The Use Of Diversity Management In It Business Essay

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This article describes how one of the biggest I.T. company in the world-IBM, manage diversity within organizations. The study analyzes how operational manager apply the diversity management theories into practice and measure its impacts on the individuals and organization. The findings suggest that any company which want to gain its position in today's economic environment, cannot ignore the diversity existed within the organization. Deal with it appropriately, not only can create an inclusion atmosphere within organization but motivate employees unobtrusively and imperceptibly which has greatly positive impacts on organizational performance. IBM is the company that can achieve this through its long time development. The first part of this article is IBM introduction which can help us form a general idea of IBM from its cultural background, strategic thoughts and economic position. This part includes IBM's mission statement, strategic objectives, product and services it offers and financial position, each of them are given detailed analysis. Then, the definition of diversity concluded from literature is shown. The third part is about some policies and practices for managing diversity and equal opportunities at IBM, specific measures and ideas are introduced and analysed combined with theories and opinions of author. Some characteristics of its diversity management are summarized based on the study above in the fourth part. The last one is some limitations, and recommendations are put forward as well that concluded from literatures to help IBM to make greater progress.

Introduction to the organization

International Business Machine (IBM), the world's largest information technology company, which is also one of the leader brands in I.T. area. Nowadays, IBM, which was just related to computing, its products almost contain every dimension of technology, no matter computer hardware, software, consulting and I.T. service.

IBM's mission statement. From IBM's official website, its newest mission statement is:

'At IBM, we strive to lead in the creation, development and manufacture of the industry's most advanced information technologies, including computer systems, software, networking systems, storage devices and microelectronics. And our worldwide network of IBM solutions and services professionals translates these advanced technologies into business value for our customers. We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers through our professional solutions, services and consulting businesses worldwide. ('

This mission statement reflects its core purpose, principle business aims and organizational values in short paragraph. It can be seen that IBM is consistently innovate its products and complete its services in various areas. Meanwhile, it also tries to keep stabilized relationship with wide range of clients, including individual users, specialized business, and all kinds of institutions (understanding IBM, 2007).

Strategic objectives. From IBM's annual report in 2010, it is clear that the strategy is continued to maintain the good performance in core business areas while expanding potential markets. The content includes 'creating more value to clients, shift the business into higher-value areas and become the top globally integrated enterprise' (IBM annual report, 2010).

Products and services it offers. The products and services that IBM can offer is wide-ranging, including business consultation, IT services, servers and systems, software. Specifically, in order to satisfy the requirements of customers, IBM has created a large number of advanced technologies which could be top in the world, ranging from computer systems and software to networking systems, storage devices and microelectronics (Linch, 1997).

Financial position. As we known, IBM has been leading the industry and the market for many years. In 2010, IBM's revenue is $99.9 billion and pre-tax income is up to $19.7 billion (IBM annual report, 2010). All these figures indicate high-value market position and successful strategy and operations of IBM.

Definition of diversity management

Within the management literature, diversity management has become an interesting subject studied by many experts to deal with equal opportunity issues (Catherine, 2001). According to Thomas (1992), 'managing diversity' means through taking systematic and comprehensive measures to recruit, motivate and retain employees from diverse backgrounds in some part of organizations. As Catherine (2001) states, the context of managing diversity contains two particular aspects: transform demographic trends and improving the effectiveness of equal opportunities. Both of them will be specific analyzed in the following content based on the case of IBM's diversity policies and practices.

IBM's policies and practices for managing diversity and equal opportunities

As one of the biggest multinational company in the world, IBM hires almost 400,000 employees in over 200 countries including scientists, engineers, sales professionals and consultants ( Even in one departments, there are several different background employees and they have to work as a team. Under this circumstance, managing diversity effectively and state equal opportunities play a significant role on improving the efficiency of teamwork. There are several measures that have been taken by IBM relate to diversity management.

Global Work Force Diversity at IBM

As one of the world's greatest companies, IBM has recognised that global workforce diversity could be the keystone that influences the whole strategy of business to take the lead position of the industry. They understand what is the most important thing to attract and retain the best talent from various background is to respect and value diverse culture and become inclusiveness ( Just as said by Ted Childs, vice-president of Workforce Diversity at IBM, the major challenges of global workforce diversity should be 'cultural awareness, ethnic minorities and multi-lingualism' (Nancy et. al, 2003). From 1953, IBM implemented their first written equal opportunity policy, which claimed 'regardless of race, colour, or creed'. Nowadays, IBM still insists to integrate the workforce diversity with each procedure of operations ( Recently, IBM has launched a new management development program, 'Shades of Blue', which aims at improving the awareness of culture diversity and multiculturalism on a global scope, which including the measures of e-learning, a face to face learning lab using IBM-specific case studies and TMC-developed self-awareness tools (the Cultural Orientations Indicator°) (Nancy et. al, 2003). According to this program, all employees at IBM are required to possess five core qualities to be 'inclusiveness'-'open attitude, self-awareness, other-awareness, cultural knowledge and cross-culture skills'. As said by Michalle E. (2010), respect and make full use of intergroup diversity can reflect the relationship between organization and its employees within the workforce. This program demonstrates the intentions that IBM's willing to improve its competitive advantage through utilizing its diversity advantages to each procedure of operations.

Recruiting People with Disabilities

Despite human right has received greatly attention than before, disabled people still cannot find as high position as normal people in workforce (Newton et. al, 2007). However, in IBM, there is a series measurement for recruiting and training people with disabilities. Basically, nearly every managers related to recruitment are particularly trained for the right attitude and way to contact with disabled people, and these experienced managers are allocated to each business department to supervise and complete the recruitment process. Simultaneously, IBM is cooperating with many institutions such as educational ones to set campus recruitment to recruit the disable graduate (IBM case study). In addition, IBM has built a website relate to diversity (, where the disabled candidates can apply positions directly to ensure recruit managers can receive them on first time ( It can be concluded that IBM intend to build a better understanding environment among disabled people, recruit manager and normal employees which can fully reflect the valuing of the diversity of disabled people and lead to a more harmonious environment within organization.

Woman workforce in IBM

In spite of women account for nearly half percentage of workforce, their position has still not as important as males. For instance, according to the investigation, 'only 12 Fortune 500 companies and 25 Fortune 1000 companies have women CEOs or presidents in 2009' (John et. al, 2010). However, IBM hired their first woman professionals in 1963 in U.S., even before promulgation of 'Equal Pay Act' ( Recently, IBM has set up women networking group within the organization to provide essential female mentoring about their working and family life and gain balance between work and life. Meanwhile, this group plays an essential role on protecting females' rights, including equal pay, same treatment and opportunities. Besides, IBM has still set a program which aims at improve girl's competitiveness and confidence to create a more broad career for themselves (IBM case study, 2006). Obviously, IBM is trying their best to do more things for women employees, know what they want and what their difficulties are. Undoubtedly, IBM benefits a lot from this measurement: higher productivity, more innovative environment and better reputation.

Work-life balance in IBM

With the development of economy, employees are not only pursuit food and clothes, but higher life quality and self-development and self-fulfilment. Therefore, helping them deal with this issue becomes a crucial means to retain talents. By far, IBM has put in more than $263 millions in building care programs and services around the world which are especially famous for valuing employees' issues of work and life and help them to manage these problems ( It was Doris et. al (2007) who said that, correctly handle the relationship between work and life is much more benefit than blindly reduce the working hours for work can be orientation of satisfaction and self-fulfilling through accomplishing it. Similarly, IBM makes effort to create a more 'supportive, flexible' work environment and give more space to enable employees to show their expertise. These measures not only increase the productivity of employees, but greatly raise the whole organization's retention rate (

Some characteristics of IBM diversity management

As one of the most successful corporations in the world, IBM has its own characteristics in managing diverse:

1. Ensure employees fully participate as partner.

There is a six-months 'global executive task forces' which was established from 1995 based on facilitating equal opportunities within organization ( Executive invite his or her all group members to participate and cooperate with them with showing them the diversity challenges (David, 2004). This structure are most utilized in small scale units which can ensure to achieve the specific diversity goals, meanwhile, 'mutual expectations, mutual influence and mutual trust' (ibid) are required in this process. This method seems to indicate that organization has willingness to accept the advices from employees and hope them to play an significant role on decision making. Furthermore, employees will have more chances to communicate with executives face to face and generate better understanding between them.

2. Combine diversity management with HRM practices.

As Catherine (2001) points out, one crucial objective of managing diverse is enable all the employees can do their best share towards the company's objectives. Jackson and Associates (1992) in Catherine (2001) reveal that there are various methods for HR managers to influence even change the attitude and behaviour of employees, which include 'recruitment and selection system, training and development, performance evaluating and assessment, compensation and reward'. It is certain that IBM is the one who knows maintaining change in nowadays should integrate managing diversity into management practices. They keep diversity as an significant criteria to assess the performance of managers (David, 2004) and let them understand it can be utilized as core competency as well.

3. Unify diversity goals with organizational objectives.

Just as mentioned above, task force effort could be an effective way to communicate between executives and employees and let more individuals participate into decision making process. It can be easily indicated that a link has been created between diversity goals and organizational goals. In IBM, diversity has been looked upon as organizational strategic goal that all employees should be completely participate (David, 2004). Undoubtedly, IBM has gained good results and high reputation through unifying diversity goals with organizational objectives.

Limitations and Recommendations

As a successful company with high level of development, its management practice in diversity is nearly perfect. It is hard to figure out what has not been done or not been thought about by IBM. However, there are also some aspects that IBM can do much more better than it is now.

Without adequate reflection

The organization can make greater progress through measuring the influence of diversity rather than just focus on how to manage it. Appropriate review can keep operators self-examination and improving.

More effort can be focus on the process

As a multinational company, diversity exist throughout each corner of corporation. The organization cannot only concentrate on how much they can produce through managing diverse, but how.

The following are some measures put forward according to the limitations:

Measuring the influence of diversity to improve performance.

Good diversity impact measuring can show executives how diversity management can improve the performance of organization (CIPD, 2006). CIPD (2006) concludes several measurements from literature review, and some of them are worth considering for IBM. For example, define explicitly organizational diversity and build diversity assessment system throughout the organization. Clearer definition of diversity can help employees understand how it can play significant role on accomplishing their tasks. Likewise, diversity assessment system can make the impacts of diversity clear and make more progress.

Diversity training.

It is essential that diversity training should be link up with all development and training programs such as leadership development and employee relations training program. Specifically, diversity in leadership training should not only focus on making rules to treat everyone equally, but to create a harmonious environment to prevent discrimination and facilitate cohesion within organization. Similarly, diversity training can include improve the skills and confidence of employees especially the weakness ones.

Conduct more employee satisfaction survey.

Knowing what employee need is necessary for organizations to take specific actions to motivate them. Besides, it can be an effective method for organizations to know how engagement employees are.


This article gives a general idea of what diversity management is using a specific and representative company example-IBM. For over a long time, diversity management has been an indispensible part of operation at IBM. From the details and analysis mentioned above, it is clear that managing diversity in IBM is not just a tool to keep equal among employees but an booster that improve the relationship within organization and the performance of whole organization. Just as said by Cecilia -hman, a manager who in charge of diversity management in the Nordics (Helena), diversity in IBM is more than 'race, gender, physical disabilities or culture, religion and so on', but a process that individuals can learning from various things and develop themselves with organizational performance.