Magazine article Management Review

IBM at the Crossroads

Magazine article Management Review

IBM at the Crossroads

Article excerpt

For the past couple of years, the business press has been inundated with stories of the International Business Machines Corporation-stories that for the most part, have highlighted IBM's financial woes, declining stock prices, and its shrinking workforce. Yet despite Big Blue's recent setbacks, the company still continues t6, spend an extraordinary amount of money on its various human resources benefits and work/life programs-a figure that checks in somewhere between $16,000 and $17,000 per employee.


In a recessionary climate, one would think, added or nonessential expenditures should be reduced. Many companies would go right to the human resources budget-cutting benefits and eliminating some of the family-friendly programs.

Not IBM, however. IBM has no plans to cut back its human resources and work/life funding. "I have no budget. Our senior management accepts the demographics and the need to provide programs to our employees," says Ted Childs, director of affirmative action and workforce diversity programs, and former program director of IBM's work/life programs.

IBM's 205,000 U.S. employees are eligible for benefits and participation in programs once they walk through the doors-and that eligibility extends to IBM retirees. Employees have a wide variety of programs offered to them. Here is just a sampling:

* An EAP that provides 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service.

* A work-at-home program in which 25,000 employees are equipped with home terminals.

* Flextime schedules enabling employees to begin their workday as early as 7:30 a.m. or as late as 9:30 a.m. IBM also has introduced a flextime pilot that allows employees to add two hours to their lunch hour as long as the time is made up during the course of the day.

* A three-year personal leave of absence with full benefits. During the second and third years, employees must be available for part-time work.

* A childcare referral service, and parenting, childcare and eldercare seminars.

* Up to $50,000 provided for employees' children with emotional or physical problems.

* Spousal relocation assistance.

* Pre-retirement leave. Employees can take one year off and do anything as long as it doesn't involve direct competition with IBM.

And the list goes on. IBM stands firm on its commitment to its various human resources and work/life programs. In fact, for the return the company sees by way of employee loyalty, Childs claims that the work/life programs are inexpensive. Some of IBM's more extensive programs, such as its dependent care initiative, however, aren't what most people would call cheap.

In 1989, IBM announced the start of its dependent care initiative. The company will invest up to $25 million over the next five years to develop new, and expand existing, childcare and eldercare projects nationwide. A major portion of those funds, $22 million, is allotted to help increase the supply of, and provide technical assistance to, childcare providers in IBM communities. These funds also are available for accreditation/licensing assistance, recruitment and training of new family daycare providers, and programs for school-age children. In order for new childcare centers to receive IBM funds and computers, they must meet accreditation standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

The remaining $3 million goes toward enhancing and initiating eldercare projects, such as respite care development, recruitment and training of in-home health and social service workers, and development of intergenerational programs.

IBM, however, isn't spending $25 million for purely altruistic reasons. "It's a business initiative. We expect a return on investment from IBM families," Childs says. In fact, IBM had several goals in mind when it developed the dependent care initiative: The program would enhance employee productivity, link IBM money to IBM kids, and maintain IBM leadership, Childs explains. …

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