Adobe’s Opportunity for All

Software giant Adobe aims to achieve “opportunity parity” for all employees to grow and advance. Can it work?

We all know that opportunity isn’t equally distributed. But what if it were? What would the workplace look like?

In a bid to find out, software giant Adobe is piloting a program aimed at achieving “opportunity parity,” which the company defines as ensuring employees are offered equal opportunities to grow and advance in the company regardless of their gender or ethnicity. The move ups the ante in terms of commitment to diversity and inclusion for both Adobe, which last year achieved gender pay parity for all employees, and tech firms, whose collective efforts lag behind other industries.

The concept has implications on all aspects of talent management, including recruiting, hiring, and workforce planning, says Jonathan Wildman, a senior client partner with Korn Ferry who works with Adobe. "The mission is to uncover where equal opportunity doesnt exist and counter it," he says.

With consumers, investors, and leaders themselves fed up with the slow pace of change, organizations are ramping up diversity and inclusion efforts in an attempt to force the issue. Last month, for instance, investment bank Goldman Sachs instituted a rule requiring managers to interview at least two diverse candidates for any open position, a measure that borrows from the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” which mandates one diverse candidate be considered for any coaching vacancy.

As Katie Juran, Adobe’s senior director of diversity and inclusion, told Forbes, “Every employee deserves the chance to feel respected, valued, and capable of achieving individual potential, and we believe the focus on opportunity parity will ensure that we are doing everything we can do to make that possible.”

Still, the move certainly creates challenges. Experts point out, for example, that while such steps are designed to source a broader talent pool of underrepresented groups, they can also undermine attempts at inclusion. Requiring an interview of minority candidates doesn’t necessarily mean that those people are considered serious candidates for the job.

Douglas Maxfield, a senior partner at Korn Ferry who works with tech companies on their diversity and inclusion efforts, says achieving real opportunity parity is less about ensuring equitable practices and more about proper training for managers and recruiters. “Managers have to be intentional about creating personal connections with talent and positioning everyone on the team for success equally,” he says. That includes everything from setting clear expectations to making key introductions and relationships for everyone, not just the top performers.

To truly create opportunity parity, organizations need to address potential unconscious bias, provide cultural support so they don’t lose diverse talent after getting them in the door, and examine other causes that can keep non-white men and women from advancing into leadership positions.

Or, as Maxfield says of Adobe, “How they go about implementing opportunity parity is really the crux of the matter.”