Introducing Lab82, Adobe’s employee experience experimentation engine
A few years ago, the world saw a unique shift in the way we work and since then, it's been clear that the way we work is never going back to how it was. And now that many have made their return to the office, employers have the opportunity to redefine how work works and develop new best practices to enable employees to be collaborative and productive in various working environments. We seized this opportunity for creative innovation to reimagine the way Adobe works in a hybrid environment through our employee experience experimentation program, Lab82. But first, a little backstory.
John Warnock and Charles Geschke founded Adobe 40 years ago on the notion that good ideas come from anywhere in the company. Lab82 was created in that same spirit to continue to elevate and enhance our award-winning employee experience for our greatest assets — our people.
We believe that a flexible, hybrid model is the new way of working to foster innovation, culture and the continuous growth and development of our employees. We also understand that this comes with its own set of challenges that companies must uniquely develop solutions for to best enable their workforce.
Our culture of experimentation
Innovation isn’t just reserved for our products, it also fuels the ways we work. Lab82 started as a physical space at our headquarters in San Jose as a sandbox for collaboration and experimental tech. But as Adobe shifted to a hybrid work model, our vision for Lab82 expanded to become our new approach for researching the ways we work. Lab82 is a global human-centric experimentation engine focused on optimizing the hybrid work experience for our employees by experimenting with different ways of working, in various environments and with different technology, to help us improve how we work across the company.
Reimagining the hybrid work environment
We recognized that after an increase in remote working, employees were looking to build or strengthen relationships with their teammates, so we set out to test effective models and norms for hybrid gatherings to bring people together. A recent Lab82 experiment, with members of Adobe’s Digital Imaging teams who lead the development of flagship products including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, looked at strategies that can be used to improve hybrid offsites, examining an offsite that consisted of 10 employees in office and 5 employees joining remotely.
Results found that designating a meeting facilitator was key to successfully keeping the meeting on time and monitoring chat and in-person conversations. To establish belonging and trust from the start, facilitators also drove team-building activities, like icebreakers, food experiences and wellbeing stretch breaks throughout the day to maintain engagement.
The experiment also asked all participants, regardless of their location — in person or online — to join through their laptop to maintain the sense of inclusion that employees experienced from all-virtual meetings. Additionally, to further increase the feeling of inclusivity, the experiment aimed to minimize local conversation for in-person attendees, and instead raised topics for group discussion using the chat function during presentations and exercises. Lunch was catered for those in-person, and food vouchers or gift cards were provided to those joining virtually.
Overall, attendees agreed that strategies such as team building exercises and pre-established meeting norms made the meeting more effective, and all agreed they felt a greater sense of belonging with their team, which led Lab82 to confirm that team building is an enabler of meeting effectiveness.
Lab82 plans to use these findings to develop universal meeting norms for standard and specialized meetings, like onsite offsites. The findings will also help inform future space and technology design as we continue to create an ideal “onsite offsite” environment at our Adobe offices.
Onboarding in a hybrid world
With 11,000 new hires joining Adobe during the pandemic and onboarding virtually, it’s natural that some new hires were feeling disconnected from their teams. Lab82 implemented an experiment with recently hired developers in the Digital Experience organization at Adobe, which focused on how both in-person time and digital resources could help new developers feel a greater sense of belonging and improve their productivity.
We measured the amount of time it takes for newly hired developers to deploy their first code, and how social interventions can create a greater sense of belonging and connection to the team. The experiment consisted of implementing additional digital and in-person interactions, on top of Adobe’s existing onboarding approach, during a new hire’s first 90 days of employment. The interventions that Lab82 recommended included:
- Meeting your manager 1:1 in-person in the office (if possible, or someone else on your team), with a tour of the office
- Team building activities/lunch to carve out dedicated time for team bonding
- A developer-specific Wiki page with centralized resources
- Coffee Chat Connection list provided, by managers — key individuals and groups who new hires should meet that are relevant to their job; to promote collaboration and connection within and beyond the team.
All participants agreed these interventions bolstered their sense of belonging and connection to the team during their first month at Adobe. Lab82 also found that these interactions increased productivity among new hires — reducing the time it took them to deploy their first code by 35 percent compared to developers who joined Adobe during the pandemic.
New approaches to ease in-person connectivity
Another experiment Lab82 executed to help facilitate informal connection in the workplace is Join Me, which consists of physical tabletop signals for common areas in the office, such as breakrooms and cafés.
The signals, uniquely developed in-house, allow employees to show whether they’re open to someone “joining” them at their table. The idea is that the signals can reduce the social barrier to meeting someone new, encourage casual conversations as employees work from an office, and help employees expand their community. The experiment found one in four people reported that using the Join Me signals resulted in a casual collision — 85 percent of which were with someone new — with many employees citing benefits such as the opportunity to meet people outside of their team and gain a broader perspective of Adobe’s business.
Additionally, Lab82 is introducing a new concept of Welcome Ambassadors to support a unique, inclusive experience, and help welcome new hires and returning employees back to the office. Adobe’s 64 global offices all offer their own unique experiences and culture, and Adobe’s Welcome Ambassadors, an enthusiastic group of employees, can offer other employees visiting the office a guided tour of the facility, an introduction to site communities and information about onsite amenities, tools and resources. Welcome Ambassadors also provide an initial connection for employees to meet people at their site.
Our mobile workplace app, Adobe Life, provides a digital-first extension of this experience, allowing employees to connect to what's happening across Adobe and at their site no matter where they are. Each office has its own digital campus in the app, serving as a hub of curated news and information catered to their location. Information includes wayfinding, conference room bookings and preordering meals from the café. Moving into the new year, we’re experimenting with new ways of expanding community and connection-building opportunities via the app.
The future of work at Adobe
Adobe sits at the intersection of creativity and the digital world. And our approach to employee experience is no different. Lab82’s innovative approach aims to continue experiments and help us make data-driven decisions to reimagine the ways in which we work and leverage the best of in-person and virtual interactions to foster creativity, innovation, and culture.