When it comes to technological achievements, marketing muscle, and overall coolness, Apple (AAPL) is the undisputed world leader. No one does a better job of creating gadgets that millions of people want the moment they’re available.
But a disturbing report in the New York Times details how Apple store employees average less than $12/hour and do not earn commissions, no matter how much merchandise they move. The enormous popularity of the iPhone and iPad has significantly enriched Apple’s bottom line, but the company apparently is not eager to share that wealth with the folks on the front lines. The retail employees clearly deserve better, and Apple is significantly bumping up the pay of some store workers, but both ethical intelligence and smart business call for more to be done.
True, Apple has no legal obligation to alter its labor policies, and it does pay workers more than the minimum wage. But Apple hasn’t come this far by doing merely the least of what is expected. It would be just and good management practice—as well as in the company’s financial interest—to give store employees a percentage of the sales they make. If, as the Times reports, Apple wants retail employees to remain in their positions for six years, this would be a great way to accomplish that goal.
A base salary with commissions would acknowledge the workers’ significant contributions to the company’s success, help to retain the ones who do the best job (which will ultimately boost Apple’s revenues), and evince the same kind of leadership in employment policy that Apple has earned in research, development, and marketing.
With regard to those in the Apple labor force who toil at the lowest end of the pay scale, it’s time for Apple to think—and perform—differently.
Originally published on Bloomberg Businessweek’s Management Blog on June 25, 2012.