Corporate File

‘Managers’ jobs are going to be a lot more complex’

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on June 06, 2021

Beyond monitoring targets, managers have to be coaches and enablers, says Adobe’s Abdul Jaleel

Nearly every company is preoccupied with figuring out the future of work, given the seismic changes during the pandemic, and make investments accordingly. However, Abdul Jaleel, VP Employee Experience, Adobe India, says their focus is not limited to where work will be done and involves a more holistic view. Excerpts:

The consensus seems to be that we are headed towards a hybrid way of working. What is the thinking on the Future of Work at Adobe?

From day one, we have consciously kept it calibrated on how to preserve the culture, because we are a boutique company. We do not have hundreds of thousands of employees, but 23,000 people globally who are very focused on the kind of work we do. How do we make sure we continue to stay genuine, exceptional, involved and innovative? Fifteen months into this pandemic, our future of work thinking continues to be holistic and integrative. Rather than remote first, we are talking about flexible and digital first. Remote work isn’t really a big focus of attention for us because we have always had those options. Our future of work thought is also about leadership effectiveness. It’s about making sure that we have all the ingredients in creating a manager equipped to handle an agenda of inclusion in a new way of work. India was the first phase of the rollout of what we call our future of work policy in practice, followed by every other region.

Can you expand on digital first and managerial effectiveness?

By digital first we mean every experience point. Maybe this pandemic will go away in another 24 months. But we are not sure if everyone is going to be sitting in the same room together. So what we’re saying is, all your touch points will be digital but heavily personalised. In a hybrid work environment, there could be challenges of some people feeling excluded. The mission is how not to discriminate between the one who is physically available and the one who is equally hardworking but working from home. One thing we realised is the concept of managerial effectiveness in a hybrid environment is going to be different. How do you lead teams when the teams are not visible?

I expect that a manager’s performance conversations are going to become more and more coaching conversation. It’s not going to be about just providing feedback and monitoring goals and so on. It is going to be about how do I coach you, help you with the resources, continue to enable your success, but, at the same time, hold you accountable for generating high performance. That’s a hard one, right? In the future of work, we feel there will be multifold increase in our managers’ job descriptions. Their jobs will get a lot more complex.

Does innovation suffer in remote work?

With regard to generation of IP, filing of patents etc, which we are closely tracking, and because we believe that’s also a product of working together, we haven’t really seen any difference.

However, we are beginning to realise that when you are starting off something new — a new project, or a new body of work — creating that initial momentum is becoming slightly harder.

Companies are rethinking their physical workspaces too. Are you doing that as well?

Yes, we’re thinking about it. Should there be more open spaces? And how are we going to best leverage the physical infrastructure for a hybrid and a flexible work design as we go forward. We are also looking at different personas among our employees as well. Is your persona hard coded to be in office. Is your persona able to balance both home and work?

Has the requirement of skill sets in the people you hire changed post pandemic?

We’re looking at Adobe capabilities a lot more. The three core capabilities are about being creative, being focused and being a leader. How are you creative when you are virtual or hybrid? How do you collaborate?

We have common operating behaviour standards at Adobe. How do you ensure you have the consistent language that is the hallmark of our culture, what we call the shared mindset.

What are the big changes you introduced during the pandemic?

At first the focus was on what does it take for employees to work from home. And we put together a fairly aggressive plan to help employees set up their home offices, right from hardware, software, networking. After a few months of WFH, employee well-being became our number one focus and we completely revamped our approach. The focus was on being effective versus efficient. So we had leadership checking in, giving time off on Friday mornings, etc.

Also, we decided to provide time off on the same day globally for employees across regions. For example, we declared time off for Martin Luther King Day, for Chinese New Year, etc. We are basically creating this global community, as the hardships are the same everywhere.

Published on June 06, 2021

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