Apple culture hinders recruitment and talent retention efforts, report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2016
A one-sided report on Thursday claims Apple's secretive, rigid culture, compounded by a failure to introduce ground-breaking products, is shifting sentiment in Silicon Valley, supposedly prompting developers and engineers to look elsewhere when applying for jobs.




According to The Guardian, Apple is quickly losing its luster as potential talent looks to Silicon Valley stalwarts Alphabet and Facebook, or fresh startups like Uber and Airbnb, that offer a more complete employment package. From the article's tone it seems like Apple is struggling not only to retain current employees, but to attract young recruits as well.

Freelance developer James Knight, whose company builds iOS apps, describes Apple's work environment as "hostile," citing long inflexible working hours and constant pressure from upper management. For these reasons Knight didn't even consider applying to Apple after recently leaving Google.

"At Apple, you're gonna be working 60-80 hours a week and some VP will come yell at you at any moment?" Knight said. "Other than the fact that we have to work with them because we're delivering apps to their app store, I don't really want anything to do with them."

Knight's view of Apple, assumedly from sources in the know, is consistent with sentiment expressed by Silicon Valley recruiters, the report said. Troy Sultan, founder of recruiting startup IDK Labs, said Apple's secrecy poses a separate issue for developers and engineers.

"A pain point for a lot of people with Apple is they can't talk about what they're working on, which hinders your social status in a way," Sultan said. "You want to put on your LinkedIn that you're working on the latest iPhone, but you absolutely can't. It's interesting Apple can retain top talent at all. I don't know how. They keep you sort of locked up."

Apple also fails to offer free lunches, phones and other perks widely associated with working at a modern tech company.

Another "talent manager," Michael Solomon, said engineers want to work on the bleeding edge of technology, not the next iteration of a well-established product like iPhone. Apple's most recent contribution to the tech scene was Apple Watch, which in Solomon's estimates "was not a giant hit."

Taken as a whole, the Guardian report characterizes Apple as part of the unbending old guard, a company that failed to keep up with prevailing Silicon Valley culture and is now paying the price. A sampling of negative portrayals is hardly sufficient proof of an overarching trend.

It does, however, highlight the constant internal struggle Apple must face in balancing corporate policy with recruitment, all while keeping existing product lines fresh and the public waiting for the next big thing. The same culture that attracted the best and brightest ten years ago might now, in a time when Apple must protect its place as the largest company in the world, be a repellent.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Right.... Like Google and Amazon are producing anything, really.
    Maybe it's time Apple started getting people from outside the valley because their heads are to big for heir bodies and they might just fly away.

    BTW, I worked in Fremont for many years, so I know about valley "culture" and it's not a pretty sight...
    calijahbladeawilliams87palominenolamacguyanton zuykov
  • Reply 2 of 81
    I did work there as an intern on campus. The article is misleading on some points and doesn't cite an opposing end. It is accurate however that they're extremely secretive and there's a large overhead in keeping up that secretive nature. 
    afrodri
  • Reply 4 of 81
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    I'm not at all sure about this. It reads like a typical Guardian hit piece to me: lots of conjecture, but very few facts.

    It sounds like Mr Knight has based his decision not to work at Apple on things he'd heard rather than anything he knew for sure.

    "At Apple, you're gonna be working 60-80 hours a week and some VP will come yell at you at any moment?"

    Which could be because you've been surfing the net for those 60-80 hours and not doing your job… There's two sides to every story.

    And I'm not sure I count not getting a free lunch as a good reason to refuse to work for any company. I'm a big boy;  I can make my own lunch.

    Still, even if it isn't true, it might point to a perception at Apple that they may need to look at. On the other hand, it might also be a good way to deter candidates who don't like to put in the extra mile and are in it for a free lunch.
    edited January 2016 fotoformatcalirogifan_oldjahbladepalominenolamacguyanton zuykov
  • Reply 5 of 81
    jonljonl Posts: 210member
    Working for an Apple store is not the same as working for Apple as a developer or engineer, which is what this article is about, as stated in its opening sentence.
    cnocbuibloggerblogpalomineronnmdriftmeyerafrodri
  • Reply 6 of 81
    I think in the end Apple wants the right employees for itself, just like it wants the right customers. I expect they use working conditions in a similar way that they use pricing to send the miserly and profitless customers to Android. If you're the type of person who works for a company because of free lunches and phones, or social status, then that's exactly the type of employee that Apple doesn't want! They're not missing out on the best talent because by their assessment these people aren't the best, they're talented but flawed. They can find talented and unflawed, that's not hard, especially as labor supply outstrips demand.
    calijahbladeiosenthusiastanton zuykov
  • Reply 7 of 81
    Is it a coincidence that this report is coming out around the time that Apple reported earnings that were a mixed bag and Tim Cook guided a first ever drop in iPhone sales?
    yojimbo007
  • Reply 8 of 81
    How would you define "groundbreaking"? And what other companies are consistently breaking new ground?
    Facebook is treading Google's backyard with their advertising based revenue model. 
    Alphabet is just one letter off what they are actually all about - alpha-beta products. 

    Apple's ultra-secretive nature may turn off some people but it results in actual products. As long as Apple pays well, they will get developers. I'm sure it would be a long while before Apple starts worrying about not getting enough talent to work for them.
    calijahbladepalominenolamacguyanton zuykov
  • Reply 9 of 81
    tenlytenly Posts: 710member
    As a consultant I've had opportunities to spend time at dozens of companies from pretty much every devote for consulting gigs lasting from 6 weeks to 2 years.  I always worked with the IT department but very few of my engagements have been with IT companies.

    Some companies do offer a free lunch and if you're working overtime - a free dinner too.  I was surprised to find there was good quality, healthy choices available for free.  Other companies run a subsidized cafeteria where the food is not free but it's a lot cheaper than going out for fast food.  A company I worked for in Italy actually had wine available for free in the cafeteria and there were no restrictions against having a glass with your meal!

    My point is that, as a consultant,  I've had the opportunity to observe the corporate cultures at more companies than most people would have and there are vast differences in the ways that employees are treated, compensated and rewarded - but one thing is constant - and that is that top talent - those employees that work hard and go the extra mile regularly - without complaints are treated well.  Of course you'll always run into the off problem where there are personal issues between a manager and employee - but I've found those to rarely involve "good" employees.  Feedback such as is reported in this ariticle would never come from one of the "good" employees.  Something like this is the type of complaints I hear from the lazy, incompetent or jaded employees.  The type that watch the clock and won't do anything "extra" unless they are paid for it.   The type that file HR grievances over the smallest technicality - and sadly these people exist in all companies.  I'm certain that the information in this article comes form one or more of that type of employee and I really wish they had included contrasting views of a few employees who are hard-working and happy with their jobs.  It's hard to take such a one-sided article seriously.  I'm sure that some of what it reported is true - but I'm equally sure that some of it has been exaggerated.  For example - I haven't seen very many managers that walk around the office yelling at people - and the few times I've witnessed something  similar - it was a raised voice - but far from yelling - and very much deserved.  

    An employee had brought their 5 year old into the "operations room" and at 4:30pm on the Friday of a long weekend, that 5 year old climbed up on a box and hit the big red button that initiates the fire extinguishing system.  45 servers went offline and were covered in Halon and othe chemicals!  Visitors to Ope were not allowed under any circumstance - and this employee got yelled at - but unbelievably not fired - and I heard that 2 years later - almost to the day - the same employee was responsible for a repeat performance (and did get fired that time)

    Wow.  What a tangent.  Sorry to bore you all.  My point is simple.  If you are a hard worker and good at your job - you will rarely (if ever) have your manager or VP yell at you for no reason - or otherwise be treated badly at work.

    Edit:  just re-read the article and noticed the first 4 words are "A one sided report".  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.  Please ignore this entire post and accept my apologies for wasting your time by writing a lot without really saying anything new.
    edited January 2016 calicapasicumflaneurcyberzombiepalominethebmtnolamacguyjony0damonfanton zuykov
  • Reply 10 of 81
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    vvswarup said:
    Is it a coincidence that this report is coming out around the time that Apple reported earnings that were a mixed bag and Tim Cook guided a first ever drop in iPhone sales?

    If anything it is probably more to do with Angela Ahrendts talking about the 81% retention rate in the retail chain. One has nothing to do with the other, but Guardian tech writers aren't really that bright.
    cali
  • Reply 11 of 81
    ac1234ac1234 Posts: 138member
    Makes a lot of sense - over paid, has no value to add so she spews BS to try and look valuable.  What I have noticed at our local Apple Store is that it is far less crowded and very little excitement is observed.  Several years ago you could barely get in the door and the passion of things Apple was palpable.

    If Apple retail is moving online than why are they building out so many stores?

    edited January 2016 bobroo
  • Reply 12 of 81
    ac1234ac1234 Posts: 138member

    jonl said:
    Working for an Apple store is not the same as working for Apple as a developer or engineer, which is what this article is about, as stated in its opening sentence.
    Good point - and with all these world class engineers you would expect an impressive pipeline rolling out by now - which it is not.
  • Reply 13 of 81
    I would really love to work for Apple, I have extensive experience and have applied many time, but not successful. I do feel there is a diversity issue at Apple, every time I had phone screen with them I am dealing with people who do not want a diversity.
    ronn
  • Reply 14 of 81
    These points were so vague you could swap out nearly any company.
    capasicumRayz2016cnocbuijahbladeafrodrichiaanton zuykov
  • Reply 15 of 81
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    They're secretive because the entire industry is awaiting their products to rip them off. How would Apple babbling about what they're working on help employees? Or anyone besides samsung and other iKnockoffs?

    ac1234 said:
    Makes a lot of sense - over paid, has no value to add so she spews BS to try and look valuable.  What I have noticed at our local Apple Store is that it is far less crowded and very little excitement is observed.  Several years ago you could barely get in the door and the passion of things Apple was palpable.

    If Apple retail is moving online than why are they building out so many stores?

    Contradicted yourself there.

    ac1234 said:

    jonl said:
    Working for an Apple store is not the same as working for Apple as a developer or engineer, which is what this article is about, as stated in its opening sentence.
    Good point - and with all these world class engineers you would expect an impressive pipeline rolling out by now - which it is not.
    Funny how Apple is the only company in Silicon Valley pressured to innovate.
    edited January 2016 capasicumjahbladenolamacguychiaHerbivore2
  • Reply 16 of 81
    It's not how I'm treated there. I love my job, I love working there and I'm very content. Pretty much everything he said sounds like the whinging of a self-entitled, recently graduated 20-something. He doesn't sound like someone that I would want to work with.
    capasicumRayz2016flaneurcnocbuirogifan_oldbobroocyberzombiejahbladeafrodri
  • Reply 17 of 81
    foadfoad Posts: 711member
    ac1234 said:

    jonl said:
    Working for an Apple store is not the same as working for Apple as a developer or engineer, which is what this article is about, as stated in its opening sentence.
    Good point - and with all these world class engineers you would expect an impressive pipeline rolling out by now - which it is not.

    Seriously? Point to a tangible product that any of the large tech companies put out that is impressive, groundbreaking, and not evolutionary. Just because Google publicly announces its research projects, doesn't mean Apple's engineers aren't doing anything. Just because Facebook increased their revenue last quarter doesn't mean that they are revolutionizing the technology space. Other than the Echo (which is a cool product from what I have read), Amazon has their online store and AWS, which aren't a part of this conversation. The only thing that comes to mind is the Oculus Rift and rumor is that Apple has been pretty active in the space, especially with some recent high profile hires. The Rift was also a very long development cycle and is only just about to be released.

    Ultimately, there are a lot of things at play. Other than Samsung, no other hardware company is operating at the scale that Apple is. Not even close. Even if Apple comes up with the greatest thing since sliced bread, their manufacturing partners need to be able to make them at their scale. 75 million iPhones in 3 months is bananas. Most of Samsung's phones are their lower end models. Most cutting edge technology wouldn't even be able to hit those yields. I'd add that the iPad Pro is a great product. The Pencil is something that no other product can compete with right now, and with it being some complicated, they are still hitting yield issues. Apple hasn't released sales numbers, but Watch and the new Apple TV are having a material impact on their revenue less than a year in. These are early products. People forget that the first iPhone didn't have an app store, or 3G, or MMS, or copy & paste, etc. The first iPad barely had enough RAM.

    We are at a bit of a technological transition for consumer tech right now. A lot of money is at stake in the future and legacy companies are holding on for dear life to stay relevant, and tech companies have different incentives than those legacy companies. There is a lot of stuff at play.

    I'd close with this. We are also hitting up against some genuinely complicated technology barriers from batteries to processors and many other extremely tough hurdles. Look at how hard it has been for Intel to hit their roadmaps. Intel has probably been a huge crimp in Apple's Mac product roadmap.

    You can have the best engineers in the world and that will only be a part of a much larger pie.

    robbyxbrucemc
  • Reply 18 of 81
    tenlytenly Posts: 710member
    I would really love to work for Apple, I have extensive experience and have applied many time, but not successful. I do feel there is a diversity issue at Apple, every time I had phone screen with them I am dealing with people who do not want a diversity.
    Are you basing your diversity comment on anything other than the fact that you weren't hired?
    tdknoxRayz2016bdkennedy1002anton zuykovfastasleep
  • Reply 19 of 81
    adamcadamc Posts: 582member
    Come to think of it was this guy let go by google because his work attitude sucks.
    bdkennedy1002
  • Reply 20 of 81
    It lost me when it said Apple is losing out to Facebook -- Facebook is one of the companies that was one of the ones people were not overly keen with.....  
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