Adobe's Brian Miller Talks Diversity, Leadership – And The Importance Of Talent Development
Before the end of the year, I sat down with Adobe's new Chief Talent, Diversity and Inclusion Office Brian Miller, who is putting the Adobe For All vision into full effect.
“Adobe is a place where good ideas can come from anywhere,” Miller said. “This idea of democratizing ideas really tugged at me,” he added, of his appointment to Adobe’s Chief Talent, Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
Before joining the Adobe family, Miller served as the Chief People Officer of Impossible Foods, where he spearheaded the “thriving wage” initiative for all employees. Prior to Impossible Foods, he devoted a decade of his career to Gilead Sciences as Vice President of Talent, Development, and Inclusion. After a lunch with Adobe’s Chief People Officer and Executive Vice President, Employee Experience Gloria Chen, it became clear to Miller what his next role would be.
"I think we really started to see that together we could do something special, something great," Miller explained. It was this realization over lunch that came to inspire Miller's strategic goal: make Adobe be the best place to work, learn and grow.
To do this while closing the diversity gap starts with the basics: optimize hiring practices to recruit diverse talent. But it can't stop there. "It's the idea of taking talent acquisition and coupling it with talent development. Talent acquisition and talent management, diversity and inclusion, have to work together," Miller said enthusiastically.
All too often, organizations stretch their DE&I commitment too thin, hoping it will be seamlessly woven into everything they do without a practical application strategy. But for Adobe, Miller said, "Let's make sure DE&I is not only a call to action but is the way we show up every day. It has its own pillar but has the opportunity also to impact multiple pillars across the business."
Among the outcries for corporate solidarity during the anti-racism movement in the summer of 2020 came sharp criticism from the public toward companies who engaged in performative activism but ultimately proved that their devotion was to the bottom line and the appeasement of stakeholders. As the cries quieted down, their efforts did too. But that has not been the case for Adobe, and Miller is determined to keep up the momentum even when there isn't a headline to address.
"If you look back ten years ago, the DE&I conversation was a very intellectual one," said Miller. "We were talking about unconscious bias. We were talking about code-switching. We were talking about microaggressions. We were talking about intersectionality. As soon as the pandemic hit, as soon as George Floyd was killed, as soon as the Capitol Insurrection took place, everything became much more of a heartfelt embodiment. I think people got up and said, 'You know what, I need to do something about it.'"
It's the uptick in energy that got Miller thinking about who he envisions Adobe becoming in "3 A's": Activism to Advocacy to Agency. "It will be the company where they say we can go from activism to advocacy, and we're going to give you the agency underneath that."
In holding themselves accountable to these goals, Miller is implementing focus points that will achieve measurable outcomes. One piece of Miller's strategy is what he called manager excellence. "Every employee deserves a great manager," he said. After all, in the age of the Great Resignation, we must remember that most of the time, people leave managers, not companies. Achieving manager excellence to Miller means that the company must "double down on the coaching, double down on accountability, double down on delegation."
He explained further, "These are all things we know if not done correctly. They have a disproportionate effect on underrepresented minorities and women. Every data point will tell you that. If we don't get it right, that's the first group to feel it, and usually the first group to leave."
Achieving manager excellence also means diversifying leadership and not just diversity for diversity's sake but for the multiplier effect. Diversifying leadership means that more junior employees can look up and see themselves, to see that they have a path ahead of them.
"How do we get more transparent about opportunities?" Miller asked in response to his first strategic pillar. "We have a great approach called Check-in, a system in which we enable all employees to get feedback and set up a personal profile that automatically generates other job opportunities in the company. Say, you are a senior manager in HR, the system will show you, other people, who have been in this role and what other roles they also had in the company."
It's this technology-based transparency that Adobe will employ to illuminate growth opportunities. Using compiled data, they will be able to see exactly what they look like as a company globally and across all functions.
Another critical focus point will be continuing to scale the operational success of their talent acquisition strategy. "It's an amazing team," Miller shared proudly, including that they had already filled 6,000 positions that year by his 90-day mark on the job. These talent acquisition efforts all made, of course, with an energetic commitment to building diversity and promoting inclusion in their ranks.
For Miller, the ultimate goal is very clear: "We should be the destination for underrepresented minorities…We should be the first breath of choice for Black and African Americans, the first breath choice for Hispanic and LatinX communities, for the LGBTQIA. To say, 'Hey, Adobe? That's where I want to be.'"
With firm conviction and commitment to accountability, Miller has set off on a journey to build upon the existing excellence that he sees within Adobe. This kind of nuance and unwavering dedication can make a difference in the quest towards a more diverse and inclusive work culture, especially within the world of tech.