Apple’s head of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts, is leaving Apple after a great five-year run to pursue other interests. The departure presented a new opportunity for the company and a promotion for longtime Apple exec Deirdre O’Brien.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill promotion. O’Brien is being elevated into a newly created position that represents a genius move by Cook and company. First, read Cook’s company email announcement, obtained by Business Insider:
I’m writing to let you know about an important leadership change. Today we’re announcing the promotion of one of Apple’s most passionate and experienced advocates for our customers and employees — and the departure of a much-loved and accomplished leader who has played a transformative role in shaping Apple’s retail experiences.
After five years leading Apple’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts is planning to leave Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits. Angela has inspired and energized our retail teams with the vision of stores as a place where the best of Apple comes together to serve customers and communities. During her tenure, the in-store experience has been redefined with programs like Today at Apple, and our relationship with customers is stronger than ever.
This transition gives us an opportunity to reinforce and carry forward the values that make our retail and online stores the best in the world — and our mission to enrich the lives of others. As I’ve said many times, Apple’s greatest asset is its people. And with that in mind, the best choice to lead our team became clear very quickly.
I am thrilled to announce that Deirdre O’Brien will be taking responsibility for our retail teams in a new role as senior vice president of Retail + People. Deirdre brings insight and experience gained over 30 years at Apple — decades spent focusing on the connection between customers and the people and processes that serve them. Working collaboratively across Apple, Deirdre and her teams empower people to lead with purpose and humanity.
Deirdre was part of the team that planned and launched Apple’s very first online and retail stores. She has been a part of Retail’s exciting expansion and every product launch since. She knows the value of the deep human connections that retail experiences make possible — and she knows this is where Apple shows its heart and soul.
In her capacity as vice president of People, Deirdre and her team have brought elevated focus to how Apple inspires, connects, develops and cares for its employees — essential efforts that she will continue companywide through the People team in her new and expanded role.
As we look forward, finding new ways to elevate our in-store and online experiences, forging deeper relationships with the customers who love our products, I believe that our team, at every level, is the best in the business. I am grateful to Angela for all she’s done for Apple, and I’m looking forward to what Deirdre will bring to her new role.
To everyone in Retail, and our employees worldwide, thanks for all you do to help dreamers become doers, to expand human potential and to do the best work of our lives.
And with one email, the role of SVP of People and Retail comes into being at Apple.
Here’s why the newly created position is brilliant.
O’Brien isn’t a lifetime retailer. She is first and foremost a people person. As the Apple Newsroom detailed:
She [O’Brien] will continue to lead the People team, overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.
O’Brien will add on responsibility for retail and online stores (of which there are 500 worldwide with 70,000 employees).
The message here is critical.
Cook recognizes that his Apple employees are an extension of the Apple brand. Take care of the employees, you serve the brand, its stores, and its customers. So why not place responsibility for retail and people with one person?
Cook takes it yet a step further by highlighting the crucial connection between Apple retail employees, “where Apple shows its heart and soul,” and the company’s purpose “to help dreamers become doers, to expand human potential.”
In your own business, is there an opportunity to better connect your employees with the people, and purpose, they serve? It’s an interconnected relationship ripe for harvesting.
Retail customers meet nurtured employees meet purpose. No wonder Apple just won back the title of the most valued public company in the world.