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Talent management from a “whole new perspective”

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Talent Management Apple

Superior leadership, access to great talent, and unusual talent management approaches. This is the key to success. In august 2011, Apple became the most valuable company in the world, it has surpassed every other company in the technology industry and every other industry.

Apple’s approach regarding talent management

A great deal of Apple’s agility comes from the direction and vision of its senior leadership and its corporate culture. This reinforces the need to get ready for “the next big thing”.

Apple looks for agility in talent, but this is not enough. The ‘real deal’ actually occurs post ‘onboarding’. Apple’s cultural expectations are different from those of other organizations’: after succeeding in one task, you will move on to something different, immediately. In this way, you know that you will have to deal with new issues and learn quickly. The expectation of radical change eliminates resistance and sends a message that employees can’t rest on their laurels. That means that they must mentally prepare for and even look forward to the next extraordinary challenge. Apple employees work in numerous disconnected team silos and they compete against each other with little or no foresight into the purpose or intended use date of their work.

The fact that they shift tasks so much results in employees that never get bored (or if they do get bored at some point, it’s not going to be for long).

Less is more: a lean talent management approach

Workforce productivity can be best measured through revenue per employee and profit per employee. Apple’s revenue per employee is nearly $2 million and profit per employee nearly $478 000 (which is unbelievable considering it has a retail workforce).

If you know a few things about lean management, then you will certainly understand Apple’s prime drivers for extraordinary employee productivity.  For years, the leadership of Apple has followed the philosophy that having less is more, meaning that by purposely understaffing and operating with reduced funding, you can make the team more productive and innovative.

Advantages of a lean approach:

  • it improves innovation because with everything being tried, there simply isn’t enough time or money for major misses and re-do’s;
  • forces everyone to be productive because they know there is no room for slippage;
  • even with its huge cash resources, every employee must adopt the mentality of leanness.

The importance of a performance culture

A performance culture requires differentiation based on performance, and it’s clear that in this culture, the top performers and those who are working on mission-critical products are treated significantly differently. Actually, current and former employees have complained about this fact.

But the truth is, you cannot treat all employees the same way. Some have bigger shoes to fit in. And if you treat all the same, then the top performers will get frustrated and leave because their merits are not acknowledged.

Basically, what you have to do is prove yourself: having a prestigious degree or past successes won’t get you far at all. Steve Jobs had no degree and look what he’s done.  The internal competition is fierce (even though they don’t know what other teams are doing): everyone wants to develop or contribute to the most-talked about feature for the next WOW product.

Functions receive different funding also, based on their potential impact. Overhead functions that don’t directly produce product (i.e. HR) are often underfunded compared to product producing functions like engineering and product design.

Emphasis on work

Apple makes it clear that it’s looking for extremely hard-working and committed individuals.

On the website, for example, it proudly states:

This isn’t your cushy corporate nine-to-fiver.”

Making it all happen can be hard work. And you could probably find an easier job someplace else. But that’s not the point, is it?

We also have a shared obsession with getting every last detail right. So leave your neckties, bring your ideas.”

If you don’t have an eye for details and are not very patient, then probably you shouldn’t work at Apple.

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