Pressure to downsize and the need to free HR departments in individual countries for added-value work led IBM to create a European service centre.
Tim Stevens, IBM director of employee relations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the aim of the service centre at Portsmouth is to ensure HR professionals in each country are not burdened with routine administrative functions.
He said its creation followed a major reorganisation by a new chief executive who also believed that HR had a leading role to play in IBM’s success.
He added that a belief was established within the company that IBM would not master the technology issues it faced unless it also mastered the people issues. But he said the service centre approach had previously been applied only in the US and doubts existed about the feasibility of catering for a number of different countries.
He told delegates, “There was a lot of pressure to downsize. In 1996 we realised that there was no way we could continue to reduce costs while moving towards higher value work if we continued to work country to country.
“Some said it was never going to work, but I think those doubts have now been allayed.”
He said the initiative was now deemed a success and the organisation is moving into phase two of its original plan.