- The idea of implementing Workforce Management Initiative (WMI) has worked well for IBM. However, the new structure of WMI will require HR functions to become more technology-specific, and this will call for persons with technology-based education to be more effective. Since the roles of business support and centralized functional support will blend into a common platform, a lot more work will go into planning strategies and deployment of resources. The HR will have to continuously monitor and expand on the available tools that support HR, IBM managers and IBM employees from time-to-time. This means that HRs will have to perform multi-tasking activities on a regular scale. When IBM created their unique WMI that reflected the organization’s increasing need for a transparent and comprehensive view of their talent supply, requirements and implications for business strategy, they were able to develop a system that was used by more than 80% of their workforce. This system helped employees “track and plan their development and performance, it has helped managers to tap into the talent pool as and when required, and assisted IBM’s strategic planners gather data to assess possible future opportunities and challenges” (Boudreau, 2010).
- The new structure and roles will considerably change and necessitate an additional qualification in systems management and design, in addition to their HR professional qualification. As talent strategists and decision-makers, HR managers will have to consider the implications of dealing with the day-to-day work involved in workforce management, business and centralized functional support; all in one. Earlier, roles were predefined and specific to teams. For example, there were some HR leaders who were designated with the task of working directly with businesses, regions or countries to support their particular strategies and HR needs, while some others were given the role of manning the ‘centers of expertise,’ which provided specific expertise and consulting in areas such as compensation, benefits, staffing, development and labor relations, and some HRs who were entrusted with the job of ‘operations,’ where they had to “maintain and enhance the support of infrastructure function, which included, information technology, communication, legal compliance, and data analysis and reporting.” What this means is that HR roles would need to change to accommodate a more proactive, and act as an end-to-end globally integrated solution provider.
- As more key decisions about talent demand, supply and development were made by business leaders working directly with employees, business leaders were expected to have information about employees on the rolls of IBM, globally. This meant that business managers would need to have all relevant information about their employees working in any part of the world at the click of a button. This can also be seen as a cost-cutting exercise, as it allows them to zero-in on employees, who they felt, required further learning, engagement, and motivation, in addition to working toward a better employee relationship.
- IBM’s business leaders should be as informed about principles of talent markets and decisions as they are about principles of decisions and markets for money, revenue and customer service, supply chain and technology, as this will help them understand the available resources and the process under which they are selected. It also gives the business leaders the tool to evaluate recruitment processes, and make recommendations for changes, if necessary. With the advent of computers and software systems to support professional business dealings, information systems generally can be considered to be the pillar to supportive intelligence in running a business in a highly competitive environment. Be it in supply chain management, customer service, service support, transfer of information, accounting, or general administrative work, information systems have the power to ease and retrieve such information that can reduce workload and bring about definite efficiency in work.
- IBM could leverage their success with the WMI directly into their products, revenue and customer service by “enhancing utilization rates and responsiveness, and also by supporting a stronger ‘decision science’ for talent management by integrating demand, supply and development.” Since WMI required the creation or incorporation of specific technologies into every stage of the employment life cycle, from planning through deployment, there is every possibility that every step of the development, and execution of the system, could reveal information that planners can give more impetus to (Boudreau, 2010).
- HR could retain the vital balance between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ benefits by studying and understanding the needs of the organization, in relation to the performance of their employees. WMI is a powerful tool that allows HR to assess and formulate policies that balance between the two. Evaluating employee performance is the yardstick by which organizations understand their employees better. Therefore, when an organization does evaluate an employee’s performance the objective would be to understand how skilled they are in terms of fulfilling their organization’s goal and what needs to be done to improve their skills to meet this objective. It is during this period that HR needs to balance between introducing ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ benefit packages. Hard benefits are cost-effective measures where focus is on targeting organizational goals, and employees are support tools through whom goals are achieved. The soft approach is more popular among employees, as it is directed at motivating employees to perform better. However, there has to be a balance, as being too soft could eat into an organization’s profits as well. Employees are valued assets of an organization, and it is through their combined efforts that organizations become competitive. “If employees’ commitment leads to enhanced performance, it can also lead to greater human development, the trademark of successful business enterprises” (Tayeb, 2005)
- The WMI enhanced HR’s role as a data-driven and analytically powerful discipline, capable of solving talent issues with the kind of mathematics and logic previously reserved only for more tangible resources. This didn’t mean that the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of an IBM employee’s employment relationship would be lost in a sea of numbers, equations and optimization rules, because WMI was a tool that allowed every employee in the organization to feed information which they felt is necessary for present and future evaluation programs.
- Given that the role and responsibilities of HR’s has increased after the introduction of WMI, the job of retaining IBM’s intangible values and employment brand need to be explicitly assigned, and not be made a specific accountability for every business and HR leader. A person running a global process has responsibility for supporting a unit with thousands of employees, and since this takes time, there should be a priority to include only the most vital and impactful innovations, so that the process becomes easy. Otherwise, no one would have time to do both jobs effectively!
Boudreau, J. W, (2010), IBM’s Global Talent Management Strategy: The Vision of the Globally Integrated Enterprise, Society for Human Resources Management,
Tayeb, M. H, (2005), International Human Resource Management: A Multinational Company Perspective, Oxford University Press, p.6