Progressing Equality Through Culture and Inclusion

By Obed Louissaint, SVP, Transformation and Culture

2020 brought unscripted challenges to businesses around the world. It amplified the stark need for organizations to rapidly redefine what would set them apart and lead to growth. The power of winning organizations is tightly connected to fostering an inclusive culture where innovation thrives and individuals progress. That means infusing inclusion into every aspect of the organization – from talent selection and development to policies and values.

While IBM has a rich heritage in inclusion, we are still learning and making progress – as outlined in the 2020 IBM Diversity & Inclusion Report. We recognize that promoting inclusion is a never-ending journey, one that must have skills at the center. Attracting the most creative and passionate professionals means companies must shift the talent paradigm and expand ways for people to enter the workforce. To focus on hiring people for their skills rather than only traditional requirements like degrees, an approach we like to call “new collar.” It’s a cycle we must break to address economic inequality and the increasing skills gap, but also to yield powerful and sustainable business outcomes.

IBM has been at this shift for a few years, and we have learned a number of lessons along the way. We believe that by bringing industry and education closer together, we have a real opportunity to create more open and equitable pathways to employment for all. P-TECH, for example, is a public education reform model created by IBM that enables college attainment and career readiness now reaching over 150,000 students in the pipeline. IBM’s investment in its first quantum education and research initiative for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) is another example that combines our efforts around social justice and racial equality to developing the necessary skills to unlock economic opportunity and prosperity.

As those new pathways are brought to life, businesses must review job descriptions to ensure they focus on skills as the requirement of a bachelor’s degree can unnecessarily limit the pool of available and diverse talent. Which is why we have eliminated this qualification from job postings where it is not necessary to perform the job. Today, approximately 50% of our US job openings do not require a four-year degree. 

Success is tied to building wrap-around support. It takes differentiated approach to support new collar talent like 1:1 onboarding and financial and professional coach to ensure the pathways lead to careers and not just jobs. Focusing on new collar jobs also requires a mindset shift in our industry and organizations. Businesses must offer specific mentoring and coaching sessions to the management team to reset expectations and behaviors from years of buying talent instead of building it.

Finally, deliberately showcase talent to build belief. We must actively dispel myths about hiring new collar talent regarding their capabilities and cognitive abilities. In fact, at IBM our data shows new collar talent are four times more likely to outperform in business results in our annual reviews.

Through these initiatives, IBM is working to make the IT industry more inclusive, which ultimately drives innovation and business growth. But our work has just begun. We know that building truly inclusive cultures and fixing systemic inequalities require collaboration, tenacity, and long-term investments. I invite all organizations to join us on this journey to build a world where no one is left behind.

You can read more about our initiatives in the 2020 IBM Diversity and Inclusion Report

Obed Louissaint
SVP, Transformation and Culture