Published: 02nd August 2018
How Adobe India is building workspaces that are liberal, safe and non-judgemental
At the NASSCOM Summit Chennai, we got speaking to the Vice President of Employee Experience at Adobe, India, to understand their popularly inclusive work policies and culture
At a time when individual identity, collective representation and safe space has become key to directly impact productivity, organisations now have more pressure than ever to deliver.
But for large companies like Google, Facebook or Adobe — often touted for their incredible workspace and positive experiences — do employee policies transcend a business agenda? Do they also carry with them the baton to signal and encourage other companies in an ever-growing employee market system, to sit down and consider individual diversity and dignity of their employees, at the workspace?
We got chatting with Abdul Jaleel, the Vice President of Employee Experience at Adobe India, who was here in the city to talk at the NASSCOM summit, about Adobe’s popular employee-friendly work culture, their strong understanding of inclusive employee recruitments and experiences and the need to push for diversity in the corporate set-up. Here are excerpts:
What's special about the workspaces that Adobe has?
At Adobe, we are constantly trying to build that space where our employees are enjoying their work as much as they are enjoying the community in which they work in. Parallely, the fierce influence of technology and AI has given us the ability to address unconscious biases which we often see affecting individual experiences at the workspace.
How does Adobe ensure that inclusion becomes a part-and-parcel of the company’s fabric?
It is a journey. There has been a learning and a lot of introspection on what it takes to be a company which can mirror society and create a space of representation. Here, we are trying to both encompass and surpass diversity — we are not just looking at gender diversity, but beyond it. For example, we are now working on a module to involve people with disabilities in our office. First, is going to areas which cannot access technical education and provide it to them, right from the school level. We have been focussing on a lot of girls from schools as well, to ensure that by the time they come to an employable age, they are able to join companies of their choice. We also try and ensure that the candidates that we are hiring are diverse and not recruited on the basis of an unconscious bias. A lot of investment, in this case, goes on the training of our HR department and interview panels. We are constantly rewriting our people’s policies. So be it linguistic, cultural or sexual orientations, we are trying to create spaces where they can find representation and find allies for their diverse identities.
How's that working out so far?
The results have been great as well. We now have 25% female workforce. Last year, after auditing our finances, we found a significant gap on gender-based payments. We have now worked on it and made ourselves a one-to-one pay parity company in India, as of this February. Alongside, we have also moved away from asking prospective employees their compensation histories - we now provide pay packages on the basis of our own analysis of their skills and merit.
It does come with its own set of challenges. Could you give us an insight into the process?
I know when we made it a policy to achieve equal pay parity, we had men who thought we were giving special treatment to women, and women who thought we were making their life difficult because the men would treat them differently. Now, we wanted to make our men heroes, not the villains. So it came down to us to having constant conversations with them, making our intent clear - assuring them, that this wasn’t a “merit ‘or’ diversity” conversation but a “merit ‘and’ diversity” conversation.
How do you ensure that people of different sexual and gender orientations find their safe space at Adobe?
We started a Pride Club at the office to ensure that queer individuals knew that they had allies they could always rely on and who will stand up for them. No matter what the general legal status of the battle is, it really is our responsibility to stand up for issues like these and come out in support of the LGBTQ community. It has been nothing less than a disruption of sorts.
Finally, there has been research which has shown that the general exclusion of a diverse workforce has cost the corporate world a loss of billions of dollars over the years. Do you think that the step towards voracious diversity in Adobe has directly affected its turnover?
I don’t know if I’d be in a position to get into the figurative economic outcomes of this diversity policy - especially because I do think that there is still a long way to go. I do think, however, because we have such a strong presence in the creative space, and also because we are so fiercely IP driven, it really becomes a market need to employ diversity. Constantly, we are striving to recruit people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, who can bring in myriad experiences to the workspace, so that it directly reflects in our creative and therefore productive outcomes. I don’t believe that fields like ours can do without diverse definitions of productivity, and so it becomes imperative that we drive for as much inclusion as possible.