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4/20/2010
01:11 PM
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: IBM Layoffs Mostly Outside U.S., Despite Media Indignation

Undercutting media hand-wringing over IBM "abandoning the U.S. workforce," IBM says the cuts took place primarily in Europe and Asia.

Just last month, some media busybodies and labor groups were throwing tantrums because IBM decided to stop releasing country-by-country details on layoffs and total employment. So I wonder how they'll react to IBM's revelation yesterday that a recent round of layoffs mostly affected employees outside the U.S.: will that raise or lower the indignation level?

IBM's contention has been that while its headquarters remain in the U.S., and while it continues to have a significant percentage of its employees based in the U.S., it is now a global company and with a corresponding responsibility to tinker continuously with its geographic employee mix to match evolving marketplace demands.

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But for many in the media, their deep-seated antipathy toward global corporations triggered knee-jerk reactions to demonize IBM for its decisions to restructure its work force in ways that meet emerging global demand for its products and services. Has IBM laid people off? It certainly has, and that shouldn't exactly be a surprise to any adult who lived through the global recession of late 2008 and all of 2009.

And IBM's been hiring people as well but in higher-value positions pursuing higher-value business opportunities. The company's CFO underscored that in yesterday's earnings call, pointing out that its drive to become the world leader in advanced and predictive analytics, IBM now employs "the largest private-sector math department in the world."

That didn't just happen by coincidence, or by IBM setting country-by-country quotas for how many employees can stay and how many have to go: it happened through several years' worth of carefully plotted strategic acquisitions and organic growth. And the result? IBM's software unit and its Smarter Planet initiatives have been among its fastest-growing and highest-potential sectors.

Even the Wall Street Journal's online sibling, "Digital Daily," got into the act as writer John Paczkowski trumpeted the findings of a virulently anti-IBM website as the basis for his sophomoric and unbalanced skewering of IBM CEO Sam Palmisano:

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