Ensuring the Future of Work is Diverse and Inclusive

By Nickle LaMoreaux, Chief Human Resources Officer

As companies plan for a post-pandemic future, there is a significant focus on “Where do we work?” But, every company should simultaneously be asking “How do we design a future of work that is diverse and inclusive?” as they reinvent their future workplaces. 

A post-pandemic world presents every company with an opportunity to recreate and reimagine. Unfortunately, the diversity and inclusion conversation is often siloed and separated from the future of work conversation. 

The pandemic has not only caused devastation in health around the world and massively disrupted how people work and live, it has also widened the diversity gaps in the global workforce. IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) reports that in 2020 in the U.S. alone, more than five million women were pushed from their jobs, putting female participation in the workforce at its lowest rate since 1988. Additionally, this January, Latinas in the U.S. faced a 9.2% unemployment rate, with Black women at 9%, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the current trajectory, it will take about 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity (or 12% representation) across all levels in the private sector, according to research by McKinsey & Company. 

At IBM, as we create the future of work for a post-COVID era, we are focused on making it a diverse, inclusive, and equitable experience. We are building on our longtime approach to flexibility and collaborative innovation but with new intentionality based upon everything we learned in 2020.

Our workplace has long been grounded in our core values:

  1. Dedication to every client’s success
  2. Innovation that matters—for our company and for the world
  3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships

These values have enabled IBM to build a culture of flexibility and inclusion—trusting IBMers to do what’s right for clients, for our business, and for themselves. And now, as we envision the future of work in a post-pandemic world, we are focused on a hybrid workplace that supports IBMers to innovate, serve our clients and engender trust.

When it is safe to return to the office, IBM will take an approach that combines the best of pre-pandemic models and the best of virtual approaches used during COVID. For us, this is not a revolution, but rather, an evolution. Prior to the pandemic, 95% of IBMers took advantage of IBM’s broad-based work-from- home policy to work remotely as needed. Flexibility and inclusion have long been core to IBM’s culture. We’re further evolving to a future of work focused on intentionality that fosters greater teaming consistent with local health standards, and where required, consultation with employee representatives.

Where we work

We’ve always taken a data-driven approach to choose our locations, placing offices in diverse communities. Additionally, we are doubling down on the work we began before the pandemic to redesign our offices into collaborative workspaces. When it is safe to return, when and how often an IBMer goes into the office will be based upon work deliverables. Teams will decide when they are in the office together and when they work from home. We will engage over 30,000 IBM Managers globally to scale best practices for inclusion in a hybrid workplace—where IBMers feel they can bring their whole selves to work, whether their team is in the office or virtual that day.

When we work

IBM coined the term “work-life integration” twenty years ago. Flexibility is at the heart of our workplace. Crafting flexible schedules that focus on employee outcomes, instead of activities, not only serves key business objectives but also enables a more diverse workforce. IBMers and their teams will determine the work schedules that work best for supporting our clients and best for the team. They will continue to have support to balance personal and professional commitments. Working hours flexibility is critical to IBM’s inclusive culture.

How we work

Building the next generation of cutting-edge technology isn’t possible without strong team collaboration. While 92% of IBMers agree they have the tools required to succeed in a hybrid work environment, many tell us they will need more training on what work is most effective when done remotely and what work is better face-to-face. As we look towards the future, designing ways of working where inclusion drives innovation is critical. This starts with teams defining the outcome and determining the best path to get there. At IBM, Agile and Design Thinking will continue to be foundational to how we work—providing a blueprint for inclusive teaming aimed at supporting every IBMer to achieve their greatest potential.

To ensure the future of work is inclusive, intentional design in where, when, and how we work is a solid foundation, but this alone is insufficient. We must also continue expanding access to tech jobs, inside IBM and across our industry. For several years, IBM has been on a journey of prioritizing skills over degrees in our hiring. The requirement of a bachelor’s degree can unnecessarily limit the pool of available and diverse talent. This is why we have eliminated
this qualification from job postings where it is not necessary to perform the role. Currently, approximately 50% of our U.S. job openings do not require a four- year degree, and we are scaling this method globally. We are doubling down on our inclusive approach to hiring IBMers, through programs like apprenticeships, returnships, internships, and P-TECH.

As corporations invent a post-pandemic world of work, the time is now to ignite a future of equality. Read more in the IBM 2020 Diversity & Inclusion Report here.

Nickle LaMoreaux
Chief Human Resources Officer