Get laid off, or move East. Big Blue IBM has made this offer to those of its North American (the US and Canada) employees suffering the pink slip blues — work out of the company's offices in developing markets such as India, China, Nigeria and Brazil.
Industry sources, who confirmed such a move under IBM's Project Match, said that besides these countries, IBM was keen to move its North American employees to Eastern Europe. When contacted, an IBM spokesperson said the company would not like to comment on issues relating to internal movement of its employees.
"The pitch to employees who might consider shifting to IBM's operations in developing economies seems to be the low cost of living, warmer climate and variety in cuisine and exotic places. If the company seeks to seriously implement it, then this is a case of offshoring human resources too, when the Americans are already worried about jobs being offshored," a senior HR professional said when contacted.
He did not comment on whether the lower wage parity in India and Brazil against the US pay packets would be a determining factor in IBM employees deciding to shift to these countries.
IBM, which has reportedly laid off over 4,500 employees in the US since the beginning of 2009, is said to be offering financial assistance to offset moving costs, and will provide immigration support such as visa assistance and other support under its Project Match. The project was established by IBM to help employees locate potential job opportunities in growth markets.
Would it amount to a revolutionary move on IBM's part to effect easier mobility of trained human capital across borders? "Not really," said a senior HR recruiter. "Rather, it seems to be a revolutionary way to save on higher health and social security costs, which IBM would have to pay its employees in the US. Transferring them makes sense and also makes for good PR back home," he said, expressing doubts whether too many US employees would take this offer.
R Karthik Shekhar, general secretary of UNITES, the union of IT/ITeS professionals said, "This is sheer eyewash. IBM has already laid off employees in India on grounds of bad performance, and now they are planning to dump equally bad performers in North America to India to save their public face in the US. As long as this does not result in concomitant layoffs in India, we face no issues."
"Workers who are being offered placements in developing countries like India have also been told that they would have to seek out their projects once they join operations here. No project placements, that much is clear," said an IBM employee. "I don't know how this (Project Match) will work out. It is still an expensive proposition. But, this may not be the ultimate way of cutting down operational costs," according to Sabyasachi Satpathy, co-founder of Mindplex Consulting. It is reliably learnt that IBM has introduced a strict employee performance rating system in India affecting many employees. An employee with IBM's Pune centre told Business Standard that the company had recently demoted him citing poor performance and slashed Rs 15,000 from his monthly pay packet.
"Parity in pay and work responsibility, both will be difficult to achieve," said a senior HR company head. "For example, it is not clear how an e-governance expert on IBM's US rolls will find an ideal match for his role in India as well," said a senior HR source.
IBM has also implemented a policy which calls for work hour utilisation per employee to exceed at least 85 per cent of the total working hours stipulated in a month. Any employee failing to meet this ceiling would be put on the list of underperformers, employee sources added.