The 2015 Best Companies for Leaders

Of the companies surveyed, 85 percent have headquarters in North America and 64 percent have international operations. The majority of industries represented included professional, scientific, and technical services (20 percent); manufacturing (18 percent); information, media & telecommunications (16 percent); and finance, insurance, real estate (10 percent).

Top-5-Developmental-OpportunitiesGE tops the 2015 list as the “Best Company for Leaders” with IBM coming in just a fraction below. P&G moves to No. 3, ranking at a very close range. In the top 10, moving up from the 2014 list are EMC Insurance (No. 4), Verizon (No. 5), VF Corporation (No. 6), Southwest Airlines (No. 7), and The Cooper Companies (No. 9), all of which reported impressive leadership-development
processes. New to the top-10 rankings this year is Wipro (No. 8), which made the list in prior years.

Except for 2009, where 3M led the list, and 2010, when the nod went to JPMorganChase, the top honor has been a back-and-forth contest between P&G and GE. After a three-year run, P&G has again been toppled by its GE rival. The difference, narrow as it is, lies in the number of other companies that report recruiting from these leadership incubators. (See Criteria No. 4.) For its part, developing people is embedded in GE’s culture and is integral to its growth.

“Other top companies are recruiting targets, but GE, IBM and P&G are by far the most cited “reputational leaders.”

“It’s how we’ve sustained a 130-year record of innovation and reputation for leadership—and how we solve the toughest challenges for our customers and society. We invest significantly in our employees to meet the needs of those we serve,” according to Susan Peters, GE’s SVP, human resources. The Fairfield, Connecticut conglomerate spends more than $1 billion on learning and
development each year to help employees at every level and career stage.

Crotonville, its global leadership institute, serves at the forefront of thinking in leadership, strategy and innovation; is the first corporate university in the U.S.; and is the epicenter of GE culture. Some of GE’s best-known initiatives—WorkOut, CAP, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma—took shape at Crotonville. Today, GE leaders are focused on speed, simplicity and impact. It offers multi-year rotational programs for emerging and experienced leaders to build functional expertise, global experience and a strong foundation for future leadership roles. Some 4,000 next-generation leaders are in the program today. One-third of GE’s senior leaders are program graduates.

Clearly, a CEO will reap the benefits of an organization that enjoys superior leadership development. But this opportunity does not depend on having one’s own Crotonville. Part of the challenge is that organizations don’t know their people well enough to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their bench. But CEOs who take it upon themselves to tackle this challenge will realize the benefit in better, overall performance.

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