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Setting the Baseline for Expertise Management

During the 1990s and early 2000s, changes occurred that would come to have a profound impact on IBM’s workforce. The explosion of the Internet and the ensuing services now needed by current and future clients to create complex networks resulted in a need for many new types of IT job roles and skills that hadn’t even been “invented” at the time. Expansion in emerging markets also created unique opportunities for different types of jobs, based on the skill base of varying countries. Lastly, IBM’s strategy of acquiring companies and their associated workforces and providing outsourcing services to companies—as well as hiring the outsourced company’s employees—created unique niches in “instantly acquired” job roles.

A more formal structure for developing expertise became paramount to attracting, developing, and retaining a skilled workforce of over 300,000 employees that were located in all corners of the globe. It’s hard to imagine the chaos that would result if there were no common language for defining job roles or the associated skills, or if each country or business unit “did its own thing,” based on what it thought was needed. There would be no way for employees to know about opportunities across the company, considerable waste and duplication of effort would be required to keep independent structures in place, and total solutions to meet client needs would not be feasible.

Around 1992, IBM created its first version of a “skills dictionary” or the beginning of a taxonomy that would define the skills needed by employees. Later that decade, IBM went on to create job roles based on this taxonomy and later expanded it globally across all business units. It has emerged into what is today, an expertise management system. This system guides the identification of the following elements:

  • Competencies—The system starts with competencies that are needed by all employees, regardless of their job role, country, or status. These competencies or behaviors demonstrated by top performers are key indicators of success for high-performing employees and differentiate IBMers from competitor companies.
  • Skills—Employees also focus on developing skills specific for their current roles or exploring skills needed for roles to which they aspire. Skills are fundamental to specific job roles and enable employees to perform their day-in, day-out tasks.
  • Capabilities—As employees grow their competencies, become enabled, build skills, and gain new experiences, they develop multiple capabilities that clients value.
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