Compentency Mapping and Leadership Development at IBM

IBM is a global technology and innovation company that stands for progress. It operated in more 170 countries, IBMers around the world invent and integrate hardware, software and services to help forward-thinking enterprises, institutions and people everywhere succeed in building a smarter planet. IBM has been present in India since 1992. The diversity and breadth of the entire IBM portfolio of research, consulting, solutions, services, systems and software, uniquely distinguishes IBM India from other companies in the industry. IBM India’s solutions and services span all major industries including financial services, healthcare, government, automotive, telecommunications and education, among others. As a trusted partner with wide-ranging service capabilities, IBM helps clients transform and succeed in challenging circumstances. IBM has been expanding its footprint in India – and has a presence in over 200 cities and towns across the country – either directly or through its strong business partner network. IBM India has clearly established itself as one of the leaders in the Indian Information Technology (IT) Industry- and continues to transform itself to align with global markets and geographies to grow this leadership position. Widely recognized as an employer of choice, IBM holds numerous awards for its industry-leading employment practices and policies.

The character of a company — the stamp it puts on its products, services and the marketplace — is shaped and defined over time. It evolves. It deepens. It is expressed in an ever-changing corporate culture, in transformational strategies, and in new and compelling offerings for customers. IBM’s character has been formed over nearly 100 years of doing business in the field of information-handling. Nearly all of the company’s products were designed and developed to record, process, communicate, store and retrieve information — from its first scales, tabulators and clocks to today’s powerful computers and vast global networks. IBM helped pioneer information technology over the years, and it stands today at the forefront of a worldwide industry that is revolutionizing the way in which enterprises, organizations and people operate and thrive. The pace of change in that industry, of course, is accelerating, and its scope and impact are widening. In these pages, you can trace that change from the earliest antecedents of IBM, to the most recent developments.

IBM Corporate Service Corps

The Leadership Development Program

The Corporate Service Corps (CSC) exposes high performance IBM employees to the 21st century context for doing business — emerging markets, global teaming, diverse cultures, working outside the traditional office, and increased societal expectations for more responsible and sustainable business practices. CSC participants perform community-driven economic development projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, working at the intersection of business, technology and society.

IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is a leadership development program inspired by the Peace Corps. It has yielded impressive documented benefits to IBM, the employees who are chosen to participate and to the communities and NGOs it is intended to support. It is now being supported by USAID and is being used as a model by a growing number of leading corporations.

IBM has one of the strongest talent development programs and one of the strongest corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in the technology industry. What do you get when you combine them? CSR, This a great example of how companies can do well by doing good.

IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is a leadership development program. It is intended to put IBM’s most valuable resource-its people-in places that can most benefit from their expertise, and provide these employees with experiences from which they can gain broad leadership and cross-cultural experience. It provides select, high-potential employees with intense experience in working with global teams on short-duration, high-intensity projects in emerging countries

Corporate Service Corps

The program, which was launched in 2008, deploys small, 8-12-person multi-disciplinary teams to provide pro bono consulting-helping emerging country government, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations develop specific plans for addressing some of their most pressing societal needs. These can range from upgrading a government agency’s IT environment and processes, to developing a supply-chain management process for getting agricultural products to market, to improving the quality of a community’s public water supply. While each project is different, each is intended to result in practical blueprints for solving problems that are limiting a country or a community’s growth and their peoples’ ability to contribute to that growth.

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It is a corporate leadership development program. The goal of the program is not to teach specific business skill but to develop the qualities individuals require to become leaders in a globally integrated business. Participants are given deep, intensive exposure to emerging markets and diverse cultures and experience in forming and working in multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary teams. They are expected to return with improved cultural literacy, better appreciation for the strengths and limitations of different cultures and work styles, and especially greater adaptability and global teaming skills.

It involves 30 days in-country assignments plus extensive preparation and post return requirements. The participation of the employees in the day’s job and the program is seen as both a privilege and reward. The participation in this program is considered as ones achievement in the company and the steppingstone to advancement within the company. This makes the program extremely popular and selective-attracting about 10,000 applicants for the first 400 positions.

For the validation the program IBM, requires more formal evidence that its goals are being met. Harvard Business School assistant professor Christopher Marquis designed and conducted a formal survey of participants and recipients and evaluated the results as part of a case study on the program. His findings: CSC is “effective and executing on its goals and mission” (of providing a unique-and highly scalable and cost-effective-leadership development experience, societal benefits to emerging countries and improving employee’s perception of and commitment to IBM). IBM claims the program also delivers some additional side benefits, as in improving IBM’s brand in new and emerging markets and even in creating some new sales opportunities for the company.

In some ways, there is little that is really new in CSC. It combines two relatively common corporate practices-the use of overseas postings as an executive development tool, and encouraging and funding employees to perform volunteer work. The big difference is that IBM has integrated them into a fundamentally new form that delivers these experiences to far more executive candidates than would be previously possible, and does it in a cost-effective way that delivers additional benefits to the company.

The 1,000th IBMer in the 100th team participated the Corporate Service Corps. Participants were from over 50 countries and have participated participate in team assignments in over 20 countries including Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Russia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Cambodia, Poland, Thailand and Vietnam. 

CSC projects range from assisting networks of entrepreneurs and small businesses trying to grow and reach export markets, designing strategic plans to drive local tourism, to the utilization of information technology by educational institutions and government agencies 

In 2010, the program was expanded to include IBM executives, who work in teams with city planners, entrepreneurs, business leaders and governmental agencies to develop road maps that identify the best ideas, most scalable solutions and critical next steps in the economic, social and environmental sustainability of cities. Focus areas include transportation, public safety, energy, education, healthcare, water resource management and economic development.

The program is growing rapidly. This year some 500 people will participate, and the list of countries will expand from five to nine, including Brazil, India, Malaysia, and South Africa. The teams spend three months before going overseas reading about their host countries, studying the problems they’re assigned to work on, and getting to know their teammates via teleconferences and social networking Web sites. On location, they work with local governments, universities, and business groups to do anything from upgrading technology for a government agency to improving public water quality.

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Future plan of CSC

IBM will absolutely continue, and modestly extend the program. Its ultimate value, however, is likely to transcend IBM. Some of IBM’s customers, including Novartis, Federal Express and Dow Corning are already learning from and have begun to implement similar programs. Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IBM to create the Alliance for International Corporate Volunteerism (ICV). The alliance will expand upon the CSC model to facilitate participation by many other companies and create corporate responsibility networks that integrate activities of corporations, governments, international organizations, foundations and other participants. USAID will also serve as a delivery coordinator for some of these projects, thereby increasing the chances that CSC’s consulting recommendations will deliver their intended value.

When 10 IBM (IBM) management trainees piled into a minibus in the Philippines for a weekend tour last October, the last thing they expected was to wind up local heroes. Yet that’s what happened in the tiny village of Carmen. After passing a water well project, they learned the effort had stalled because of engineering mistakes and a lack of money. The IBMers decided to do something about it. They organized a meeting of the key people involved in the project and volunteered to pay $250 out of their own pockets for additional building materials. Two weeks later the well was completed. Locals would no longer have to walk four miles for drinkable water. And the trainees learned a lesson in collaborative problem-solving. “You motivate people to take the extra step, you create a shared vision, you divide the labor, and the impact can be big,” says Erwin van Overbeek, 40, who runs environmental sustainability projects for IBM clients.

While saving a village well wasn’t part of the group agenda for that trip, it’s the kind of experience the architects of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps had in mind when they launched the initiative last year. Modeled on the U.S. Peace Corps, the program aims to turn IBM employees into global citizens. Last year, IBM selected 300 top management prospects out of 5,400 applicants. It then trained and dispatched them to emerging markets for a month in groups of 8 to 10 to help solve economic and social problems. The goal, says IBM’s human resources chief, J. Randall MacDonald, is to help future leaders “understand how the world works, show them how to network, and show them how to work collaboratively with people who are far away.”

Like most corporations, IBM trains managers in classrooms, so this represents a dramatic departure. And while other companies encourage employees to volunteer for social service, IBM is the first to use such programs for management training, says Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School. “This is a big innovation. This kind of active service is a good way to train managers.”

Risk involved in participation

Participating in the program is not without its risks. Charlie Ung, a new-media producer from IBM Canada, got malaria while working in Ghana and spent a week in the hospital. Other participants report encounters with wild dogs in Romania.

Harvard Business School assistant professor Christopher Marquis, who’s writing a Harvard case study on the program, recommends that others build similar teams. “As the world gets flatter, cultural differences and the ability to manage across them is going to be much more important.”

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Competency mapping

Competency mapping is a process through which one assesses and determines one’s strengths as an individual worker and in some cases, as part of an organization. It generally examines two areas: emotional intelligence or emotional quotient (EQ), and strengths of the individual in areas like team structure, leadership, and decision-making. Large organizations frequently employ some form of competency mapping to understand how to most effectively employ the competencies of strengths of workers. They may also use competency mapping to analyze the combination of strengths in different workers to produce the most effective teams and the highest quality work.

Competency mapping not only acts as a useful tool for the organization but also aids an individual’s competency.

At IBM is it has been a general observation that hard work, sincerity, knowledge, intelligence alone does not make a person a star performer in his/her profession. There are other factors that help an individual excel in his job. Managers at IBM keep a record of different qualities a person must possess to do a job effectively, and they make use of their knowledge to select and train their subordinates. Organizational psychologists have refined this understanding and converted it into a structural and formal process called Competency Mapping. It has emerged as one of the most powerful tools aiding the improvement for the HR professionals in finding the right employee for a job and development of the employed person in doing the assigned job effectively.

Competency mapping process at involves two areas: emotional intelligence and strengths of the individual in areas like team structure, leadership and decision-making. IBM frequently employs some form of competency mapping to understand how to most effectively employ the competencies of strengths of workers.

The general steps involved in this process can be described as follows:

Step 1:Every employee is asked to fill up a questionnaire that asks them what they are doing and what skills and abilities are needed to have to perform it well. 

Step 2: Having discovered the similarities in the questionnaires, a competency based job description is crafted and presented to the personnel department for their agreement and additions, if required.

Step 3: The final step involves mapping of an employee’s abilities to the benchmarks and deciding his future accordingly.

In India, however, this process has gained force only during the last couple of years. Other companies like L&T InfoTech follow competency mapping. Other big companies like TCS, HCL Technologies, SBI, Idea Cellular, Exide Industries, Birla Cellulosic, etc. have got their employees trained in competency mapping course but it remains unclear if they strictly follow the line.


Hurdles faced in the process

Competency mapping helps identify the success criteria required for individuals to be successful in their roles. It not only acts as a useful tool for the organization but also aids an individual’s competency. But, IBM strictly following the process of competency mapping does face some hurdles in achieving overall efficiency.

Firstly, the organizations do the ultimate mistake of realizing the map as the desired end result. The map is nothing but a colossal waste of time and money without proper analysis.

Secondly, the mission must be to sustain a knowledge flow that is more profitable to the organization. If the organization is already rich beyond wildest dreams then the mission should be to measure against the current “ideal” knowledge flow.

Lastly, incorrect assessments of results lead to flawed decisions and cause a big damage to the concern.

Competency mapping tailored to an organization is necessary to train, define and retain talent in a company. As a result of competency mapping, all the HR processes like talent induction, appraisals and training yield much better results.

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