Apple's Human Resources Strategy Essay

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While a high-flying tech company is a great story to the outside observer, inside such a company can be quite chaotic, because the rapid pace of growth places strain on the talent within the company. The human resources department has to keep a rapid pace of hiring, ensuring all the while that it is bringing in the right people to support the mission going forward. Just as important, the new hires have to blend in with the existing organizational culture. This can be a significant challenge when the growth comes as rapidly as it did for Apple in the 2000s. The company's growth trajectory started with an established culture under Steve Jobs, the introduction of the iPod, and then the introduction of the iPhone started Apple on its current hypergrowth course. The new initiatives that the company is working on today may yet signal a future round of hypergrowth, which places significant emphasis on the need for the company to have a strong organizational culture that contributes to its success, and a culture that can be passed along quickly to new recruits so that they buy into the company's mission. This paper will examine the human resource function at Apple, with particular attention to how the HR department fosters the development, diffusion and strengthening of the organizational culture?

Organization Background

Apple is a leading designer and marketer of consumer electronics. The company recorded revenue in the 2017 fiscal year of $229 billion and profits of $48 billion. Apple is one of the most highly-valued companies in the stock market, with a market cap of $870 billion. The company has the world's most valuable brand, as ranked by Interbrand (Beer, 2017). This value reflects not only the reputation of the company and its products, along with its profits, but also the belief from the market that Apple as a company is capable of building on its successes, and being a market leader for the foreseeable future.

The company has 123,000 full-time employees (Yahoo! Finance, 2017). Most of Apple's manufacturing is done by third party contractors, so the majority of its employees work in design, engineering, marketing and sales. The company has a strong retail operation both online and bricks-and-mortar, and those staff are included in this figure. Apple derives its competitive advantage from the brand, which reflects both the strength of its products from a design and engineering standpoint, and the company's marketing, which has fostered a strong brand image, and high brand loyalty that allows the company to lead the market on prices. Apple's strategy really only works if it can continue to deliver engineering, design and marketing at the highest level.

Moreover, Apple has a large supply of cash that it is looking to reinvest. As such, it is becoming involved in a number of new ventures, such as automobiles, where Apple is looking to enter the self-driving car market (Korosec, 2017). This creates demand for the company to attract new engineering talent, either to join new teams in entirely different product areas, or in existing lines while the most talented people move onto these new projects. Either way, the new hiring requires more from the human resources team in terms of identifying talent, hiring the right people, setting compensation, and then training people and bringing them into the organizational culture. This paper will examine the different roles that HR plays at Apple, and how the company uses human resources to support its strategic objectives.

Global Context

Apple competes as a leader in its field. It produces premium products and charge premium prices for those products. The company competes against the best companies in the world, and by virtue of its location in Silicon Valley that competition for talent is often head-to-head in nature, as the world's tech giants are located either there or in Seattle.
The result of this is that Apple not only need top talent in order to continue to execute its business model but it needs to outcompete nearby companies to do so. This drives the company to pay at the high end of market rates, but focus heavily on fostering a strong culture, leveraging the intense consumer brand loyalty and leaning on intrinsic motivation. Thus far, the strategy has been effective, and Apple has remained an employer of choice among tech superstars, despite many competitors emerging to compete for the world's top tech talent.

Human Resource and Organizational Behavior Analysis

Apple faces a significant challenge in that it needs to recruit a lot of employees – a constant recruiting cycle, and these need to be among the best and brightest in their roles. Apple needs to have the best engineers and designers because competition at the high end of the consumer electronics industry requires excellence in all facets of the design function. Apple's recruiting function is therefore constantly focused on finding the best talent. To do this, Apple relies on a couple of things. The first is the company's employer brand. Apple's name attracts talent, because the company is a leader, has a loyal following in the tech community, and many talented people feel honored to attach their name to the company. The company's employer brand is said to be superior to almost any other company (Hesse, 2012).

There are several elements to the Apple employer brand. First, the company creates a sense of belonging – it defines the people who work for the company so that new hires immediately feel that they are with their own people. Apple also does a good job of differentiating itself as an employer. This is quite important given the intensity of competition for talented workers in Silicon Valley. Finally, the employer brand is aligned with the rest of the company's branding and marketing. Thus, Apple is literally able to draw from its millions of fans, and many carry the same brand loyalty that they have as consumers over to the workplace. Those who are not Apple fans necessarily still hold the company in high esteem and are generally indoctrinated not long after starting, as they, too feel that sense of belonging, like they have found their home (Hesse, 2012).

The employer brand is basically equivalent to marketing – it attracts eyeballs, but the company still needs to have an active strategy to recruit people, as it would not meet its needs simply by following a passive strategy. The company seeks to attract innovative, creative people with technical talent. It attracts people by allowing them to work on innovative products, ones that can change the world. These are among the attributes cited for attractiveness on Glassdoor (2013). Being able to contribute to something big is a huge draw for workers who need not worry about those lower level needs – the opportunity to satisfy higher level needs is the key draw, which is why that is a central part of the company's messaging.

Drawing in talent is just the first step for Apple, as it must then put the talent through the selection process. This process has been described as "grueling", upwards of ten interviews including a trip to head office (Hein, 2015). The rigorous nature of the selection process is not just to judge the technical ability of the candidate but the fit as well. Cultural fit is critically important - one needs to be dedicated to innovation, have a high attention to detail, and yet be highly passionate about Apple….....

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Beer, J. (2017). Apple, Google and Microsoft ranked three most valuable global brands in 2017. Fast Company. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Celniciuc, A. (2017). HR performance at Apple, Google and Statoil. Performance Magazine. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Dickey, M. (2017). Apples releases first diversity report under new VP of diversity and inclusion. TechCrunch. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Glassdoor (2013) Apple: Employment brand vs. workplace reputation. Glassdoor. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Hein, B. (2015) Want to work for Apple? Here's the grueling hiring process. Cult of Mac. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Hesse, A. (2012) Employer branding lessons from Apple. Clear HR Consulting. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Korosec, K. (2017). Get an up close look at Apple's Projec Titan self-driving car. Fortune. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Panzarino, M. (2017). Apple diversity head Denise Young Smith apologizes for controversial choice of words as summit. TechCrunch. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Vozza, S. (2017). Why employees at Apple and Google are more productive. Fast Company. Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

Yahoo! Finance.: Apple (2017). Retrieved December 5, 2017 from

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