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Known as "The Pit," this auditorium was where former GE CEO Jack Welch routinely educated managers from around the world who were attending training programs at the firm's Crotonville conference center.

Sign of the Times? GE Sells its Famed Training Facility

Changes in the work environment and in the next generation’s mindset mean that in-person corporate meetings must be different—but still must happen.

A private group of investors has purchased Crotonville, General Electric’s management-training facility for nearly 70 years, for $22 million and will operate the suburban New York venue as a conference center—which means that business groups can meet in the same spaces that legendary GE CEO Jack Welch educated his management teams.

In addition to online training, GE will now hold more regional meetings at hotels and other venues that are near the company’s production facilities around the country. “Crotonville is a great gathering spot, a great cultural melting pot. But it is one of those things that each of the three GE businesses will carry on in their own way,” Larry Culp, CEO of GE Aerospace, told the Wall Street Journal.

While the opening of Crotonville to the outside world might be good news for corporate and association meeting planners, GE’s decision to sell the venue highlights the remote nature of many work environments as well as a generational shift in employees’ perceptions of their employers.

Suzy Welch, the wife of Jack Welch who co-authored several business books with her husband, wrote in another WSJ article that the sale could be a sign of the difficulty of instilling not only hard skills but also corporate culture and loyalty into middle- and upper-management teams.

“No one works at one company for very long anymore; that’s a given. We all know the reasons: changes in tech, economic shifts, demographic trends, the zero-sum zeitgeist,” she told the Journal. “I wonder what Jack would make of my M.B.A. students—not to mention Generation Z in general—who view every employer with a gimlet eye. They aren’t only thinking, ‘How are you going to help my career?’ or ‘How much will you value my ideas?’ They’re thinking, ‘How fast are you going to chew me up and spit me out, because that’s how it works now.’”

Nonetheless, some other companies are thinking the opposite of GE. For instance, the first WSJ article cites the fact that “professional-service firms Deloitte and KPMG have both created large corporate training retreats in recent years as a way to bring employees and others together.” Deloitte University opened in Texas in 2011, and KPMG Lakehouse opened in early 2020 outside of Orlando.

In the end, Suzy Welch pointed out that “managing people is hard, because to do it right you have to authentically care about them.” For organizations to get their managers to do that, those managers must feel cared about themselves—and in-person meetings are a key tool for achieving that goal, regardless of where they are held.

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