back to article IBM said to be binning off more staff as 'workforce rebalance' continues

IBM is back in the layoff headlines after reportedly slashing jobs in its marketing and communications divisions.  The news was initially reported today by CNBC, and doesn't include any mention of numbers. The layoffs were reportedly announced in a brief meeting with affected staffers today, a person with knowledge of the …

  1. trevorde Silver badge

    Confused here

    Didn't IBM just have a 'Resource Action':

    https://www.theregister.com/2024/02/29/ibm_launches_voluntary_redundancy_scheme/

    Now they're having a 'workforce rebalance' only a few days later. I cant keep up. Is this the same one or a different one?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Confused here

      Don't be confused. The rule stays the same : no managers are getting laid off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Pascal Monett

        >> Don't be confused. The rule stays the same : no managers are getting laid off.

        Current IBM manager here. Lots and lots of managers are being laid off.

      2. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Confused here

        Replace the word Manager with Exec and you're onto something

    2. Blank Reg

      Re: Confused here

      For as long as staff continue to get older, IBM will continue to "rebalance" the average age/salary down as low as they can get away with

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confused here

      I told you then,

      That was a leap year bonus RA.

      This is the usual monthly RA

      Oh and by the way: How about starting a career in Mainframes?

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: Confused here

        Will I get IBM Credly badges?

    4. Lurko

      Re: Confused here

      "Didn't IBM just have a 'Resource Action':"

      Yes, but the problem they have is that since 2012 total sales have dropped by about 42%, whereas payroll headcount has only dropped by 26%. Operating profit is down 58% over the same period. Those sales and profit comparisons would be massively worse if the impact of inflation were taken into effect, which over that time period is about 32% using US CPI - on my rough calculations, that means that in real terms (constant prices) IBM's operating profit is down 70% since 2012.

      Of course, if the problem is more that they're selling too little rather than true productivity per employee (a subtle but important distinction) then cutting jobs in sales and marketing would seem an act of desperation.

      It's looking like IBM are the Kodak of the 2020's (or the RIM, Nokia, Xerox, etc). Complacent, bureaucratic, rooted in the past, genuinely innovative in many areas, yet too slow to react to external change and to make new technology commercial. Management spend half their day looking out the windows wondering where the customers have gone, and the other half listening to accountants explaining how they need to cut costs more. I can't find the current figures, but I think it's correct to say that IBM now have more employees in India than the US, and that is their solution to everything - offshore jobs, shave the wages, cut the benefits, sack the oldsters.

      And the bizarre thing is that when you look at all the companies making hay from AI at the moment, IBM were the pioneer corporation with Deep Blue and Watson.

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    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confused here

      Very low single digit then… so 9.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Balance

    *husband comes home all sad*

    wife> Honey, what's up?

    husband> I got rebalanced.

    wife> What does it mean? Did they take your mechanical keyboard away?

    husband> No, it turns out I've become a surplus to the requirement.

    wife> Can you explain?

    husband> Well, the good thing is that I don't have to go to work anymore, but I also don't get paid so there is that.

    *pause*

    wife> Umm... are you saying they sacked you?

    husband> No, I am saying that I got rebalanced.

    *wife gives confused look*

    husband> ...precisely, they've simply shifted the equilibrium of the workplace, and it appears I've tipped over to the side of the non-essential.

    wife> Shifted the equilibrium? That sounds like a fancy way of saying you've been made redundant.

    husband> Not redundant, luv. Just...rebalanced. This is how workplace is being optimised these days.

    wife> Optimised? Is that the new corporate speak for 'given the boot'?

    husband> Not at all. I've been elevated to the realm of strategic availability. It's a proactive measure for personal growth and exploration.

    wife> Sounds to me like you're strategically available to sit on the couch now.

    1. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Balance

      <standing applause>

      Should be a proper skit on TV or YT or what-not!

      Except the wife would declared "strategic availability" for chores (repainting the house, remodelling the kitchen, taking over driving kids to/from school, ......)

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  3. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

    I was cleaning out ancient documents and paperwork and found my "rebalancing" letter from IBM from 2013. Wonder if they still put the same guff into them today, or not even bother with the pretence apart from the nauseating euphemisms.

  4. frankyunderwood123

    IBM was upskilling all its employees on AI

    "IBM was upskilling all its employees on AI"

    So those employees can expedite their eventual replacement?

    It makes sense, right?

    Who better to train the AI to do their job?

    The employees start leveraging AI, which improves LLM's and slowly makes those employees redundant.

    ----------

    I'm fairly confident that I've got maybe 5 years before I get made redundant, but that's fine, as I'm only 10 years off from retirement age anyway.

    I'm a software engineer with 35 years of experience, yet 25 years of that experience is mostly useless, such is the pace of change.

    You can already see, as an engineer, where this is headed. When experienced engineers are impressed with what something like co-pilot can already do, that says a lot.

    We know right now it's not capable of designing entire systems, yet it's only a matter of time before, with some experienced proompters, it can do just that.

    It's echoing the industrial revolution, when machinery replaced man power.

    Human intervention will still be required, but if 90% of the grunt work can be automated and be 1000x faster, a team of 20 can be replaced by a single person.

  5. Draco
    Windows

    How is this news?

    As I recall, IBM has regularly makes the headlines for its layoffs, downsizing, workforce restructuring, early retirement incentives, operations relocation, etc for more than 30 years. This is nothing new. It's just business as usual.

    1. Lurko

      Re: How is this news?

      I'd agree that's our collective perception, in gross figures it's totally wrong. From 1994 to 2012, IBM headcount climbed pretty steadily, almost doubling over that time period (the only year with a net decrease was a very modest 1-2% dip in 2002). There's a degree of "luck" in having a thirty year window starting from 1994, as that was the end of several years of pretty stringent year on year cuts, but the growth between 94 and 2012 shows that at that time IBM wasn't just about slashing the workforce.

      Seems to me the rot set in when Ginny got the top job.

      1. tkl

        Re: How is this news?

        The rot set in with Palmisano, IMHO. Gerstner, even if loathed by many, saved the company. And he was a great communicator and motivator. I actually enjoyed reading his regular missives to all employees, something which I can not say about many other IBM executives. Under Gerstner, IBM coined the term "e-business", ran a very smart and successful marketing campaign and actually invested in internet technology and projects very early on. Palmisano inherited a company that, while still having quite a few problem areas, was on a promising path. Sadly, he fumbled badly by solely managing towards an arbitrary earnings-per-share target, treating employees more and more as completely expandable resources, fostering cronyism and stifling innovation. This hollowed out the company as it came to rely mostly on management decisions derived from some Excel spreadsheet. Palmisano bailed out as soon as the first cracks in the armour started to show. Ginni Rometty was part of this. She should have seen the writing on the wall and changed course as soon as she took over, but was too timid and/or too stupid to do so. I am astonished how long IBM has managed to survived bleeding out talent and principles, but I'm still convinced it will not recover and continue its slow spiral into irrelevance.

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      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Draco

        Re: How is this news?

        I don't deny that IBM kept growing - at least for a while. However, a lot of this growth came from downsizing / rebalancing in one area and hiring in another area. For example, in the late 80s, it was almost impossible to get a full time position at IBM in North America, but lots of contractor positions, but IBM was busy hiring in other parts of the world where salary costs were lower. Same happened in he 2000s when a friend's position was "relocated" to China and they were not interested in moving to the position's new location, so they were "reassigned" to a lower position in their current location. Not that it mattered much, they were deemed "redundant" the year before they were eligible to apply for an early pension.

  6. JacobZ

    In fairness...

    IBM could probably lay off as much as 50% of its employees without losing anything worthwhile. The company has a huge number of flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box-checkers and task masters.*

    Unfortunately, IBM is in the process of, in large part, laying off the wrong 50%

    *Definitions here: https://a4kids.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/100.-5-Types-of-Bullshit-Job-Graeber.pdf

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In fairness...

      I once worked for a company who I shall Regomise as the ExTor Tool Hire Company, and who at one time were the biggest company listed on AIM, and well overdue to move to a full London listing likely immediately entering the FTSE250. Despite the name, this was a tech company with a powerful position in its IT niche. ExTor ruthlessly stripped out all middle management, all the fixers, all the people who stood around and chatted, the goons and box tickers. I've been around a bit, I've worked for a lot of big companies, I know what normal looks like, and ExTor were systematic in purging all these activities.

      I come from a joint finance/IT background, I know what these "unproductive" employees mean for the bottom line, unfortunately, as I soon established, ExTor were compliant with nothing because we had no checkers, we had no reliable management information because there was no middle management to parse it for the board, we had no adequate records so didn't even know what leases the group had or property locations, we had no knowledge transfer because the people who stood around and chatted are an organisation's most effective knowledge network, and everything broken remained broken because nobody used metaphorical duct tape on anything. Of course, this all ended in tears with a calamitous bankruptcy, and although the lack of these people were part of the reason the company wasn't making money, it also turned out the reason all those functions weren't there was because the board didn't want them. Not because they had shared the common and misguided belief that all these people were parasites, but because they hoped it meant nobody would uncover the systematic accounting fraud the board were perpetrating. Five directors and senior managers were sent down for that, shareholders lost around £200m, unsecured creditors lost £132m, and banks (who were at the front of the creditors queue) lost only £13m.

      The moral of this story is not that there is any right amount of flunkies, goons, duct-tapers and box tickers, but simply that a large organisation does in fact need a good number of all these people simply to survive.

  7. JacobZ

    Dumb

    IBM: We need to rebalance our workforce so it skews younger. Digital natives are where it's at.

    Also IBM: Where did all the mainframe skills go?

    1. ColinPa

      Re: Dumb

      I hear they are trying to recruit/fill the jobs for the mainframe. Too many were let go, and there are not enough people to support it in customer shops and IBM,

  8. Inachu

    That is all IBM does ever since they get rid of their best IP computer asset and sold it to China.

    IBM will no longer be what they used to be and will never excel ever again.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you report when IBM ISN’T laying people off and leave this constant human tragedy off your pages? The comments section is saltier than the Dead Sea.

  10. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Where's the line

    Is is the 43 yo's an up now?

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