Apple is launching a new initiative at the company’s offices that encourages a select group of employees to devote a portion of their time to personal projects, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The move is intended to spawn innovation but apparently it’s also a measure to keep employees from jumping ship, addressing long-standing gripes about lack of flexibility and ignored standard Silicon Valley perks.
Dubbed “Blue Sky”, the initiative is said to be a more limited version of similar programs among tech companies for spawning new ideas -- the most famous of which is Google’s “20% time” philosophy that allows engineers to spend one day a week working on projects outside their normal responsibilities.
The status of Blue Sky is unclear. Scott Forstall, Apple’s former head of iOS software was involved in the program, but left the company in a recent executive shakeup. Some people inside the company say it’s more of a symbolic move that hasn’t really resulted in big changes.
Still, the move is seen as a cultural shift for Apple, which traditionally works on a few focused projects that come from the top. The WSJ notes that this isn’t the first “employee-friendly” change under Tim Cook’s helm -- the company has also implemented new employee discounts on Apple products, started a charitable matching program, and is more aggressive about giving counteroffers to some employees thinking of leaving.
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