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.


Sajan Somasundaram

This is so good. Do we have this in other part of the world or just started in US. Can people from other part do this through online?

Jeff Riggerio

This is very interesting: “IBM is not ending work-from home: about one in five employees in North America work at home full time”. IBM must be doing selective enforcement of it’s colocation policy. They just pushed nearly 2200 US marketers out the door due to “colocation” — e.g. the end of US marketing working from home. They were given options to work @ in one of 5 locations identified by IBM Executives or told to leave. New collar will be the rage for IBM until somehow it costs them too much and then these people will be tossed aside. IBM wake up — it’s your executives that are the problem. They are bleeding the company dry w/greed, stale ideas and the inability to see the direction of the market.

Amina Zaki

Thanks for sharing, I my self like the approach of the New Collar hiring, this is very interesting and through this approach we are creating our pool of talents with a long term loyal relationship, giving the chance for everyone who has the talent to join the winning team!

Opeyemi Aborisade

Soft skills over education though.

Eliane M. Regina

Innovation that matters – for our company and for the world.

Dan Johns

As an IBMer i’d love to agree with this however whist we try to change internally, the majority of our senior management are long term IBMer’s – and whilst elements of our “younger” business may be agile – they are inhibited by IBMer’s who only know one way, the IBM way (which isn’t the right way). Take note the author of the article has been at IBM 15+ years…which says alot.


True said….IBM is transforming and enable the people to transform by giving training in new areas. Good opportunities are provided for the people who acquire or interested acquire new skilss.



Thank you for sharing this great perspective with us. Absolutely, this is a new workforce we will have to build in our new journey.

Ashish Rastogi

Very well written, that is the true IBM, continually transforming ..

Patricia Ochoa

Proud to be a former IBMer… Miss such a great company!
Thanks Angelica for sharing.

Tony Bowe

Quote – ‘And despite reports to the contrary, IBM is not ending work-from home’. This is not what I am seeing on the ‘Watching IBM’ facebook page

Angelica Galve

Great summary to explain our approach to build the workforce of the future. By new ways of work, new technology and constantly developing our skills. IBMers are the heart of this strategy!!


Agile work space is great for developers & tech support alike. Definitely!!

This is a concern for inside sales. They need cubicles. Client calls/demos/webcasts etc. I hope they are taking that into consideration.


I agree to the views mentioned above . Thanks for sharing..

Bejoy Karayil Chandrasekhar

Thanks Sam !! We IBMer always create path breaking innovation and our focus on “New Collar” jobs is a true innovation which will be emulated by other organizations. This initiative helps us to tap the large section of talented individuals who due to many reasons not necessary always in their control couldn’t complete a formal college degree from a reputed institution. Harnessing their skills will complement the immense talent pool which we already have.
And the agile way of working, design thinking, new office space etc will definitely help our talent to deliver client experience & higher value.

Hisham Darwish

Very inspirational to see IBM leading business transformation through its offerings as well as its workforce strategies

Roberto Magnani

Thank you, Sam, clear and net your blog is indicating the path to transformation that passes through a redirection of employees approach and attitude. Huge effort that will pay back in the short term with an agile and top edge skilled workforce

Francisco Lopez

Thanks Sam. This type of articles are important to clarify internally what we are doing in this important matter. Noise outside is big, and your words give us valuable arguments to discuss.

Barry Graham

It’s amazing how the media can distort facts. They make it seem like everyone is being forced to go back to the office, which we know isn’t true. Certain groups should work together, those of us out in the field are not, I am sure, going to be asked to work in an office when we should be out selling. IBM can’t afford to send everyone back to an office! Thanks for this update.

Charles Blowe


Great perspective on some important industry shifts, and IBM’s take on them. Thanks for the insights!

Glenn Grant

This is great news for the US , when can we see this investment in other geographies please?

Rob Sauerwalt

Thanks for taking the time Sam – I think skills, and skill remixing / growth, is under represented in the way we spend our time. Thinking about different approaches to acquire those skills, engage them and make them productive is critical to our long term success

Sofia Bonnet Hollis

IBM demonstrating its values as we support the communities we operate in. There is no progress in a society without education. #inclusiveIBM !!

dominic agostino

awesome article!! Great to see this innovative approach!!

Maria Garza-Lennon

Thanks for the clear message, Sam. It’s hard to remember a more exciting time to be a part of IBM!


Thanks Sam. IBM is Industry Leader in this new approach to tap into talent from unconventional sources.

Mike McGann

Great summary. I feel I am better prepared to explain our approach.

Kerry Steen

Great confirmation, IBM success is dependent on the talent and skills of its employees! I applaud IBM’s commitment to aggressively pursue New Collar labor. Engaging the strategy will expand solution and services possibilities and provide professional opportunities to communities that have historically been excluded from the mainstream tech industry.


IBMers leading the workforce transformation! Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts.

Nikhil C. Varma

Thank you. This is, truly, the apt approach to IBM’s future workforce. Put in productivity goal oriented work hours.

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