Apple and Amazon do not need an introduction: these two Fortune 500 corporations have been disruptive to their respective sectors and revolutionized the way customers perceive technology, consumption, shopping, and entertainment. Apple’s iPhone is a bestselling and arguably the most recognizable smartphone: every fifth smartphone bought worldwide is an iPhone (“12 Apple statistics”, 2018). Since its founding in 2007, Apple has sold over 1.3 billion iPhones while its stock price surged by a whopping 15,000%, making the company worth $1 trillion (“12 Apple statistics”, 2018).
Amazon’s metrics are no less impressive: in 2020, there are 150 million Amazon Prime (a fast, subscription-based delivery service) subscribers (Mohsin, 2020). The company’s revenue in the first quarter of 2020 amounted to $75.5 billion (Mohsin, 2020). Both Apple and Amazon are big employers with 137,000 and 840,000 employees respectively. The success of these two companies makes it compelling to investigate the anatomy of their human resources management (HRM) practices. This paper discusses HRM practices at Apple and Amazon in terms of five functional areas and shows that they provide both positive and negative examples for other businesses.
Recruitment at both Apple and Amazon starts with strategic job advertisements. When creating job advertisements on their official website and third-party platforms, the corporation highlights its high regard for individuality and originality, equality of opportunity, and commitment to innovation (“Jobs at Apple,” n.d.). The smartphone company seeks to amplify the voices of demographics that have long been discriminated against and disadvantaged in the workplace. Apple shows that race, gender, sexuality, and other unchangeable characteristics do not play a role in a candidate’s chances to be recruited and subsequently promoted within a company.
The company practices what it preaches: 45% of Apple employees under 30 are women, and 53% of new hires in the US belong to historically underrepresented groups in tech (“Inclusion & diversity,” n.d.). The corporation emphasizes internal career growth paths and the sense of accomplishment that employees derive from becoming a part of something bigger. By doing that, Apple appeals to the younger generation of workers who seek value in what they’re doing beyond remuneration.
Amazon uses similar tactics in its job advertisements: it focuses on marketing its company as a place where employees can make a significant change and leave their footprint in the sector. Namely, in the “Career” section on its official website, Amazon refers to itself as the “ Earth’s most customer-centric company (“Amazon Jobs,” n.d.).” As for its employees, the corporation calls them Amazonians, which highlights the team spirit dominating the workplace and nurtures the sense of belonging in employees. Just like Apple, Amazon uses a variety of platforms for reaching out to potentially valuable cadres: its own website, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and others.
The interviewing process at both companies is characterized by rigor and attention to both the hard and soft skills of each candidate. For higher-level positions such as software developers, machine learning engineers, or managers, the interviewing process takes a day on-campus. During this day, a potential employee is tested and interviewed by people in different positions. The interviewing questions not only expose a person’s technical skills but also help the interviewers to understand his or her values, ability to withhold stress, take initiative, and make long-term career plans.
Training & Development
While many tech companies organize internal courses for their employees, the way Apple approaches it is a topic of speculation and fascination in the industry. As Chen (2014) reports, there is very little information available about Apple’s in-house training: employees are required to keep the teaching blueprints and the contents of the courses a secret. However, a few former Apple employees agreed to share their experiences (Chen, 2014).
From what they said, the corporation provides career tracks and continuing education opportunities for every position present. In this way, each professional receives a chance to deepen their knowledge in their own domain and develop within the company (Chen, 2014). The full-time teaching staff has some of the most prestigious teaching credentials as they come from schools such as Yale, Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford; and M.I.T (Chen, 2014). The courses focus not only on practical knowledge but also on conceptual thinking to change employees’ mindsets and make them more creative and proactive.
Amazon is more explicit about the training and development of its employees. In 2019, Amazon announced that it would invest $700 million to help 100,000 employers improve their tech skills. Technical specialists are on-demand around the world, and Amazon is making an ambitious decision to grow competitive cadres from within. Even employees in entry-level positions can qualify and tread a path from “from the warehouse to IT” with Amazon’s guidance (Scott, 2019).
The company pledges to cover up to 95% of tuition fees for employees wishing to earn certificates that can be used outside the workplace as well (Scott, 2019). Theoretical knowledge is grounded in practice as students of Amazon Technical Academy can count on a wide choice of apprenticeships upon the completion of a course.
Employee/ Labor Relations
The reality of working at tech companies today might be far from beneficial for workers themselves. The rise of the gig economy made contracting as opposed to employing the new norm for large corporations. Workers fulfill their responsibilities for only a predefined time period while not being able to enjoy the full range of benefits that ordinary employment has to offer. However, in the last few years, there has been tangible progress with regard to the labor movement and unionization.
Eidelson (2017) reports that from 2014 through 2017, unions had organized more than five thousand people working on the Silicon Valley campuses for companies such as Apple and Amazon. Sometimes, a specific kind of worker pushes their agenda to receive more rights. For example, in 2016, Apple’s unionized shuttle drivers reached an agreement regarding pension contributions and holiday time (Akhtar, 2016). Amazon shows far more resistance, preventing workers from unionizing (Schoolov, 2019).
As for employee relations in the workplace, Apple’s and Amazon’s track records vary significantly. The quality of working conditions and management’s attitude relies heavily on the location and type of department. The coronavirus pandemic keeps revealing Amazon’s malpractices regarding its warehouse workers’ safety. Zubrow (2020) reports that hundreds of workers have been stricken by the virus due to poor sanitation facilities. Apple is also not a stranger to being under attack for violating workers’ rights: it has been criticized for the mistreatment of factory employees in the form of harassment and working hours falsification (Murdock, 2018).
Performance management is defined as ongoing communication between leaders and followers to benchmark the progress in accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization. It is a multifaceted process that requires the efforts of many people with varying degrees of expertise and responsibility. When it comes to performance management, Apple has a mixed record. On the one hand, the smartphone corporation has its own refined approach toward team building and communication.
Steve Jobs left a legacy of choosing leaders, or in his words, people who would be “[the keepers] and reiterator of the vision” for each team (Ehrenkranz, 2016). Apple promotes a work culture where employees are encouraged to speak up and express their opinion. On the other hand, as suggested by numerous reviews posted by ex-Apple employees, the company does not always deliver on its promises (Ehrenkranz, 2016). Common complaints included poor work-life balance, managers’ disregard for employees’ mental health, and confusing distribution of responsibilities.
Amazon might be the most consumer-centric company on Earth but it is far from employee-centric, as new evidence suggests. On the surface, Amazon promotes values similar to those of other big corporations that seek to democratize its structures and amplify the autonomy of their employees. In actuality, however, employees are often forced to stay late, respond to emails in the middle of the night, and attend long meetings where they are required to criticize each other’s ideas (Demers, 2018). Amazon has responded to these allegations, denying some of them and dismissing others.
Compensation & Benefits
The average salary at Apple ranges from about $30,000 annually for a call center representative and $170,000 for a finance manager (“Apple employee benefits review: Are their careers worth it?” 2019). Apart from that, employees enjoy a system of discounts according to which they can buy Apple products with 25% off as well as install paid software for half of the price. The company allows new mothers to take an 18-week maternity leave with full pay and stay off work for six more weeks unpaid if requested.
Those who are still in school while working for Apple can count on a tuition reimbursement of up to $5,200 annually (“Apple employee benefits review: Are their careers worth it?” 2019). The smartphone company cares about employees’ physical well-being and reimburses a part of their gym memberships. Apart from that, there is subsidized dining available where workers can purchase high-quality food at a fraction of the price. Lastly, the company offers opportunities to work from home, which might become even more common after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The salary range at Amazon is somewhat similar to that at Apple: $26,000 annually for an account resolution manager up to $160,000 for a development manager (“Compensation and benefits,” n.d.). The company allows new mothers to take a 14-week maternity leave with full pay and stay off work for six more weeks unpaid if requested. On top of that, the maternity leave can be shared with the spouse if he or she wishes to spend more time at home with the newborn. Amazon pays attention to workers’ physical and mental health needs. There is a possibility to open a health savings account with Amazon with the company matching the savings. Apart from that, Amazon offers mental health resources that are available 24/7.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Large corporations often set an example of how businesses should go about human resources management practices. Indeed, big thriving companies would not have been able to reach their current level of greatness without the people that make it possible, starting from entry-level workers and ending with executives. Today, it has been established that human resource management mistakes can result in considerable financial losses.
Shotwell (2016) cites a report published by the U.S. Labor Department that shows that one poor hiring decision can cost a company as much as 30% of the individual’s earnings in the first year of employment. Shotwell (2016) writes that 69% of companies admit that they have been negatively impacted by a bad hiring decision in the last year. Moreover, 41% of the companies that participated in the survey said that malfunctioning hiring practices had cost them as much as $25,000 per year (Shotwell, 2016).
Because hiring mistakes are so costly, it makes sense to learn from Apple and Amazon and implement a more rigorous process of job advertisement and recruitment. A person’s technical knowledge is only one aspect of them as a future employee. Their skills might fall flat if they are not matched by the ability to communicate, commit to corporate goals, and work on themselves.
When it comes to training, it seems that Amazon provides a more robust model for continuing education. Firstly, since it is less secretive than the one developed by Apple, potential candidates can have a better understanding of their opportunities once they join the company. Besides, Amazon makes switching easier, which is important for the younger generation in the workforce who tend to change quite a number of jobs in search of what they could find fulfilling. On the contrary, Apple locks its employees in one career track – an arguably disadvantageous approach. Today, it is more reasonable to market employment as a gateway to more opportunities and not the necessity to settle and make the best out of a position’s limitations.
It is difficult to say whether allegations against Apple and Amazon in terms of their treatment of workers are truthful or inflated out of proportion. The lesson that any business can learn from the scandals is that reputation and social responsibility matter more than over. Any big corporation will be scrutinized, investigated, and sometimes even attacked by the press. While some mistakes are inevitable, especially when it comes to multinational corporations with a lack of control over all the local offices and outlets, any responsible business needs to learn how to respond to accusations.
As for work-life balance that is often criticized at Apple and Amazon, there is always a tug of war between the company’s profits and employees’ well-being. Spectacular results are achieved by hard work, which often means staying after hours at work and putting in more effort than usual. While these occurrences might be inevitable, businesses should match the effort with the same amount of reward. Both Apple and Amazon offer relatively generous benefits that, however, can be matched by nonmaterial rewards such as being able to plan one’s own day or take days off to restore mental health. In summation, Apple and Amazon can serve as a source of valuable lessons for growing businesses, be it their successful HRM ventures or regrettable mistakes.
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