Bill Conaty Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Bill Conaty    

Former Senior Vice President of Human Resources for General Electric

After 40 years with GE, the company Bill Conaty leaves behind owes much of its global success to the top-notch human resources organization that he developed and led for over 14 years. As senior vice president for Human Resources at GE from 1993 to 2007, he has long been recognized as a world leader in his field. One of the most visible achievements was successfully managing the CEO succession and transition process from the legendary Jack Welch to Jeff Immelt, the current Chairman and CEO of GE.

Bill Conaty spent his entire career at General Electric. A native of Binghamton, New York, he earned his bachelors degree from Bryant University in Rhode Island. After graduating from a three-year management program at GE and a stint in the military, he held management positions in a number of GE operations including Aerospace, Rail, and Aircraft Engines. In 1990, he was elected a company officer and became vice president for Human Resources at GE Aircraft Engines. Just three years later, he was selected by Jack Welch to the senior vice presidency of Corporate Human Resources with responsibility for over 320,000 employees worldwide. He served Welch for eight years and Jeff Immelt for six years.

GE is not only one of the largest and most diversified industrial companies in the world, it is one of the most highly respected as well. GE has been named by Fortune magazine as the Worlds Most Respected Company for seven of the last ten years on Bills watch. Additionally, Fortune ranked GE #1 in developing world-class leaders. In 2004, Bill Conaty was named Human Resources Executive of the Year. The cover story in Human Resource Executive magazine hailed his handling of one of the most important CEO succession challenges of the century.

In great measure due to the management development and training programs Bill engineered, BusinessWeek declared that GE had the most talent-rich management bench in the world. A recent profile in the same magazine praised him for taking a department thats often treated as a support function and turning it into a high-level business partner. Bills old boss, Jack Welch, calls him spectacular, explaining that he has earned enormous trust at every level. The union guys respect him as much as the senior managers. In 2007, Bill handed over the top job to a long-time GE HR colleague while staying on to conclude another successful round of National Labor negotiations with GEs unions.

Bill served as a Trustee at Sacred Heart University for over a decade, and received an Honorary Doctorate degree in May 2010. He currently serves as a Trustee of the Board of his alma mater, Bryant University. He also serves on the Advisory Board of Cornell Universitys Center for Advanced HR Studies, where his legacy will continue with the recent endowment of the William J. Conaty Chair in Human Resources. In November 1996, he was inducted as a Fellow to the National Academy of Human Resources, elected Chairman in February 2001, and named Distinguished Fellow, the highest honor, in November 2007. Bill is also a member of the HR Policy Association, where he served as Chairman from 2001 to 2007, and is a member of the Personnel Roundtable.

Following his retirement, Bill formed his own consulting company, Conaty Consulting LLC. His client base includes Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, P&G, Dell, Boeing, Goodyear, LG Electronics, Maersk, and several other Fortune 100 companies. He serves on the Board of Directors of Hewitt Associates and is also active on the speaking circuit as a world leader in HR. Bill is co-authoring a book with Ram Charan titled The Talent Masters which will be published by Random House later this year.

Bill and his wife Sue have two children.

Conaty on talent management:

Attracting, developing, assessing and retaining world-class talent are the four critical leadership development building blocks that need to be addressed by any business to ensure a robust pipeline and a solid succession plan for the future.

Most companies spend the lions share of their time making sure they get the attract piece right since that is where the game starts, but the best companies spend as much time on the next three building blocks to guarantee longer term success.

Developing opportunities for people to excel, advance their personal skills and achieve their dreams is an essential building block. Continuous assessment of your talent base using a rigorous performance-driven culture is also important to assure that the best performers are being recognized and rewarded for their efforts and your less effective performers are being dealt with appropriately. If we do the first three building blocks well our fourth goal of retention will be much easier to achieve.

We often hear companies making proclamations about performance cultures, but only the best truly demand and engage in one on a daily basis. The key elements of any performance culture start with a CEO commitment. If the CEO isnt prepared to arbitrate the tough calls or differences of opinions on talent, the culture will get watered down substantially. Rigorous performance goals and measurements are essential, and real candor and trust in evaluating talent against the goals is a must. In a true meritocracy there have to be consequences for achieving or failing, and those consequences can be rewarding or detrimental to ones career in a legitimate performance-driven culture.

The Human Resource function can add significant intensity to the leadership development process but only if they are viewed as credible, visible, value-added business partners. HR needs to understand the key strategic and financial levers of the business as well as having the personal touch and credibility at all levels of the organization to be seen as an employee advocate and the trustee of the companys social system


Bill Conaty - Leading Authorities
added about 7 years ago

Speech Topics

Talent Masters: How to Develop and Nurture Top Talent

In the fast-changing global marketplace, the ability to create a steady, self-renewing stream of leaders is the only way for an organization to gain a lasting, competitive edge. Bill Conaty, a GE veteran who helped shape the modern face of human resources, presents strategies to attract and nurture top talent, and develop business leaders. Through personal anecdotes from his time at GE and case studies from global leaders like P&G, Conaty explains a process to convert subjective judgment about a person’s talent into an objective set of observations that can predict success. He looks beyond the buzzwords to examine the core of leadership potential, and explains how to assess the characteristics and capabilities of rising stars or new hires.

Lessons of Leadership

After 40 years of developing top management teams at GE, Bill Conaty has valuable leadership lessons to share with organizations of all sizes. Conaty worked closely with GE’s former CEO Jack Welch, and helped develop many of the strategies that made the company so successful. His perspective includes both the human resources side of the company, as well as experience gained running one of GE’s major companies.

Related Speakers View all

More like Bill