GE: Diversity As Business Imperative

When you hear Jeff Immelt talk about it–the importance of diversity, it reinforces the Company’s commitment and the focus of GE’s leadership on this initiative,â€? says Clarence Nunn, Chief Commercial Officer, GE Capital Solutions-Commercial Distribution Finance, referring to the Company’s Chairman and CEO


Black Star News Corporate Diversity Series:


Fairfield, CT.- At GE, a global technology company with clients that represent the world’s human spectrum, employee diversity is a mantra.


The giant company, with annual sales of $163.4 billion, whose businesses range from jet engines to power generation, financial services, and medical imaging to news and information, encourages a diverse team as that also reflects the company’s clients and products, a company executive says.


GE recognizes the power of the mix, the strength that results from inclusiveness. An inclusive and diverse team creates a limitless source of ideas and opportunities, says the executive. Their goal is to create and sustain an inclusive environment where all employees feel they have the opportunity to succeed and where diversity is embraced as a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.


“When you hear Jeff Immelt talk about it–the importance of diversity, it reinforces the Company’s commitment and the focus of GE’s leadership on this initiative,â€? says Clarence Nunn, Chief Commercial Officer, GE Capital Solutions-Commercial Distribution Finance, referring to the Company’s Chairman and CEO.


GE’s inclusive culture has given rise to various affinity groups, including the African American Forum, Hispanic Forum, Asian Pacific American Forum and the GE Women’s Network. Besides these networks, there are strong processes around recruitment and retention. For example, a robust recruitment system targets Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as North Carolina A&T to tap the young talent of African Americans. Once inside the company, GE retains its employees through various mentoring, training and innovative programs that allow flexibility for employees to pursue opportunities within GE and its businesses, based on their career interests, and to fairly compete for job openings within the Company.


“The message of diversity, inclusion and opportunity starts at the top and embraces all employees across the company,� Nunn, who is African American, adds. GE also supports organizations such as the National Black MBAs through scholarships. The company recently contributed $1 million to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial being built in Washington, D.C. and donated another $200,000 in Atlanta to preserve the  King papers.


The best preparation for corporate employment, apart from the academic standpoint is “having practical business experience, which comes from doing internships,� Nunn advises. It helps the company identify potential future hires. “One bright candidate we met last summer, I brought him back recently for a two weeks internship- I continue to keep in touch and mentor him on his career path and potential opportunities,� Nunn notes. Also, GE works closely with non-profit organizations like INROADS that help prepare young people of color for careers in business and industry. GE has been a partner with them for over 20 years, and is one of the largest sponsors of this program.


Mentoring plays a critical role in retention of diverse employees, Nunn explains. “Mentors also help new employees embrace the company’s culture and pace so they can readily navigate their way in a large company.�


Additionally, mentors can also be your advisors and help navigate your career within the Company. Interestingly, GE also has “reverse mentoring,� a concept, where younger talent in the Company could potentially coach senior leaders in new areas of technology. Learning is a continuous process at GE, Nunn adds.


Career planning is a vital part of GE’s Performance Management Process, where employees and managers have discussions around an individual’s performance in the past year and their career interests. “We talk about their strengths and development needs,� Nunn says. “All our 300,000 plus employees go through this performance feedback process.�


What’s more, GE ensures that all employees get a fair shot at job openings through open and transparent processes like the Career Opportunity System (COS), that provide employees access to information on open positions in the Company.  Also, there are Competence Job Based Interviews, whereby a team of senior managers review the pipeline of potential candidates. Nunn explains, “We would not allow the job to be filled unless there is a representation of diverse candidates as well.�


Nunn himself has worked at GE for 15 years now. “As a kid growing up, I never imagined that my career path would one day be cited as an example of how far African Americans have come in Corporate America,� he says.


Nunn attended San Diego State University and earned a Bachelor’s in Marketing. He earned his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). He didn’t start his career with GE until 1992, after spending two years in the National Football League (NFL).

Nunn joined GE’s sales team at Polymerland, a GE distributor of thermoplastic resins: Since then, Nunn has enjoyed several promotions, with increasing roles and responsibilities —taking him to various parts of the country, and Canada—culminating in 2005 with his current post as Chief Commercial Officer at GE Capital Solutions – Commercial Distribution Finance.


What’s ultimately the best preparation for a professional career in corporate America?

“It’s being able to package your academic background with your professional experience. You can’t succeed with just one or the other,� says Nunn, “Outline your own personal business plan; you’re selling yourself. Lay out a plan and how you want to attack that. I’m big on preparation.�


“At the end of the day you have to be focused on delivering on your commitment,� Nunn adds. “If a company has the infrastructure and tools in place to recognize diverse talent, all you have to worry about is doing a good job.�


GE has been on Working Mothers magazine’s list of 100 Best Company’s to work for, four years in a row. It has also been selected as one of the 40 Best Companies for diversity in Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2006 annual survey.

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