Diversity and Talent Management Practices at IBM

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Case Details:

Case Code : HROB089
Case Length : 14 Pages
Period : 1995-2005
Organization : IBM
Pub Date : 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries : US
Industry : IT

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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"These extraordinary companies are innovators who understand that diversity has to be a company-wide commitment that is ingrained in the corporate culture. They have gone beyond HR diversity and Marketing diversity and they perceive the business case for contracting with quality women's businesses."1

- Susan Phillips Bari, President and Founding Architect of Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)2, in 2006.

"Ulrich, Becker and Huselid reckoned in their book 'HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy & Performance' that 85% of the organization's value was created by non-tangible company resources…. talent management thus becomes ever more vital to companies in achieving their goals."3

- Dorota Florczyk, Managing Consultant, IBM Business Consulting Services, in 2005.

"It's a fun place to work because of the energy that surrounds you and the level of responsibility you are given."4

- Nia Kelley, Employee of IBM, in 2006.


In the year 2004, IBM was listed among the top 10 companies on Fortune magazine's list of "America's Most Admired Companies." The ranking was based on eight variables like employee talent, innovation, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment value, and quality of products/services5.

Fortune was appreciative of IBM for recruiting and retaining the best talent across the world. Analysts attributed IBM's success to its skilled diverse workforce that included people from almost all the countries in the world.

The history of diversity at IBM dates back to 1953 when the then Chairman and CEO, Thomas J. Watson Jr. (Watson Jr.), issued a letter to the management team in which he stressed equal opportunity of employment. In the late 1950s, that letter was used as a foundation of company policy in negotiations to establish IBM subsidiaries in Southern US.

In 1964, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) became a legal obligation as per the Civil Rights Act, passed by the US government. During the 1970s, IBM actively recruited women and minorities in the company. It formed a well-structured career development plan for them.

Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, as IBM started operating in other countries outside the US, it actively promoted diversity. The company developed a well-structured diversity policy and implemented it within the organization. During the 1990s, diversity council and network groups were formed to promote diversity.

Diversity and Talent Management Practices at IBM - Next Page>>

1] "WBENC Announces New List of 18 'America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises,'" www.wbenc.org, March 23, 2006.

2] Founded in 1997, WBENC is a third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the US. It works in partnership with various business organizations owned by women located across the US to provide a national standard of certification for women-owned businesses.

3] "Insights," www.ibm.com.

4] Kirk Ladendorf, "IBM Nurtures Talent up the Career Ladder," www.statesman.com, 2006.

5] "America's Most Admired Companies," www.don-iannone.com, February 27, 2004.


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