IBM Channels Exiting Workers To Public Sector

By Mark Jr.

Jan. 30, 2008

Employee engagement doesn’t end when someone leaves the payroll, according to IBM. In fact, helping workers determine a direction before walking out the door increases their affinity for the company.

    A new program the technology giant will launch in July is designed to persuade employees and retirees to consider working for the Department of Treasury. The agency says it must fill 14,000 “mission critical” jobs during the next two years, including 7,950 at the Internal Revenue Service.

    The Treasury talent shortage reflects a government-wide trend. The Office of Personnel Management estimates that 500,000 federal positions could come open during the next five years as baby boomers retire.

    To fill the gap, the OPM is trying to persuade the private sector’s baby boomers to begin “encore careers” in the public sector.

    IBM is the first to sign on to FedExperience Transitions to Government, a pilot project sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, an organization that promotes government hiring. AARP and Civic Ventures, both of which promote the work skills of older Americans, also are involved.

    Neither the Treasury Department nor IBM has set a target for the number of people they want to steer into jobs with the agency. Their primary goal is to establish a program with a low attrition rate.

    The initiative represents IBM’s second foray into the transition area. It already has set up a program to encourage employees and retirees to become teachers after they leave the company. About 100 IBM employees are participating.
The effort is part of IBM’s Global Citizen’s Portfolio, a $60 million program the company launched last summer. In addition to the $6 million to $8 million transition dimension, the initiative includes a 401(k)-style account that helps employees pay for education and training and $2.5 million in funding for the Corporate Service Corps, which consists of 600 employees that IBM will send to emerging markets to work on economic and social issues.

    The portfolio is IBM’s way to help employees thrive in the global economy. Even when they find a niche outside the company, IBM still benefits, according to Stanley Litow, vice president for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs.
“It builds a more effective workforce when the company helps people think through transitions in their life,” Litow said at a mid-January press conference in Washington.

    IBM generates good will from people who start a fulfilling career in teaching or government, said Litow, a former deputy chancellor for New York City schools.

    “It will improve people’s view of the brand,” he said. “It is good business to operate this way.”
The way IBM operates on a daily basis—stressing collaboration internally and with suppliers in a $48 billion procurement system—makes its 350,000 employees a good source of talent for government, Litow said.
Challenges in luring people from the private sector to the government include a lack of knowledge about federal openings and a bureaucratic hiring process.

    “There are a lot of things we can do better; we know that,” OPM director Linda Springer said. But she emphasized that federal agencies offer rich benefit packages and flexibility.

    “Whatever inefficiencies we have, there are a lot of other good things we’re doing,” she said.

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