IBM: Coders Are Safe From AI Takeover, But HR Roles Are Not

IBM is using AI to hire more jobs than it replaces, but continues phasing out "repetitive, white-collar" roles.

IBM is appearing to buck the AI takeover trend by using the technology to hire more roles than it replaces – with specialized roles like programmers receiving the biggest boost.

This goes directly against a previous announcement from the tech powerhouse that it was planning to replace 8,000 jobs that could be performed by artificial intelligence.

But this doesn’t mean that all jobs are safe. While IBM is committed to expanding its team as a whole, company CEO Arvind Krishna announced that it will continue to phase out “repetitive white-collar” jobs like back-office HR roles.

IBM is Using AI to Expand its Overall Hiring Efforts

Despite previously announcing that it would use AI to replace around 30% of roles in May, global technology company IBM has revealed it will actually use the smart technology to recruit more jobs than it replaces.

The news was announced at Fortune’s CEO Initiative conference, where IBM CEO Arvind Krishna claimed he would be making a distinct effort to hire more programmers while harnessing AI to boost their productivity by 30%.

But while software engineering and sales roles are safe for now – with Krishna claiming that he won’t get rid of a single programmer – IBM continues to wind down jobs that that are able to easily replaced by AI.

“The first thing you can automate is a repetitive, white-collar job.” – IBM CEO Arvind Krishna

Krishna admitted the company has been phasing out several hundred roles that could be replaced by AI throughout the last three to four years. These largely include repetitive white-collar jobs like back-office HR positions, according to the Chief Executive.

No jobs have been explicitly lost due to AI yet, though, as the company chose to leave these positions unfilled when vacancies arose. Jobs that are partially able to be replaced by AI automation also remain safe for now, as Krishna claims the technology is only able to handle 10% to 20% of “lower level tasks” involved with these roles.

IBM Contradicts Itself Over Hiring Plans

IBM’s pledge to retain talent should help to quell AI anxiety among workers. However, using the technology to benefit personnel hasn’t always been part of its party line.

In May, IBM announced it would be implementing a hiring pause across the company and replacing up to 8,000 jobs with artificial intelligence. This included plans to supersede 30% of non-consumer-facing roles within the next five years, including roles in finance, accounting, and HR.

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While these repetitive white-collar roles are still vulnerable to being phased out, IBM’s latest announcements represent a new direction the company is taking in using AI to augment people’s jobs instead of replacing them entirely.

IBM is no stranger to layoffs though, with the Armonk based company making headlines in January for cutting 3,900 jobs across its global offices after missing its annual cash targets.

AI: Workplace Companion or Competitor?

IBM’s decision to enhance current roles  with AI chimes with wider research about rapidly advancing technology reshaping far more jobs than it ousts.

A new study by Forrester predicted that AI is 4.5 more likely to augment a job rather than stamping it out altogether, by unlocking valuable opportunities to reskill and retrain in relevant or different fields.

Jobs that require human intelligence and creative thought like writers, editors, and coders are likely to benefit from the most from AI tools, as their unique set of skills are harder to replicate.

However, just like the HR staffers gradually being phased out of IBM’s offices, Forrester’s research found that white-collar workers in legal, science, and administrative positions are the most likely to suffer from future job insecurity.

The study also revealed that 2.4 million US jobs are suspected to be replaced by AI completely by 2030. If you fear you may become a statistic, we’d recommend expanding your skillset and upskilling in AI. You can read our guide to the best free AI training courses here.

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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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