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Cultivating culture in the tech industry

Adobe’s chief people officer, Gloria Chen, on how a persistent focus on people, purpose, and strategy helps drive the business and future-proof the brand.

Over the past decade, Adobe has been hailed as the industry-leading example of how to successfully transform a business and transition to the cloud. In tandem, it spearheaded the creation of the customer experience management category and is a clear leader in that category today. These strategic bets have paid off, adding to the brand’s long-standing track record of category creation, innovation, and transformation.

While business strategy alone is often the textbook focus for a company’s leaders, priorities have shifted recently as the role a corporation must play as a force for good is increasingly pronounced. Prioritizing culture, purpose, and people as critical enablers of success has become front and center. For a brand like Adobe, this is what it has always been.  

“If there’s anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses, it’s that you can’t create culture in a crisis,” says Gloria Chen, chief people officer and EVP of employee experience at Adobe. “Adobe’s long-standing commitment to a vibrant, inclusive culture, core values that have remained unchanged since our founding, and progressive, people-centric benefits and programs has enabled us to navigate this unprecedented environment with tremendous resilience and grace. In fact, our employee engagement numbers have increased since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Prioritizing people and purpose

As a software company, Adobe believes that people are its greatest asset and that investing in their continued growth and well-being is vital to its future success. Its vision, “Adobe For All,” is centered on the belief that when employees can be their authentic selves, they do their best work. And when teams are diverse, they’re more innovative and reflective of the wide array of customers that Adobe serves.

This belief drives the company’s investments in industry-leading benefits and programs. For example, Adobe offers a wide variety of family-friendly leave policies that cater to the diverse scenarios employees may face when starting a family. It’s a leader in pay parity across gender and ethnicity and has now extended that purview to examine fairness in promotions and horizontal movement, a notion it has coined “opportunity parity.” And its people-centric culture is underscored by an enduring commitment to giving back. In its earliest days, the company pledged to give 1% of profits back to its surrounding communities. Since then, it has focused on a number of issues, which include empowering students and artists in underserved communities with education and creative tools, investing in future talent with training, resources and mentorship, and unleashing its technology to solve global challenges.

It’s no surprise that when COVID-19 hit, the company made a commitment to protect the health and well-being of its employees, first and foremost. In the face of tremendous uncertainty, Adobe pledged no layoffs and underwent a companywide reprioritization to ensure its employees and resources were supporting the initiatives that would drive the most long-term success for the company. Regular employee pulse checks uncovered that people were fatigued and not taking the time off they needed, so Adobe implemented regular companywide days off every third Friday during the pandemic, providing employees with much-needed time off to unplug and recharge.

Despite the challenging circumstances, its dedication to purpose continued to thrive. Adobe employees donated more than 25,000 hours of virtual volunteering in 2020. In addition, the company provisioned 30 million free Creative Cloud licenses to enable students to continue to create and learn from home. It also assisted government agencies and others in making an overnight transition to digital in order to engage constituents during a critical time.

The result: Innovation and resilience

Chen says taking care of the company’s people and staying true to its purpose has resulted in Adobe’s ability to continue to innovate and deliver for its customers without missing a beat. As the premier digital experiences company, it has paved the way for what digital leadership looks like in this environment. For example, with its annual creativity conference, Adobe MAX, the company set the bar high with a star-studded, around-the-clock event like none other, which garnered tens of millions of views across the globe. Harnessing data from trillions of website visits, over a hundred million products, and thousands of retailers that it supports, Adobe was able to provide a unique assessment of the online economy in real time with its Digital Economy Index (DEI). The report gave companies a better understanding of local and global digital commerce trends to help them anticipate changes and manage their businesses effectively in a dynamic market.

“At Adobe, we’ve always been committed to harnessing our platform, creativity, and innovation to make lasting change inside and outside the company,” Chen says. “While so much about the future remains unknown, I am confident that Adobe will be able to weather any storm because of the strong foundation we’ve built and nurtured for over four decades. Adobe’s best days are definitely ahead of us.”