How Apple Does Performance Management (And Ideas for You to Consider)

Updated:

February 17, 2022

Many people dream of working at Apple—and for good reason. Aside from providing discounts on its products, Apple works consistently to increase employee retention and prioritize its workers.

So how does Apple help its employees feel valued? One way is through a strong performance management process. 

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make it easy to recreate their process. The company mostly keeps its performance review system under wraps, but they’ve let a few secrets slip to give some ideas for your own performance management process.

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Apple’s Performance Management Practices

Apple’s performance management process relies on strong communication to create a snapshot of how every employee contributes to the organization.

It includes three main features that set it apart:

360 Annual Performance Reviews

Apple’s annual performance review process includes a semi-annual review and an end-of-year review. Each employee is reviewed by three or four executives, in addition to being reviewed by direct reports and peers, making it a 360 process. This helps Apple to get a broader view of every employee’s performance, creating new perspectives on how each employee impacts the organization and where improvements can be made.

Employee performance is measured against three categories: teamwork, innovation, and results.

Based on those categories, employees will receive one of three ratings: exceeds expectations, met expectations, or needs improvement.

Not only does this help employees understand how management and other team members believe they’re doing, but it also helps HR determine skills gaps among employees.

Managers can then work to help underperforming employees develop the skills needed to excel, or HR can focus on recruitment efforts to find new employees with skills that are missing among current employees.

Employees' annual raises are directly tied to their performance reviews, ranging from 0-8% of their current salary. 

Feedback

Apple is tight-lipped about their specific feedback practices, but based on our research, we’ve found that feedback is a key component of Apple’s performance appraisal system.

Apple incorporates continuous feedback, and employees receive feedback once a week. Whether feedback is delivered through check-ins or written in their performance management system, continuous feedback provides insight into performance and helps Apple employees understand where they can improve in their daily efforts.

Cascading Goals

Apple’s performance management strategy focuses on how individuals meet organizational goals through the use of cascading goals.

Cascading goals begin with the company's ultimate vision and are reinterpreted for every department and employee to ensure individual and team performance are aligned with those goals.

What Apple Employees Are Saying

Communication, employee engagement, and high levels of achievement are all important to Apple’s performance management process. 

Their strategies sound good on paper, but only Apple employees can tell us whether these methods actually work. Let’s take a look at a few anonymous Glassdoor reviews to see what Apple employees are saying.

Pros

"Everything is driven toward a common vision that our fearless leaders cast extremely well.”

"Others are so incredibly supportive. You are surrounded by people who care to be the change in the world and value your well-being."

"Most of the people at Apple are very smart, but luckily, not in an intimidating way. Everyone has been very welcoming and willing to let me in."

Cons

"Lack of transparency between various organizations can cause unnecessary overlap in work or common shifts in priority."

"Promotion and progression are completely dependent on your manager's desire to be your champion, which is sometimes divorced from your results, hard work, or historical track record.”

"They should reduce unnecessary processes, streamline the employee review process, and make it more transparent."

Takeaways for Your Organization

Although we don’t know every detail of the Apple performance review process, you can still use its general tactics to inform your organization’s process.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Apple gives employees weekly feedback so employees are always focused on achieving their goals.
  • Apple uses a 360 process, illuminating new perspectives and uncovering creative strategies for improvement.
  • Apple measures employee performance against three categories: teamwork, innovation, and results.
  • Goals are set from the top down, with each goal being broken down into cascading sets of goals that are personalized for each department and employee.

More Inspiration

Apple’s performance management techniques can provide inspiration for your own strategy. Check out these articles to see how other top companies are doing performance management:

What to do next.

Here are three ways you can continue your journey to a more modern and effective performance management strategy:

  1. See PerformYard In Action. Find time with one of our product experts to get a live look at what it's like to use modern performance management software. Every call starts with a 5 minute discussion of your approach and then immediately dives into a live product demonstration that's based on your organization's process. Or start by watching a 2-minute video overview.
  2. Learn more about modern performance management. Start with our Guide to Building a Modern Performance Management System, or visit our blog to see the latest ideas from our team.
  3. If you know other HR Pros who would appreciate this article, share it with them through email, LinkedIn or Twitter.