The International Business Machines Corporation is among the largest U.S. technology and consulting corporations. It provides software and hardware and consults other companies with recommendations on improving technological design. The company has a well-developed corporate responsibility philosophy that is confined to several aspects.
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To begin with, IMB managers define new options and apply those to a number of societal problems. The company also assesses programs to gain the maximum results. It also pays attention to enhancing employees’ motivation, as well as provides new approaches and techniques to improving their communities.
Finally, integrating corporate citizenship and responsibility is another integral part of the company’s philosophy because it allows the company’s managers to develop a comprehensive method to correspond to the values of global enterprise. Cultural diversity and generational differences are also included into such values.
The main purpose of this paper is to define the main demographic characteristics of the company through analysis of reports and related documents. It is also necessary to define the ratio of types of generations, including Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.
In addition, the paper seeks to highlight the programs and strategies that the company has implemented to manage the challenge of generational differences and introduce alternatives to make diversity an advantage for the company.
The company’s diversity history dates back at the end of nineteenth century when the Computing Scale Company, one of the company that later became the part of the IBM, hired Richard McGregor, an African American, along with Nettie Moore, Emma Manske, and Lilly Philip.
All these employees had been hired long before Lincoln introduced the Emancipation Proclamations, as well as women’s right to vote. In the course of the history, IBM has gradually been introducing the diversity policy – beginning with the creation of the training center for people with physical and mental impairments and ending with the company’s attention to the right equality of sexual minorities.
Thus, cultural acceptance, tolerance, equal opportunities, and diversity are standing at the core of the company’s creation. This company’s explicit commitment provides it with a wider picture of the opportunities it can take advantage of at the global arena.
IBM’s employment policies were not confined to meeting the diversity needs of employees. Rather, the company never gave up introducing new training programs for their workers to acquire new skills and enrich their experience.
In 1932-33, Watson decided to augment the company’s inventory and expand the manufacturing capacity instead of hiring new personnel and dismissing the old one. By raising wages and introducing the retraining programs, the employees were highly motivated to increase their performance of the organization.
Consideration of social and a pension scheme was also on the agenda and by 1945, the company formed a pension system despite deep economic crisis in the country. Therefore, the program introduced in 1930s “…reflected IBM’s commitment to retrain, rather than lay off, workers, and to promote from within the company’s own ranks” (Stebenne, 2005, p. 56).
The no-layoff policy for the employees has now been followed over fifty years. Such a system is also called welfare capitalism which involves creation of exclusive benefits systems embodying and meeting employees’ needs, problems, and concerns.
More importantly, the employment policy has given foundation for considering generational differences and facing the challenging of globalization. Diversity, therefore, is the core task that IBM examines to improve organizational structure and performance. It also contributes greatly to a competitive advantage of a firm.
Further development of diversity policies lead to the emergence of Equal Opportunity legislation, or Diversity 1.0 that was followed by Diversity 2.0 in 90s of the past century.
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The final program – Diversity 3.0, was introduced take advantage of generational differences and build effective teams to achieve the best results and meet customers’ needs (IBM, 2010).
Perceiving differences as an advantage has been the first step toward building a successful corporation, as well as predicting the outcomes of the globalization process.
Presenting Information on Company’s Attitude to Generational Differences
Technological advances constitute the major task of IBM managers. In order to introduce innovation, the company should also pay attention to the aspect of generation difference to motivate, retrain, and improve productivity of the employees.
In fact, the company acknowledges that younger generations are technologically savvy in comparison to much more experienced employees working in the companies much longer.
Nevertheless, IBM industry innovator Andy McAfee in the interview states, “I’ve seen plenty of existing managers and executives and older knowledge workers jump on board very easily, but it is also true that people entering the workforce now – the Millennials – are just inherently more comfortable with …the tools…” (McAfee, 2011, p. 3).
At the same time, the McAfee motivates Generation Y to induce new ideas, options, and opportunities, and contribute to the development of new software and hardware products.
In addition, the managers realize the urgent need to face changes. Structural and managerial changes are possible through introducing new collaboration and knowledge models.
Detailed examination of generational differences provides a clear picture on the challenges and strategies that IBM adopts to solve problems. In this respect, the company has conducted research on the Generation Y presented in China marketing sector. Just like American employees encounter change, the Chinese sector should also be concerned with the facing the corresponding shifts (N-Dynamic Market Research, n. d.).
Change management, therefore, comes to the forth of the company’s strategic mission and philosophy. The first stage of acknowledging changes is defining the characteristics of this generation.
According to the research, this age category, born between 1980 and 1989, feels extremely comfortably utilizing high technology for global connections, social networking, and entertainment (N-Dynamic Market Research, n. d.). They also adjusted to immediate advantages that the technological world introduced to them (N-Dynamic Market Research, n. d.).
Because the Generation Y, or Millennials grew up with the development of the Internet and computer, their attitudes to work considerably differ from those of older generations. According to the report, “Gen Y’s are generally resourceful, creative, flexible, quick, efficient, technologically savvy, and more problem solving and communication oriented than generations before” (N-Dynamic Market Research, n. d., p. 2).
Further step of handling the new generation is to acknowledge the fact that Gen Y is a different generation with new features, but not an anomaly. What is more important is that this target audience indicates future trends of next generations’ formation. Therefore, addressing their weaknesses and strengths is crucial for facilitating information exchange and communication.
Examining objectives, attitudes, and motivations of Gen Y is vital for enhancing organizational performance of the employees and creating a favorable workforce environment. Increased awareness of connection to company’s goals is the main concern of IBM managers should be confident in their employees’ objectives and motivations.
Analysis of characteristics, particularly, negative feature, is vital. The research introduced a number of shortcomings of the Generation Y that need to be addressed. Specific emphasis has been made on their immediate change of tastes and making choices, particularly at the expense of personal contributions, extreme demand of constant feedback and collaboration.
In addition, the representatives of Gen Y are not accustomed enough to single-mindedness, loyal diligence, and persistence. Finally, Millennials cannot accept criticism easily and are focused on increasing their monetary earnings. Consideration of these characteristics has highlighted a tangible gap between young and old generations, which has created significant challenges for successful work of IBM.
However, the company takes this problem seriously and strives to adjust to the emerging changes by activating the work of human resources and research and development departments.
Analysis of the Proposed Programs to Manage Generational Differences
Technological innovation requires greater commitment to cultural diversity. Investing into the development of IBM employees is important because it can ensure progressive improvement and approaches to managing new realities and globalized community.
The program introduced by the company involves policies oriented on health and wellness, learning and development, and diversity. In the course of the history, IBM has acknowledged the significance of facilitating health reforms, as well as encouraging precaution measures among IBM employees.
In particular, the company “takes an aggressive and comprehensive approach to investing in employee health and wellness, promotes workplace safety, and encourages a healthy integration of life and work” (Corporate Responsibility Report, 2009, n. p.).
Within the concept of learning and development, over 400.000 employees are quite difficult to manage as far as skills analysis is concerned. In order to face the problem, the company seeks to deepen their relations with employees to enhance their education, development and skills with regard to the generational differences.
Focus on human resources as the most powerful instrument of successful integration into the global environment is among the effective strategies implemented in the IBM. The company realizes the challenges of generational differences and, therefore, learning and development initiative fits best to meet the requirements.
Finally, diversity consideration is the closest to the employment of policy of handling generational differences. Within this contexts, the company seeks “…to find ways to not only embrace that diversity, but use it to the benefit of the business; to better understand markets and unleash innovative creativity” (Corporate Responsibility Report, 2009, n. p.).
Such a strategy allows the company for accomplishment of their goals. More importantly, it meets the objective to focus on customer behavior and satisfaction. The program oriented on handling diversity consists of six steps that have introduced considerable results. The first step involves increasing diversity competence to facilitate cultural adaptability.
This measure is confined to introducing various beneficial resources and programs, including podcast and webcasts, a Cultural Adaptability Council, and Integrated Diversity and Cultural Awareness training modules (Corporate Responsibility Report, 2009). The second approach engages local thinking into global network.
Enacting geographic and business units is aimed at tailoring programs in accordance with unique needs of employees. The third approach consists in extending from constituency to the company’s community. The concept of diversity should spread beyond the traditionally identified groups in order to facilitate information sharing across the company.
The effort leads to creation of new communities, including Work/Life Zone Teams, Parent Company, and Global Women in Technology (Corporate Responsibility Report, 2009). Integrating programs for gaining the maximum benefit via diversity initiatives in human resources processes is another strategy that allows for effective presentation of programs.
Further development of partnership between employees and their managers responds successfully to the needs of the globalized community with generational differences. Finally, employees themselves should actively be involved in defining the main constraints of cultural diversity and generational differences in the twenty-first century.
The IBM company counts almost five generations of employees working with them, including silent generation, baby boomers, generation X, and generation Z, which is born in 1990s. The differences among these generations create much more challenges than geographical and cultural differences.
However, reduction of baby boomers and silent generation can lead to a tangible knowledge grain, as well as changes to the workforce. According to the research conducted by IBM Global Technology Services (2011), the largest segment of workers is composed of Millennials.
In particular, almost 50 % of employees constitute Generation Y. Disparities in preferences and learning styles are highlighted among various generations and, therefore, learning leaders should not ignore age changes so as to adapt to their capabilities and needs (IBM Global Technology Services, 2011).
Both older generations and younger workforce should be taken into consideration to promote collaborative problem-solving, effective social networking, and participatory techniques in achieving organizational goals.
On the one hand, the company seeks to approach the generational challenges individual. On the other hand, the firm explores general strategies to meet the needs of various generations.
In this respect, they define that “…millennials lean decidedly toward the smarter, technology-driven methods of learning: collaborative problem-solving; social network; organic, user-driven, participatory, anytime/anyplace informal experiences…” (IBM Global Technology Services, 2011, p. 3).
Therefore, because technological devices constitute the central interest of the generation, it is possible to apply it in online role games to encourage employees to develop their collaborative, competitive, and goal-oriented skills in the workplace.
Apart from technological devices, learning modules should also strike the balance between the virtual space exercises and real environment. In other words, virtual space in combination with a traditional learning environment can reach the company’s objectives and provide a powerful foundation for facing external competition.
In 2008, the company’s Academy of Technology world summit introduced a practical testing to define how new skills in virtual interaction can contribute a favorable learning environment (IBM Global Technology Services, 2011).
The experiment involved virtual space sought to encourage the participant to apply interactive and creative techniques and take advantage of the option provided by online space. Since then, numerous meetings have been conducted via online channels. All the meetings were conducted individually to trace possible improvements, challenges, and problems.
Further advances in managing generational differences were connected with the analysis of the way technical leaders handle diverse team. By using three-dimensional collaborative tools, they invited participants to brainstorming sessions, which resulted in successful analysis of skills, as well as problems that need to be addressed. Interactive capabilities are further applied within the company to meet the global challenges and foster global cooperation.
Shifts from individual learning to collaborative learning assist in delivering a more socially connected community and creates highest business results. The chief executive officers of IBM strive to make learning organization smarter as well as develop a technology supported and people-led system of control.
Long history of IBM development reflects a complicated path toward advancement of employment policies. Specifically, the company’s focus has always been made on enhancing employees’ value, respecting cultural diversity, and managing generational differences.
The latter is of especially importance for the company’s executives because it provides significant challenges for the organization to adjust to the global competition and create a favorable image of the international corporation.
In particular, IBM is extremely concerned with recent changes, problems, and advances related to managing generational differences effectively. Special attention is given to Generation Y, or Millennials that cover the greatest segment of the company’s employees. Despite that fact, the company takes efforts to present equal opportunities to other generations working with the organization.
In response to the challenges, the company launches a series of programs and learning modules that would engage all generations into the working process. The legislatures initiated at the beginning of the twentieth century resulted in further development of strategies aimed at enhancing cooperative capacities of the personnel and engage older generations into managing technological innovations.
Apart from considering Millennials, the company also pays closer attention to Generation Z who are born in the 90s of the past century. The importance of managing this generation and solving problems is enormous because can provide future perspective for developing sophisticated approaches for managing future generations.
Overall, the company has managed to face the challenges of generational differences and create the approach to building management strategies.
Corporate Responsibility Report (2009). Investing in the IBMer. Web.
Corporate Responsibility Report (2010). Employee Diversity. IBM. Web.
IBM (2010). Diversity 3.0. Web.
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IBM Global Technology Services (2011). Innovative Learning Strategies for the Smarter Enterprise: Addressing Generational, Globalization, and Cost and Speed Challenges. pp. 1-10. Web.
McAfeee, A. (2011). Conversations with Industry Innovators. IBM Video Transcript. Web.
N-Dynamic Market Research. Collaborating with Gen-Y: Leveraging Generational Insight to Build the Best Workplace for Gen-Y in China. Research Institute. 1-42. Web.
Stebenne, D. L. (2005). IBM’s“New Deal”: Employment Policies of the International Business Machines Corporation, 1933–1956. Journal Of The Historical Society, 5(1), 47-77.