WIM Special: Adobe’s Donna Morris On Achieving Pay Parity

WIM Special: Adobe’s Donna Morris On Achieving Pay Parity

Donna Morris, Adobe’s EVP of customer and employee experience, is not afraid to make bold statements. And what’s more, once she’s made them, she’s made a habit of evolving the statement of intent to reality.

In 2012, after a particularly gruelling flight to India, Morris was feeling frustrated with annual performance reviews. The process was so complex, bureaucratic, and paperwork-heavy that it ate up thousands of hours of managers’ time. It also created barriers to teamwork and innovation, since the experience of being rated and stack-ranked for compensation left many employees feeling undervalued and uninspired.

Even though she hadn’t yet discussed the idea with Adobe’s CEO, her peers on the leadership team, or her own team, she announced, “We plan to abolish the performance review format.” Her revelation made the front page of the Economic Times of India, and a major disruption was underway. She headed back to the US determined to catalyse change and help create something better for Adobe employees and the company as a whole.

Morris and her team solicited feedback from all across the company, and after months of work and many iterations, Adobe introduced Check-in, an informal, ongoing dialogue between managers and their direct reports that has employees feeling more engaged and empowered.

So when she says that by the end of 2018, Adobe will have pay parity in every country it operates in you tend to believe her.

In this instance, pay parity isn’t to be confused with closing the gender pay gap, that’s a far more complex and involved process. However pay parity, is an absolutely commendable and necessary step on the way to achieving that goal.

Morris is lucky in that she’s already achieved an enormous portion of the goal of pay parity: 80% of Adobe’s workforce can tick the parity box. That’s because its two biggest countries of operation, the US and India, have both achieved parity.

“I just don’t know how you drive innovation if you don’t have a diverse and inclusive workforce. That’s one. Second, if you look at your customers, your customers are just as likely to be male as they are female. Third, how can people think it’s fair to pay people differently based on a characteristic,” Morris asks.

“In the US, we’ve also declared that people of colour, and from non-white backgrounds, there’s no pay differential,” she adds, acknowledging diversity and inclusion goes well beyond gender.

The trick, says Morris, is to pick your battles. There are so many factors that go into the pay gap problem – from career paths to hiring practices to career opportunity – that it can seem a bit overwhelming to solve. However pay parity was far more achievable, but not something you could do as quickly as Morris could say it.

Now, on the cusp of realising her new goal, Morris has laid bear her strategy and tactics so others can follow suit.

Many of Adobe’s customers and partners, working on their own pay parity initiatives, have asked Adobe how it does it. So, in the spirit of making progress, Adobe has made public the three steps its implemented to reach pay parity.

Define jobs

Before a company can compare individuals’ pay, it needs to be sure that the comparisons being made are appropriate. For Adobe, that means ensuring employees are matched to the appropriate job families and levels that best reflect the work they actually do. For some companies, this rigour might already be in place; but Adobe had historically taken a very broad approach to its job structure.

As a result, it was difficult to compare pay when individuals performing different jobs and requiring different skills and capabilities were grouped in the same job family. For example, it had no job distinction across marketing managers, regardless of whether they focused on brand marketing, search engine optimisation or event management.

Recognising this was a barrier to performing an accurate review of its employees’ pay, Adobe embarked on an exercise called “job architecture.” This project entailed a review of the job families Adobe was currently using to determine whether they accurately reflected the roles and responsibilities employees were performing.

As a result of this project, it introduced many new job families and employees were classified into jobs families and levels that better represented their actual work and scope.

It was a long and painstaking process, but this foundation was essential to making appropriate comparisons, both internally and with external market data.

Review and adjust

Once Adobe had the appropriate job families in place, and employees were aligned to the job families and levels that best represented their scope and responsibilities, it reviewed pay across its job structure in the US and India.

Adobe made individual pay adjustments as needed, and fortunately, there weren’t that many. As you can expect, these pay adjustments were greeted as a pleasant surprise.

While it has now addressed 80% of our employee population, the remaining 20% is spread across more than 30 countries.

That presents different challenges relative to its review, which Adobe is working through now.

Maintain over time

Achieving pay parity at a point in time is important, but you also need processes to maintain it, especially as you continue to grow and hire.

The most dramatic change Adobe has made to ensure ongoing parity is eliminating the practice of asking candidates for their salary histories.

This adds some extra complexity in its recruiting process, but it is the only reliable way of ensuring that it doesn’t carry over inequities that may have existed in prior companies.

In addition, Adobe is exploring tools that the recruiting teams can leverage to help assist with offers being made and provide indicators if the offer will create a pay parity issue. It regularly monitors to ensure that pay stays equitable through annual salary increases and other shifts in the business.

Pay parity is never truly done – it’s an ongoing state of balance. It is continuing to learn, especially as we embark on the global stage of our journey.  In the spirit of Equal Pay Day, we hope that sharing our approach might help others who are also tackling this important challenge.

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Adobe Donna Morris Pay Parity

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