In 2012, Adobe was making headlines.

The company was undergoing a revolution in its performance management system while introducing a subscription-based service for their customers.  

Our team interviewed Sarah Dunn, Head of People Resources, Asia Pacific at Adobe to share on this change in the organization. She explains how it has encouraged employees to pursue innovation and design a greater customer experience.

Adopting Informal Check-In Sessions within Adobe

Adobe has adopted a new system of informal and real time conversations called ‘check-ins’.

“The company was transforming faster than ever; our people were asking for change and we had to keep up.

The current system was outdated. Consequently, we were not helping people improve performance, innovation nor meeting career objectives.

We thus realized that we had to retain talent and maintain engagement in order to continue.

The ‘bell curve’ approach was hence substituted for flexible ‘check-ins’, giving ownership and control to employees over their growth in Adobe.

This system is owned by the employee and supported by the manager. Through this, we aim to encourage teamwork and avoid the late night rush for employee reviews. “

An important success factor in this process is the management training. Sarah mentions that

“We invest in leadership training and guidance for managers. This allows us to focus on goals, career development and strategies for everyone instead of focusing on shortcomings.”

Managers focus on what to change in the future and act as coaches rather than examiners.

At the beginning of the year, the leadership outlines key priorities across the board. Employee and manager work together to set individual and team-oriented goals aligned with regional strategies.

Managers discuss employees performance with regard to company objectives and find out what resources employees require to succeed. Meetings take place at least once every 6 or 8 weeks and are conducted in an informal manner. Sarah mentions that

“There are no stringent steps, no prescribed timings and no forms to fill out for submission to the HR team.”

At the yearly rewards check in, managers assign bonuses based on how well an individual has met his targets.

“Instead of micro-managing, we provide a budget to each manager. They subsequently make decisions on salary based on employees’ contributions to the team.

As a result, employee engagement has increased significantly year-on-year since its implementation. This is evident in APAC as well as Adobe’s other divisions.”

Adobe measures employee engagement through internal surveys. Criteria included factors such as motivation and employee sentiment towards the check-in method.

The employees engagement increased significantly year-on-year since the implementation, in APAC as well as in the rest of the world” explains Sarah. “In APAC, the introduction of the new system resulted in approximately 5,000 working hours saved annually, based on the feedback received from people managers across the region.

adobe feedback

Adobe’s unique ‘Check-In’ system substitutes the formal review process for a framework of evaluation. (Photo by ELLIE GATES/Human Capital Institute)

EDIT : Adobe open sourced their check-in methods and resources for other corporations to adopt. Read more about it here.

Nurturing Customer Centricity with Adobe’s Customer Immersion Programme

Adobe’s Customer Immersion Programme (CIP) aims to inspire a cultural change in leadership.

Barbie Fink, Customer Experience Transformation Leader at Adobe mentions that

“Our CIP helps company leaders understand customer problems. This consequently builds a personal and emotional connection and ultimately a desire to improve customer experience. In 2012, the CIP had 100% executive participation.

adobe customer immersion

Adobe’s Customer Immersion Program (CIP) has transformed the way employees interact with customers. (Photo by LAMBERT WALSH/ADOBE)

The program has now evolved to be part of a broader Customer Learning Experience at Adobe. This is a set of internal learning and immersion programs designed for all employees and teams.  

“Customer centricity is a journey that requires a level of engagement across all employees; the CIP is important in changing thought processes. Helping all employees recognize this responsibility can make a positive difference in the customer experience.”

One of these programs is the “experience-a-thon” for employees to experience company products. They are able to provide feedback on issues related to the product. Facilitators take note of feedback and apply them during later stages of product development.

A facilitator presents each group with a hypothetical scenario in which a customer faces a problem. Problems range from digitizing a printed magazine to using Adobe software to manage company finances.

Subsequently, facilitators instruct employees to put aside their preconceptions of the product. Instead, they have to utilize only resources available at that time. This will therefore allow employees to determine how customer needs can be met in a cost efficient manner.

This immersion program also allows employees to sit in on actual customer calls and assist in helping customers via online chat.

Adobe organizes regular onsite customer visits and shares encouraging stories of satisfied customers with all employees. 

Increasing Employee Engagement with Adobe Connect sessions

The Adobe Talent Development team uses Adobe Connect to deliver bi-weekly sessions to new employees in a cost effective way.

These sessions act as reminders of company mission, vision and values in order to drive employees to achieve their goals.

The company designed Connect to be scalable and interactive to its users. Moreover, it enables a unique form of learning through immersive experiences.

98% of employees who attend these sessions acknowledge that they feel more connected to the Adobe core values and strategies.

adobe connect

Universities have used Adobe Connect to conduct virtual classroom sessions. (Photo by KRISTEN STEPHENS/CENTRE FOR INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY)

Adobe’s pursuit of deeper employee engagement is an example to other corporations. In addition, the company demonstrates that innovation goes beyond simply developing a product. A company can adopt innovative ways to motivate their people and hence build a collective vision and spirit. 

EDIT : Adobe has been recognized as one of Glassdoor’s Best Places To Work 2017 and one of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces. The company has also conducted a research study on the inefficiency of the traditional performance review. Check out the blog, infographic and full report on the study.