IBM’s aggressive talent-expansion strategy goes beyond the metros

The Company is helping talent grow through upskilling and re-entry initiatives among other programmes


IBM, being one of the global leaders in the tech space, continues to rule the employer market even after the separation of Kyndryl.

Post the spin-off, Thirukkumaran (Thiru) Nagarajan, vice president & head – HR, IBM India/South Asia, tells HRKatha that the Company is now operating a more sleek workforce in India and is working on nurturing a work culture conducive to employee growth.

“For more than 100 years, IBM has repeatedly changed every aspect of its business to become what it is today, that is, focussed on leading the industry in hybrid cloud and AI, as well as driving transformative technologies such as quantum computing,” says Nagarajan.

The spin-off of IBM’s managed infrastructure services business, Kyndryl, he informs, “was a step forward in our new strategy and also an opportunity for us to build a culture of growth”.

Nagarajan proudly shares that today’s IBM is more technologically focused, more agile, and more deeply skilled. “We see skills, performance development, and careers as interconnected,” he asserts.

Ever since it started operations in the country thirty years ago, IBM has had a strong presence in India. IBM India is a microcosm of the IBM Corporation and India continues to be an important market for the Company.

The Company has embarked on an aggressive hiring spree in India in recent times.

“We see skills, performance development, and careers as interconnected”

Thirukkumaran (Thiru) Nagarajan, vice president & head – HR, IBM India/South Asia

One of the salient features of the Company’s expansion in India involves going beyond the conventional and reliable talent hubs, that is, the metro cities.

Expansion into tier-II cities: “IBM has embarked on an aggressive talent expansion strategy, targeting high double-digit levels of hiring in India. It is extending opportunities to talented people across key cities (beyond the metros) in India for the benefit of our customers,” Nagarajan shares.

With the expansion in Kerala (Kochi), Gujarat (Ahmedabad), Karnataka (Mysuru) and Telangana (Hyderabad), IBM is looking out for new hires to further help accelerate their hybrid cloud and AI strategy.

As part of this expansion into tier-II cities, IBM has already set up base in Kochi, Ahmedabad and Mysuru. The Company’s Head of HR for India shares that state-of-the-art product engineering, design and IBM Software Labs software development centres were launched in Kochi and Ahmedabad.

“IBM Client Innovation Centre (CIC) specialising in design, software engineering and analytics was also launched in Mysuru,” he reveals, adding that “IBM CIC is looking to hire over 10,000 staff, globally in FY22 Q1.”

Consulting business: In another sizeable development, the Company is looking to expand its presence in the IT capital of India, that is, Hyderabad. IBM Consulting Business Process Operations for Finance & Accounts, Procurement Operations & Supply Chain, Risk & Compliance and Talent Transformation Service offerings wertr launched in the Hyderabad.

The consulting business is another key avenue for growth in terms of talent for the company. IBM has expanded hiring in double digits across its global delivery network, including 55,000 fully cloud-trained consultants worldwide, and over 70 per cent of professionals have deep industry expertise. This is true for the India market as well, claims the Company.

The extensive hiring will be accelerating the Company’s hybrid cloud and AI strategy, according to Nagarajan. During the conversation, the HR leader identifies a gap between the demand and supply for tech talent — the demand exceeds the supply. He believes that this gap will continue to exist for the coming two years.

Skills over degrees: The Company wishes to focus on ‘skill first’ hiring to drive growth, wherein degrees do not necessarily matter. Talent needs to be trainable so that new training in tech and skills can be imparted without hiccups, he feels. “We call such talent, which might not even possess a graduate degree, new-collar employees. They may not have specific college degrees but still possess skills and talent that the Company may want to invest in,” he adds.

Upskilling and learning tech: Along with an ambitious hiring plan, the Company has also prioritised upskilling of its existing workforce in the past year.

“IBM is like a university where one learns so much”, claims Nagarajan.

The tech giant has invested in leading edge learning technology that can curate specific learning plans for specific roles.

Investing in employee certification and digital badges has been a priority.

Nagarajan sees learning and development not as an additional expense, but a competitive advantage for the Company.

Total number of learning hours by IBMers in India was 5.1M, thanks to an improved experience that prioritises technical content and customised, role-based learning plans.

“Cloud, industry, analytics, design thinking and AI are the top five tech learning categories,” Nagarajan shares.

Re-entry programme: The Company is also investing in roping in talent that left the workforce and went on a career break due to personal reasons.

IBM’s tech re-entry programme is for experienced professionals including women, who took a break from the workforce and are looking to restart their careers. This paid returnship offers a unique opportunity to rebuild skills through an array of well-curated learning programmes, on-the-job projects, and access to the latest technologies and multi-disciplinary teams. While this programme is for professionals who took a career break of at least two years, IBM has witnessed professionals who took as long as a 20-year break regain confidence through the programme, excel in their new roles, and create a real impact.

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