IBM employees in the States have been told to brush up on their cloud and mobile computing skills at the same time as taking a 10% pay cut.
A memo sent to selected staff at the strategic outsourcing arm of Big Blue’s global technology services division said:
“A recent assessment revealed that some GTS US SO executives, managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements. You have been identified as one of these employees.”
The workers in question were told that they face mandatory retraining for one day a week for six months from October until the end of March “to focus on learning and development”. During that time, they would only be paid 90% of their salary.
European labour legislation would perhaps prevent such a move this side of Atlantic (although here in the UK, IBMers would probably face a 20% cut and be told to be happy about it). But even in the hire ’em/fire ’em U.S.A., the story has caused a fair amount of media derision.
In its defence, IBM spokeswoman Trink Guarino told The New York Times last week: “This involves a very small number of people and we’re working to preserve their jobs.”
She said that as the employees involved are working on long-term outsourcing contracts for other firms, training would take up too many billable hours to the customer. The 10% salary cuts were a form of “co-investment” in training costs shared by workers and the company. As corporate customers move to adopt cloud and mobile computing and advanced data analysis, the training programs will focus on those areas.
Staff, of course, have been less than happy, claiming that the whole exercise is pointless penny-pinching from a corporation that made $4.1 billion in the second quarter of 2014.
Such is the nature of this wonderful slice of HR-related PR, one wonders whether IBM CEO Ginni Rometty really has been consulting her New York-based Watson supercomputer, as I jokingly suggested a couple of weeks ago.
For surely only a cold, robot mind could have come up with this latest wheeze to wean staff off selling old-fashioned things like machines that customers can run for themselves.
Still, if the global technology services staff had been told they face a pay cut unless they get to grips with POWER8 processors, mixed IBM i/AIX/Linux workloads and the wonders of RPG ILE, we would all be dancing in the aisles.