February 27, 2019

Learning About Appreciation and Self-Awareness from The Apple Store “Clap-Out”

During a recent visit to the Apple Store in Boulder, a team member at the back of the store called for everyone’s attention, interrupting my transaction. I wondered what the hubbub was all about?

Team members in the trademark matching t-shirts started clapping as they lined up on both sides of the center aisle of the store. I learned from the salesperson working with me that an Apple Store “Genius” who had been with the store for several years was leaving to pursue a full-time software engineering program at Galvanize Boulder. This was his sendoff. I learned that every departing Apple employee is treated to this exit parade.

The team member made his way toward the front door, stopping to high-five, hug, shake hands with, or fist-bump every one of his now-former colleagues. Employees and customers (including me) cheered throughout his entire exit, and the clapping continued until the doors shut behind him. The proceedings, which involved a complete stoppage of business at this store, lasted seven minutes.

The “clap-out” in action.

Despite a bit of controversy over this tradition — some advocate for celebrating an employee’s first day on the job, not the last — it felt like an authentic act of appreciation. It was also a huge investment.

The entire enterprise prompted me to do a bit of inferential research. The average Apple store does about $68 million in sales per year. The Boulder store is open 67 hours a week, 209,040 minutes a year. That’s  $325 in sales per minute or $2,277 of revenue at risk during this one seven-minute sendoff.

In discussing this with my colleague Sue Heilbronner, she thought the sendoff displayed Apple’s genuine self-awareness and appreciation for its employees. By blessing this practice, Apple is acknowledging that most employees likely don’t work in this retail job forever. The “clap-out” says, “You’ve graduated. Well done!” In this case, the Genius’ next stepping stone was an immersive coding program. Even better!

Here’s the other thing: on the day I witnessed the “clap-out” for first time, Apple lost exactly zero dollars. My fellow customers and I were every bit as delighted as the Apple team members with the celebration. No one walked out.

Exercise: Appreciation

Appreciation is one of the most commonly withheld forms of feedback, especially in a work setting.

Looking to drive employee engagement and create a culture of candor at your company? Try this appreciation exercise. Great for meetings.

  1. Hand out slips of paper and ask everyone to complete the following sentence: 
    I deeply honor and appreciate myself for ___________________.

  2. Then ask everyone to pass the slip to the person to their left.
  3. Have everyone make the following edits to the new slip in their hand:
    1) Add the author’s name at the start of the sentence
    2) Cross out “myself” and replace with “you”
    3) Change any articles like “I” or “my” to read “you” or “your”
  4. Then go around the table and have each person read the appreciation back to the person who wrote it. Here’s how it will look.

    An appreciation that Jane wrote as: I deeply honor and appreciate myself for giving my full energy and commitment to achieving the Q1 goal.

    Will now be read back to Jane by her colleague as: Jane, I deeply honor and appreciate you for giving your full energy and commitment to achieving the Q1 goal.
  5. This is an excellent way of appreciating ourselves, while also feeling appreciated by our peers.
Danielle Dannenberg

An entrepreneur + community builder, Danielle is a Principal at MergeLane and leads growth at Camp.

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