GE Chucks Feedback, Embraces Interaction by Other Names
Managers at the American conglomerate feel that the word ‘feedback’ has negative connotations
Bengaluru: Employees at General Electric no longer get feedback on their work. The managers at the American conglomerate feel that the word ‘feedback’ has negative connotations and any suggestion of a discussion related to it immediately has employees wondering what they have done wrong.
“Instead, we’ve now made a conscious decision to invite employees to ‘continue’ or ‘consider’ a particular action. This helps shape behaviour with a proactive, forward-looking approach,” said Raghu Krishnamoorthy, global vice-president for human resources at GE Healthcare.
All employees at GE have access to a mobile application which allows them to upload short-term goals or ‘priorities’, have discussions or talk about ‘touch points’ with their managers and use professional ‘insights’ that are offered.
This system, Krishnamoorthy said, has advantages over the normal annual appraisal system because of the real-time feedback offered and allows employees to put changes into immediate effect rather than waiting till the end of the year.
The app is also linked to training and offers employees recommendations on blogs, webinars and classes they can take to sharpen their professional capabilities.
Since the financial meltdown in 2008-09, the firm has put in place a number of transformational measures such as a sharper focus on ramping up growth outside the US, especially in developing countries, and embracing a more digital culture built on speed as well as scale. These measures have helped GE move from being a process-oriented company to one that is more agile and horizontal, where different functions have access to common resources and promote information flow and knowledge-sharing. It has adopted various systems and tools to drive this massive culture change, primarily switching to constant and ongoing performance development from an annual system of evaluation. The company also encourages employees to constantly improve on products rather than deal with the pressure to get it absolutely perfect the first time round. The FastWorks initiative, inspired in part by the startup principle of constantly learning and pivoting, allows customers to become part of the process and product through a more interactive process than before.
More recently, GE Healthcare, a subsidiary under GE, rolled out two programmes in India specifically targeted at women. The first, ‘Restart’, aims to bring back women who went on career breaks back into the workforce. Through ‘Wings’, the firm is planning to increase the number of women in the frontline workforce, specifically in roles of sales and service. “We are hiring women, who are put through a six-month training programme and placed in locations convenient to them. This has greatly increased our gender diversity numbers,” said Krishnamoorthy.
With a focus on driving company beliefs and culture, GE Healthcare plans to conduct weekly surveys among all employees, who will be asked to choose the appropriate answer to behaviour and ethics-related hypothetical questions.
“Simply talking about culture isn’t enough; we want to amplify company beliefs across each employee so that they truly contribute to what the organisation stands for,” said Krishnamoorthy.
As with any other organisation, millennials remain a focal point at GE.
The company also allows for reverse mentoring, under which younger talent mentors senior leaders in newer technologies and provide unique insights. “While youth can learn from experience, the converse is also true,” said Milan Rao, president, GE Healthcare South Asia and India.