Leadership and Trust

For many corporations finding an adequate supply of the next generations of leaders is one of the more difficult activities. Getting the right talent and molding those individuals into the type of leader that the organization needs is often, at best a major gamble. Will the individual make the cut? Will he or she provide a return on the organization’s investment for all the time and expense that goes into leadership development? And how will these questions need to be altered in the global arena, especially in one of the fasting growing economies – China?

China presents a unique and troublesome situation for companies. Simply stated, the system does not have enough talent to fill leadership positions – the professional, technical and managerial jobs. An estimated 75,000 leadership positions will exist in the next decade , but currently only about 5,000 individuals are qualified to do the jobs. This shortfall in compounded by the language barriers that may exist between China and the western world, as well as the cultural aspects of life in China.

But General Electric is somewhat undaunted by these challenges. Rather than gamble on hit or miss possibilities GE is going after talented people such as Sophia Zhu. And she’s glad GE is offering her such an opportunity.

Zhu graduated from the people’s University in Beijing China with degree in economics an international trade. As an aspiring corporate mogul, she had many job offers. Because of the industrial growth n China, many corporations are actively recruiting good talent especially those individuals who are exceptionally bright and speak multiple languages. She opted to accept the job from General Electric, which interestingly did not offer Sophia the highest salary among her offers. What GE did offer however, was the opportunity for her to be trained in the GE way and to open the doors of her career growth into a leadership position. Along the way, she has access to senior GE leaders including GE’s Chairman Jeffrey Immelt.

Upon her hiring, General Electric executives immediately got Zhu started in their leadership development program. Assigned a mentor to help her team the GE way Zhu is serving in a number of 18 month assignments on a rotational basis that are designed to give her the requisite tools to succeed. She began her GE career working in GE’s financial management program in Japan. After completing her assignment in Japan, she was transferred to Waukesha, Wisconsin, for additional training wile working with the global planning and analysis team. When she is done with HR Wisconsin rotation she will more than likely return to China to lead a specific department for GE.

What’s interesting in this GE model is that they are not only growing leaders internally they are creating a loyalty that is unsurpassed in China. Because of the demand for Chinese executives, turnover is high at about 14 percent per year. Through its leadership development efforts GE’s turnover in the country is less than half of the nation’s average. GE executives believe that their development pf leaders’ talent within a nurturing environment and rewarding those leaders will give them an advantage. For Zhu, an important advantage is the opportunity to lead a group of employees in about half the time that it takes for others to ascend to such a position. Needless to say both GE and Sophia are extremely happy about the way things are working out.