Cutting ‘Old Heads’ at IBM

Peter Gosselin and Ariana Tobin:

In a little-noticed paper issued in 2006 by the London office of one of the company’s consulting arms, executives praised boomers’ experience, but described them as “gray hairs” and “old heads.” While recognizing that older workers were important to high-tech employers such as IBM, it concluded that “successor generations … are generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers.”
The paper was subsequently cited in an age discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before the complaint was settled last year, the plaintiffs alleged in a filing: “IBM’s Boomer employees — being labeled by IBM’s own research as uncollaborative, skeptical of leadership, technologically unsophisticated, less innovative and generally out of touch with IBM’s brand, customers and objectives — were shown the door in droves.”
By the time IBM’s current CEO, Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, took over in 2012, the company had shifted its personnel focus to millennials.
Rometty launched a major overhaul that aimed to make IBM a major player in the emerging technologies of cloud services, big data analytics, mobile, security and social media, or what came to be known inside as CAMS.
At the same time, she sought to sharply increase hiring of people born after 1980.