MBA Careers at GE: Interview

MBA Careers at GE: Interview main image

Career opportunities and a successful work culture come with the territory at GE, making it a strong magnet for MBA candidates around the world.

Janice Semper, HR Director for GE Capital Solutions - European Equipment Financing, talks to the MBA Career Guide about how GE has built a culture of success that attracts MBAs from leading business schools across the globe.

What do you believe are the key elements that make GE an "employer of choice" for so many of the world's top business school graduates?

I think one of the main attractions, particularly for new MBAs, is the sheer scope of career opportunities the company can offer. As a truly global organisation, with six major business areas, and some 300,000 people in over 100 countries, we've got a fantastic reach and range. We offer new business school graduates roles where they get to contribute and take on a lot of responsibility very early in their careers. Almost from day one, an MBA hire will find him or herself working on important assignments, which will test and develop their abilities and ideas. However, the physical size of the company is only part of the picture. Without a doubt, GE is one of the most well-respected companies in the world - in fact we're regularly named as such by the international business press and we topped FORTUNE magazine's "Global Most Admired Company" poll in 2005.

The basis of this respect is not just our evident commercial success, but also our strong set of corporate values and our integrity, our commitment to the communities in which we live and operate and our focus on the environment. I think it's fair to say that today's best business school graduates are perhaps more sophisticated in their thinking than ever before and that makes them very demanding in what they expect from an employer and their future career. MBAs, as a class, are driven by a fierce desire to succeed and they are keen to get a good financial return on the investment they have made in themselves through their studies.

Consequently, a great job and great pay are still fundamental to them, but they're increasingly keen to understand just how an organisation goes about conducting business and how it acts to develop its people's full potential. To be as effective at recruiting and retaining MBAs as we are, we need to understand and address this on a continuing basis. In addition, there is a noticeable "can do" mentality throughout GE and GE Capital Solutions, with a real focus on delivering smart, flexible solutions for the customer.

There are many opportunities for MBA graduates to embrace this culture and they will be given the freedom to generate new and imaginative products and processes that make a positive impact on our customers.

How do training and development programmes fit into your recruitment and retention strategies?

We bring MBAs into GE through a number of different avenues. Some will initially join us as interns, usually over the summer recess, while others, mainly those with directly relevant experience, will enter one of the core businesses in a specific full-time role. Another significant group will come to us on one of our dedicated leadership programmes where they will spend their first two years on rotation gaining experience of several different roles, businesses and even locations. The unifying factor behind all three of these routes into the company is the quality of training and support that they provide.

"For the individual, the result of this commitment to personal and professional development is training of the highest order - training backed by an investment of US$1 billion per year."

GE is an organisation that puts a lot of emphasis on people development. Every year, we conduct a very focused and rigorous talent review in addition to our strategic and financial reviews. This exercise evaluates our human resources around the globe, looking at pipelines and bench strengths, attrition and retention rates at every level of the company. We also conduct an annual survey of employee satisfaction, which allows all of our people to express their views freely about the way the company is run and which, together with the constant feedback we encourage, allows us to shape the environment for maximum effectiveness.

For the individual, the result of this commitment to personal and professional development is training of the highest order - training backed by an investment of US$1 billion per year. We constantly work with our people to assess their performance, identify key strengths and weaknesses and then provide the tailored direction and support that will allow them to further develop their full potential.

How would you describe the atmosphere within GE to a prospective recruit?

There's a very positive feeling about working at GE - people really feel that they are on the winning side. It's also an environment that values and embraces change as we constantly strive to be the best at what we do. GE is a place where people are challenged to get to and stay at the top of their game, where they can grow and develop throughout their careers. Consequently, it's a company that generates a very fast pace, which is one of the things that people love about working here. Although everyone is treated as an individual with their own particular aims and abilities, our way of working is very much a collaborative one. It's very rare for anyone in the company to be working in a completely stand-alone role - the majority of us are always operating in teams that transcend national and cultural boundaries and which provide high levels of support and the opportunity to work with some really great people around the world.

Despite the pace and challenge, this is also an organisation in which the demands that individuals face outside the workplace are recognised and addressed. That's why we try to provide flexible work arrangements and support our employees through challenging or difficult times such as the illness of a parent or child.

"There's a very positive feeling about working at GE - people really feel that they are on the winning side. It's also an environment that values and embraces change as we constantly strive to be the best at what we do."

The way we see it, work/life balance is very much an individual thing, not something that an employer should judge and impose in some blanket fashion. The MBAs that join us are almost uniformly hungry for success and to emulate the example of many of our most senior managers who are also business school graduates. It's up to us to provide the environment where that is possible with talent and application and I think we're very good at doing exactly that.

Source: QS TopMBA Career Guide

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