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Diversity and Talent Management

Practices at IBM

IBM was listed among the top 10 companies on fortune magazines most admired companies for
recruiting and retaining the best talent across the world. The history of diversity in IBM dates
back to 1953 when the CEO and chairman issued a letter to the management focusing on equal
employment opportunities. The company developed a well structured diversity policy and
implemented it within the organization. IBM’s focus on talent management enabled the
company to utilize its workforce and assess its future needs.

IBM promoted teamwork and the first president of the company Watson sr. formed sports
teams among its employees to promote teamwork. He tried to inculcate a sense of pride and
loyalty towards the company and believed that they were the biggest asset of the company.
IBM grew even during the great depression when the overall U.S. economy contracted. In 1946
IBM hired its first black salesman and in the same year associated itself with the presidents
committee on the handicapped. Watson sr. received the migel medal in 1956 for his initiatives
towards improving the lives of visually impaired people. The Equal Employment Opportunity
(EEO) became an integral part of IBM’s HR strategy. The company formed a well structured
career development plan for minorities and women. IBM was recognized as the employer of
the year 1988 for hiring, training and promoting the disabled. The company always gave
importance to training of its employees. Managers were sent to persuade educational
programs in various institutions like MIT, Harvard etc. and seminars. As of 2006 IBM had 72
diversity councils and 167 diversity network groups across the world.

The onset of globalization made companies to direct their efforts to focus on diverse cultures
across borders to offer products that suited the specific needs of different markets to sustain
themselves in the increasing competition by doing business across borders.IBM took various
steps to practice diversity like to celebrate diversity the company maintained a diversity
calendar. IBM also had 8 diversity taskforces to increase the market for IBM’s products and
services by reaching a diverse and wide range of customers. IBM also formed diversity network
groups oriented towards the task forces to encourage employees to help each other work more
effectively and efficiently. Diversity councils periodically arranged diversity round tables to
collect feedback and ideas from employees. Another program “shades of blue” was
structured for the managers to understand the communication styles and behaviors of a
particular culture. IBM had a well structured plan in place for recruiting people with disabilities.
Line champions in each business unit to facilitate recruitment process.IBM also used campus
recruitment of disabled candidates with programs like entry point, project able and lift. A
diversity website where prospective candidates could submit their resumes directly was also
formed by IBM. IBM had 11 registered diversity network groups for people with disabilities. The
company website had a separate section dedicated to people with disabilities which contained
information regarding company policies and practices with respect to these people. The
executive task force for people with disabilities focused on the 3 A’s i.e. accommodation,
accessibility and attitude. IBM had AAT’s (accommodation assessment teams) to handle
requests for accommodation from people with disabilities. IBM had a separate team tacking
care of building accommodations across the world, with an aim of making suitable
accommodation accessible to disabled people. IBM developed accessible products and services
for these employees. The major employee retention strategy followed by IBM included a work
life balance program based on seven principles: Employees must take responsibility for their
own work/life balance needs. Work life balance should have a positive impact on all employees
involved. Quality of output is more important. Team should be flexible when balancing working
& personal needs. Employees must be treated as individuals. Ongoing performance and
contribution are a prerequisite. Achieving work-life balance is hard work and ongoing. IBM took
a number of measures to implement these principles like job sharing policy, part time work
policy, men at work, get balanced, people oriented job design.

Also IBM has started recruiting women professionals before the equal pay act. IBM’s
management made efforts to find out what the specific needs of its women employees and
provided the facilities accordingly.

IBM used redeployment of its employees as a tool of talent management on a regular basis. But
IBM’s talent management practices were not restricted to internal recruitment. It also involved
effective management of skilled people and their proper utilization. IBM tried to anticipate the
shifts in the demand for skills in the near future and trained the staff accordingly which led to a
decline in the attrition rate as well as the cost of new recruitment.

Employing people from various social a cultural strata helped the company to serve its
customers better. The organization witnessed an expansion in its market by obtaining business
from small and medium-sized enterprises owned by women and minorities. The USP of the
company was the heterogeneity of its diversified workforce generating a wide variety of
thoughts and ideas that the company considered important for its success. Various internal
studies conducted by IBM shows how its responsiveness was enhanced towards the diversified
needs of various communities across the globe. The diversity team at IBM worked along with
the internal communications and public relations department to communicate success stories
to their stakeholders both inside and outside the company thus enhancing the goodwill of the