General Electric: A BigCo Goes NewCo


Photo of GE CEO Jeff Immelt: J.D. Lasica

Today’s Top Stories
 — General Electric: Ancient But Open to the New. The 124-year-old company is making profound changes in what it expects of its people.
 — Young People Are Frustrated and Angry. DoSomething Helps Them Make An Impact. Find out more in our latest video spotlight.
 — Diversity Helps Even in Places Where It’s Not Designed To: More women in the boardroom may mean more attention to climate issues.
 — Sugar Taxes Aren’t About the Sugar: They’re about the money.
 — A Requiem for My Inbox: in which our founder and CEO gives up to the inevitable.

General Electric: A BigCo Goes NewCo
 It’s not rare to hear a BigCo argue that its top people are those willing to take risks, test new ideas with customers, and make mistakes. It is rare, though, when a BigCo puts in practices to support that behavior. General Electric, 124 years old, under CEO Jeff Immelt, is reengineering its performance reviews and pay policies based on the behaviors they say they want (Wall Street Journal). The idea is to encourage risk, reduce uncertainty, and replace the annual high-stakes performance review with a more regular series of less dramatic feedback opportunities. “It’s not realistic to expect perfection anymore,” says GE HR exec Janice Semper, evidencing a new company culture Jack Welch would have some trouble recognizing.

Young People Are Frustrated and Angry. DoSomething Helps Them Make An Impact
 In our latest video spotlight, our Lon Koontz looks in on the largest platform for young people to create social change.

Diversity Helps Even in Places Where It’s Not Designed To
 Diversity in the boardroom offers companies obvious benefits as well as some unexpected ones. Add to the list of the latter the finding that women on corporate boards could make it easier for businesses to hit climate targets (Bloomberg). Notes Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “a greater presence of women in the boardroom and in senior leadership roles can help increase the corporate focus on climate change.” It’s yet another reason to shake things up at a time when more than 51 percent of companies in the energy sector have no women on their boards.

Sugar Taxes Aren’t About the Sugar
 In Philadelphia, at least, it appears that people prefer to have their taxes go up than be told how they should behave. That’s the takeaway from how Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney sold his idea for a soda tax (New York Times). The measure is expected to pass next week, placing a tax of 1.5 cents for every ounce that includes sugar or artificial sweeteners, adding, for example 30 cents for a 20-ounce Coke. Sensing that positioning the tax as a Nanny State health measure wouldn’t go over, Kenney went in the other direction, with a frankly-we-need-the-money campaign emphasizing that the new revenue would go to expanded pre-K and other popular programs. There are still plenty of vagaries: the tax applies to diet drinks as well as sugared ones, a last-minute revelation by the city’s finance department suggests some of the new revenue would be used to “plug a budget shortfall” rather than fund specific programs, and opponents are likely to sue. But this is an intriguing way to sell the idea of a sugar tax to constituencies that don’t want to be preached to.

A Requiem for My Inbox
 Our founder and CEO had an inbox safe from garbage. Then he didn’t.

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