Apple Retail chief Angela Ahrendts sat down with Fast Company to discuss her first two years at Apple. Under Ahrendts, the Apple Retail Store chain has shown an incredible 81% employee retention rate. Ahrendts attributes that to the way the employees feel about their position in the company.
“We just ended the year with the highest retention rates we’ve ever had: 81%. And the feedback [from Apple Store employees is that it’s] because they feel connected. They feel like one Apple. They don’t feel like they’re just somebody over here working with customers. I don’t see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that Jony [Ive] and the team took years to build. Somebody has to deliver it to the customer in a wonderful way.”
The Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores told Fast Company that during her first six months with Apple, she traveled to 40 different markets to meet with employees there to learn more about how the stores were “uniting people and getting them to collaborate.”
Ahrendts says she didn’t begin to fully understand the culture of the company and its retail stores, until she’d been there for around a month:
“The thing I didn’t know before I came in—a month in, I told my husband, ‘I now know why this is one of the most successful companies on the planet: Because the culture is so strong. The pride, the protection, the values.’ The company was built to change people’s lives…”
She went on to discuss how the company was “built to change people’s lives,” and talked about how Apple CEO Tim Cook is carrying on that core value today:
“… That foundation, that service mentality, that drive to continue to change lives—that is a core value in the company. And Tim [Cook] then has added his on: He says it’s also our responsibility to leave it better than we found it. So you have these two amazing pillars and a culture built around that. It’s the same in retail and in [Cupertino]. That is the underlying mission, and how could you know that unless you’re inside? But it is deeper than you would ever imagine.”
Ahrendts has lead an aggressive expansion plan during her reign, as Apple has quickly expanded its retail presence in China, opening stores last year in Chongqing, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Nanjing and Tianjin. The company plans to open several more throughout 2016, with a goal of 40 retail locations in the country by the end of the year.