IBM Freezing Hiring for Roles AI Could Replace

IBM's new Policy Lab will set up ambitious goals.

IBM is reportedly planning to suspend hiring for jobs artificial intelligence (AI) could someday do.

In an interview Monday (May 1) with Bloomberg News, CEO Arvind Krishna said the technology company will freeze or slow hiring for around 26,000 back-office roles.

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

According to Bloomberg, that would translate to around 7,800 jobs. An IBM spokesperson said the company would reach that number in part by not hiring for vacant roles.

IBM is making this move at a time when a number of observers are concerned about the potential of AI to disrupt the working world. As Bloomberg notes, the company’s plan is one of the largest strategies in response to the growth of AI.

In this case, it would mean automating human resource functions like moving workers between departments, said Krishna. However, some HR duties, like employee evaluations, would likely not be immediately replaced.

This news follows a recent study by Goldman Sachs that found that 7% of American workers are in jobs where AI could automate at least half of their duties, and therefore replace them.

Another 63% hold jobs where less than half of their duties could be automated, so they could probably remain in their roles but have time freed up to take on new tasks. The remaining 30% of workers have outdoor or physical jobs AI is unlikely to affect.

Meanwhile, PYMNTS looked at the impact AI could have on the workforce, particularly in some back-office roles, in an interview in March with Matthew Tillman, CEO at automated accounts payable solution OpenEnvoy.

“[AI] no longer just has an implication as a use case, it has an implication on their business,” Tillman told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster.

The implication, he went on to say, is that companies can see right away how many — or how few —  people they might need to staff a department in the near future, leading to a world where more CFOs ask themselves “how can we run a department of one?”

“The AI technology develops the script that a business would’ve put toward low-cost labor. And it takes action on that script,” Tillman said.

He pointed to the generalized finance space, where areas like bookkeeping and non-tax audits can “go away today.” In Tillman’s view, a business with 12 people overseeing $6 billion worth of spending is one with 11 too many people.