Marie-Hélène Budworth

Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, specializing in learning, development & motivation.

Marie-Hélène Budworth

The people at Apple

August 3rd, 2010 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Most of us find the Apple business model intriguing.  There are few organizations that have managed to come up with such revolutionary developments at such a fast and consistent pace.  I spent some time in an Apple store today.  The iPhone 4G had just been released.  I was struck not by the pace of innovation or the appeal of the modern, well designed store, but by the people in the blue shirts.  The happy, excited people who seemed just as exuberant to sell the iPhone 4G to the 100th customer of the day as the customer felt to open the box and break open the new toy.  What is it about Apple that makes retail sales so ‘chic’ and appealing?  How do they motivate their staff to push through some of the toughest sales situations on record?

At the core, it appears as though the retail salespeople truly believe that the Apple products are the best on the market.  They seem just as impressed, if not more so, by the new gadgets and applications.  The organization has done an excellent job of recruiting individuals who love this stuff and then managed to keep them excited about the new products.  This is a perfect example of matching Human Resource Practices to the strategic imperatives of the business. When they hire salespeople, Apple might ask if you can sell products, but they are just as likely to ask ‘do you love innovative stuff?’

A second key factor is the culture that has been created at Apple.  While Steve Jobs has sometimes been portrayed as a demanding boss, he has always managed the company with a clear message – ‘we make innovative technology that real people can use – and look good doing it‘  Every employee in the organization knows how to do their job.  They have a direct message from the big boss telling them what they need to achieve – ‘make innovative technology that real people can use.‘  To the designer that means ‘make a sleek, attractive product using cutting edge technology.‘ To the retail store clerk, it means ‘show people that using this stuff is intuitive.‘  And indeed, it is.  The stars are aligned for Apple at the moment.  They have great products, excellent service, and a loyal market.  This stuff sells itself.  If I was one of the folks in the blue shirts I would be laughing all the way to my employee discount.


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