IBM: Not Planning to Crowdsource Most of Its Employees–Yet
May 10, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
In the long run, I guess we are not only all dead, but temp workers in this fluid form of short-term thinking global capitalism that has evolved on Earth. Some people understand that, like Tim Ringo, who is a vice president in IBM’s human capital management consulting business. Others, like the rest of us who like our jobs and think we are contributing hard work in exchange for a commitment from our employers to be allowed to continue to evolve and change with them because life can’t be all uncertainty and discontinuity, apparently don’t.
Having done my fair share of interviews over more than two decades, I would like to think that Ringo was talking theoretically when he was interviewed by an online magazine called Personnel Today, and told the reporter that Big Blue was considering using an employment methodology called “crowdsourcing” to get rid of three-quarters of its nearly 400,000-strong workforce by 2017. But if you read the story, it sure sounds like Ringo said what he meant and meant what he said.
With crowdsourcing, you ditch all but the core employees at the company and hire everyone back as contractors. “There would be no buildings costs, no pensions and no healthcare costs, making huge savings,” Ringo told the magazine, which covers human resources issues.
Oh boy, what a hornet’s nest that quickly became, and IBM’s public relations machine said that it was doing no such thing and Ringo was quoted out of context. They went on to add that Ringo may be a personnel expert and consultant, but does not work for IBM’s own HR organization and therefore was not speaking for the company. IBM went on to point out that it has added 80,000 employees since 2002, but neglected to say that lots of them came through acquisitions and that it also does layoffs on the sly all the time to try to duck criticism and thorny political issues that always come with being an employer who does lots of government work. One that doesn’t give pensions to new employees anyway–they get 401(k)s, which is just a way to feed Wall Street, not anything you can truly rely upon. And all of us work under the performance gun, with a good chance of being fired quickly if we don’t produce. We’re already halfway to crowdsourcing as far as I can tell.
There is very little question in my mind that if the major corporations of the world can get away with such behavior as turning us all into day laborers, they will do it. They’ll even make us pay for the gas in the truck that comes by to pick us up each day and rent us tools to do the work at company store rates. I’ll be running a brew pub somewhere before anyone does that to me. And my employees will be just that: employees. With benefits. Perhaps only free beer and a meal. But whatever I get, they will get.