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Secrets of Human Resources April 4, 2007

Posted by Stephanie in Decline and Death, Employees, Organizational Culture.

In Management 101 Human Resources is often overlooked. In GE, HR is not viewed as a support function and certainly not overlooked. After 40 years with GE, Bill Conaty is retiring from head of HR. His work at the company has been exceptional and in some ways untraditional.

Through HR Conaty has helped in developing a performance driven company culture. In a recent article from Business Week (I used a magazine and can’t find the link to the online article), Conaty stresses continuous leadership development and believes “employees must be constantly judged, ranked, and rewarded or punished for their performance.”

In Management 101 teaches the Porter-Lawler Model of Motivation, Performance and Satisfaction, which in part explains intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. At first I was surprised to read how openly Conaty uses a rewards and punishment system. I would think that the employees would want to do well for the company and be proud of their work. Then, again thinking about MGMT 101, I recognized that at some point most people need extrinsic rewards for motivation. Sometimes extrinsic rewards seem unnecessary and it is seen in negative light for someone to need them, but in the end I know that every so often I need something more than just self-motivation.

Last year in the April 17, 2006, Conaty was quoted in another Business Week article saying the primary motivation for the GE staff remains “challenging jobs and a career path for personal growth.”

What motivates you to work hard? Would you want to work in a performance-driven company culture?

In further research I found that in 2004 Conaty was named HR Executive Of The Year. It seems he must be doing something right. Although not much was explained as the criteria for this award, Conaty seems to be appreciated and valued by all levels of employees. This makes sense, as he purposefully does not socialize or become too close with top executives, even the CEO, as he feels this will jeopardize the trust of other relationships with other employees.

Do you think this is a wise move? Should it be a policy for HR workers to distance themselves from executives like the CEO to remain neutral?

The last thing I found particularly significant was Conaty’s reason for executives failing. He says that most often the reason is when they stop learning and growing. As industries, clients, skills and the entire world changes, workers, in particular the leaders need to adapt to change. This continuous learning process is necessary for business to succeed, those who do not acclimate sooner or later will decline and dissolve.

We have talked in class about how detrimental it is for a business not to adapt. Do you think that professors adapt to change? There is a phrase that teachers are students as well. How receptive to change have you found professor to be?



1. collage9 - April 4, 2007

I think this is definitely an interesting strategy that Conaty uses for running the HR department at GE. I think if I worked there I would definitely be motivated to do well due to the system that is in place. I feel like a lot of people will be motivated not by the possibility of being recognized for their good work, but because they don’t want to be the one punished for doing a bad job. This would make you look bad throughout the company and is certainly not something that you want to happen. Then again, I feel like some employees might not respond well to this type of system and would perform poorly due to the pressure put on them. Some might find it hard to work knowing there is a possibility of being punished for doing a bad job. However, it seems to be working for GE and it will be interesting to see how the new head of HR will run the department.

2. Abby - April 8, 2007

On the surface, many think that the HR job is merely ‘motivation’ and looking out for worker’s happiness. Beyond MGMT 101, it is much more than that.
Human Resources departments in other companies try to balance work-life and family-life of their workers. They’re in charge of benefits, leave, parental leave, managing schedules and work incentives. More than that, they also look into work relationships and make sure that all groups are cohesive, functional, and hopefully happy.

3. Jordi - April 13, 2007

Sneaking in subversive commentary about your professors are we?

Of course, just kidding. Its a good question. Professors are a fairly distinctive group in term sof our employment. One aspect is the sabbatical. About every six years, we are excused form teaching to spend a year on professional growth. This time off should enable us to learn and adapt. However, it strikes me that universities and professors also have an importnat role to play as the repositories of knowledge, skepticism, and alternative perspectives. We are like societies long-term memory. So, present day adaptation shouldn’t happen at the expense of cultivating and leveraging our (individual and institutional) long memories.

4. Correct - January 18, 2011

HR serve the interests of the organisation and it has nothing to do with serving the interests of the people.

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