglomerates. During an annual review to top company officials, I was privy to in 2001, Jack Welch spoke of the advantage “the little guy” had with speed and innovation over large corporations. GE’s strength, he countered, was its portfolio, values, might, and talent. Jack Welch championed talent management and succession planning–and the laying off 10% of GE’s talent every year.

Under Immelt, GE has gone from a classic conglomerate to tech-driven innovator in its domains, with new software capability. GE made bets on clean, energy-efficient products, the industrial internet, and “addictive” manufacturing. (That is, shifting from hardware to software with sensors embedded in machines and analytics).

As an organization, it has become more global, agile and decentralized. It initiated a lean startup approach, which it calls “FastWorks.” It replaced its famous GE Growth Values with the more entrepreneurial GE Beliefs, and under Immelt, it has stopped laying off 10% of its workforce every year.

GE human resources have reinvented itself to inform GE’s new business model. In an article in this month’s Harvard Business Review, accompanying Jeff Immelt’s article, HBR senior editor Steven Prokesch describes how GE human resources use analytics to guide a more digital and global workforce. I recommend you read the article. Here is a quick summary:

Career and Succession Planning. GE human resources launched a new career planning app last year that is embedded in its proprietary succession-planning platform. It helps employees understand opportunities and potential career moves based on the historical movement of GE employees. The algorithm also helps GE leaders uncover great talent irrespective of their gender or diversity. Technology now assists GE succession planning discussions.

Training. A new tool is being developed that recommends to employees training or education to improve performance on current roles and to advance their careers. The new tool will analyze an employee’s priorities and coworker feedback to suggest improvement and learning.

High Potentials. GE HR is using its workforce analytics to understand how to distinguish high potentials from superior performers.  The analytics is combing through outcomes data (promotion rates, bonuses, etc.) to look for clues.

Networks.  A new app is being developed to help employees build professional networks and find new coaches and knowledge. The app matches employees to people of similar skills, education, and experiences, and it provides them with virtual space to connect and topics for discussion.

Talent Retention. A new app is used to predict when employees and leaders are likely to jump ship so that GE leaders can intervene. Reducing retention by even small amounts provides enormous productivity improvements.

Culture Change.  GE HR is looking at data from employee surveys, exit interviews, and organizational design to understand what factors influence speed, agility, and customer focus.

For many organizations, talent remains the valuable asset. Too often judgments on talent are subjective. GE’s analytics may unlock some clues to allow more objective and informed decisions on talent.

Who says a large company can’t be innovative, have organic growth, and use workforce analytics to make better talent decisions?

What has been your experience with workforce analytics and apps–and reinventing HR? Join the discussion.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and is a Managing Partner of InnovationOne. He consults on innovation, global talent strategies, developing agile leaders and teams, and other strategic initiatives. Questions? Please email Victor at Visit for valuable free reports. For innovation visit

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