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What This GE Exec Is Hiring For In 2017 (And Why)

GE is rethinking what counts as “qualified”–here’s how, and how come.

What This GE Exec Is Hiring For In 2017 (And Why)
[Photo: courtesy of General Electric]

Today’s GE is a different place from the GE you may have known 10 or even five years ago. I’ve just helped open a new site in Cincinnati that houses our Global Operations Center for the U.S. and Canada. More than just another location for a global tech company, it reflects what we’re working hardest at as we head into 2017, and how we want to get there. We’ve built open coworking spaces, we’re streamlining our shared services (HR, legal, accounting, finance, supply chain, and commercial operations), and now we’re looking for entrepreneurial problem solvers who can find new, efficient ways of getting things done.

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It wasn’t always that way. The GE your parents and grandparents remember was a company made up of regional offices reporting to a central headquarters, with management responsibilities laid out in a neat corporate hierarchy. These days, we’re becoming more streamlined, simpler, and faster. As our business changes, we need to hire a workforce that’s comfortable with this new way of working. With that in mind, here are some of the key traits and job skills we’re looking for in new hires right now.

1. Comfortable Crunching Data

Not everybody is a software engineer, but every single person at Global Operations understands their part in GE’s transformation into a digital industrial company. Whether you’re in HR, accounting, or operations, being able to analyze and understand data is critical. We produce massive amounts of data every day and need to use it as efficiently as we can.

For example, our HR leader in Cincinnati is a chemist by training. She’s able to harness the immense amounts of data at her disposal to make informed decisions around recruitment and retention. It’s not the traditional career path we might’ve looked for in an HR leader a generation ago, but it’s a skill set that couldn’t be more valuable right now, and the organization benefits from her expertise.

So even if you don’t have a degree in engineering or your job description doesn’t include data processing, we want to see how you use data every day. I look for candidates who can explain how they turn their work into actionable insights–or who can tell us how they think data might help them do their jobs better. Data is the most valuable language you can speak today.

2. Humility And A Willingness To Experiment

Startups are known to encourage failure in the search for solutions, but we’ve learned that big companies need to do the same. Structurally, we’re a flatter organization these days—we knew we needed to be in order to generate better ideas, work more collaboratively, and retain the best talent. And culturally, we’re now more accepting of failure in the pursuit of an idea.

The result is that the kind of person who succeeds at GE is humble. We want people who are comfortable being a little uncomfortable, who thrive in the ambiguity of a less hierarchical structure, and are prepared to fail–repeatedly–because we know it takes trial and error to bring ideas to life.

Don’t be afraid to talk about a time you failed at something. We want to hear the thought process that led to that setback and what you did next. Tell us about the time you had a great idea but weren’t sure how to make it happen, and the way you eventually did.

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3. Proof Of Promise (Including Unconventionality)

At all of GE’s Global Operations sites, our interest in people who take risks is matched by a willingness to take risks on others. We’re more likely than we’ve ever been to hire someone who fits our culture and shows promise, even if they aren’t traditionally “qualified.”

Maybe you don’t have an MBA, or you aren’t fluent in spreadsheets. But if you’re a curious team player and an innate problem solver who isn’t afraid to mess up now and then, we want to talk to you. To be sure, plenty of companies like to say this, but not all of them can walk the walk. At GE, that often means helping people make lateral moves that wouldn’t have been open to them within the company years ago.

For example, one Cincinnati team member is currently part of the human-resources leadership program but started out in finance and audit. Despite an unconventional background, we helped this person transition to HR because of their strengths and interest in managing human capital and recruiting new talent. Another great example: an electrical engineer who started out building engines in our aviation business moved onto project management after showing a knack for understanding the larger supply chain.

Today, GE spends $1 billion a year helping to train and develop raw talent into teams of highly efficient, creative, and driven people. We’d rather hire someone promising (and then invest in them to fulfill their promise) than to make only “safe” hires who meet but don’t exceed expectations.

After all, you need creativity and a grasp of today’s global context to thrive in the new GE. We want people who can show us a better way to operate and bring new ideas to the table–we can’t continue to innovate any other way.


Shane Fitzsimons is a senior vice president and leads GE’s Global Operations, the company’s global multifunctional shared services operations.

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