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Workforce Diversity: IBM Report

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Updated: Jul 30th, 2021

Executive Summary

The field of workforce diversity has gathered momentum since 1980s. This concept originated from North America in an attempt to understand different compositions of workforces. The HR management understands the consequences of a diverse workforce in an organisation. This explains why the area has formed a core part of HR functions.

This paper focuses on various issues of diversity with the specific attention to management of diversity in IBM.

A brief review of the current studies reveals that workforce diversity has now become a part of any successful organisation with regard to managing workforce due to increasing competitiveness and realignment strategies organisations use to improve, and sustain their businesses performances and ever dynamic expectations of employees and society.

There are also different types of workforce diversity in an organisation. These include race and ethnicity, generational differences, and gender workforce diversity. A critical review reveals that these various workforce diversities can both work to improve or destroy an organisational performance.

Thus, the HR management must put appropriate policies and practices so as to manage such differences for maximum benefit to the organisation.

IBM is a successful organisation with effective strategies of managing workforce diversity. The company has a Global Workforce Diversity strategy. The company values difference in culture and has an inclusion programme to attract, recruit and retain the best talent under a concept of Equal Opportunity Policy.

In addition, IBM also looks at the issue of women employment and leadership, corporate social responsibility, and controversial issues of minorities such as gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender (GLBT).


The composition of the world workforce has experienced sudden changes over the last few decades. Women have enhanced their participation in the workforce and globalisation has increased interaction among different races, cultures and ethnicities.

In addition, there are also widespread age differences among the workforce. Such changes have forced the HR management to find diverse ways of formulating policies and practices that must accommodate such diversity in an organisation.

We have also noticed that the HR department must allocate more time than before so as to address the above issues.

The increasing diversity and the aging generation are the main sources of concerns for employers. They must ensure that their policies promote team work and achievement of organisational objectives rather than promote discrimination among employees. This means that organisations must align their business agendas with the workforce diversity.

Literature Review: the importance of managing workforce diversity for today’s managers

Organisations that tend to have workforces of diverse ethnicities, ages, and gender proportions must look into methods of reconciling these diverse compositions of their workforces with minimal interruptions of their daily activities.

Thus, management of workforce diversity is an essential part of protecting organisational performance and possible legal tangles from sections of the workforce that feel dissatisfied due to cases of harassment and discrimination because of their diverse characteristics in the organisation.

The concept of diversity in management originated from North America in the 1980s. Since then, studies have indicated changing labour patterns across the globe. It has also grown and gained popularity in the field of human resource management due to dynamic social and economic conditions.

It has now become a part of any successful organisation with regard to managing workforce due to increasing competitiveness and realignment strategies organisations use to improve, and sustain their businesses performances and ever dynamic expectations of employees and society. These factors are directing organisations to review issues which they have traditionally ignored in their practices.

The management challenge is that employees no longer consist of a single race or gender but rather a wide composition of almost all races of the world, which reflect the modern structure of the labour market (Mathis and Jackson, 2011, p. 103).

According to Gilbert and Stead, the composition of the labour market is even becoming more diverse in the 21st century with reference to sexual orientations, gender, race, ethnicity, and religious beliefs among others (Gilbert and Stead, 1999, p. 239).

The demand for human labour is always on the rise globally due to an increasing number of global corporations, and many women are finding themselves in managerial positions. However, any single race or gender cannot meet labour force requirements today. Thus, in a multinational organisation, workforce is likely to consist of diverse races and gender.

Labour force demand also occurs has a result of the aging population. Changes in demographic structures must present both opportunities and challenges to employers. Organisations will experience skills shortages, reduced incomes for old persons, increased life expectancy and health and continuing economic growth. Changes in demographic factors must also affect the labour market.

Thus, employers have made changes in terms of recruitment, retention, rewards, and motivation among other factors. Likewise, they must address areas of organisational turnover rate, culture change, and multigenerational composition of the organisation. This implies that any traditional and an inflexible approach to managing today’s workforce may not work.

Briscoe identifies the increased international movement of people as a factor that has contributed to workforce diversity and reducing skills shortage in organisation (Briscoe, 2001, p. 34). These movements have led to shortages of qualified workforce in other places. In 1990s, the idea of equal opportunities policies took centre stage in the developed nations of the world.

This aimed at meeting the increasing changes in the competitive environment of markets, and for an organisation was to survive at all. HR experts also observe that uniformity in the workforce is on the decline.

Thus, organisations have to develop management policies to cater for the diverse changes in human resources. This is a move aimed at retaining experienced and skilled workers from different backgrounds so as to protect their competitive nature in the labour market (Gilbert and Ivancevich, 2000, p. 93).

Equal Opportunity in IBM

IBM is one of the leading multinational corporations in over 160 countries. In the face of changing workforce compositions, the company adopted the concept of equal opportunity in order manage its diverse workforce. IBM concentrates in business areas, such as compensation, hiring, transfers, promotions, and terminations with regard to its human resource management.

It ensures that any recreational or sponsored activities occur without any form of discrimination based on “race, colour, genetics, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974, as amended” (IBM, 2010, p. 3).

IBM has ensured that these activities, its organisational structure and administration with regard to employees benefit plans are in line with the provision of local, state, and federal requirements. It also caters for religious accommodation for its religious workforce but only up to a reasonable level.

IBM also insists on valuing and respecting difference among its workforce and business partners. In this context, the company expects managers to ensure that IBM work environment has no any form harassment or discrimination.

IBM also has affirmative action and equal opportunity for any employees and potential employees. The company does this through conducting special programmes solely for minorities, women, people with disabilities, and people with special disabilities mainly war veterans.

The HR programmes ensure equal chances for career growth and compensations. IBM considers effective management of its workforce using diversity policies as a strategic business objective. This is what the company expects every senior manager to uphold.

IBM’S corporate social responsibility and Diversity

IBM has been using the concept of diversity to enhance its corporate social responsibility through community services. This concept has its root from IBM tradition of corporate responsibility. For instance, employees may give part of their time to community duties. IBM calls this “On Demand Community work”.

An employee of IBM may volunteer in school by using technology solutions that cater for science presentation, diverse classroom activities, promoting change in schools, mentorship programmes, and assisting teachers with technologies among others.

Other employees who participate in non-profit organisations also use the same approach of technology application using the best software in assisting people with weak vision, and other diverse disabilities tour the Web.

IBM manages its On Demand Community from its intranet Web where all employees can access it worldwide. This programme provides more than 140 technology application and software which the volunteers share with these organisations. IBM also has cash awards and values technology to eligible organisations where employees participate using its on demand tools (IBM, 2010, p. 1).

These resources are also useful for IM staff in assessing their skills and improving their training skills through online programmes. The choice of time rests with the volunteering staff who can tailor training needs to fit his or her schedule.

Managing Motivation

IBM has a workforce diversity programme that focuses on awards and recognition. The company supports diversity by recognising a number of areas, such as Asians Maturity Adults, Blacks Minorities, Work and Life balance, and Diversity Native Americans. IBM also recognises the rights of minority groups such as transgender, gays, and lesbians.

IBM also takes its motivation further by partnering with other institutions. This is mainly through working closely in science and technology areas so as to produce engineers in the areas of emerging business, technologies, and innovation for competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Through this initiative, IBM also aims to attract, improve, recruit and hire the best talents in the US. This strengthens its relationship with these organisations by advocating, enhancing, and facilitating success of these organisations in the use of technology.

An analysis of the types of workforce diversity

Positive and negative impacts of workforce diversity that exist in IBM

Workforce demographics have been changing significantly over past few decades. Diversity is in terms of race and ethnicity. The numbers of women have increased tremendously, and the average age of the current workforce has increased too.

Consequently, these changes in demographic structures imply that the HR management must contend with varied workforce both within the organisation and outside. HR must also formulate policies to ensure that the organisation is free from discrimination (Hartel, 2004, p. 190).

Race and Ethnicity

HR management and practices must prepare to accommodate ethnic and racial differences that have become commonplace in a workplace environment in order to meet the organisational efforts in achieving business targets. For instance, IBM had to deal with the issue of racial tensions between workers of different ethnic groups.

The company introduced policies that provided for equal opportunities in participation, in all social IBM-sponsored business activities. HR programmes must ensure training in handling multiracial workforce so as to eliminate negative aspects of ethnic and racial divides (Chevrier, 2003, p. 142).

Training in diversity and other programmes have ensured that different workers from different races and ethnicity interact openly, frequently, and working effectively in enhancing IBM growth. These are positive effects of having a diverse racial and ethnic workforce.

It also explains why an organisation must strive to ensure that its workforce is a team and integrated. Integration of a diverse workforce helps most organisations in conflict resolution. This is how IBM is managing its diverse work groups consisting of whites, Asians, and African America, and Hispanic among other minority groups.

Generational Differences

The generational differences among the workforce are likely to present challenges and conflicts in organisations. For instance, in corporations like IBM, most baby boomers have matured with the company and have a lot of experience and their main concerns are job security.

On the other hand, generation Y workforce expects early rewards, asks questions and always questions why seniors act the way they do and make certain decisions. They also prefer using technology. Such conflicts are likely to result in cases of management where one generation with diverse characteristics gets orders from another generation.

HR policies must harmonise these differences and ensure that the organisation works well. Mature workers offer the advantages of experiences which can only come through the work, whereas the new generations are normally technological savvy and provide useful IT knowledge to the organisation (Robbins, 2001, p. 128).

HR department and other managers should identify any possible opportunity and challenge that may occur due to differences in the workforce because of multigenerational aspects in an organisation.

IBM embarked on activities for promoting effectiveness management and multigenerational engagement in the workforce. For instance, IBM has built its management of multigenerational through training and putting individuals of different generations to work in a team. Thus, team work and training are effective ways of reducing multigenerational tensions in an organisation.

Gender Workforce Diversity

There are gender-related issues that happen across all organisations. Most organisations pay women low due to their working hours and nature of their duties. Women also make low number of senior managements in most organisations across the globe.

However, the trend has changed significantly in the last decade as many women get management positions. Pay differences could be due to family responsibilities women have. Studies show that female workers would take pay cuts so as to spend much time with their families (Dwyer, Richard and Chadwick, 2003, p. 1009).

Still, both genders have challenges of caring for old family members as baby boomers start encountering health issues, disabilities and other conditions of old age. Thus, HR policies must focus on addressing the issue of work and family life balance.

An analysis of the management strategies in place in the organisation for managing workforce diversity

IBM has a Global Workforce Diversity strategy in managing its diverse workforce and other external relations across the globe. The company values difference in culture and has an inclusion programme to attract, recruit and retain the best talent.

IBM uses diversity as a tool of creating cultures of innovation in its workforce. The company insists that its diversity agenda goes beyond the defined diversity sphere of sexual orientation, religion, gender, disability, or race.

Instead, IBM aligns diversity agenda with its globalisation plan such that diversity becomes a natural part of its strategy. This is an attempt of reflecting different cultural orientations of its marketplace and business environment.

IBM has recognised the accepted patterns of behaviour in countries where it conducts business outside the US. This is because it operates in more than 75 countries and conduct business in other 170 countries.

This means that a substantial amount of its revenue comes outside the US. Likewise, majority of the workforce are also from other countries. In short, IBM must align its strategic diversity agenda to match difference cultures of these countries (Phillips, 1992, p. 46).

IBM also has a concept of Equal Opportunity Policy. This is useful in ensuring equity in the hiring process. IBM does not consider colour, race, or creed when hiring.

This concept also ensures that IBM respects all the diverse legislation of countries where it operates and takes them into account when hiring. Thus, the company knows that its successful operations depend on respecting and valuing the differences in its areas of operations (Straw, 1989, p. 105).

IBM insists that it will continue applying the concept of workforce inclusion in its operations worldwide. The company considers its successful implementation of workforce diversity programmes due to active, continuous and visible involvement of its senior executives in the inclusion programmes.

Likewise, the workforce has also recognised the commitment of senior executives in promoting diversity programmes among workers of diverse backgrounds and orientations. IBM also has recognised that there are demographic shifts in the labour market. Consequently, it will continue adjusting its diversity objectives in order to reflect labour market conditions.

IBM knows that for any organisation to be successful in today’s competitive environment, it must have a strong diversity programme in place. IBM believes in using its diversity platform as a differentiating strategy in the global market and also creating a positive environment for employees’ creativity.

As a leader in diversity, IBM has many programmes that focus on diversity promotions. These programmes start within the company, extend to external relationships, and to community-based organisations. However, we shall focus in a few internal approaches IBM uses at promoting inclusion among diverse workforce from different backgrounds and orientations. These mainly dwell on contemporary issues.

IBM has recognised the changing structure in employment and leadership with regard to women. As a result, the company has embarked on hiring women in its IT areas. This long-term approach has doubled the number of female employees in IBM since 2007.

IBM runs a programme called Women in Technology purposefully for women in IT. This network strives to support the growth, achievement, advancement, recognition and promotion of the company’s women in IT areas.

IBM tries to represent people with disabilities at all levels of its operations. The company has an ongoing commitment to employees with disabilities by using proactive and holistic methods that ensure their inclusion throughout all levels. It also provides specialised equipment and software to support people with disabilities in learning, and navigating the Web.

IBM also recognises generational diversity in the workforce. Thus, it strives to provide flexible workplace culture which allows IBM employees to experience continued participation in the workforce without age-related barriers, flexible working hours and responsibilities, a variety of work style options, lifestyle choices, continued learning and job satisfaction, and an ongoing connection to the IBM community.

IBM also looks into the controversial issue of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) orientation in its workforce. IBM aims at creating a working environment where GLBT workers experience value, empowerment to think freely, express themselves and innovate, and able to contribute to the workplace positively (Thomas, 2004, p. 98).


The concept of workforce diversity management is no longer an option, but a part of business strategy as IBM demonstrates. Thus, any organisation that ignores workforce diversity approach in its HR management policies will find it hard to survive in a competitive, global labour market.

It is fundamental for organisations to carry out analyses of their workforces in order to determine challenges and opportunities that exist for both improvement and exploitation. This is also crucial for developing effective workforce diversity management approaches.

Multinational firms must also take into account diverse cultures, legislation, and orientations and fit them in their global business strategies in their attempts to reflect compositions of workforces and markets they serve.

Recommendations for change

No organisation can ignore incorporation of management of workforce diversity in its agenda. Certainly, IBM is a global leader in the concept of workforce inclusion programme. Consequently, it has performed well in creating a work environment that respects and values individuals’ difference.

IBM possesses useful software and equipment that can serve the disabled in society. The company should enhance its outreach and employees’ involvement. The company insists that all employees must have inputs. However, given its global outlook, this may not be possible. Thus, the company should open information portal where it collects workers’ view regarding certain issues.

As a world leader in diversity management, IBM must recognise that learning is a continuous process in any organisation, and it must strive to have its workforce value, and internalise diversity programmes and at the same time, determine ways of exploiting the available differences that exist among the diverse workforce. This is because new social challenges emerge each day in a work environment.

Reference List

Briscoe, I 2001, ‘Fortress Europe bids you welcome’, UNESCO Courier, vol. 1, pp. 33–36.

Chevrier, S 2003, ‘Cross-cultural management in multinational project groups, Journal of World Business, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 141–149.

Dwyer, S, Richard, O and Chadwick, K 2003, ‘Gender diversity in management and firm performance: the influence of growth orientation and organisational culture, Journal of Business Research, vol. 56, no. 12, pp. 1009–1019.

Gilbert, J and Ivancevich, M 2000, ‘Valuing diversity: a tale of two organisations, Academy of Management Executive, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 93–105.

Gilbert, J and Stead, B 1999, ‘Stigmatisation revisited: does diversity management make a difference in applicant success?’, Group and Organization Management, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 239–256.

Hartel, J. (2004). Towards a Multicultural World: Identifying Work Systems, Practices and Employee Attitudes that Embrace Diversity. Journal of Australian management, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 189-200.

IBM 2010, ‘Global Workforce Diversity, Executive Corner, vol. 3, pp. 1-7.

Mathis, LR and Jackson, HJ 2011, Human Resource Management, 13th ed, South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, OH.

Phillips, N 1992, Managing international teams, Pitman, London.

Robbins, S 2001, Organisational behaviour, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Straw, J 1989, Equal opportunities: the way ahead, Institute of Personnel Management, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

Thomas, D 2004, ‘Diversity as strategy’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 82, no. 9, pp. 98–108.

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