Performance Management at Apple Inc.

Role of HR Practices in Performance Management

Apple’s iPhone is arguably the most popular and recognizable smartphone on the planet. Since its launch in 2007, the corporation has sold over 1.3 billion iPhones. Between the years 2001 and 2018, the stock price of Apple had increased by an impressive 15,000%, which makes the company’s current worth at $1 trillion. Apple has a strong global presence: 18% of all smartphones bought worldwide are iPhones, and the corporation earns 87% of all smartphone profits (“12 Apple statistics marketers should know in 2018,” 2018). What makes Apple great is the people that are working relentlessly to push the boundaries of what is possible and boost the company’s performance. This subsection discusses linkages between employee performance, HR practices, and organizational performance at Apple Inc.

Macrotrends (2018) report a steady increase in the number of employees between 2006 and 2018, with as many as 137,000 people working for Apple in 2018. The question arises as to what practices Apple chooses to manage so many employees and unlock their potential to serve the interests and interests of the company. Answering this question is especially compelling given that there is strong evidence between the quality of human resource management and overall performance. Workers satisfied with the work culture and human resources practices can focus on their responsibilities, without having to waste their energy on stress. Besides, a healthy work environment enables better communication between all levels of the organization, which facilitates performance management.

Today, it has been established that human resource management mistakes can result in considerable financial losses. Fatemi (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).

Drawing on these facts, it is safe to say that hiring mistakes are extremely costly and can have long-standing consequences. This is especially true for big tech companies that are the trailblazers of their domain. Hiring the wrong person means creating an inner vulnerability as the said person will have access to original blueprints, databases, and other sensitive information.

As the corporation itself states, over the last few years, Apple has refined its human resource practices to improve talent identification, retention, and development. Mollah (2015) reports that a series of interviews at Apple’s UK offices have shown employees’ overall satisfaction with the company’s HR practices. In particular, employees pointed out their appreciation for remuneration that matches the actual workload as well as a good work-life balance (Mollah, 2015). Among other benefits, the interviewees listed flexible work hours and a friendly work environment that allows the employees to express their opinion freely (Mollah, 2015).

This evidence suggests that Apple delivers on its promises regarding HR practices, and the latter demonstrate real efficiency in bolstering employees’ engagement and in turn, their performance.

The company’s efforts did not go unnoticed: O’Brien (2019) writes that in 2019, Apple defended its ‘Most Admired for HR’ crown. The comprehensive ranking was judging companies based on four criteria that have a bearing on HR: management quality, product/service quality, innovation, and people management. O’Brien (2019) explains that Apple was able to rank first for the second time in three years due to the alignment between its talent strategy and business strategy.

Together, they informed policies and practices targeted at choosing what serves best Apple’s manpower and the company itself. To conclude, Apple integrates its human resource management and performance management by building teams of people with great skills and motivation and providing them with comfortable working conditions.

Barriers Affecting Performance Management

Despite the positive image that Apple is projecting and the international recognition of its HR practices, not a single big corporation is operating without any performance management issues. Performance management is defined as ongoing communication between leaders and followers to benchmark the progress in accomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization. Performance management is a multifaceted process that requires the efforts of many people with varying degrees of expertise and responsibility. Some factors are common hurdles to effective performance management, and this subsection addresses those that may be the most relevant to the chosen company, Apple Inc.

Absence of integration

Ideally, the performance management system has to be neatly and seamlessly integrated with other systems and take into account the organizational culture and structure. However, as performer Apple employees’ reviews, the upper management sometimes ignores what is happening at the lower levels. For instance, a platform for employers and job seekers, Glassdoor, shares a story of a person who worked in a software engineering role for Apple. In their review, the former employee recounts the excessively rapid recruitment rate at one of the corporation’s offices that led to cramped and uncomfortable workspaces (Chong, 2015).

By hiring more people, Apple was serving its interest in covering some gaps; however, the upper management dismissed the impact that that decision had had on the working conditions at the lower levels. This example illustrates the absence of integration between different strategies.

Ignoring the human factor

Work at Apple receives mixed reviews: while the previous subsection cited a source that reported positive experiences of former and actual employees, there is also evidence that counters it. Apple likes to market itself as a company that can offer its employees freedom and flexibility. In actuality, it often means that the workday is not confined to the usual 9-to-5. Chong (2015) writes that it is not uncommon for Apple employees to stay in the office after hours and receive emails and phone calls late at night. According to Ehrenkranz (2016), several Apple employees were reporting derailing mental health because of burnout. Ehrenkranz (2016) adds that when the said employees tried to communicate their concerns to their supervisors, their appeals were met with silence at best and retaliation at worst.

These stories showcase at least two barriers to successful performance management: poor communication and the dismissal of the human side of employees. By pushing workers to perform past the limits of human health, supervisors are ignoring the fact that all people need rest. Working less but with higher intensity is likely to yield better results. The other problem is the unwillingness of supervisors to consider employees’ problems. They voluntarily create breaches in communication and discourage workers from sharing their thoughts.

Poor leadership

Leadership is pivotal to successful performance management: a good leader knows how to influence followers in a way that would help the organization achieve its strategic goals. Apple has presented to the world iconic leadership figures such as Steve Jobs and Tim Cook who have been responsible for the corporation’s transformation and rise to the pinnacle of its popularity. However, those leaders who rarely make it to the public might be lacking sufficient skill in managing employees’ performance. Chong (2015) provides a review written by a former Apple employee who says that on paper, the company was not in favor of strict and rigid hierarchies. In actuality, however, the company was often playing favorites, making some employees “more equal than others (Chong, 2015).”

Moreover, as per the review, the lack of formal leadership would lead to chaos within teams as employees were confused about the distribution of roles. This review is an example of how much havoc the lack of comprehensive policies regarding leadership can wreck work operations.

Another example provided by Chong (2015) is the management’s reluctance to allow software developers to use the best practices. In this context, the best practices are practices that address the root causes of poor software development. They are ever-changing as the field of software development is constantly evolving. In the review provided by Chong (2015), a former Apple employee was unhappy with the management’s adherence to outdated practices. Whenever software developers tried to speak up, their complaints were not paid enough attention. The inability to change practices directly affected the quality of the end product, which was suboptimal for each party involved, including customers. This example showcases the management’s unwillingness to accept that there are matters beyond their understanding that need to be delegated to and handled by professionals.

Surely, the problems described in this subsection might not be true for every Apple office and outlet. Yet, it is only reasonable to provide some solutions even if their application will be local and incidental. The overarching theme of all the problems pointed out above is poor leadership that hurts trust between leaders and members. Trust comes from leaders’ ability to develop and put to use specific personal traits. Apple leaders need to put more emphasis on integrity and competence, which refers to both technical and interpersonal knowledge and skills).

Openness in the sense of the willingness to share ideas and information freely is also critical for overcoming barriers to performance management. Leaders need to have enough humility to accept that they cannot have sufficient knowledge about each employees’ scope of work and stop with micromanagement. The focus of leadership should be shifted from controlling little tasks to building a bigger vision for everyone.

Evaluation of Performance Management System

This subsection identifies the HR and employment practices that influence employee performance at Apple. The employment starts with recruitment and selection – two processes that Apple’s human resources managers put a lot of thought into. The job advertisements posted on the official website demonstrate that working at Apple goes beyond merely fulfilling job responsibilities.

When advertising job openings, the corporation emphasizes individuality and originality, equality of opportunity, and commitment to innovation (“Jobs at Apple,” n.d.). Apple amplifies the voices of minorities: the company does not discriminate by race, gender, and other characteristics. As a result, today, 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.).

Apple’s approach to job advertising is in line with employment trends for the two youngest generations – Zoomers and Millennials. Recent research shows that the youth entering the workforce seeks more than just a decent remuneration – if it is the only benefit that a company has to offer, younger employees do not think twice about “job-hopping.” Stewart et al. (2017) note that Zoomers and Millennials are drawn to social justice causes and personal growth. They want to make a positive impact on the organization that they are working for and help it to tackle social and environmental challenges (Stewart et al., 2017).

Among other characteristics of a corporate environment that younger employees seem to actively seek is working with a diverse group of people (Stewart et al., 2017). Based on these observations, it is safe to say that Apple’s recruitment process is aligned with the latest trends and appeals to the younger generations. Besides, Apple is open about its values and communicates them first thing on its “Career Page.” This means that the potential candidates among site visitors learn right away about what the company has to offer and what it expects of them.

Of special note is the fact that Apple does not outsource recruitment to third-party hiring agencies. Typically, agencies do not have a solid understanding of the job that they are trying to select candidates for. When it comes to tech positions with hard skills that only another professional can assess, agencies’ efforts fall flat. The depth of their perception of the domain of knowledge and the subject matter is quite shallow. Apple is making a good choice by letting its professionals interview other professionals. Such an approach is positive for the candidates as well: from the get-go, they have a chance to talk to someone currently working at Apple and gain a deeper insight into the specifics of their future job.

The selection process is characterized by rigor: the interviews are scrupulous and step-wise and seek to gauge not only a person’s hard skills but also their personality. After being selected, new Apple employees immerse themselves into the company’s corporate culture. The overall principle on which the culture operates is putting the right person in the right place and considering the individualism of each team member. The company invests resources into career management so that valuable workers do not feel as if they might soon hit their career “ceiling” within one company. Instead, a good employee can pursue an individualized career path that is aligned with their goals and the company’s needs and preferences.

A counterweight to these good HR practices are barriers to performance management mentioned in the previous subsection. One of the best things that Apple has to offer is indeed an environment supportive of innovation and personal initiative. A motivated person can soon see their ideas being implemented and find satisfaction in something more meaningful and individual than just remuneration. At the same time, as has been mentioned before, overcommitment and dedication often mean poor work-life balance. When it is accompanied by poor leadership and the absence of integration, employees can feel trapped in a situation where their struggles are unseen and their voices are unheard.

Based on the facts and figures provided in this paper, it becomes apparent that improving performance management at Apple requires the integration of such systems as planning, monitoring, communication, reward, and recognition. Planning should be a shared process in which lower-level management gets a say. Referring to one of the cases described above, communicating with lower-level supervisors could have prevented overstaffing at some of the offices. Monitoring relates to the progress that employees are making and the hurdles that they experience on their way towards common goals. At this stage, it is imperative to resolve the issues that hurt employees’ performance such as poor mental health because of long shifts or dissatisfaction with certain aspects. Addressing problems like those early on is a proactive decision that can prevent a bigger crisis later.

Communication can be challenging when it comes to big corporations such as Apple. Typically, supervisors manage big numbers of people, and they cannot budget enough time to talk to every one of them personally even if they want to. In this case, it makes sense to ritualize certain aspects of communication, making them into internal policies. For example, the human resource department could develop an inventory or a questionnaire for employees that would estimate their satisfaction. Lastly, reward and recognition for contributing and pushing the limits should become normalized and not only in the form of financial bonuses but also more flexible hours and other benefits.

Reference List

  1. 12 Apple statistics marketers should know in 2018 (2018).
  2. Chong, C (2015) Apple employees reveal 15 awful things about working at Apple. Web.
  3. Ehrenkranz, M (2016) Apple employees say their mental health issues came from an alleged hostile work environment. Web.
  4. Inclusion & diversity. (n.d.) Web.
  5. Jobs at Apple. (n.d.) Web.
  6. Macrotrends (2018) Apple: Number of Employees 2006-2020 | AAPL. Web.
  7. Mollah, A (2015) A critical analysis of employee job satisfaction: a case study of Apple UK, European Journal of Business and Management, 7(7), 1-10.
  8. O’Brien, M (2019) Apple defends its ‘Most Admired for HR’ crown. Web.
  9. Stewart, JS, Oliver, EG, Cravens, KS & Oishi, S (2017) Managing millennials: embracing generational differences, Business Horizons, 60(1), 45-54.

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