We’re in this together: 5 takeaways from Adobe Experience Makers EMEA

This is a unifying moment for businesses. Across virtually every industry and discipline, business leaders are rethinking their approach to leadership, employees are finding new ways to perform their jobs in a digital world, and consumers are re-evaluating the way they make purchases.

In short, we’re all adapting in some shape or form. While strategic changes have come quickly and, for some of us, sooner than we had planned, I walked away from Adobe’s recent Experience Makers event humbled by the discovery that we’re all in it together.

Here are my top five takeaways from a day of stimulating discussions on the future of doing business.

1. There’s no turning back

This year has shown many businesses that they can do incredible things when the pressure is on. Take Save the Children, whose executive director of fundraising and marketing, Gemma Sherrington, explained how the company adopted an agile working model and shifted its entire fundraising and marketing operation to digital channels in less than a week.

“It was a real test of Save the Children’s agile model, and while it wasn’t easy, we were able to pivot quickly and reallocate everything in just under a week,” she said.

Companies worldwide have proved their resilience. Now is the time for them to look forward and build on the enhancements they have made. As Patty McCord, Netflix’s former chief talent officer, said during a panel session we held for an executive event, “We’re already building the muscle we didn’t know we had.”

2. Take experiences to your customers

The move to all-things digital has raised a conundrum: How can brands get closer to customers at a time when people need to limit their physical interactions and the space between us feels wider than ever?

For Joerg Wienke, Shell’s VP of global retail marketing, the answer is to get proactive and take digital experiences to customers. For instance, Shell updated its mobile app so customers could make purchases in the forecourt of its petrol stations, alleviating the need to enter the shop and thus providing a crucial service while maintaining the highest standard of safety.

Joerg Wienke also highlighted the enormous role Shell’s employees have played in delivering these experiences.

“I was humbled and impressed by the resilience of the people in our organisation,” he said, before sharing the example of a team member in China who walks 16 kilometers to and from work each day to keep serving his customers.

For his part, TSB COO Suresh Viswanathan explained how the UK high street bank has adapted its services to be there for customers on the channels they use most, and do so quickly.

“What would previously have taken us 24 months, we achieved in just three months,” he said.

With 90% of people now managing their money online, TSB has made its teams available to serve them proactively and digitally, rather than wait for calls or service requests.

3. Lead by listening

The topics of leadership and the employee experience dominated the day’s discussions, from organisational psychologist John Amaechi’s keynote on how to lead with empathy and foster an inclusive culture, to Forrester principal analyst David Johnson’s insights on the new rules of employee empowerment.

The consensus among our guests was that leaders need to accept that it’s OK to not have all the answers. While they might feel pressure to make decisions alone and show strength, real leadership comes from listening to employees and working with them to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The transition to remote working has also taught organisations to re-evaluate the concept of performance and focus on outcomes rather than outdated metrics such as absenteeism.

“If you want to measure minutes, you’ll get minutes. If you want to measure results, you’ll get results.” Forrester’s Johnson said.

4. Seek balance and clarify

With no commute to and from work, it has become too easy to jump straight from our bed to our screens and forget to make time for ourselves. We also spend our day on video calls, giving our colleagues a glimpse into our lives that they never had before and making it more difficult to disconnect.

No matter our workload, it’s important to find balance between office life, family and friends, and our health. As a fitness enthusiast, I clear my head by staying as active as possible, either by doing home workouts or going for runs. Whether you choose exercise, meditation, or a long walk, personal time will not only make us feel better, it also helps us approach work with a clearer mind.

5. Make it personal

Finally, personalisation is key, not just in the way brands serve their customers but also in the way they run their organisations. In his keynote, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen outlined how Adobe pivoted to virtual work in the space of a few weeks and took advantage of our cloud-based tools to continue delivering the campaigns, events, and experiences our customers expect, in a range of new formats.

Narayen was adamant about the importance of Adobe’s transformation at this crucial moment for our customers.

“As people seek new ways to communicate, learn and conduct business virtually, Adobe’s mission to change the world through digital experiences has never been more meaningful,” he said.

Every brand will have its own approach – what unifies leaders is a bold approach and an understanding of their strengths. As McCord said in one of the most poignant soundbites from the day, “There are no best practices right now. That’s a term that I hate. It doesn’t really matter what another brand is doing if it’s not working for you.”

If you were unable to tune into Adobe Experience Makers EMEA live, we’ve made our keynote and sessions available on-demand. Click here to access the streams on our website.