Former GE CEO Jack Welch kicked off the annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management with a little tough love this afternoon, offering attendees guidance on how to help steer their organizations through a tough economy while raising their own profile with senior management.

In the wide-ranging Q-and-A with Claire Shipman, Welch took HR professionals to task for playing the victim a little too often. “I’ve seen too many organizations where HR whines about their role,” Welch said.

If you want senior management to take you seriously, he said, “get out of the picnic, birthday card, and insurance forms business.”

Instead, he told the crowd, their focus should be on building trust throughout the company and developing recruitment and retention strategies that attract the best workers in good times and bad. “Your job is to raise the quality of the team.”

To keep your workers engaged, “you have to communicate like hell,” he said. And, “you talk about your real feelings. Don’t be phony.”

You also want to make sure that your company’s compensation system isn’t stale, he warned. “You get the behaviors you measure and reward.”

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10 responses to “Live from SHRM: A little tough love from Jack Welch”

  1. […] it online, I’ll be sure to link to it. Mary Ellen Slayter at SmartBrief did a good cap on it here. and Michael Long (The Red Recruiter) has a good post […]

  2. Frank Booth says:

    Jack Welch does not have good business sense and was just in the right place at the right time with GE. He could not manage himself out of a paper bag. Yeah Jack, duh,…… HR got out of picnic and forms mode years ago. Join the present. Jack is an out of touch dinosaur that got lucky in business and has no clue of prsent day dynamics of business. I suggest the lemmings that drank Jack's misguided kool aid wake up and find a new guru.


  3. L J Larson says:

    I sure don't believe that Jack Welch is out of touch with today's business model. He sure guided GE better than the current CEO Immult. Immult should be fired for dragging GE down. Every division of that company is a loser. Bring Jack back and he will correct the problems. You will find out quickly that Jack is not the dinosaur you say he is. I drank Jack's Kool-aid several years ago. He is my mentor and I have been very successful implementing his ideals.

  4. […] Jack Welch offers some cutting thoughts on HR departments: In the wide-ranging Q-and-A with Claire Shipman, Welch took HR professionals to task for playing the victim a little too often. “I’ve seen too many organizations where HR whines about their role,” Welch said. […]

  5. Human Being says:

    I am totally in favour of Jack Welsh's thoughts. We are having a come back of our good old Human Resources department- with importance this time. we are in the era of 'personalized services' dominated by 'people'. Every successful company should gain trust of its most important resources-people and own responsibility of their development, to achieve heights of differential-competitive advantage. Most technology companies are realizing this and even tailoring their packages and individual development as a personalized process, as they now know their win is absolutely based on their people's win! Hip, Hip, Hurray HR!!!

  6. John Spence says:

    Jack Welch is old. He is a dinosaur. But he is NOT out of touch. Perhaps his phraseology and examples are a bit dated, but his main message — that HR should be driving strategic advantage by being highly professional, focused and aggressive in finding, hiring, growing and retaining the absolute best talent possible. The future of any business is tied directly to the quality of the people they have on their team today — and the folks that they can attract in the future — and a "real" HR department would earn a seat at the CEO's table if they took this role very seriously. Unfortunately, I am still flabbergasted by the number of people I come into contact with who say that they went into HR because they are "a people person." When I tell these sort of folks that being a "people person" has nothing to do with HR — and that they need to truly understand the business — all aspects of the business — at an extremely deep level in order to be able to add real value and help set strategy for the future of the business — I normally get a bunch of whining and complaining, along with lots of excuses why they don't want to study finance, strategy, marketing, logistics and all the other aspects of the business that a truly great HR person would have down cold. To me, there is no reason in the world that the head of HR should not be the next in line for CEO — especially if they are playing a major strategic role in building the quality of the talent across the organization — and there was no one better in the world at finding, keeping and growing incredibly talented people… and Jack Welch.

  7. Jack Welch is a dinosaur? Hold on, let me text this out: LOL! Jack Welch wasn't "lucky" or "in the right place at the right time". Jack Welch wins, period, or he gets out. How many CEOs pride themselves on being #1 or #2 in every market they're in, otherwise they move on? How many CEOs have elevated their business units to #1 or #2 market-share status on a consistent, repeated basis? Not many.
    If I can take Jack's comments further, this is what I would say: IF YOU ARE AN HR LEADER, STOP HIRING PEOPLE WHO *WANT* or *LIKE* or *THINK OF* HR AS A BIRTHDAY CARD AND INSURANCE FORM BUSINESS!!!
    There is no reason that someone with an MBA or extensive business experience should not be able to break into HR . . . yet this is what so often happens. Take someone with the MBA, or with legitimate business experience, and they get passed over.
    Why? I'll tell you why – because these types of people scare HR leaders. They get pigeonholed with statements like, "They're too business-like", or "They wouldn't fit in with our HR culture."
    So how about this: Stop whining about the reality that Jack Welch just laid on you . . . and stop guarding against real talent getting into HR in the first place.
    Just like Jack Nicholson said as the first Joker in Batman, "This town needs an enema."

  8. sachilles says:

    Jack Welch gets it right. As a former SPHR certified HR Exec I have seen how most HR departments create an environment of mediocrity. People are too important to be left to HR. There are a handful of HR executives that have general management experience and fewer with the ability to lead an organization. I hope Jack doesn't stop. There is a reason why HR is considered career death.

  9. Robert says:

    That's exactly the foci of HR – rapport building through effective communication, recruit and retain the best people, in particular in tough time!

  10. […] Massachusetts, PersonalNew here? Try sub­scrib­ing to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!ShareJack Welch offers some cut­ting thoughts on HR departments:In the wide-ranging Q-and-A with Claire Ship­man, […]