Labor is essential in the operation of all businesses in the world. In the contemporary business environment, employees play a vital role in the success of businesses and are at the core of business management policies. Good labor relations are a key factor for long-term business success, which forms part of the current trends in business management alongside corporate sustainability. Apple Inc., one of the leading technology firms in the world, has invested extensively in maintaining a robust relationship with its employees. With a workforce consisting of thousands of employees, the financial success of Apple Inc. hinges on the productivity, motivation, and happiness of its staff. Though plagued by several labor relations issues in the recent past, Apple Inc. has one of the best labor relationship management frameworks in the world that harmonizes the views of its management and thousands of employees to ensure the success of the company.
Definition of Organization
Apple Inc. is one of the leading consumer electronics and technology companies in the world. With its headquarters located in Cupertino, California, Apple Inc. is a multinational company that has branches and outlets all over the world. Apple Inc. was founded in 1976, originally as a developer and manufacturer of personal computers (PCs), by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne (Apple, 2014; Steven, 2015). Through its sleek design and state-of-the-art operating system, Apple Inc. revolutionized the domain of PCs production. With the ubiquitous spread of the internet in the early 2000s, Apple Inc. diversified its operations into the production of several other electronic devices (Apple, 2014). Currently, Apple Inc. dabbles in the manufacture of smartphones, music players, tablets, computers, and watches. The divestment enabled Apple Inc. to develop audio systems, online music applications, as well as fitness tracking software (Steven, 2015). The company has also invested in a massive e-commerce superstructure based on the Apple money transfer application that enables individuals to engage in commercial transactions using virtual currency.
Apple Inc.’s success is largely attributed to its astute management and dedicated workforce. According to a survey by Forbes in 2018, Apple Inc. ranks first as the world’s largest technology company by revenue and among the top five most valuable firms in the world (Badenhausen, 2019). In the fiscal year 2018, Apple Inc. recorded $265 billion making it the world’s largest revenue earning company (Badenhausen, 2019). To add to the success of the company, in August 2018, Apple Inc. became the first publicly-traded company in America to be valued at over $ 1 trillion (Badenhausen, 2019). The financial success of Apple Inc. can be traced to the company’s expansive management and workforce. Most of Apple Inc.’s financial success was achieved under the leadership of the company’s former CEO Steve Jobs (Chan, 2013). The retail chain model of business has enabled Apple Inc. to employ more than 140, 000 full-time workers globally (Apple, 2014; Mollah, 2015). Thousands of part-time employees are also employed by the firm to ensure the smooth flow of its operations. The high number of workers employed by the firm is due to the fact that though partly mechanized, most of Apple Inc.’s operations remain labor-intensive.
Labor is an essential element of Apple Inc.’s business operations. The firm’s workers are involved in all of the company’s operations processes ranging from the formulation of Apple products to their delivery to customers. Apple Inc’s labor force is divided into three groups including the executives, the best brains or innovators, and the low-end workers (Mollah, 2015; Coget, 2011). The executives are employees to form part of Apple Inc.’s management and are at the very top of the company’s organizational structure. The executives deal with the day-to-day decision-making processes at Apple Inc. and are mostly the public faces of the company (Mollah, 2015). The innovators are employers who are charged with designing Apple’s state-of-the-art products. According to Mollah (2015), the innovator group comprises of some of the best minds in the technology sector in the United States. Apple Inc. attracts and hires top talent in the field of technology to lead its innovation and invention programs, as well as to bring the company’s ideas into life. The last group is comprised of the low-end workers who perform casual jobs in Apple Inc.’s manufacturing plants, warehouses, and retail stores.
The executive leadership of Apple Inc. holds the company’s employee relationship management framework in high regard. According to Apple Inc.’s sustainability report, the company’s employee relationship management framework is based on a power-sharing strategy (Apple, 2014). The strategy enables employees to freely express their opinions and thoughts on any of the company’s policies through an in-house open communication system (Coget, 2011; Evans, 2019). Through the power-sharing framework, employees can engage with the top leadership of the company without any fear of victimization on any matters affecting their welfare (Kozlowski & Bell, 2012). In a bid to further improve its labor relations, the company developed a 360-degree employee engagement program. The program enables Apple Inc.’s management to engage its workers to improve the employees’ work-life balance (Coget, 2011; Bergvall-Kåreborn & Howcroft, 2013). Apple Inc.’s management also bases its employee relationship management on workers’ productivity. Through astute employee relationships management, Apple Inc. has achieved the highest employee productivity levels in the world (Coget, 2011). Thus, through the company’s labor relations policies, Apple Inc. has been able to increase its employees’ productivity levels.
Although Apple Inc.’s management’s views regarding labor relations in the company are quite positive, that has not always been the case. Several critics have lambasted the firm’s labor relations policies as discriminative and demeaning, especially towards the casual workers hired by the company. The firm’s top-level employees, that is, executives and innovators, are among the best-paid workers in the world (Strohmeier, 2013; Lazonick et al., 2013). Notably, while Apple Inc.’s employees concerned with the design, innovation, and management are paid millions of dollars each fiscal year, the causal workers are paid peanuts (Chan, Pun, & Selden, 2013). In 2015, Apple Inc.’s employees in the United States also filed a suit against the company to seek redress for alleged poor working conditions in its warehouses and factories (Steven, 2015). Notably, the company’s policies regarding labor relations that look good on paper are not properly implemented.
Apple Inc. outsources its causal labor mostly to China due to the country’s low cost of labor. The labor outsourcing policy ensures that Apple pays its casual workers minimum wages in order to cut on their operating costs. The Foxconn of 2017 revealed the severe working conditions Apple Inc.’s causal workers are subjected to in China. The exposé revealed that Apple Inc.’s outsourced workers were being subjected to inhumane working conditions while being paid minimum wages thus driving many of the company’s employees to suicide (Punet al., 2016; Chan, 2013). Since the majority of Apple Inc.’s labor relation issues lies with its outsourcing for employees, the company should outsource its labor requirements to companies that embrace corporate sustainability and have astute labor relations policies. Moreover, the company should enact policies aimed at addressing the labor issues of its casual workers more so with regard to issues of poor working conditions and meagre pay.
Apple Inc.’s labor force, which is highly fragmented, has divergent views on the company’s labor relations. For example, Apple Inc.’s top tier staff, management and innovators, praise Apple Inc.’s labor relations policies and employee relationship management framework while the company’s casual employees criticize the same. Apple Inc.’s executives being among the best remunerated employees in the company also enjoy access to the best working conditions at Apple Inc. and are, therefore, quite satisfied with Apple’s labor relation policies. The innovators, who drive the core operations of the company, are well-treated as they are offered good salaries and better working conditions than other employees in the technology domain in the world. Most of Apple Inc.’s employees in the innovators’ group are quite satisfied with the company’s labor relations. Most of the complaints and disgruntles about the company’s labor relation policies are raised by Apple Inc.’s causal employees (Linden et al., 2009; Litzinger, 2013). The employees complain of poor working conditions and discrimination in pay as Apple Inc.’s casual employees in America are paid higher wages than those in China (Litzinger, 2013; Chan et al., 2013). Thus, the fragmentation of employees into groups has resulted in divergent opinions on Apple Inc.’s labor relations policies.
Apple Inc.’s casual employees are beginning to organize themselves into labor unions in order to address their work related issues at the company. In 2011, a disgruntled Apple Inc. employee, Cory Moll, formed a workers’ union with the aim of collectively advocating for the advancement of the company’s employees’ rights (Gupta, 2011). The union idea presented a good platform for the advancement of the employees’ rights through collective bargaining and action. However, the union movement failed to fully materialize due to the highly fragmented nature of Apple Inc.’s workforce. Lack of support from the top management of the company also resulted in the quick collapse of the union. According to Gupta (2011), the founder of the union Cory Moll, a part-time employee at Apple, could not fight a $300 billion financial behemoth alone. The failure of the union signified an end to a structured bargaining process for the improvement of the company’s casual workers’ employment terms.
Labor relations are essential for company’s success and this has been highlighted by Apple Inc.’s massive financial success. The company has one of the most advanced labor relations management policies, and subsequently, one of the world’s most productive workforces. Apple Inc.’s stakeholders such as the government and the societies where it operates have massively benefited from the generally high salaries and improved working conditions the company offers its employees. In spite of Apple Inc.’s successful labor relations policies, the company has also suffered a few setbacks in the recent past such as the Foxconn scandal. To avoid similar labor-related issues in the future, Apple Inc. should come up with an outsourcing policy based on corporate sustainability practices to guide its numerous labor outsourcing operations.
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