Disclosure: All companies mentioned here, except Apple, are clients of the author.
One of the people I admire in the tech world is Stella Lowe, whom I first met at Dell Technologies. He moved from Dell to Cisco to Apple and then quickly moved to HP. Dell, Cisco and HP all prioritize employee and partner job satisfaction, while Apple focuses much on margins and cost reduction.
Which method is better?
Apple’s performance and market appraisals show the financial benefits of its strategies, but problems with companies like Qualcomm and its continued efforts to eliminate employee retention create serious problems with hiring and retention once these methods are discovered and widely known. Can 6
Apple seems to be managing employees as if they were a product – not an unusual approach, but one that often has consequences such as unionization and higher employee churning. The offsetting of that churning is a policy that restricts the movement of employees, which is not uncommon. By treating Dell, Cisco, and HP employees like human beings, some may argue like an ideal family.
The theory is that Dell, Cisco, and HP approaches are less likely to have behavioral problems associated with employee unions, sustainable employee brainstorming, or employee harassment. This theory, at least, although the underlying perceptions may be driven more by time than by process.
What is happening at the moment marks one of the rare occasions when you are following two conflicting employee management systems on the same scale at the same time.
Theory of remote work
Arguably, the company that most aggressively supports remote employees is Dell. Ordered from top to bottom, Dell not only allows employees to work remotely, but is most aggressive with programs that try to help employees work better with work / life balance, with a high priority on relationship building. Inside the company.
Apple, by contrast, has demanded that employees return to the office – and those who prefer to work from home seem reluctant (or unable) to manage successfully. Dell puts employee demands and needs first, while Apple sees command-and-control as a high priority. In addition, Apple seems to place office occupations above employee satisfaction; Dell seems to be reconsidering both the importance of its office structure and how those offices should function in the future.
Strategic vs. Strategic
You can distinguish Apple’s approach from others as strategic vs. tactical. Apple’s approach is strategic, as it deals with the problem of effectively managing remote employees – which makes the problem easier to deal with. But the number of Apple employees now says they can jump on the ship, especially since it’s so public, suggests Apple should pay a strategic price for the move in terms of lost workers and productivity-related injuries.
Other tech companies think that working from home is an important advantage, because of the huge disparity in the cost of living where these companies live. And they are taking the time to find new ways to alleviate the problems known about any command-and-control, work / life balance, and remote models.
Companies like Dell should have fewer employees, which means fewer employees should be dissatisfied. But that means managers need to be retrained, and team-building and related programs need to be developed. The benefits of this endeavor are likely to accrue over time, as opposed to being immediate.
This is more than the bottom line
Apple’s high valuation will suggest that the way employees are commoditized, their placement, the firm’s margin focus and control requirements are significantly lower than required. Programs like Cisco, HP, and Dell in particular should be allowed to perform better strategically over time – and be more stable – but none of them will allow Apple to pass the evaluation. (The success of the company’s smartphone is not reflected in any other firm, giving it a huge boost.)
The danger is that if companies only look at finances, they may conclude that it is best to treat employees like a product. This can be catastrophic and can be a mistake. The difference in strategy is probably tied to the unique nature of Apple’s success in a department where others do not play.
Apple pays well, and it’s not uncommon for employees to be paid more than other reasons. But money does not relieve the pain of working in a careless environment, and it seems that many Apple employees are trying to get their feet on the ballot. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. But I know how to end it, with an industry that understands that employees are its greatest asset and are treated accordingly.
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