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HR’s role in Apple’s success


What is it about the Apple Store that’s just so great? Is it the super chic product line? The fact that you can tinker with just about anything in there? The super modern layout and design? All of those things are neat, sure, but I’d argue there’s something more—something you may not have paid as much attention to.

Apple is running a seriously smooth operation in its retail stores. Each employee has a distinct role to play, understands that role, and does his or her part to deliver the level of service we’ve come to expect from this powerful brand. All of this requires serious alignment of brand, business goals and people processes.

Finding the right people to work in the stores is half the battle. There are things that Apple’s retail arm does particularly well in organizational development—things any organization could learn from:

  1. Know your roles! Tightly defined roles ensure that your employees knows exactly what he or she is expected to do, what others do and what other roles they could move into. Those boldly coloured T-shirts that Apple Store employees wear aren’t just for looks; they designate the distinct role each employee plays. From “Experts” who assess visitors’ needs, and direct them to the right place, to “Geniuses” who speak your language when something’s wrong with your precious MacBook, everyone in the store knows his or her place.
  2. Free up your leadership. When your workforce is deployed effectively—with minimal room in the process for bottle-necking—managers spend less time wondering who should be where and more time keeping the machine in shipshape. Apple Store employees are busy delivering Apple-grade customer service, so it’s up to leadership to maintain the same level of awesome day after day. They’re doing more than managing the operation; they’re coaching staff, leading training and driving sales.
  3. Make work meaningful. When your employees know that what they’re doing matters, it’s easier to inspire them to do their best. And no one appreciates this more than the employees staffing the stores, who are on the front lines of the customer relationship. Apple would be hard-pressed to deliver their standard of service in retail unless their employees were satisfied with the level of employee engagement.
  4. Retain with growth opportunities. Many organizations are struggling to retain top talent, but how many offer a great opportunity for college grads to make something of themselves? Besides having a great job portal on their site with multiple open positions, Apple prides itself on promoting from within. For the 20-something “Expert” with a master’s degree who’s manning the entrance to an Apple store today (I could name more than one), that’s pretty encouraging.

A lesson for your grinding gears

Organizational development at this calibre doesn’t just happen, but it’s a necessary part of a thriving company culture like Apple’s. Getting to that level requires open dialogue between senior leadership and business partners and human resources and recruiting. You’ve already got Experts, Specialists, Geniuses and Creatives in your organization. It’s up to you to find them, engage them and let them know you want them to grow with you.

About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, an online resource for talent management software buyers guides, demos and more. He reports on trends and best practices in human resources technology.

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