Pivoting, responding and moving ahead: Five diversity and inclusion lessons from 2020

A collage of employees celebrating #AdobeForAll.

This year of #2020 was rough, on many levels. But it also pushed us to do things differently. For our diversity and inclusion initiatives at Adobe, we had to reinvent, adapt, respond and navigate a variety of challenges that we never saw coming. We learned a lot. As we close out the year, these are a few of the lessons that will carry us forward from here:

1. WFH can help build community.

Working from home for 9 months (and counting) disrupted how our employee resource groups (ERGs) engaged. Many of our traditional events were based on in-person, site-based interactions – bringing together the local community in San Jose, New York, Bangalore, London or any other Adobe office to connect. Without that in-person dynamic, many of these groups evolved how they thought about community and connection: Now members could connect from anywhere, and events could be open to all.

The new virtual approach brought exciting connections across geographies that we never had before and has also allowed people in smaller or remote locations to participate for the first time. Now roughly one third of our employee base belongs to one or more ERGs. Asian cooking lessons, Pride dance parties, Black employee Netflix-watching events, and so many other creative ideas came to life! We hope to continue this sense of access and connection even when we’re back in offices again.

2. Goals and structure drive accountability.

Perhaps the most significant evolution we made this year was in response to the events of the summer, with the death of George Floyd and other highly visible incidents of racial injustice. In response, we developed the Taking Action Initiative (TAI), consisting of five task forces: Community, Hiring & Recruiting, Growth & Advancement, Responsibility & Advocacy, and Transparency & Governance. Each task force consists of representatives from our Black Employee Network (BEN) as well as subject matter owners from across Employee Experience, Global Marketing, Procurement and other key teams. We have regular check-in meetings with our CEO and Chief People Officer on progress.

Creating this structure has been invaluable in moving faster on key initiatives, from our investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to growth and development programs and many others. It also led to us setting aspirational goals for the first time, relative to our employee representation. We articulated the following aspirations at our Adobe For All Week event in early September:

These goals are stretch and aspirational; for a company of our size, they will not be easy – but it’s important for us to put this stake in the ground and drive forward progress.

3. Storytelling is more important now than ever.

As part of our Adobe For All vision, we began highlighting employee storytellers in 2019 as a way to build connection and empathy among our workforce. Our eight storytellers at the Adobe For All Summit that year were by far the most celebrated and impactful aspect of the event. When Adobe moved to virtually all employees working from home in March, we saw a new opportunity to build upon that idea with a program we call “Adobe For All Coffee Break.” Every Friday, we held a 30-minute live broadcast interview with an Adobe senior leader from a diverse background. The engagement for these sessions was tremendous – far beyond any expectations – and we think it’s because people have been so hungry to feel that sense of intimacy and connection while living in a “virtual” work world. We added more momentum during our Adobe For All Week in September, which included a mix of 15 different employee storytellers across regional and corporate sessions, such as Alex Rodriguez and Anja Salinger-Carsley. These employees’ willingness to be vulnerable and share their story has been transformational.

4. Activating “allies” is the key to scale.

Progress with inclusion can’t happen until we activate “allies” within the organization – meaning, tapping people who don’t identify with an underrepresented group to co-own progress. While Adobe has always been strong in this area, the societal dialogue around racial injustice galvanized our employees in a way we haven’t seen before. We made some immediate moves to tap that energy, including providing resources, facilitating discussions and bringing in luminary speakers from the Black community.

We then shaped a brand-new program we’re calling Adobe For All In Action Circles, with nearly 900 employees signed up. These Action Circles are designed to help employees learn and discuss allyship. They will consist of 6-8 people per circle, including two co-leaders, and will meet monthly starting in the new year. This will provide us with critical scale, where employees will leverage pre-readings and discussion guides to drive change in a distributed model across regions and time zones. We’re excited to see where this goes!

5. Parity and transparency are vital.

This year’s events reinforced how vital it is for employees to trust their employers and know that they are being fairly treated. While we have had an established commitment to pay parity, opportunity parity and data transparency, this year we took it up a level. We announced we achieved pay parity between employees from underrepresented minority (URM) groups and non-URM employees in the U.S. We disclosed opportunity parity data for promotions by region, job category and overall; we also unveiled horizontal movement metrics for the first time. In our first D&I FY2019 Year in Review, we shared new dimensions of intersectional demographic data. And we updated our FY2020 employee metrics data to provide more detail – reporting out to the tenths place for the first time. We intend to continue driving our parity and transparency efforts forward next year.

Thanks to our employees for their resilience and creativity, we’re hopeful that we will emerge from this year stronger and more connected as we look toward #2021 and beyond.