Okay, we know that you know that everybody knows about IBM. It’s one of the most admired, most respected, and most profitable companies in the world. It has about half a million employees. Why people want to work at IBM? Today, we are going to touch the only aspect – management, to answer that question.
We could not help skipping brief general information about IBM just to remind you how great the company is. So, International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM, is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. It was founded in 1911. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.
In 2012, Fortune ranked IBM the #2 largest U.S. firm in terms of number of employees (433,362), the #4 largest in terms of market capitalization, the #9 most profitable, and the #19 largest firm in terms of revenue. Globally, the company was ranked the #31 largest in terms of revenue by Forbes for 2011. Other rankings for 2011/2012 include #1 company for leaders (Fortune), #1 green company worldwide (Newsweek), #2 best global brand (Interbrand), #2 most respected company (Barron’s), #5 most admired company (Fortune), and #18 most innovative company (Fast Company).
IBM holds more patents than any other U.S.-based technology company, and has nine research laboratories worldwide. Its employees have garnered 5 Nobel Prizes, 6 Turing Awards, 9 National Medals of Technology, and 5 National Medals of Science. Famous inventions by IBM include:
- the automated teller machine (ATM)
- the floppy disk
- the hard disk drive
- the magnetic stripe card
- the relational database
- the Universal Product Code (UPC)
- the financial swap
- SABRE airline reservation system
- Watson artificial intelligence.
The company’s motto is “THINK”. By the way, the Apple slogan “Think Different” has been widely taken as a response to IBM’s “Think.”
Working at IBM
In 2010, IBM employed 105,000 workers in the U.S., a drop of 30,000 since 2003, and 75,000 people in India, an increase of 9,000 since 2003.
IBM’s employee management practices can be traced back to its roots. In 1914, CEO Thomas J. Watson boosted company spirit by creating employee sports teams, hosting family outings, and furnishing a company band. In 1924, the Quarter Century Club, which recognizes employees with 25 years of service, was organized and the first issue of Business Machines, IBM’s internal publication, was published. In 1925, the first meeting of the Hundred Percent Club, composed of IBM salesmen who meet their quotas, convened in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
IBM was among the first corporations to provide group life insurance (1934), survivor benefits (1935) and paid vacations (1937). In 1932 IBM created an Education Department to oversee training for employees, which oversaw the completion of the IBM Schoolhouse at Endicott in 1933. In 1935, the employee magazine Think was created. Also that year, IBM held its first training class for women systems service professionals. In 1942, IBM launched a program to train and employ disabled people in Topeka, Kansas. The next year classes begin in New York City, and soon the company was asked to join the President’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped. In 1946, the company hired its first black salesman, 18 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1947, IBM announced a Total and Permanent Disability Income Plan for employees. A vested rights pension was added to the IBM retirement plan.
In 1952, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., published the company’s first written equal opportunity policy letter, one year before the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education and 11 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1961, IBM’s nondiscrimination policy was expanded to include sex, national origin, and age. The following year, IBM hosted its first Invention Award Dinner honoring 34 outstanding IBM inventors; and in 1963, the company named the first eight IBM Fellows in a new Fellowship Program that recognizes senior IBM scientists, engineers and other professionals for outstanding technical achievements.
On September 21, 1953, Thomas Watson, Jr., the company’s president at the time, sent out a controversial letter to all IBM employees stating that IBM needed to hire the best people, regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or gender. He also publicized the policy so that in his negotiations to build new manufacturing plants with the governors of two states in the U.S. South, he could be clear that IBM would not build “separate-but-equal” workplaces. In 1984, IBM added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy. The company stated that this would give IBM a competitive advantage because IBM would then be able to hire talented people its competitors would turn down.
IBM was the only technology company ranked in Working Mother magazine’s Top 10 for 2004, and one of two technology companies in 2005. On October 10, 2005, IBM became the first major company in the world to commit formally to not using genetic information in employment decisions. The announcement was made shortly after IBM began working with the National Geographic Society on its Genographic Project.
IBM provides same-sex partners of its employees with health benefits and provides an anti-discrimination clause. The Human Rights Campaign has consistently rated IBM 100% on its index of gay-friendliness since 2003 (in 2002, the year it began compiling its report on major companies, IBM scored 86%). In 2007 and again in 2010, IBM UK was ranked first in Stonewall’s annual Workplace Equality Index for UK employers.
The company has traditionally resisted labor union organizing, although unions represent some IBM workers outside the United States. In 2009, the Unite union stated that several hundred employees joined following the announcement in the UK of pension cuts that left many employees facing a shortfall in projected pensions.
A dark (or gray) suit, white shirt, and a “sincere” tie was the public uniform for IBM employees for most of the 20th century. During IBM’s management transformation in the 1990s, CEO Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. relaxed these codes, normalizing the dress and behavior of IBM employees to resemble their counterparts in other large technology companies. Since then IBM’s dress code is business casual although employees often wear formal clothes during client meetings.