Apple Company is a reputable brand and conducts its operations globally. The company founder and chief executive officer are Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. However, the company is currently under the management of Tim Cook, who assumed the position of the company chief executive officer in 201l. The company management understands the importance of communication in enhancing their competitiveness and productivity. For instance, the company assumes various strategies in enhancing intercultural communication among its staff. Some of these strategies include implementing a diversity training program, encouraging employees to embrace their differences, and avoiding the use of demeaning words or stereotyping. For this reason, the paper primarily focuses on analyzing the company organization structure and communication hierarchy including intercultural communication and the organization emotional climate.
Marengo and Pasquali (2012: 1299) assert that every organization has fundamental communication channels that they use to implement their policies, strategies, and goals. The three basic communication channels include the informal channel, formal channel, and unofficial channel. The formal channel involves the communication within the official organizational hierarchy that transmits directions, procedures, policies, and goals (Bernstein et al., 2016: 43). The informal channel, on the other hand, encompasses the communication that is passed outside the prescribed organizational structure with the aim of filling organizational gaps, handling one-time situations, and maintaining various departments’ linkages. Moreover, the unofficial channel deals with interpersonal communication among, or within an organization’s social structure. The management of Apple Company uses both the formal and informal channels of communication to manage its employees and customers as well as implement its policies.
On the other hand, communication flows in various organizations use five major directions including external, diagonal, lateral, upward, and downward directions (Hartley & Chatterton, 2015: 56). The fixed organization structure of Apple Company allows it to use the downward stream of communication technique. In essence, the communication flows from the CEO to the SVP, then to the VP, and eventually it reaches the departmental heads and other junior employees. CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Tim Cook employed downward flow method of communication to convey work-related information including employees’ performance feedback, job instructions, as well as the organization’s vision and mission.
According to Lehman and Haslam (2013: 247), the most valuable asset in every business life is the capacity to express employees and management thoughts with precision and clarity. Equally, in the creation of any organizational hierarchy, communication channels are a significant consideration. The company’s manager in various hierarchical systems becomes the link in the firm’s communication channel. For example, Apple Company CEO, Tim Cook, is the major link to all the communication channels in the organization. Additionally, Apple’s hierarchical system imposes restrictions and offers direction to the communications’ flow in the company. It is evident that Apple Company’s management directions and decisions flow consistently from top to bottom levels in the firm. Consequently, Tim Cook uses effective communication as his tool for organizing, guiding, and motivating employees.
The organizational structure of Apple Company is among the factors that contribute to the successful innovation of the company. According to Heracleous (2013: 95), a company’s organizational structure always creates opportunities for business development. However, the organization structure can equally impose limits regarding the manner in which a firm develops. In the case of Apple Company, for example, the organizational structure is largely a traditional chain of command, with some major elements from various kinds of organizational structures. In essence, Apple Company’s success is associated with the leadership and innovation of Jobs Steve, but its organizational structure is partially responsible for sustaining such leadership (Hartley & Chatterton, 2015: 92). Currently, under the leadership of Tim Cook, Apple Company has made various changes in the organizational structure in order to suit industry and market demands. Hartley and Chatterton (2015: 103) argue that the organizational structure of Apple Company is efficient in supporting as well as sustaining business performance to guarantee leadership effectiveness in the industry. Nevertheless, further changes need to be made in the organizational structure to enhance Apple Company’s capabilities, particularly in the section of creative and rapid design and innovation.
Figure 1: Example of Apple Inc. Company Organizational Structure.
The organizational structure of Apple Company enables it to maintain its rapid innovation growth. The development of novel products such as Apple watch is associated with the support from the company’s organizational structure. The organizational structure of Apple Company has significant features including:
An overview look at Apple Company’s organizational structure depicts that the firm has a considerable hierarchy. Previously, everything in the company went to or through the office of Steve Jobs. Similarly, Jobs made every major decision in the company. However, under the leadership of Tim Cook, such hierarchy in the company’s organizational structure has considerably changed. Currently, there is additional collaboration among various parts or departments of the firm, for example, the teamwork between hardware teams and software teams (Damanpour & Aravind, 2012: 502). Furthermore, the Senior Vice Presidents (SVP) of Apple Company have more independence, which was nearly absent under the leadership of Steve Jobs. Hence, the firm’s organizational structure is currently less rigid, but it still possesses some elements of the spoke-and-wheel hierarchy where at the center Tim Cook still seats.
The upper level of Apple Company’s organizational structure uses the function-based grouping feature (Vuori & Huy, 2016: 9). This means that every Senior Vice President (SVP) who reports to the CEO or Tim Cook handles a special business function. For instance, Apple Company has an SVP for retail, an SVP for marketing, and an SVP for industrial design among others. In this respect of organizational structure, Apple’s apex management always addresses business needs regarding the function areas.
The lower level of Apple Company’s organizational structure utilizes product-based grouping feature, which is a component derived from various divisional forms of organizational structure. Actually, below the company’s SVPs, there are numerous vice presidents for different products, services, and outputs. For instance, Apple Company has a VP for iPad, a VP for iOS, and a VP who deals with consumer apps. Similarly, all products and their components within Apple’s portfolio including Apple TV, iWatch, and iPhone are a result of the cooperation of product-based groups (Csaszar, 2013: 1086). Hence, this style of organizational structure assists Apple to create, maintain, and address unique products as well as their components.
Employee creativity is considered a major challenge for human resources management in the twenty-first century. Companies whose employees can think out of the box enjoy a competitive advantage in their respective industries. Besides, they can address complex challenges they encounter in the rapidly transforming world. However, employee creativity greatly depends on the organization’s emotional climate. According to Antal et al. (2013: 57), organizational climate is the feelings and perception of employees about their work setting. Apple managers understand the importance of emotional climate and have channeled their efforts towards making their staffs confident and connected to the culture of the organization. Some of the strategies utilized by Apple leadership to maintain a positive emotional climate in the organization include establishing specific and clear performance goals which are clearly communicated to employees. The company leaders also ensure that the staffs are committed to the mission of the organization by giving them challenging tasks which connect them to their respective duties intellectually and emotionally (Schneider & Barbera, 2014: 342; Pranit, 2010: 56).
Besides, Apple leaders usually encourage their staff to focus on projects and tasks considered crucial in realizing the objectives of the organization. The use of this strategy instills a sense of trustworthiness among employees causing them to utilize organization resources effectively to realize the expected outcomes. Teamwork is also encouraged by Apple leaders. For instance, the organization often arrange teamwork meetings with the primary objective of increasing mutual respect and trust among team members (O’grady, 2009: 35). Equally, these meetings promote a sense of belonging among organization staff. Scholars contend that a positive climate enhances productivity, performance, and employee engagement while at the same time improving business outcome and this is what Apple Inc leaders are trying to achieve and remain competitive in their industry. In light of these, both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook applied a different and unique style of management to enhance employee satisfaction and organization productivity. As the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Steve Jobs was perceived as an abrasive and passionate leader who required his staff to be excellent and perfect. Cook, the current CEO, in contrast, aims to realize excellence by stressing on teamwork and transparency. Cook makes use of the open-door policy to inspire his staff and encourage them to work in collaboration towards realizing the company objectives (LüSted, 2012: 146).
The world economy is increasingly becoming interconnected subjecting workers to various opportunities and cultural differences. Apple leaders need to improve their cross-cultural or intercultural communication skills because they conduct their business in different countries characterized by different cultures. Besides, the company employees come from distinct ethnic groups and nationality, hence the need for intercultural communication skills. Failure to understand other cultures use of verbal and nonverbal cues might result in embarrassing mistakes when carrying out business on a global scale (Fall et al., 2013: 413). Errors in cross-cultural communication offend and confuse business partners and hinder effective communication process. However, the utilization of effective cross-cultural communication techniques including active listening helps in reducing misunderstanding.
As a diverse company employing people from different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds, Apple has put in place different measures to enhance effective intercultural communication. Some of these measures include acknowledging individual differences, focusing on behavior, and developing intercultural sensitivity (Baldwin, 2014: 137). The organization discourages behaviors that make employees feel unwanted or excluded. The company also prohibits demeaning remarks or jokes including stereotyping. Equally, some rules encourage appropriate behavior and outline disciplinary action to be applied in case an employee violates the outlined rules. Employees are also encouraged to accept individual differences. In addition to encouraging employees to accept individual differences, the management also focuses on building a productive environment where employees are encouraged to work in a team and focus on realizing the strategic goals of the organization rather than their differences. Apple leaders also encourage the workers not to view cultural differences as a threat rather view it as a means of enhancing the company competitiveness in the industry (Jamarani & Sharifian, 2013: 68). The company also engages employees in the activities of the organization. Employees are also encouraged to carefully choose their words, to negotiate effectively and not make assumptions. To analyze the strengths and weakness of employees regarding their intercultural communication skills, the organization makes use of online surveys.
Apple Company employs individuals from distinct cultural backgrounds. For this reason, it is important for its management to have a thorough understanding of intercultural communication so that they can realize the significance of employing a diversified workforce including improved productivity, creativity, and morale. Therefore, the organization should focus on providing its workforce with diversity training programs so that they can have an idea on how cultures significantly differ in terms of using verbal and nonverbal cues. Through this training program, employees will understand the importance of embracing diversity and being tolerant to individuals from distinct cultural backgrounds.
Conclusively, Apple Company’s communication hierarchy, organizational structure, leadership, and culture shape both employees and customers’ attitude towards the company. Equally, Apple’s communication hierarchy and organizational structure can determine how employees value and implement the firm’s business strategy and model. From this paper’s discussion, it is evident that through the constant interaction of Apple’s leadership, communication hierarchy, structure, and culture, the firm has the capacity of implementing its policies and controlling its employees. Equally, the success of Apple Company is attributed to its unique structure, exceptional history, and innovative ability. However, Apple Company needs to change its fixed communication and organizational structure in order to remain competitive and sustainable in the contemporary, post-industrial generation as well as recession inundated economy. Additionally, effective intercultural communication plays an essential role in enhancing organization competitiveness at the local and international level. As a diverse company, Apple understands the importance of enhancing communication effectiveness amongst its employees. The company has in place a policy that discourages employees from using demeaning words or stereotyping coworkers. To enhance a positive emotional climate, the company encourages teamwork and enhances a sense of belonging, trust, and mutual respect among its employees.
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