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International HRM: A Case Study of Apple Inc.


International human resource management has become a necessary undertaking in many multinational corporations. Globalization, a major driver of international trade, is one of the factors behind this development. Success in international ventures is significantly driven by the input of expatriates or international assignees.

In this paper, some issues relating to these assignees were highlighted. They include such issues as the various aspects of pre-departure training, recruitment, and selection criteria. Staffing strategies were also reviewed in this study. The author of this paper proposed a system of measuring return on international assignments.

The topics mentioned above were analyzed in the context of Apple Inc., a top ranking multinational corporation. The success of this organization is one of the reasons why it was selected for this study.

Key words: International human resource management, international assignees, multinational corporations, Apple Inc.

International Human Resource Management: A Case Study of Apple Inc.

In the recent past, there has been an increase in the number of multinational corporations operating in the world. Such companies are heavily investing in the global market. A number of factors have influenced the growth of these organizations.

They include dynamics of international trade, amalgamation of the financial markets, and human migration. Other factors include speedy movement of capital as a result of globalization. All these factors have facilitated trade on the international arena.

Human resource management entails the activities carried out by organizations to effectively utilize their human resource. Consequently, effective human resource management at the global level is a major determinant of success in international trade.

Human resource development at the international level has largely focused on the formulation of effective and highly skilled workforce. By doing this, individual employees and the organization at large can realize their ultimate goals of serving customers.

Apple Inc. is a competitive global company in the communications and electronics industry. It is a leading designer, manufacturer, and marketer of communications and media devices.

It is also involved in the manufacture and distribution of digital music players and portable computers. The company has operations in different parts of the world. It has an elaborate international human resource management system.

The current study addresses the element of international human resource management with regards to Apple Inc. Various aspects related to management of personnel in this organization are reviewed.

They include, among others, training of employees, deployment across the world, and return on investment. The author of this paper holds that effective management of human resource at Apple Inc. has contributed to the success of the organization.

International Human Resource Management and Apple Inc.’s Experiences

Components of Pre-Departure Training

Overview. According to Avril and Magnini (2007), pre-departure training provides expatriates with the knowledge and skills required to survive following their immediate arrival at the destined country of work. Essentially, employees going to work in another country require information on various aspects of the host nation before they leave home.

Some of the things they need to know include the culture and customs of the host country. They also need to be aware of the language and dress code appropriate to the new environment. In addition, international assignees need information on business etiquette in the new country (Avril & Magnini, 2007).

Information on verbal and non-verbal communication, taboos, rules, decision-making techniques, and business management structures should be provided to international employees during pre-departure training.

Culture and customs of the new country. Training on host country’s customs is essential in ensuring that the expatriates adapt to the local culture. It is noted that business operations would be negatively affected if the behavior patterns of the new employees conflict with the cultural expectations in the host country.

For instance, a US citizen working for Apple Inc. may be deployed to Saudi Arabia. Such an employee should be aware of how Saudi nationals regard alcohol. In addition, female employees would be expected to conform to the societal expectations with regards to their dress code.

Language. Language is an essential component of communication in international business. Expatriates and inpatriates require more than just basic knowledge on the host country’s language for effective execution of their assignments. In addition, they should be aware of non-verbal communication techniques. Such awareness would facilitate communication in foreign countries.

Business etiquette in the new environment. Business etiquette may vary between countries. In some parts of the world, governments regulate business policies. For instance, such elements as tax policies, power distance, and human resource management may differ from one country to the other (Katz & Seifer, 1996).

An expatriate manager at Apple Inc. would be required to understand the variation of such policies. Failure to comply with the new rules and regulations would most likely jeopardize the operations of the corporation in the host market.

Business management structures and decision-making techniques. Different countries adopt different approaches in relation to business structures and decision-making techniques. For instance, decision making in high-power distance cultures differs with that in low-power distance communities.

As such, a manager working for Apple’s branch in Korea should be aware of the best approach to adopt in directing employees. The same applies to a German employee working in Africa, where decisions usually come from the top management.

Rationale for Utilizing the Pre-Departure Training Components

Managers are expected to effectively handle employees from different cultural backgrounds. The ability of such managers as far as the employees are concerned affects the profitability of the company. People from different countries express their nationality and dress codes differently.

The approach used by international assignees when dealing with certain problems may also differ. Such issues as the need to interpret actions and comments, predict behaviors, and resolve conflicts may arise. As a result, focusing on the various components of pre-departure training would harmonize Apple’s operations with the reality in the host country.

Performance Assessment among Expatriates

Introducing assessment. Assessing the performance of expatriates is a major element in international human resource management. The performance can be reviewed using a number of criteria. Such criteria include determining strategy implementation and attainment of competitive advantage.

According to Caligiuri (1997), there are three criteria commonly used in evaluating expatriates. They include completion of foreign assignments, performance on the foreign assignment, and cross-cultural adjustment. The criteria apply to all employees irrespective of the operations of a particular organization.

Completion of foreign assignments. It is an important behavioral measurement. It is used in reviewing the results of tasks assigned to foreign employees. Success under this criterion is determined by the ability of the employee to complete their assignment without seeking for transfer to another country (Caligiuri, 1997).

Premature termination translates to failure in relation to the performance of the expatriate. In most cases, premature termination occurs when the expatriate requests for transfer to home country before completion of the assignment. The assignee may also be requested to return home before they have completed their work.

Cross-cultural adjustment. Adjustment to foreign culture also determines the success of the assignee (Caligiuri, 1997). Inability to adjust to the host country means failure in the assignment. Successful adjustment indicates that the employee is psychologically comfortable working and living in the new country.

Adjusted assignees are comfortable with the local culture. On their part, maladjusted employees find it hard to survive in the new environment. The failed employees may prematurely terminate their assignments (Suutari & Brewster, 2000).

Performance on the foreign assignment. Multinational corporations expect their employees to adjust culturally and remain in their foreign posts. In addition, the expatriates are expected to successfully execute their assignments. According to Caligiuri (1997), a large number of maladjusted foreign employees fail to achieve the envisaged outcomes in their work.

There are various measures of performance with regards to foreign assignments. They include establishing working relationships with the locals. Others include transfer of information and the language and cultural proficiency of the foreign employee (Caligiuri, 1997). The measures are in relation to the benefits of expatriates to the multinational corporation.

Recruitment and Selection Strategy for Apple Inc.’s International Assignments

According to Suutari and Brewster (2000), international assignments entail three discrete phases. The first is the pre-assignment stage. It involves the selection and preparation of employees for deployment.

The second is the ‘actual’ assignment. It involves the ‘actual’ stay of the expatriate in the new country. The last is the post-assignment stage. It is also commonly known as repatriation.

Recruitment and selection of expatriates is a multifaceted process. It takes into account both personal characteristics and interpersonal skills. Caligiuri (1997) postulates that most international organizations use knowledge of company systems and technical competencies in the selection process.

The strategy is the most suitable recruitment and selection criteria for Apple Inc. It is noted that measuring relevant cross-cultural and interpersonal abilities is a difficult task for many organizations. In addition, most expatriate postings rely on personal recommendations.

Such recommendations are derived from either line managers or specialist personnel (Suutari & Brewster, 2000). As such, Apple should rely on the proposed recruitment and selection policy. The strategy would reduce chances of failure in the assigned job.

Staffing Alternatives for Foreign Operations

There are several approaches used in resolving the issue of human resource in relation to international assignments. The strategies include ethnocentric and polycentric staffing approaches. Others are regiocentric and geocentric staffing strategies (Dowling, Welch & Schuler, 2004).

The ethnocentric approach involves filling all the key positions in the organization with local experts. The polycentric approach, on the other hand, proposes the use of host country’s nationals in managing subsidiaries. However, in this approach, key positions in the corporation’s headquarters are held by nationals of the parent country (Dowling et al., 2004).

The regiocentric approach is a mixed staffing strategy. Here, executives are transferred between regions. Operations of the company are divided according to geographical regions.

Apple should adopt the geocentric policy to address its staffing needs. The approach disregards the nationality and location of the candidate. It is appropriate for Apple Inc. since the corporation has a vast international experience and a global structure that is well developed.

Importance of a High Quality Mentoring System for International Assignees

Mentorship refers to a form of developmental relationship. In this case, an experienced employed assists less experienced members of staff in performing their tasks. The mentors can function as guides in the exploration of career interests. They provide support to international assignees deployed by multinational organizations.

Mentoring systems for expatriates can be formal or informal. The former describes established procedures and specified targets. The latter, on the other hand, is initiated whenever the assignees seek advice from their superiors or from external professionals.

A high quality mentoring system is very important to any multinational organization. It determines the success or failure of foreign employees. In most cases, the programs provide the management with an opportunity to support the assignees.

The support is especially important during departure or repatriation phases of the assignment. As such, the programs are powerful means of strategically retaining valuable employees with international experience.

High quality mentoring programs also help the employees to adjust to their new environment. It improves their productivity and overall performance in their new posts.

In addition, the programs provide continuous communication on changes in the company and the state of affairs back at home. As a result, the expatriates can effectively cope with transfers, expatriation, and repatriation.

The current global economic meltdown has led to cost constraints in most organizations. As such, it is important for organizations to have the right people at the right place. High quality mentorship programs are very essential in the management of talent and employees.

To this end, Apple Inc. employees should always have a mentor irrespective of their position in the foreign country. The mentors should supervise the assignee with a view to support their development.

They should assist the new employee for a given period of time. Prior to the assignment, the employee must undergo an extensive pre-departure training. The training will help them settle down in the host country.

Measuring Return on Investment in International Assignments

Every business undertaking requires a mechanism to determine its subsequent return on investment. The same applies to international assignments in multinational organizations. The companies should analyze the profitability or importance of international assignments to the parent organization.

Studies conducted with the aim of measuring return on investment with regards to international human resource have focused on numerical results of foreign deployments. In most cases, the costs and returns associated with the investment are used to determine its profitability (Caligiuri, 1997).

To determine Apple Inc.’s return on investment, one should take into consideration a number of factors. The various aspects of international human resource management would help in assessing the profitability of foreign employees. The factors include identification of the assignment’s purposes, cross-cultural training costs (Dowling et al., 2004), and compensation.

In addition, performance management and repatriation outcomes should be factored in. Calculation of return on investment would eventually be ascertained by analyzing the financial and non-financial costs and benefits of the venture. The costs and benefits are then linked to the expenditure incurred with regards to the assignment.


International human resource management differs with domestic management of employees in several ways. Managing employees at the international level is characterized by different labor markets, varying management practices, and dynamic labor laws. Economic and other cultural barriers make international management of human resource a complex affair.

Managing international employees may differ from one organization to the other. However, according to this author, the underlying principles are similar in all organizations. As a result, effective management of assignees and their related assignments is a major determinant of the success of these international ventures.


Avril, A., & Magnini, V. (2007). A holistic approach to expatriate successes. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 19(1), 53-64.

Caligiuri, P. (1997). Assessing expatriate success: Beyond just “being there”. New Approaches to Employee Management, 4(1), 117-140.

Dowling, P., Welch, D., & Schuler, R. (2004). International human resource management: Managing people in a multicultural context (4th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Southwestern College Publishing.

Katz, J., & Seifer, D. (1996). It is a different world out there: Planning for expatriate success through selection, pre-departure training, and on-site socialization. Human Resource Planning, 19(2), 32-47.

Suutari, V., & Brewster, C. (2000). Making their own way: International experience through self-initiated foreign assignments. Journal of World Business, 35(4), 417-436.

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