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IBM HR Case Study Solution

IBM HR Case Study Solution – IBM’s HR organization

  1. What are the key features of the contrasting organizational structures that describe IBM’s HR organization before and after the change?
Bureaucracy breakdownIBM HR Case Study Solution

The fundamental changes took place by shifting from vertical, bureaucratic structure to a friendly horizontal structure. The company initiated specialized functioning departments which created a professional and corporate environmental culture that is mainly customer focused. The company organization culture changed from casual unprofessional relaxed mode to competency and expertise (Picon, 2000).

Communication structure change

The communication hierarchy in the company was broken down after the IBM’s HR reorganization. The existing organization structure was headed by the senior vice president and human resource. The communication used to flow from these two key people in the organization to different functional departments such as diversity, compensation and benefits, work relations and learning. Top down communication structure was inflexible and it was not suitable to respond to dynamics global business changes.

The new organizational structure focused on horizontal communication and disregarded traditional hierarchy. The system managed daily activities through teamwork rather than a directive from the senior managers under conduct workforce management.


The new system brought in professionalism in the company and talented human resource personnel were hired to offer an end-to-end solution for the business. The old system had unqualified personnel who were costly to the company.


Previously, human resource people were centralized in the United States of America and the main company business was taking place in Asia. Therefore, talented human resource personnel were deployed in different parts of the world and mainly in Asia and Europe.

Job description

The HR leaders headed business units from different parts of the globe to offer expert training, talent acquisition, or organization design in particular location. Other HR leaders offered direct HR operation services to support company infrastructure and functions such as legal compliance, communication, data analysis and reporting. Other HR leaders concentrated in the center of expertise such as benefits, compensation, labor relations and human resource development. The old system all HR leaders used to have a same job description.


The old HR structure in IBM created barriers across the company divisions between different levels of HR management in the company. The new system brought in flexibility and facilitated fluid movement of communication and integration of roles across the company. The company had a top HR leader and senior vice president of HR who controlled the major business units and functions such as compensation and benefits, learning, workforce relation, and diversity. This hierarchy was not only expensive for the company but also limited the needed flexibility that is currently needed in the dynamic and globally integrated organization.

  1. Where will HR employees have the greatest challenge adapting to the new system and where will their roles, rewards, and work challenges remain more constant? To what extent do you see capability, opportunity and motivation changing?


Finding and retaining HR talent

IBM is facing with the great challenge of finding talented HR who will steer the WMI strategy. The traditionally trained HR does not have the relevant technologies to handle the dynamic and globally integrated business. The main company challenge at the moment is to find the right people who are well prepared to work at the right place and at the right time. The spread of globalization and technology has provided a leveled playing field to all organizations regarding information, technology, and availability of finance. Therefore, IBM does not have a competitive edge over its competitors. It is difficult to gauge how well the IBM HR leaders will blend with the new roles of centralized functions and business support to create the need HR capabilities required by the new HR system. The traditionally trained HR leaders do not have the necessary requisite capacities and background to recruit the new talented HR leaders for the company globally. However, traditionally trained HR leaders are many, but it is difficult to find talents that blend well with the new system in the organization (Mathe, 2012).

It is easier for the company to retain the existing talents and develop them to feed on the desirable future demand but it will be difficult for the company to find and hire new talents. Therefore, for IBM to retain the existing talent, the company will have to look at various ways of retaining them such as increasing the compensation packages, fridge benefits, better working conditions, autonomy and job enrichment.

Ensuring employee fit

IBM traditionally trained HR leaders are accustomed to the traditional approach of hiring only the trained and skilled people. The company will have the challenge of hiring the fit employees for the job because the new system is based on a decentralized global organization.  It will be very hand for leaders to find the fit employees who will bring talent in the organization and remain motivated.

Therefore, leaders can overcome this challenge by hiring employees from the diverse background based on their ability to work and do the right job. They should only hire employees who value working as a team to bring synergy in the workplace and work harmoniously with each other (Berardo & Deardorff, 2012). The IBM HR leaders should concentrate on finding employees who have the outlook and personal values that match with the organizational culture and values.

Ensuring employee competence

IBM is not guaranteed that WMI system will help them to get and develop competent employees who can have a direct impact on the company products, services, and revenue. The company is not sure that the employees will seamlessly integrate into the system and create value for the business. The tradition system only required a human resource only to fulfill the organization requirements that are entailed in developmental intervention and training. Therefore, adoption of the new system will create change for the entire organization and the previously competent employees will become redundant. The company has to balance between the cost of having competent employees and their ability to add value to the business (Durai, 2010).

The company does not have a way to understand the employee innate skills as well as competence unless they take a risk and gave new talents a chance. The company will strive to enhance employee’s adaptability, resilience, and agility for them to cope up with the market driven approach.

Finding and adopting specific bottom line approach

IBM faces a challenge in integrating the human resources functional activities to its strategic goals. Therefore, the company may lack goal congruence since different HR leaders make their own decisions that may not serve the interest of the company.

The company can overcome this challenge by devising appropriate motivational approaches such as results-oriented or performance oriented. The company can engage in an attempt to change the employees’ mindset from the process-oriented to customer oriented approach to ensure there is maximum customer fulfillment.

  1. Discuss the future profile of HR leaders and non-HR leaders in systems such as IBM’s.

Organization such as IBM future in HR leaders is to develop new talents and reinvent strategies that integrate business goals and human resource functions. The company has to seek talented HR leaders who can be able to effectively work in a global team. Therefore, diversity management is essential to reconcile the global corporate culture and accommodate sensitive issues to take advantage of global market. IBM and other organizations have to think globally and act in a local perspective depending on each region. International organization must be able to identify and comply with all legal issues in every location “(IBM Focuses HR on Change.2017)”.

Organization has to focus on change management to move away from unproductive approaches. Focusing on change interventions, organization productivity will increase, there will be improved organizational communication, enhance process efficiencies and raising employees morale by providing quality working conditions.

Therefore, organizations have to help talented employees overcome resistance in different situations by looking into the bigger picture.  The companies have to provide leadership to prepare employees to undergo change process. IBM has to equip all its employees with new skills to enable them cope with the changed realities instead of retrenching old folks. Although there is relative technology dynamic that is changing business system, organization has to ensure employees have operate using stable systems and processes that will help the organization cope with change in a successful way.

  • Berardo, K., & Deardorff, D. K. (2012). Building cultural competence: Innovative activities and models.
  • Durai, P. (2010). Human resource management. Chennai: Pearson.
  • IBM Focuses HR on Change. (2017). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 26 June 2017, from https://hbr.org/2012/01/ibm-focuses-hr-on-change
  • Mathe, H. (2012). Valuing people to create value: An innovative approach to leveraging motivtion at work. Singapore: World Scientific.
  • Picon, J. (2000). Design and implement Servlets, JSPs, and EJBs for IBM WebSphere Applications Server. San Jose, Calif: IBM, International Technical Support Organization.

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