IBM Global Talent Management

Talent Management at IBM

The history of IBM can be traced to events of 1911 when three successful companies merged to form a single entity. The three companies: Computing Scale Company of America, the International Time Recording Company and the Tabulating Machine Company were the entities that came together to found the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, later renamed International Business Machines Corporation. The first CEO of the company is credited for influencing the direction of the company, as it became a multinational organization under his leadership. It is noted that in 1924, the then CEO, Watson changed the organizations name to IBM. Louis observed that, from its very beginning, IBM did not define itself based on product sales. Instead, it distanced itself from other industry players by focusing on research and development.

In the 1930s, IBM ventured into designing and producing calculators based on the punch card technology. The company also partnered with the Harvard University in financing the initial production of the Mark 1 computer, which was the first computer used in computing calculations automatically. Nine years later, IBM was producing its own all-purpose computers. It was not until 1980 when Bill Gates entered an agreement with the company to create a unique operating system for the IBM computers. The latter generation of computers was meant for the home consumer.

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When Thomas Watson assumed the leadership of the IBM Company, he faced the challenge of harnessing the different cultures of the three merged entities. Corporate culture is viewed as a set of primary tacit assumptions regarding how operations are and should run. Corporate culture reflects shared values and ways of handling organizational matters. Culture is a major factor that influences success among organizations. One of the first aspects that were enforced under the early leadership of Watson was the companys motto THINK. In the visualization of Watson, the future would require a high degree of machine use. Hence, machines had a limitless potential of helping people to think. In the views of Watson, companies would benefit immensely by employing smart people capable of imagining, designing, manufacturing, and selling products. Thus, the CEO sought to encourage IBM workers to be thinkers right from the assembly line, secretary, engineer, and to sales persons. The CEO was convinced that such an approach would bind the company together.

From above, one of the primary cultural aspects of IBM was innovativeness. With time, the company publicized its culture as entailing respect for each individual, extension of the best customer services and aiming for excellence. Besides the cultural values that are expressly written down, others are not. Some of such attributes border on how people behave or dress. At IBM, workers adorn blue suits. The conduct also reflects that at the company, longevity, willingness to tolerate and critical thinking are encouraged. The company also celebrates wild ducks (such are people deemed disruptive). Although IBM is not perfect in regards to embracing divergent views, researchers at the organization who base their positions on data have a chance to carry the day.

Potential Hindrances

When expanding activities or operations, hindrances become part of the process. Thus, the IBM leadership must have envisaged encountering difficulties especially when attempting to integrate its operations owing to disturbance that such creates. When the company communicated to employees about the globally integrated enterprise some challenges such as retaining the highly skilled employees if they took positions abroad. One of the best ways of overcoming the challenge was to treat the employees as the nationals of the host countries. Additionally, when transferring employees to other regions, threats such as culture shock would impede work performance. Other contentious issues would center on benefits, compensation, and the changes in the business environment. Besides, the company had to contend with the possibility of employees defecting to work for rival firms. One other concern would gravitate around the incorporation of HR management. It is noted that IBM redesigned its structure in integrating HR right through the employment life cycle.

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Indicators for Talent Management

In 2003, the chief human resource officer, Randy MacDonald advised the IBM corporation to embark on a workforce management initiative. The primary reason was to match with the prevailing trends in the 21st century, which posed challenges previously unseen. Under the new initiatives, IBM would run a globally integrated system that would tie its many affiliates in different regions of the world. Although talent management was not the primary focal area, it was a critical part that needed rethinking.

One of the aspects that were identified as in need of change was language use. At IBM, there was no common language. Thus, IBM did not have a common language despite the many benefits associated with such a commonality. When focusing on people, certain attributes such as skills, knowledge, experiences, and dispositions are integral to work performance. As noted when making the recommendations for a new integrated approach, IBM did not have clear guidelines on which of the attributes should be measured, and how to measure them. Thus, the company did not have metrics or indicators to measure its workforce.

In introducing the new integrated system, the company was attempting to rationalize its way of managing talent in terms of supply and demand. Originally, the intention was to switch revenue to talent demand while doing away with slack from the company. Although there was logic in the supply chain, it should be realized that talent is never perfectly fungible. For instance, it is apparent that there is going to be an abated demand for information technology experts and service-oriented platforms as well. However, in practice, Information Technology and service careers are not tied at the point of learning. Labor and educational channels often treat the two disciplines distinctly. The implication is that although the skills are out there, they are not found in one or same person. It is recognized that unlike raw materials which can be altered to suit certain specifications, labor is different since companies have no wide control over its processing or preparation. For instance, a business can predict that it would require 10 000 IT professionals although only 4 000 might be prepared. In this regard, creating a supply chain to guide talent creation to cater for the shortfall becomes necessary. In reference to the earlier observation, IBM becomes under an obligation to create talent supply chain that can bridge the gap in labor supply. When an entity undertakes such a venture, creating a common language is useful as it guides in the descriptions of the required knowledge and skills.

Another indicator of the need to enhance talent management was job descriptions. Closely related to language, job description captures aspects such as qualifications, titles and duties. Like many other organizations, IBM had a diverse job description system which was useful in setting compensation levels, describing job tasks and setting performance targets. Despite the usefulness of the system, it was not geared towards supporting an integrated workforce management platform. Thus, it was not surprising that the same job could attract various titles in different locations.

Competency was the other indicator that contributed to the need for the reformation of the companys HR system. Like job description, competency is also related to language. Competency-oriented management systems would enhance the unification of language use at the company. Although there were many systems to differentiate between high and low performers, they often applied to leadership positions. Attributes such as communication ability, vision, and integrity were used to organize activities like training, career development, performance management, and remuneration. Systems of this nature played a major role as it allowed for the integration of different HR activities and systems. The tradeoff of the overall approach was to allow for generalization across all subsidiaries. However, in practice business expectations do not present themselves in a manner that they can be reduced into generic categories. In particular, there was no clear connection among strategy, budgeting systems and competency-oriented workforce initiatives. It is acknowledged that although IBM had employed competencies for a long time, those used were not sufficient to support the new workforce management initiative. A specific example is that prior to the proposal to use the workforce management initiative, IBM systems gave a description of personal development characteristics which individuals required to succeed in their careers. However, the new system proposed a precise categorization and description of the specific requirements for one to be successful in a given job.

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Improving Talent Management at IBM

As an IBM leader, improving talent management will be a primary concern. One of the factors that back up the need to improve talent management is that often there is a mismatch between the workforce that learning institutions produce and those that are acquired required by organizations. Thus, delving into talent management is a major issue that IBM must consider.

Before going into the details of why talent management should be adopted or not, understanding it is critical. It is noted that talent management is a human resource management process that encapsulates five stages namely, Planning, Recruiting, Developing, Compensating, and Positioning. Since the organizations have a primary goal of acquiring talented employees who can enhance organizational productivity, incorporating the process is highly desirable.

One of the benefits that explain why IBM should embrace talent management is the competitiveness that the process extends to organizations. With proper talent management systems, an organization has the capacity to hire and retain talented employees. Often, talented employees offer better services, knowledge and skills which ensure that an organization will always stay ahead in terms of service and product delivery to customers. In brief, a company can only produce excellent products if it has top-notch workers. Since IBM intends to dominate in the computer and electronics industry, adopting a talent management system is critical towards the attainment of that objective.

Through the extension of competitive compensation packages, the company would be in pole position to retain its best employees. Although not the only driver of productivity, competitive salaries motivate workers to expend more effort towards the execution of work and related activities. Similarly, attractive remuneration allows workers to commit and deliver better services.

Although during the initial stages, the company would incur costs associated with adopting the new system, the overall benefits are expected to outweigh the costs. For instance, the application of a talent management system is expected to enhance productivity which in turn leads to higher revenues to an organization. It is also noted that having retained the best talent, an organization is in a position to increase its efficiency and effectiveness which allows it to take control of a larger market share. Gaining a larger share of the market translates to an increase in revenues to the company.