- Some of the biggest names in technology have been laying off thousands of employees in the face of economic issues. These include the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook), and Alphabet (Google).
- Apple, however, seems to have managed to buck this trend so far and has not made any major layoff announcements.
- Given the challenges being faced by big tech, Apple would have pulled off one of its greatest achievements if it emerges unscathed in terms of personnel from the current crisis. It has done well so far, but can it continue to do so?
Mention Apple and most people will think of the rather innovative and iconic (some would add “expensive”) prodigy’s that the brand has brought into our lives. And with good reason. After all, it was Apple who made the graphical user interface (GUI) a thing with the Mac. The fruity brand was also instrumental in changing music with the iPod and making touchscreens mainstream with the iPhone. The MacBook Air proved that a powerful notebook could not just push the envelope of portable computing but also fit into an envelope. And thanks to the AirPods, wires are beginning to be paranoid about their existence in the personal audio space.
These products have made Apple one of the biggest tech brands out there and the first trillion, two trillion, and three trillion-dollar company in the world. But we think none of those products match its most recent achievement this month. We are not talking about the launch of the new MacBook Pros or the latest HomePod.
We are referring to the Cupertino giant’s ability to keep its people while other tech brands have been letting theirs go. So far, at least. At the time of writing. We are in uncertain times, after all, which could change in days.
Sackings everywhere except at the fruity Cupertino Corp…so far!
The past few weeks have been the equivalent of an HR bloodbath in the tech business, with a number of leading brands laying off large numbers of their employees. Amazon has laid off 18,000, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) another 12,000, Microsoft has handed pink slips to 10,000 and Meta (Facebook) has had to wave farewell to 11,000. Twitter, too has gone for a staff strength of 7500 to under 3,000 (though we suspect that had more to do with Elon than the economy).
These are massive numbers, the sort we had not even seen during the Dotcom bust at the turn of the century. For instance, pets.com and WebVan, both of which had to shut down completely when the Dotcom bubble burst, had about 320 and 2000 employees. Apple itself had laid off about 4100 employees in 1997 when Steve Jobs had returned to the company and was trying to save it from imminent disaster.
This time around, Apple is perhaps one of the few major tech brands to have not announced any major layoffs, even as most of its competitors and contemporaries scatter pink slips like confetti at a wedding. There was some news of Apple having laid off some recruiters (about a hundred) in August 2022, and the brand itself announced a hiring freeze in November 2022. But there has been nothing like the mass-scale sackings we have seen in other tech brands.
Was not going overboard with hiring a good thing?
While there might be a variety of reasons for this phenomenon, many analysts feel that Apple’s relatively conservative recruitment policy during the pandemic (2020-2022) might have worked in the brand’s favor. While the likes of Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft had gone on a hiring spree in this period anticipating a massive rise in e-commerce and time spent online, Apple had stayed relatively low profile. Amazon, for instance, hired about 780,000 people during the pandemic. Meta, too, had more than doubled its staff in this period, going from about 40,000 to 87,000. Even Microsoft had hired about 77,000 people just before the pandemic.
Apple, in comparison, is believed to have hired under 20,000 people during the period of the pandemic. There are many who believe that the brand’s relative caution has allowed it to cope better with the lower-than-expected returns that have hit the world economy in recent times. Some even say that Apple scaled back its product ambitions when the pandemic broke out instead of expanding them like its competitors, which also helped keep operating expenses on the lower side, making it easier for the brand to cope with the slowdown. CEO, Tim Cook, has requested and received a 40 percent pay cut, but that was more due to institutional investor concerns than financial stress.
Good so far, but can Apple lay off the layoff trend?
Of course, there is no guarantee that there will not be any layoffs at Apple in the coming days. The company has an earnings call on 2 February, and for all you know, we might hear of some cutbacks in it. Some analysts are predicting that supply issues and a global recession might have affected the company’s performance. The high-profile iPhone 14 Plus is believed to have generated lower-than-expected sales, as per a few market sources. If that happens, we might have to withdraw our praise for the brand. Still, most analysts believe Apple is unlikely to carry out any widespread layoffs, thanks to its relatively cautious recruitment process in the pandemic era.
If it does indeed steer clear of any significant layoffs, Apple can be said to have pulled off perhaps one of its greatest achievements. One that, in social and human terms, is every bit as important or maybe even far greater than launching devices like the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, and AirPods because while companies are commercial creatures that churn out products and services, they are also social ones that provide a livelihood to those who work with them. If it could keep both its products and people going in adverse times, Apple would have, to paraphrase the immortal Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” held its head while those about it were losing theirs. Literally and figuratively.