IBM's CEO - No Programmer Is Threatened By AI
Written by Sue Gee   
Wednesday, 04 October 2023

With the growing adoption of AI-based tools across the board, the question is whether our jobs are at risk. It is reassuring to know that IBM's CEO Arvind Krishna says he doesn't intend to lose any programmers because of AI - indeed he intends to hire more. 

During an on-stage interview at Fortune’s CEO Initiative conference in Washington on October 3rd, Arvind Krishna reiterated a point he has repeatedly made  - that many of the back-office processes that are ubiquitous in the workplace can be undertaken by AI, leading to a reduction in the number of repetitive, white-collar jobs at IBM. However, the deployment of AI, rather than eliminating programmer jobs, will see an increase in the number of programmer's hired by IBM.

Arvind Krishna

 

In an interview reported by Fortune on May 1st, Krishna announced that hiring in back-office functions, such as human resources will be suspended or slowed, saying: 

“I could easily see 30% of that getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period.”

Given that IBM has around 26,000 employees in such roles that's roughly 7,800 jobs potentially lost.

In an op-ed article for Fortune by-lined by Arvind Krishna, he argued that:

"Today’s workforce should prepare to work hand in hand with A.I."

and details how IBM's Human Resources Team has been able to put this into practice:

Every company, no matter its size, must prioritize hiring, promoting, and retaining talent. Much of this work entails pulling large amounts of data and documentation together for standardized processes like promotion cycles. With the help of IBM’s own A.I., we’re beginning to automate key steps of what was a very manual process. Piloting this technology within IBM itself, we have been able to shift from 700 professionals doing a relatively manual type of HR-related work, to less than 50. That’s freed up a very significant number of people to spend more time providing important talent-related services, such as career guidance and support for managers, which requires thought and creativity, rather than doing routine paperwork.

However Krishna has always maintained that AI will create more jobs than it will replace and at the CEO Initiative conference, pointed to the fact that at the same time as IBM phased out a few hundred back-office HR roles over three to four years, it added headcount in software engineering and sales roles stating:

“The increase was like 8,000; the decrease was like 800.”

Krishna's message is that the first thing you can automate is a repetitive, white-collar job, but while AI could take over 10% to 20% of “lower level tasks" it wouldn’t take a person’s job altogether, because no one’s job is composed entirely of these sorts of tasks.

Turning to programmers' jobs Krishna expects his programmers to get 30% more productive thanks to the technology and that the increase in productivity will allow companies like IBM to hire more people, not fewer, because it will allow them to produce more goods and services, which will then need to be taken to market.

 “I don’t intend to get rid of a single [programmer]. I’ll get more.”   

More Information

IBM's CEO Not Cutting Workers (Fortune)

IBM CEO: ‘Today’s workforce should prepare to work hand in hand with A.I.’

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2023 )