Propel People and Business Forward

This blog was originally posted on LinkedIn.

While attending Adobe’ Digital Marketing Summit this Spring I was fortunate to be able to listen to an interview between Robert Redford and Adobe’s CMO, Ann Lewnes. I must admit that I was somewhat star struck and drawn in by his charisma. However, I did not expect to be struck by his words of wisdom. Since the event, I have reflected on a theme that was threaded throughout the conversation — being creative by taking advantage of opportunities and embracing risks. Robert Redford was very succinct on his thoughts around risk by saying, “not taking a risk is a risk,” and he went on to explain how taking a risk is what propels you forward.


This resonated with me and triggered my thoughts around how as a leader of the functions focused on attracting, developing, rewarding exceptional people – my team is at the center of propelling Adobe’s people and business forward. We have entered the next generation of HR – what we refer to as People Resources at Adobe – which requires agility and constant adaptation to truly enable employees and the organization to reach the greatest potential. With this continuous evolution comes risk. We need to shift our mind set to ‘fail forward’ and ‘fail fast.’ In order to allow people to do their best work, we need to challenge the status quo and iterate quickly when it comes to the way we attract, develop, reward our people and build the environments that promote health and wellness. I believe these changes to our function are reflective of the opportunities that lie ahead in the profession focused on people. The threat is not recognizing that change is required.

I find I am constantly pushing myself and my team to think differently and to challenge what we have done in the past. Each of the leaders across the team are now committed to work on or investigate at least one “1.0” project at any given time. That is a project that is not fully vetted, may have some inherent risks, but is intended to help our people and the organization reach the greatest potential. This approach gives us the license to be creative and push the boundaries of what we have in-place today. Of course it’s not always easy, it’s not always comfortable, and it often requires some form of risk taking. But we know it results in the best environment for people to be successful. We have taken this 1.0 approach with a number of People Resources initiatives to date and continue to identify areas where we can quickly execute, iterate, and learn from our mistakes.

Scaling with Technology

Adobe is a global company and we continue to expand through organic growth and acquisitions. Our 4 hour new employee orientation program across multiple global offices was not scaling with our growth or setting our employees up for success. We decided to take advantage of innovations in technology and launch a virtual New Employee Success (NES) program. Through Adobe Connect, we are able to engage consistently and in real-time with employees around the globe through an interactive 90 minute webcast with the ability to show videos, slides, web links, and foster discussion among participants. Given the scale of this program, we knew there would be some technical glitches in the early days as we introduced the program for the first time. But we kept pushing forward, fixed the problems, and looked for ways to improve the virtual orientation. Since Jan. 2014 approximately 250 new employees in North America have participated in our NES program and have found it to be a valuable experience as they launch their careers at Adobe. We plan to roll-out the program to EMEA and JPAC later this year and will build upon our 1.0 implementation.

New Approach to Performance Management

In 2012 we made the bold decision to abolish the traditional performance review and introduced what we call Check-in at Adobe. We knew that this was the right decision for our people, and would save approximately 80,000 hours of our managers’ time, but implementing this new approach was a learning process. What started out as a 1.0 initiative in 2012 has evolved today into a performance management approach that is embraced across the company globally and has piqued interest from other industry leaders. One of the greatest learnings from this experience is to accept the unknown when making a decision that is right for your people and your business. Learning-as-you-go is powerful and in fact you can become more agile and receptive to new ideas when a program is not thoroughly planned out.

Centralized Employee Resources

To help enable Check-in, we decided to establish a centralized resource function for employees called the Employee Resource Center (ERC). The ERC has been established for fielding questions across a range of areas including performance management, career coaching, building managerial capabilities, wellness, and more. We initially introduced the ERC in North America in 2013 and are poised to launch the function in EMEA and JPAC this year. We are certain that the ERC will look different in each market and that demonstrates success. It shows that we are learning from our experiences, iterating, and improving upon our 1.0 implementation.

Since the Digital Marketing Summit, I continue to reflect upon risk-taking and enabling the success of the company. I certainly had not anticipated that Robert Redford would influence the way I think about People and Places at Adobe! It reinforced that being open to creativity and new perspectives can happen at any time, you just need to be open to thinking differently; be open to change and taking risks. As a team at Adobe we are continuing to determine how we can make an impact and propel our people and business forward and ultimately this will continue to re-shape the People and Places function.

What are your experiences in taking risks to help propel your people and business forward?