March 20, 2022
Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Here’s a good Twitter thread from an a16z partner on what sets excellent startup job postings apart from the rest. Take note. And while we’re sharing tweets, I’m curious about your take on this one. Yay or nay: Random assigned roommate each night of your corporate retreat? My vote is hell nay. Today: Why Adobe combined DEI and talent in one role, how employees feel about workplace safety, and what it means to be a work futurist.
— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)
Brian Miller is a data guy, but he’s also the talent guy, and the guy leading diversity, equity and inclusion at Adobe. In August 2021, Miller joined Adobe as its chief talent, diversity and inclusion officer, combining two roles that are traditionally separated within tech organizations.
Miller now leads both recruiting and retention initiatives, while also ensuring DEI remains embedded in a company notorious for its ambitious hiring goals. Adobe hired 8,244 new employees in 2021 alone, something that Miller says can still be done while keeping diversity front of mind. He shares with anyone who will listen that he wants Adobe to be a destination for Black, brown and underrepresented tech workers.
Miller spoke with Protocol about systems he’s employing to make that happen, how his role fits within the organization and the challenges faced by chief diversity officers across tech.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How does your job differ from a traditional chief diversity officer and how are the two parts of your role sort of married together?
So my role encompasses all of talent acquisition, all of talent operations, all of talent development, talent management, as well as DE&I. So with that type of scope, the aspiration for us within talent, diversity and inclusion is to really shape and create a very nimble, diverse and inclusive culture — but with a specific purpose to really unleash the full potential of our employees. That's at the essence of this role coming together.
So if you were to say, what does that really look and feel like to an employee? The first thing is we have the opportunity if we're hiring over 8,000 people a year to really source and get the best and brightest diversity talent to Adobe. For me that's really top of mind: How do we become the destination for brown and Black folks, [and] for women, as well? So having talent acquisition so close to the rest of the functions helps us really create that momentum.
How do you work with Gloria Chen, Adobe’s chief people officer, with your jobs both being so closely linked with people functions?
We work very closely, hand-in-hand, on multiple things. My hope is I can partner with her and give her ideas. It’s an anchor for us that we will always remain a company that puts people first, but at the same time wants to be a high-performing culture. So we have those types of conversations that are very philosophical, and then we drop our altitude all the way down to “Okay, so what does good learning look like? How do we really change a mindset?” My job is to operationalize that. How do we get something that a manager really deeply feels and then becomes deeply accountable to … So that's how we start to work together.
We do the same thing on talent. We're talking right now about metrics on how we're going to hire, and how do we create hiring that's scalable and efficient and reimagines things. Those are things that we start to discuss all the way across the multiple functions.
A lot of people say that in a tight talent market diversity is the first thing to go out the door. What do you say to people who ask how do we keep diversity front of mind when we're fighting over high-skilled tech talent?
I would ask you in an opposite way. How could we not, in hiring 8,000 folks, not have a diversity push in that? It shouldn't go out the window. So for Adobe, what we've done is we’ve just made that part of our hiring expectation.
So we've instituted what's called a leadership search review — an LSR. Gloria and myself look at all director-plus roles. They come to us and we look at it through a diversity lens. So how many underrepresented minorities were on the actual diversity interview slate? How many women were on? So if we get a report we review it and then we can move it ahead. Or we can slow it down to say, hey, I think we can do better. But that's one example of the motion that we put in to really start to ensure that we are looking at diverse hires, that we do take that very seriously.
Are you saying you can still move fast and look for diversity? Is that what I'm hearing?
I believe so. I mean, here’s the thing you get the pushback on: The group is smaller so it’s going to take more time. It’s a law of mathematics that you hear. Well then you test this and go, well, that just means we have to look harder. And we have to have an agreement that speed is not the only metric of good. That's the part that we navigate when we're talking to hiring managers, that first we all agree this is the right thing to do, and I believe every hiring manager at Adobe would say, yes, we want to increase our female population with director and above, we want to be able to double our Black population over the next five years, we want to increase our underrepresented minorities as well. That’s our aspirational goal … we're willing to go ahead and be more flexible about speed because we know we're going to get a high quality, great diverse candidate that will help us reach our full potential.
A lot of people know in the industry that you’re a data guy. What are the top three pieces of data you're tracking most regularly?
Right now we’re putting together a diversity dashboard that will track three big pieces of data. One, what is our hiring data ... by ethnicity and by gender. And we'll also cut that by level — everything from individual contributors all the way up to vice president and above. And then we'll cut it also by location or business unit.
So we’ve got a hiring metric we'll be tracking; we're [also] going to have a progression metric. So that same sort of cut will happen on progression … and then we're going to cut it by attrition — voluntary and involuntary. And then what we do is a continuum from what did we do a year before, and where are we now? The year before sets our anchor. This is where the metrics become really fun to track. Now you’re going to see: How many women are we bringing in as a director? How many did we promote to senior director? How many did we keep or lose? What it enables us to do from a metric standpoint is really zero in on what issue we need to solve and what dilemma we need to manage.
I want to take a step back and just talk about the role again as it fits within the tech industry. Protocol has done its own research looking at top tech companies and C-suite positions to see what the tenure looks like in different roles. DEI roles had the shortest tenure. Why do you think the turnover is a bit higher when it comes to chief diversity officers?
I'll do more of a speculation than anything else because I don't know the individual circumstances … I think the research would show if you go back and look half a decade to a decade ago and look at the declaration of goals by companies and then calculate what has been the actual improvement — and I have not done this math — but you’re [probably] going to see maybe a 1% to 2% improvement on [diversity] numbers. This is the reality I think of the craft of DE&I. It is your conviction and stamina that will really need to shine when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. If those aren’t aligned with the business, then you will see I think a sort of, “Oh, wait a minute, we need to change something,” and the chief diversity officers may be caught in the middle of that.
But the faster you set a belief that we're in this for the long haul, that we know that this is not going to be a one year and done or a two year and done, then the more you say this is just the way we show up. Inclusion and diversity and equity just needs to be the way we do business every day. It is not dissimilar to a core value.
What does it mean to be a work futurist? For Atlassian’s Dominic Price, it means a full-time job “optimizing teams internally,” as well as sharing that knowledge with customers. He’s not the only one. Companies like Twitter are also announcing new jobs for things like a “Future of Work Innovation” team. My colleague Lizzy Lawrence sat down with Price to discuss his tips for managing teams. Chief among them: Consider performing a “ritual reset,” where you take an hour and a half to run through all the meetings, 1:1s and town halls you have and then split them into three buckets: rituals to keep, rituals to improve and rituals to remove or reconsider.
Today’s job landscape is challenging for organizations looking to recruit and retain top tech talent. Recent labor trends, many of which are fueling The Great Resignation, have shown leaders across industries that their employees are searching for more.
The latest in pay, perks and benefits news in the workplace.
Watch out, Silicon Valley. Cities like Johnson City, Tennessee, and Greensburg, Indiana, are attempting to woo tech workers with marketing campaigns advertising innovative perks and, in some cases, straight up cash and tax incentives. Here are a few of the benefits being touted by these emerging tech centers, according to Crunchbase News:
War, cybersecurity threats, sexual harassment, public health crises, extreme weather: These are threats that companies are increasingly being forced to respond to and be prepared for. AlertMedia recently released a State of Employee Safety report that shed some light on how employees feel about workplace safety:
Carrot Fertility has promoted Leslie Neitzel to chief human resources officer. Previously she was a VP of People.
Yellow.ai has appointed Neeru Mehta as its first CHRO.
Technology organizations need to look internally to find the talent they seek by upskilling and reskilling their existing tech workforce. For this vision to become a reality, organizations must focus on being creators, rather than consumers, of talent.
China is forcing Alibaba and Tencent to cut over 50,000 jobs, the latest move in its regulatory crackdown on big tech.
Amazon Flex drivers want Amazon to help with spiking gas prices. They rallied in Los Angeles this week.
In other Amazon news, more Amazon union elections are coming up. The Amazon Labor Union will get two chances to become the first group of unionized Amazon workers.
Opinion: These are the secrets to keeping your engineers happy.
Braintrust: Here’s how you can ensure that employees stick aroundafter their reskilling programs finish.
A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.
Smart glasses, holograms and AI-equipped robots: Here’s how the Qualcomm CEO thinks the future of work will look like.
Everyone is Zillow-ing at work. Guilty as charged.
Here are the most popular citiesfor recent college grads.
Ghost colleagues of the remote workplace: Workers are feeling less connected to their co-workers now. Here’s how to fix that.
Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day, see you Tuesday.