Thread regarding IBM layoffs

Some CEOs Suggest Dropping Degree Requirements in Hiring

So they're now touting the "new collar" initiative as a positive factor in "diversity"? Woke corporatism is running amok. No concern at all though for diversity of thought, opinion, political leaning, etc., just want woke, non-degreed candidates who can be paid less and will conform to the new mantra.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/some-ceos-suggest-dropping-degree-requirements-in-hiring-11620233566
Merck CEO and former IBM CEO say removing conventional requirements for some jobs can diversify talent pools

By: Chip Cutter
May 5, 2021 12:52 pm ET

Millions of jobs requiring a four-year college degree can be done without that level of education, some corporate leaders say.

To address inequalities in business and society, some executives suggest that companies shake up their approach to hiring and consider unconventional candidates. Black Americans in particular are often left unprepared by the U.S. education system, and companies could help by hiring workers without a degree and giving them training, Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co., said Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit.

“It’s really important for us to recognize that because people haven’t had an opportunity early in their lives, it doesn’t mean that they can’t make a real contribution to your company,” Mr. Frazier said. “We want to just recognize that, in some ways, this is a harder population, but, at the same time, if we’re committed to being the kind of country that we want to be, then this is something that business has to be willing to do.”

Mr. Frazier, with a coalition of dozens of other business leaders, including former International Business Machines Corp. Chief Executive Virginia Rometty, launched a startup last year called OneTen, aiming to create one million jobs for Black Americans over the next 10 years.

He and Ms. Rometty called on companies to re-evaluate their hiring criteria. Otherwise, “you will never fix this economic opportunity issue,” Ms. Rometty said.

Both executives said they supported traditional college education for some people, but said many entry-level positions don’t need it. Jobs for cloud programmers, cybersecurity analysts, financial operations and many healthcare jobs can all begin without a four-year degree, and many applicants may choose to get more education later on, Ms. Rometty said.

“The jobs are there, and there’s one structural barrier we can remove,” she said.

IBM and other companies have dropped many degree requirements in recent years, Ms. Rometty said. At IBM, Ms. Rometty said propensity to learn became the company’s No. 1 hiring criterion, not pedigree, as the company struggled to fill open positions. Over time and with training, the new-collar employees, as she called those without a four-year degree, had performance results that were equal or better to those of workers with a traditional education, she said.

Mr. Frazier called on CEOs to alter the status quo, and pointed to his own company. Though Merck employs many scientists with Ph.D.’s and advanced degrees, the company has also expanded its hiring in some roles, he said.

“We get many people who are cheaper, they’re just as good, they’re very loyal because this gives them an opportunity,” he said. “For those of us who are insiders now by virtue of our success and our positions in companies, we need to extend ourselves and reach out, and bring in people who may not be the people that we’re comfortable with, and may not be the first person that we think of.”

Reflecting on his own career trajectory, Mr. Frazier, who will retire as CEO at the end of June, said he had to overcome many implicit biases in his career. He credited his current role atop Merck with being hired to the company out of a law firm in his mid-30s, and being put in a nonlegal business position inside the company where he could learn its operations. He worked closely with the company’s CEO at the time.

Mr. Frazier also said that, earlier in his career, in the late 1970s, he worked as an attorney at a large Philadelphia law firm, at a time when many top firms employed few Black lawyers. A client, General Electric, called one of the firm’s senior partners and asked that Mr. Frazier be removed from a case, citing fears about “having a Black lawyer be the lead lawyer.”

The senior partner backed him, Mr. Frazier said. GE didn’t immediately comment.

“The partner told this very important client, ‘You may take your business elsewhere, but we believe in him and we’re not going to replace him,’” he said, calling it a form of sponsorship. “It was someone taking a stand for me early in my career that allowed me to go on and become successful.”

Ms. Rometty said she, too, benefited from sponsorship earlier in her career at General Motors Co. , and called on companies to commit to changing their practices. She advised that organizations adjust degree requirements in areas, and do it where the company could hire dozens of people without a degree in large cohorts, instead of one or two hires as an experiment.

At IBM, when hiring people without bachelor’s degrees, the company still tested for cognitive and technical skills, and put in place training for managers supervising such employees. Ms. Rometty pushed back against the idea that the company was “d-mbing down the workforce” by removing degree requirements, and often brought those workers on stage with her to support their presence at the company, she said.

Mr. Frazier said that companies should look for other ways to remove obstacles for women, people of color and others. In recruiting for board-level positions, even common questions such as “Will this person fit?” or “Who knows this person?” can act as barriers to diversifying a board, he said.

“This is what leadership is about,” Mr. Frazier said. “CEOs have to take the lead on these kinds of issues.”

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Post ID: @OP+1aIfKiik

12 replies (most recent on top)

This idea of taking on employees without a degree is rather crazy. May be in some roles it is ok, but for highly technical roles (especially R&D) it would be madness. Some jobs jus need someone with a PhD or Masters of Science/Engineering. I put less weight on MBAs as I think they are just vanity qualifications and are not worth the paper - but may be to get into the IBM BS Management club they are essential.

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Post ID: @2ipu+1aIfKiik

You have got to be kidding me!!! GINNI could not get top talent to work for little baby blue so she is pushing advanced high school kids...good luck with that!!!!

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Post ID: @1chn+1aIfKiik

Education might be a racial or opportunity issue in the general world. But in a company's hiring policy it tells you how qualified a candidate is. And that is all a company should think about. If you hire based on anything other than ability just to be politically correct, you are hurting your company. It makes ZERO SENSE for IBM to look for high school graduates for jobs that require so much more.

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Post ID: @fcv+1aIfKiik

"... If having MBAs and advance degrees was all you needed then I would think Bain would be hitting it out of the ball park. ..."

The point is not that an MBA makes one so smart they can/should jump over others... just that this is how it actually works (again, see Lou Gerstner's career trajectory).

That others would look at that and say, "Working my way up is stupid"... is a 100% logical conclusion.

Wish I'd have know all this was going to be the trend back when I was college age, LOL!

Even the most hard core "pay you dues" types I know, who are old enough to be my father (grandfathers now), and were ex-military have said to me things like.

"... I should have learned to play golf... every engineer was top notch when we worked on the SR-71... so the managers doing the promoting didn't have much else to go on but what transpired on the golf course... had I leaned to golf... my career would have gone much further..."

Now when I heard that, out of the most "nose to the grindstone" engineer I ever knew... I realized... that he realized... "Who you know / who you blow"... MBA's... etc. that entire game... was how to short circuit the hard way.

Does it necessarily lead to better results from a quality of the biz perspective... of course not.

But it is an unfortunate fact of life in organizations of all sizes, whether we like it or not.

Been my experience the effects of this are more extreme and worse in the smaller companies, as there is less between the worker bee and the board room. That is to say the smaller companies are more capricious and political than the large ones. I.e sort of like small town vrs. large town.

So's assuming one knows all this and is young enough to take action on it... one has a choice to make.

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Post ID: @wqh+1aIfKiik

Never thought people would go from the mail room to the CEO job. But you could move from mail room to supervisor, then mgt, then upper manager.

I have seen this in IBM over the last 30+ years. I know of a person who worked in the IBM kitchen as a cook. Then when IBM got ride of the kitchens, he was retrained and ended his career as a 1st line mgr after many years in that roll.

I watched as people who were secretaries be retrained and become programmers, then move to 1st line mgrs and then 2nd line band 10 managers. How did they do it, they paid their dues, learned their jobs and proved they could do the job over time. Will they be CEOs, no, but they did move up and it did take time.

Some of the people who come in today, want to be CEO tomorrow. They do not realize that that there are still things to be learned. I am not saying some will not move quickly, there are still super stars out there. But everyone is not a super star just because they have an MBA.

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Post ID: @jgb+1aIfKiik

@dnf+1aIfKiik "Starting on the factory floor or in the mailroom and then 'working your way up' to being CEO" was never really a thing, it was just a lie you were told your whole life.

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Post ID: @wax+1aIfKiik

I find the word "woke" extremely useful in these threads. People who use it as a disparaging term are automatically posts you don't need to take seriously.

For those wondering, here's what "woke" really means: it means being courteous and respectful towards other people, the way your grandmother wanted you to.

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Post ID: @erl+1aIfKiik

This has nothing to do with diversity or giving people opportunity and everything to do with driving labor costs down.

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Post ID: @wit+1aIfKiik

" I can't blame anyone for not wanting to start at the bottom... I began my IT career when it still worked that way...

But the rise of the MBA and the idea that you could get an MBA... work for McKinsey or Boston Consulting for a while... then fly in as a CEO (See Lou Gerstner's career)... took over.

Why would anyone want to spend 25 years moving up when an MBA program and the same time spent as a high buck consultant... then become CEO is so much more time efficient and enriching. "

This is why I believe a lot of these companies are in trouble. you have these MBAs who come in but they do not know the business. They know academics, theory a lot of time they do not know or understand the real business. I am not saying all of them, and I am not saying they do not have good ideas. But they think they are above learning the business and yes paying dues.

Not every business can you step from theory and into the real world and be successful. Just look at all the people on this board who complain about Bain and what they do. If having MBAs and advance degrees was all you needed then I would think Bain would be hitting it out of the ball park.

There are some very smart people who come into IBM with masters or MBAs and they are good at what they are doing. I have also seen some of these people take IBM in directions that make no sense.

They have the ear of a director or some VP. We do their project for a year or more, it is going to be the next best thing. Then they get promoted, move on and the project dies
because it was never a good idea. But it got them what they wanted, a move up. I have seen it happen many times.

Yes the game has changed from the old days, but that does not mean it is for the better.

Today we have agile programming.. I am waiting for someone to repackage and rebrand structured programming and then watch the consultants push it to a generation that never heard of it. :)

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Post ID: @mzs+1aIfKiik

Wokeness is the driving force to keep everyone working from home.
The possibility of the cancel culture freaks finding any small thing at the office they don’t agree with is too risky to even consider bringing people back.
You can thank the sc-m who keep pandering to woke culture.

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Post ID: @hrz+1aIfKiik

"What these "leaders" are missing is that we use to have companies that worked this way. You started on the factory floor. Learned your job and then moved up in the company, yt having on the job training. They are also forgetting that today's young people do not want to start at the bottom and learn over time. "

I can't blame anyone for not wanting to start at the bottom... I began my IT career when it still worked that way...

But the rise of the MBA and the idea that you could get an MBA... work for McKinsey or Boston Consulting for a while... then fly in as a CEO (See Lou Gerstner's career)... took over.

Why would anyone want to spend 25 years moving up when an MBA program and the same time spent as a high buck consultant... then become CEO is so much more time efficient and enriching.

Only thing the kids are guilty of... is want the same sort of Fast Track.

Now as an oldster that wasted my life in the old way... I have to say... wish I'd have understood the path the new way uses (Ivy League MBA -> Major Consultancy or Goldman Sachs -> Boardroom).

Even Wall Street prefers it... I can recall once that I read... "IBM's stock got punished because Palmisano, an insider was promoted to CEO instead of an outsider..."

The concept of "work your way up" was tossed under the bus ages ago, when it was decided that managing and managers didn't have to know the nuts and bolts of the industry.

This is further echo'ed by books like "The E Myth" (work on the biz, not in the biz, anyone?)...

So the kids are seeing it right... they correctly conclude it's a waste of time and life to do it the old way.

It's those us that are old enough to have been taught the old way... and it changed in our lives... that got ripped off by the change of philosophy.

We paid the dues and then the membership was withheld and/or given to recent college grads...

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Post ID: @cil+1aIfKiik

What these "leaders" are missing is that we use to have companies that worked this way. You started on the factory floor. Learned your job and then moved up in the company, yt having on the job training. They are also forgetting that today's young people do not want to start at the bottom and learn over time.

They want to be CEO today, they do not want to pay their dues. I saw it over and over again before I left IBM. Had one young lady say she did not understand why she was not making the same as someone who had been there 25 years. Her only reasoning was that she had some skills in areas that the other person did not and that is why she should be paid the same.

She had no concept of the skills of the other person. They may not have been able to code at her level but they were able to see the big picture, design what was needed and then have her code it.

She never understood was that she was working on the factory floor. That she had to learn all the concepts that the other person knew so that she could move ahead.

That is the issue we are dealing with. The I should be a band 9 with in 3 years.
Now some are very smart and will move along quicker than others, but overall they are not
willing to pay their dues. It is the same if you go to a fang. You will get paid more but still need
to pay your dues and prove yourself.

leaders like Ginni who failed while she was running IBM will fail here for the same reasons she failed at IBM. She is only a star in her own eyes and the eyes of the people who kissed her........

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Post ID: @dnf+1aIfKiik
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