Empowering Employees to Be Successful
GE’s extensive ombudsperson process serves as a mechanism for individuals to ask questions and report integrity concerns without fear of retaliation. With a global network of approximately 600 ombudspersons, coverage is provided for every business and country in which GE operates. Employees know their local business and regional ombudsperson through frequent communications, articles and various Company intranet sites. Ombudspersons are introduced at all-employee meetings within the businesses and regions, including integrity events and trainings.
As GE employment and business activity has globalized, we have updated the ombudsperson appointment process to reflect our increased global activity. For example, all ombudspersons speak the local language and understand the culture and business environment of their locations. The ombudsperson network is assessed and measured to ensure that it is operating with peak efficiency while providing the most comprehensive global coverage. GE ombudspersons are trained in procedures for receiving concerns, initiating investigations, and monitoring case progress and closure. Training for ombudspersons is digitized to allow for self-directed course instruction. In 2013, a total of 134 ombudspersons were trained. Digitized refresher courses are available to all trained ombudspersons.
Prompt corrective action and discipline are elements of a strong integrity culture at GE. Confirmed violations of Company policies and procedures result in corrective actions such as training, strengthening routines, and simplifying or updating processes. Although many policy nonconformance’s result from unintended mistakes, disciplinary actions are taken in appropriate cases involving intentional wrongdoing.
A Strong Culture of Integrity
A hallmark of GE’s compliance program is a steadfast commitment to a vibrant, well-publicized and effective “open reporting environment,” in which employees are encouraged to raise integrity concerns and feel confident that they can do so without fear of retaliation. In today’s environment, GE employees remain the Company’s first and best line of defense for the early detection of potential compliance issues. Early detection and reporting depend on maintaining a compliance culture in which all employees:
- understand their responsibility to promptly report concerns about potential violations of GE policies, laws or regulations;
- know and use the channels available to them to report concerns, including managers, compliance officers and GE’s comprehensive network of approximately 600 ombudspersons; and
- trust that the process is confidential and has no tolerance for retaliation.
In 2011, GE launched an initiative that has become known as “Open Reporting”—communicating to colleagues around the world the channels through which they can raise concerns. In parallel, we created a new “Manager Open Reporting Tool,” whereby any management, HR, Compliance, Legal or Corporate Audit Staff professional is able to submit a compliance concern that has been raised with him or her directly and not through the ombuds channel. Since June 2011, we have trained over 20,000 GE professionals via the Manager Open Reporting Tool on their responsibility in managing compliance concerns that are raised with them. By the end of 2013, an additional 22,000+ managers were trained on this simple yet very important process. Since mid-2011, as a result of the training and the creation and implementation of the new manager’s tool, reported concerns regarding The Spirit & The Letter policies have increased by 40% (+13% in 2013 over 2012).
During 2013, 3,104 integrity concerns were reported through the open reporting & ombudsperson process (40% anonymously), covering a variety of issues. The 3,104 integrity concerns led directly to 960 disciplinary actions being taken. These included 228 employee separations, 664 warnings, 22 job changes and 46 financial measures taken. Disciplinary actions are up 16% over last year. Of all disciplinary actions, approximately 54% occurred outside the U.S. Ombudspersons monitor investigations to ensure timely closure and prompt feedback to those who have raised concerns. As of April 23, 2014, 98% of 2013 investigations had been closed, averaging approximately 42 days to complete (down 7 days from 2012).
Integrity and Privacy
How we achieve results in our business is as important as the results themselves. GE seeks to lead in workplace and marketplace integrity by respecting the human rights of everyone touched by our business—employees, suppliers, customers, partners—and by enforcing legal and financial compliance.
GE’s commitment to perform with integrity is instilled in every employee as a nonnegotiable expectation of behavior. This expectation is guided by our Code of Conduct and global integrity policies, The Spirit & The Letter, and is underscored by an extensive system of policies, processes, training and communications. In 2013, a new version of The Spirit & The Letter was made available to employees, including a simplified Code of Conduct, ethical decision-making guidance and plain-language “Rules to Remember.” We also updated the online integrity training for new employees to make it simpler, shorter, more global and more interactive. We have redesigned these resources with a goal of making our compliance communications and training more modern and effective, thereby helping employees understand why integrity matters and how to “do the right thing” in their jobs. Employees are further enabled by our ombudsperson process, which encourages them to report integrity concerns without fear of reprisal.
GE employees can access The Spirit & The Letter in an interactive eBook format on an employee intranet website, together with additional resources including a database of frequently asked questions, compliance stories, videos and links to online training.
GE is fervent about protecting information about our employees, our customers, our suppliers and our Company in an appropriate manner. Similarly, equipment and technology resources belonging to the Company and provided by GE to its workers, or in some cases, to individuals contracted to do work for GE, to process and store information, must also be used and protected appropriately. As such, GE has implemented detailed Privacy and the Protection of GE Information and Security & Crisis Management policies.
At GE, we take pride in our history of governance and our culture of integrity. No matter where we operate, every GE employee is responsible for knowing and complying with our integrity and privacy guidelines.