Speaker's Profile

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BILL CONATY

Former Senior VP of Human Resources for General Electric

A General Electric (GE) veteran who helped shape the modern face of human resources, Bill Conaty is legendary for his ability to attract and nurture top talent and develop business leaders. As senior vice president for Human Resources from 1993 to 2007, he has long been recognized as a world leader in his field, and he was responsible for all human resources activities for GE’s 330,000 employees worldwide. One of his 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. Conaty is also the co-author, with Ram Charan, of The Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers which relays valuable principles for creating a steady, self-renewing stream of leaders. He addresses leadership and how to nurture and develop top talent.

A GE Man. Bill Conaty spent his entire 40-year career at General Electric. After a stint in the military and after graduating from a three-year management program at GE, 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. He served Welch for eight years and Jeff Immelt for six.

GE was been named by Fortune magazine as the “World’s Most Respected Company” for seven of the last 10 years – on Conaty’s watch. Additionally, Fortune ranked GE No. 1 in developing world-class leaders. In 2004, Human Resource Magazine named Conaty “HR Executive of the Year,” and the cover story 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 Conaty engineered, Bloomberg 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 that’s often treated as a support function” and turning it “into a high-level business partner.” Jack Welch called Conaty “spectacular,” explaining that he has earned “enormous trust at every level.”

Education, Boards, and More. Conaty served as a trustee at Sacred Heart University for over a decade and received an honorary doctorate in 2010. He also serves as a trustee of the board of his alma mater, Bryant University. Conaty is on the advisory board of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced HR Studies, where his legacy continues through the William J. Conaty Chair in Human Resources. In 1996, Conaty was inducted as a fellow to the National Academy of Human Resources, elected chairman in 2001, and named distinguished fellow – the highest honor – in 2007.

Following his retirement, Conaty formed his own consulting company, Conaty Consulting LLC. His client base includes a host of Fortune 100 companies. He serves on the board of directors of Hewitt Associates, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital. He 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. Conaty is active on the speaking circuit as a world leader in HR and has been a featured guest on CNBC’s Squawk Box.

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.

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■Bill Conaty, Former Head of HR at GE, on the "Human" aspect of Human Resources

■Putting People Before Numbers - CNBC