Former HR VP Says IBM Wanted to Look 'Cool' to Millennials, Fired 100,000 Workers

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Alan Wild, IBM’s former vice president of human resources, said in a court testimony that IBM has fired over 100,000 employees in recent years to try to look “cool” and “trendy,” like industry peers Google and Amazon

As reported by Bloomberg, Wild testified that IBM set out to replace its older employees with younger ones over the span of several years to make itself more appealing to the younger workforce. Texas-based Jonathan Langley, 61, accused IBM of firing him after working 24 years for the company. Langley has sued IBM, but the company has recently filed a motion to dismiss this case.

IBM’s firing of older employees has resulted in multiple discrimination lawsuits against the company, including a class-action case in Manhattan and individual civil suits filed in California, Pennsylvania and Texas last year. 

IBM made the following statement in response to reports about these lawsuits: 

“We have reinvented IBM in the past five years to target higher value opportunities for our clients. The company hires 50,000 employees each year.”

It’s not just its image that the company may be trying to improve. IBM has been struggling with declining revenues over the past seven years. As a consequence, the company has let go of some of its highest paid employees in Northern America and other places. IBM ended up with 350,600 employees at the end of 2018, a reduction of 19% compared to 2013.

Last month, IBM’s New York headquarters laid off another 2,000 employees. At the time, the company made the following statement:

“We are continuing to re-position our team to align with our focus on the high value segments of the IT market – while aggressively hiring in critical new areas that deliver value for our clients and IBM.”

In 2015, an IBM spokesperson denied a Forbes report that said that the company was planning to lay off over 100,000 workers in the coming years. The company dismissed the claims as in an interview with USA Today as “ridiculous” and “baseless.”

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • ugh... IBM, what a lug. they probably all deserved the firing too. I've worked with that fat, bloated terrible company.(and they screwed us big-time in business deals). I am not at all impressed with ANYTHING they do. it's meh at best.

    this is hilarious! Godspeed them on the way to Hell. tell them not to let the doors hit them in the arse on the way out.

    they are nasty predators with their vendors in all of my experience, we will never deal with them again. ever.

    May they rot in Hell.
  • bloodroses
    Sue them into the ground. This ageism crap is absolute BS and I hope every tech company gets sued to death for it. Too bad it'll be too late for those of us already severely affected by it (divorced, relocated, etc).
  • bigdragon
    Firing older employees is not the way you go about looking cool to Millennials. We're way more concerned about the gap between normal employee compensation and executive compensation, time off and work/life balance, benefits packages, and flexible schedules.
  • King_V
    That's the perfect way to tell Millenials that "We treat people as disposable cogs. This is what you have to look forward to."

    Actually, it's the perfect way to tell EVERYONE that.
  • Giroro
    You know what Millenials find "cool"?
    High salaries, competitive benefits packages, and opportunities for entry-level positions with paid on-the-job training.

    I'm sure the same executives responsible for this decision are also complaining how "lazy" millenials are for not magically performing their job perfectly on day 1, when the only person who had the slightest idea what the actual role and responsibilities are was the 30-year senior engineer who was just fired and replaced with a minimum wage employee working remote on a H1B visa.

    Then then the manager comes in and is like "What is the status on that"
    "Who, me?" The newly hired millenial software engeeneer says, pulling off the extremely expensive noise cancelling headphones he was forced to buy in order to tune out 1 of the 4 guys he shares a desk with as a cost-cutting "open-concept" office. Never able to understand how this coworker somehow figured out a way to SLURP salad.. A dish that coworker eats out of a giant glass bowl, for what seems like 6 hours a day.
    "Yes" the manager replies, condescendingly, "So tell me".
    The millenial stammers, " Tell you what, you just barely got my attention. "
    "What is the status on that" the manager repeats.
    "The status on what? Why are you using pronouns right now? We haven't talked in 6 days, and that had nothing to do with any kind of status... You've literally never tasked me with anything in the 5 months since I've been hired, I've just been vaguely reading wikipedia articles about what our company's products are whenever I've overheard a hallway conversation that sounded important... which isn't hard by the way, this entire building is essentially one really wide hallway".
    Then the Millenial engineer is fired because agism laws only protect the old, not the young, and never finds a new job .
    The manager received 10% of the fired employee's annual salary as a bonus for cutting costs, and he used that $3,900 to put a down-payment on a brand new Mazda... for some reason.
    3 months later, that entire software group is shut down because it was hopeless for their 3 remaining young employees to perform at the same level as the 30 senior engineers who had previously worked day and night to build their software into a healty profit generator, only to be "right-sized in an effort to remain competitive in a global marketplace" 3 weeks after the product launched.
    Customer support was then contracted out to a 3rd-party call center in Utah. and the CEO sold the company to some tech giant, probably for several billion dollars.
    And that is the story on how America has always been great, and is great again, and will be great forever.


    -The End.
  • nightshifter56
    umm no, old people get fired because they don't know jack ** about any of the new trends in programming. much easier to hire new people out of school than pay to have these old bags upgraded.
  • USAFRet
    nightshifter56 said:
    umm no, old people get fired because they don't know jack ** about any of the new trends in programming. much easier to hire new people out of school than pay to have these old bags upgraded.
    hahaha...that's funny right there.
    Spoken like a true recent grad, who will redo the same mistakes that figured out 20 years ago.
  • bit_user
    nightshifter56 said:
    umm no, old people get fired because they don't know jack ** about any of the new trends in programming. much easier to hire new people out of school than pay to have these old bags upgraded.
    It's easy to coast your way into a niche. Before you know it, the world has moved on and you're still working with some no-longer-trendy tech and have to retrain to be viable for most job opportunities out there.

    Wouldn't it be nice if your employer provided time and resources for you to retrain? A lot of folks have a full workload and then some, and there's no way to take time away from family responsibilities to learn new tech that they might or might not have a need & opportunity to use.

    I'm just sayin', be careful you don't turn into one of those "old bags", one day. It can happen a lot quicker than you probably think.

    On the flip side, I've seen some old guys learn new tricks. It takes time & effort, but most smart and motivated folks are up to it.
  • willcxxx
    admin said:
    After firing over 100,000 employees, IBM is facing discrimination lawsuits accusing the company of targeting older workers to be "trendy."

    Former HR VP Says IBM Wanted to Look 'Cool' to Millennials, Fired 100,000 Workers : Read more
    I have worked in the most advanced IT shops in the world. I have seen what happens when you try to fit a new hire into an ultra-complex environment, and it is not pretty. Believe it or not, most of the leading architects that design complex system and networks have at least a decade of experience before they are ready for big-time IT environments like banks and brokerage houses. And for those commenters about older skilled workers, I could work all the kids into the ground but they were not ready to design huge networks, database solutions, and applications. And they often drifted off when I was trying to teach them something. I worked in highly complex mobile networks and application environments and I could see the young guys eyes gloss over. And if you think some 4-year wonder kid can manage a large IT move or major network changes over the weekend but still deliver the systems at 4 am Monday morning you are smoking something.

    Many of my projects with world-class cellular companies typically took me a day and a half to explain to these young guys why they were clueless (with some tact). If they tried it without someone with deep experience I was assured of a call 4 months later looking for help on the day before the executive demonstration when their entire architecture was completely wrong.

    IBM executives often did not have a clue unless they have had lots of real experience and the young "legends in their own mind" would spend hours trying to convince me that their architecture was perfectly fine. My advice to the sales rep was to walk away from these disasters. No one could fix months worth of wrong decisions over the weekend. Later if the customer wanted to try again with experts help then we should consider it. And the development architects were always ready to help because they knew I had done my homework. Give me one good experienced and typically older architect and they can save these companies from disasters attempted by green technical hires. I have taken naps in some of the best computer rooms in the world and can highly recommend a roll of bubble wrap for a quick 30 minute nap! I am now retired and I am very well adapted to this lifestyle so I can offer my opinions but am no longer in the business of managing, or avoiding disasters. I had the pleasure of working with some of the best IT architects and product developers on the planet during my time at IBM.
  • willcxxx
    nightshifter56 said:
    umm no, old people get fired because they don't know jack ** about any of the new trends in programming. much easier to hire new people out of school than pay to have these old bags upgraded.

    In my opinion, you are clueless.