New Collar Jobs

Building IBM’s Workforce of the Future

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Today’s technology industry is evolving constantly.

To be successful, companies must continuously develop, iterate and enhance their products and services. Fold in game changing trends, such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence, and businesses must adopt workforce strategies as dynamic as their products to meet customer needs and keep employees engaged and fulfilled.

At IBM, we are building a workforce of the future to fulfill the promise of the worldwide push towards smarter decisions, greater speed, closer collaboration and more personalized experiences. IBMers are the heart of this strategy, through which we are embracing several trends:

New approaches to getting work done

Companies have for years used the agile methodology to develop software, but now companies like IBM are applying it as an engine for business transformation.

This approach is built around small, self-managed, multi-disciplinary teams working together in physical spaces, armed with data and analytics and continually generating and refining ideas based on real time feedback. These self-directed teams break work up into manageable pieces, prioritize what needs to be done first and identify obstacles early so they can be overcome. IBM has found that agile approaches lead to greater employee engagement and more productive, adaptive teams. And, it has enabled sharper focus on both the customer and employee experience.

To date, 160,000 IBMers have been trained in agile methodologies.

New hubs for collaboration

Collaborative workspace at IBM’s Austin, Texas, design studio.

To enable these agile teams, IBM has invested in training and modern tools, such as Watson and other data analytics, and new, modern workspaces that emphasize teamwork and collaboration.

While many IBMers who are part of agile teams already work in an office, IBM has asked some of our North American employees to move to these new agile hubs. By the end of this year, employees returning to offices will be less than two percent of our global workforce, or approximately 5,000 people, far less than has been reported in some media outlets. For IBMers coming back, an entirely new experience awaits.

In the U.S. alone, IBM has invested $380 million dollars to modernize workspaces in a way that fosters agile teams and processes. Unlike the cubicle farms of decades past, these sites are open, flexible and designed to encourage interaction and collaboration.

Our goals in bringing teams back together are to inspire rapid sharing of ideas, to empower IBMers to learn new skills from one another, to break down barriers to progress and to experience the real satisfaction that comes from effective collaboration to quickly solve client challenges.

What hasn’t changed is IBM’s commitment to flexible work practices. Employees can work from home when they need to go to the doctor, attend to their families, or handle other personal matters. And despite reports to the contrary, IBM is not ending work-from home: about one in five employees in North America work at home full time (the majority of employees in other parts of the world already work in an IBM office or client location). Another large percentage of our North American workforce is comprised of sales and consulting professionals who travel extensively to be onsite with clients. These “mobile” IBMers do not work from a single IBM office and many choose to work from home when they are not traveling.

New Collar jobs

Not every job in today’s technology industry requires a bachelor’s degree. In fact, over the past few years, about 15 percent of IBMers hired in the United States haven’t had one. At some of IBM’s U.S. facilities, as many as one-third of our employees have less than a four-year college degree.

These are not blue collar or white collar jobs, but New Collar roles that prioritize sought-after skills over educational credentials. These jobs can be found in some of technology’s fastest growing fields and they command highly-competitive salaries. What matters most in New Collar roles is skills – especially the in-demand skills that employers like IBM are looking for in areas such as cloud computing, cybersecurity and digital design.

Whether candidates learned their trade at a coding camp, a community college, or a 21st century career education program like P-TECH (which IBM pioneered), if they’ve got the right skills, there’s a job for them at today’s IBM. Skills are indeed critical, which is why IBM is investing $1 billion in training and development programs for our U.S. workforce over the next four years.

And, with our increasing focus on New Collar hiring and partnerships to expand New Collar training programs, IBM is working to make the tech industry more inclusive and bringing solid career opportunities to communities where technology jobs have historically been scarce.

IBMers have and always will define our company. While we are constantly enhancing the ways we work and the technologies we sell, we will never lose focus on providing an environment where IBMers can acquire new skills, advance into new roles and progress in their careers. Doing so will ensure they can meet the ever-changing needs of the thousands of businesses and governments we serve every day.


This post was updated on Oct. 10, 2017 to reflect that a large percentage of IBM’s North American workforce consists of “mobile” IBMers who travel extensively and do not work from a single IBM office.


Vice President, Human Resources, IBM

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