Monday, August 22, 2011

How IBM Is Changing Its HR Game

As IBM celebrates its 100th birthday, many observers are rightly calling attention to the many strategic changes the company put itself through to remain relevant amidst dramatic technological and economic change. But one of the biggest transformations IBM went through is less about computers and more about culture. Over the last decade and a half, the company has realigned its HR practices and strategies to move away from the analog ways of the past and to embrace a variety of 21st century approaches, including some highly unconventional ones.
A first step in changing its HR profile occurred back in the mid-1990s when the company dropped its famous dress code requiring a dark suit and "sincere" tie in favor of "business casual." Next, the company that grew powerful in the early 20th century largely by manufacturing punch clocks got rid of "badging in" for a substantial portion of its workforce. According to the company, a full 40% percent of IBM's 400,000 global employees now work remotely.
The major reason IBM changed its HR rule book? The old one no longer fit the workforce. In the twenty-first century, the company has flourished by buying up successful companies around the world and selling off divisions that aren't thriving. That means half of its workforce has been with the company less than five years and 65% now reside outside of the United States — a dramatic change from even just two decades ago.
To maintain high worker morale, productivity, and loyalty in such a diverse and changing conditions, IBM has placed new emphasis on the "resources" component of HR in four directions.
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