Apple Offers 'Restricted Stock Units' to All Employees, Including Retail

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple today announced a significant new initiative internally for employees that “effectively [makes] everyone who works for Apple eligible for an RSU grant.” RSU grants, or Restricted Stock Units, have typically been reserved for top Apple management and product engineering roles as a way to retain employee talent for long periods of time. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook was granted 1 million shares in 2011, following the succession of Steve Jobs, that will vest over time through 2021. According to an email from Cook to all employees today, a similar plan, with obviously much smaller amounts of shares, is now starting.

A step in the right direction in treating Apple Retail employees as equals with their corporate peers. There are a huge number of extremely talented Apple Store employees, and rarely do they get the recognition from Corporate they deserve. Good on Tim for recognizing this.

Having talked to a couple Retail folks since this announcement, it seems like Gurman's sources are accurately reporting anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 worth of shares being granted, with a third of those vesting each year for three years. Generous, to be sure, though I'm not exactly kicking myself for leaving at this point. If Tim's goal is retaining top talent, this is a good first step, but I know there are plenty of my former colleagues that are still pursuing other options in spite of it. Doesn't sound like they'll be swayed by this gesture.

The thing about talented and driven people is that it's not always about the money. The qualms that I had with Retail (and what is frequently echoed by former coworkers years after I left) is that there is very little room for actual growth within the company when you start in a store. Apple does a great job of attracting the best and the brightest, but it's hard to keep them all shining when their paths for advancement are constantly littered with obstacles. Retail leadership frequently dangled promises of promotion like carrots, causing many to eagerly chomp at the bits, with many others begrudgingly seeking greener pastures when promises remained unfulfilled.

The reality is that it's impossible to accommodate the aspirations of tens of thousands of ambitious retail employees. Apple very rarely settles for the people who "just need a job," even at the store level. So they back themselves into a corner touting personal and professional growth. It creates an environment of expectations that can never be fully realized. Sure, there are the lucky few that move from store to corporate, but that just further punctuates the struggle for the rest. Smart, talented people will realize that they're not being fully utilized, and no mere bonus is going to keep them around.