IBM’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy Is Fantastic, But AI Also Cut 30% Of Its HR Workforce

Forbes | April 6, 2019


Ginni Rometty is CEO, president and chairman of IBM. She has held the top job since 2012.

When she joined the company in 1981, total headcount across IBM was roughly 350,000. By 1994, under the direction of CEO Lou Gerstner, headcount dropped to around 225,000.

When she took over as CEO from Sam Palmisano—who had enjoyed a ten-year run as IBM’s top dog—the global employee population at the company had swollen to nearly 450,000 people. Some of it was organic. A lot of it was by acquisition.

Today and under Rometty’s leadership, IBM headcount has dropped approximately 25%. There are now less than 350,000 people. How? In part, artificial intelligence.

Rometty recently spoke at a CNBC event titled “@WORK TALENT + HR: Building the workforce of the future.” It’s her comments that got me thinking about the impact that artificial intelligence is going to have on an organization’s HR strategy and employee population.

First, Rometty indicated that 100% of all jobs will be impacted by artificial intelligence.

I agree. Every role in the corporate hierarchy will in one way, shape or form be affected by the introduction of AI over time. She went on to say that job losses as a result of AI is a “red herring” and that we really shouldn’t “follow that logic all over the place.”

Not so fast.

There are millions of people in need of retraining and reskilling as a result of AI. If they aren’t at least partially taken care of by the organization, society will be overrun by people wondering what happened to them. It will become a zombie-like apocalypse of people wandering the streets looking for work.

In Rometty’s defense, she pointed out to audience members that organization’s ought to be considering three tactics to help with the transition to AI:

1. Retrain current employees;
2. Embrace people with less than a four-year degree;
3. Reskilling employees by apprenticeships.

Somewhat ironically, however, Rometty indicated that skills were going to become the lifeline of an employee’s relevancy. “If you have a skill that is not needed for the future and is abundant in the market and does not fit a strategy my company needs, you are not in a good square to stay inside of,” Rometty said. “I really believe in being transparent about where skills are.”

Read full article on Forbes.com

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