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18 min watch with captions and full transcript

Eric Kline, Director of Global Workplace Experience, shares how they use workspace at Adobe to drive attraction, engagement and retention, and how their mantra of “Adobe cares” is woven into each and every Adobe office around the world.

In this interview, Eric shares his tips for:

  • Creating different spaces for different personas
  • Building diversity and inclusion into workspace design
  • Creating spaces that allow communities to come together
  • Reducing ‘cognitive load’ by taking away things to better support employee’s work-life integration


Learn from Eric’s rebel insights, like:
  • You need to bring your employees together through casual collisions to create deeper social connections that help drive innovation, retention and employee engagement.
  • It’s important to understand local cultural and design needs to deliver more of the “right things” so you don’t lose the magic of the culture.
Our favourite quotes:

You don’t make the world a better place by giving people things, you make the world a better place by investing in people.

If you want to develop a great program for your employees you need to know your employees.

If you aren’t failing often you aren’t trying hard enough.

Eric's interview:

DEBRA COREY: Hi there, I am here with Eric Kline from Adobe. Thank you so much for welcoming us into your workspace, which you can see behind us and all around us. It's absolutely fantastic.

ERIC KLINE: Thank you. It's my pleasure.

DEBRA COREY: And it's part of your job, yes? Is that right?

ERIC KLINE: That is correct.

DEBRA COREY: So what is your job?

ERIC KLINE: So, my job is director of global workspace experience, and that encapsulates design, food, well being, and events globally. So, that's about 70 sites in 40 countries for 17,000 employees. And we are growing like crazy.

DEBRA COREY: It's a really interesting combination of areas, isn't it? Food, events, workspace ... a little bit of everything.

ERIC KLINE: It is. And I think that's intentional. We see a triangulation around those different things and what it means for workspace experience, or employee experience, so, everything that impacts attraction and retention in a typical real estate type function. How can we take some of those higher touch elements, and really drive them towards getting the right people in the door, and helping them be happy and productive?

DEBRA COREY: And I love that you use experience in your job title because at the end of the day ... you know, I talk about employee experience, employee engagement. And that is your role, which you would not traditionally think of as a workspace person.

ERIC KLINE: No, and I think it's a trend in the right area for really the industry in general is ... we're all talking about experience. I think we need to be a little bit more in the forefront about the fact that that is what we're trying to drive. It's not just kind of what it's been in the past. It's become infinitely more complicated. And I think a lot of that has to do with how people are using workspace both for how they work, kind of how much work life integration has integrated into their life, and also a lot of them for play. So, there's so many different generations, and so many different ways that people want to be able to use our space to be able to make their jobs better, and to be able to create different connections. And I think you need all those things to be able to do it.

DEBRA COREY: Definitely. And speaking of connections, the party is starting behind us.

ERIC KLINE: It is indeed.

DEBRA COREY: Definitely. So this is the real life going on at Adobe, right?


DEBRA COREY: Definitely.

ERIC KLINE: It is. And this is pretty normal and I think the intention of what we try and do with space, especially amenities space, is ... How can we keep bringing people together? Right? You know, these spaces are so important for casual collisions. And they're so important for creating deeper social connections. And all those things that help drive innovation and also retention. Right? And engagement, it's more than your job. Right? Your job has become a lot more than just a job.

DEBRA COREY: And the words casual collision I think is such a great way of explaining it because people did not used to design that into the workspace. And now people like you are intentionally thinking of it, aren't you?

ERIC KLINE: As much as humanly possible, that's what we're really trying to drive. So, that's where looking at spaces and designing them ... it's not just driving them to spaces where they can be together, it's about even that journey to get to there, and how they're colliding with ... if it's different people from different teams, so that they can be thinking differently. Or if it's even colliding them with different types of amenities or services so that they can be thinking about how things might be different for them. So, we even work with employee experience, which is kind of our HR function on thinking about how we can message different things in space to trigger different parts of their brain.

So if, from a design perspective, we're thinking about color or texture, they're also thinking about ... How can we break bias in this space? How can we think differently about diversity? What are those different things that we can do?

DEBRA COREY: And I find that interesting because, when we were talking earlier, you did talk about diversity and how you build diversity into the workspace, which as an HR person, I look at diversity. But again, I never really thought of it from a workspace design perspective.

ERIC KLINE: Yeah. So, this is really interesting. The leader of our organization is really close friends with a lot of people in Stanford. And we've been working with them on the concept of how can we really think differently about approachability and how you come into space and you feel like there's a place for you. So, in some ways maybe, while it's driving diversity, I think inclusion is really the key word there. When you walk in, you feel like this could be a space where you can belong. So, everything from color to texture to the environmental graphics and the different faces that you see ... you know, in those different environmental graphics, do I see myself? Right? Is it all the same person? And these are all things that have existed forever and I call it my philosophy of the death of the black leather chair. Right? So, walking into a lobby and seeing cold marble and a black leather chair ...

DEBRA COREY: Not very inviting.

ERIC KLINE: No. And you really think about the workforce has changed and should continue to change, and there's so many amazing things that come out of diversity of thought, you know, all manners of diversity. How do you make them feel special and included? And I think that's one thing that we like to think of Adobe as being a little unique about is how thoughtful we try and be about that. And it's definitely a huge part of how we design everything.

DEBRA COREY: Well, even if I think about diversity, and even just working styles, personalities ... in the old days, we had lots of walls, and then we went completely open space. And if you think about some people don't like to be in an open space. So, how do you build even those types of things into your workspace?

ERIC KLINE: For sure. So, we continually look at our guardrails. And we don't call them standards or guidelines 'cause we don't want them to be too instructive. We want them to always be open. But when we look at our guardrails, we really think about ... What kind of different spaces can we create for different personas? Right? So, to your point, if it's focus work that they need to do, we look at different ratios of space. So, if it's additional booths, or if it's a library, or if there are places where it feels like a refuge ... those are things that we're trying to do for those people that we have. And we have so much turn in our company in respect to we like to move people around, and have people change teams and be constantly learning.

So, it's about being able to create space that we can scale and do that so that we always try and create space that has something for everyone. So, there's that specialness, but there's still enough global program there to really make everyone successful as they come in.

So, there are people that like to be more focus oriented. There's more people that like to be collaborative. I think I have a large section of our employees that would prefer to spend their time working out of cafes. They love to just sit, and play, and be on wifi, and run into their friends and they can be completely productive. And in some ways, probably, even more productive than someone hiding in a space where they feel very comfortable but the reality is an introvert and an extrovert aren't going to be as successful in the same space.

DEBRA COREY: Yes. That makes sense. You had mentioned global, and you're in ... you've got 70 offices in how many countries?


DEBRA COREY: 40. So, how do you manage global workspace? What's your trick for that?

ERIC KLINE: Globally consistent, locally relevant.

DEBRA COREY: Okay. That makes sense. We do that in the HR world with benefits and things. How does that translate into workspace?

ERIC KLINE: So, what I would say is we come in with our idea of heres a general consensus of what we think is important from a programmatic side. Everything from heres the right ratios of individual space, collaborative space, and really, really great open space. And we come in with ranges. And we come and we talk to the employees. We talk to leadership at the site, and we really try to understand what their needs are culturally. We do the same thing for colors. My example always is that in San Jose, there's maybe eight colors that predominately play through the campus. In India, there's 21. And I think that those things are so interesting and those are the things that I'm really proud of.

I would also say as we scale the other tool that we use ... it's something called site counsels, where basically we set up leadership at each site. And we use that leadership as a conduit point for feedback and also to be able to deliver programs.

DEBRA COREY: It's that ownership also too, isn't it?

ERIC KLINE: It is. It's huge. And it really helps make things ... not that we're delivering things more successfully, it's that we're delivering more of the right things. So, you don't want to have a corporate bend. I think that's where you start to lose the magic of the culture. So, another little phrase that we use is we don't copy paste. But we do think that scaling is important. So, how do we create that right framework to support it? Right? And that's ... the site counsels have been very successful in doing that.

DEBRA COREY: And that's one aspect of a community. Another area that you do a lot of within your workspace domain is creating communities. Tell us a little bit about that. What do you do with that?

ERIC KLINE: For sure. I think that's been a big focus for Adobe overall. And I would say our main platforms for doing that are trying to create these spaces that really allow communities to come together as a starting point, being able to have the site counsel really understand what the communities are at a site, and then really developing these different sub networks that can help drive things that we know are really important and culturally relevant. So, if that's ... we have a women at Adobe network, if it's our black employee network, you know, we have a lot ... our asian employee network, we have all kinds of different networks that are great. But we also have employee led and organically grown clubs and communities.

And I think what that really helps us do is have everyone feel like they have a place to be more and more themselves, as you see that work life integration go to the next level. And what I do in my team, and why I think the workplace experience title is kind of important is, when we do some of those events, we're working with those networks. We're showcasing things that help educate people who aren't in those networks, that can include people from everywhere. 'Cause the last thing you wanna do is create this culture of exclusion when you're trying to include. And I think that what we do is we really empower those teams to be able to create these events where everyone can come and learn.

So, if that's bringing in ... we had an amazing astronaut come in for the black employee network, and we were able to video and broadcast that out to all sites, so that everyone could see kind of what that was like and also be able to showcase a menu that talked to the history and kind of the foundation of some of where they were coming from. It's just one of those things where I think it adds a richness and a depth. And I think people feel it.

DEBRA COREY: It creates a different experience. As you said before, this whole integration of work life. A lot of what happens outside of the office is being brought into the office to make a richer experience for them. We were talking earlier about how some companies when they view ... companies bringing in dry cleaning, and massages, and things like that. They think it's a way to just chain people to the desks, which is not, at least here, that's not what it's all about is it?

ERIC KLINE: No it's not. So, there's another ... You go back to casual collisions, my other favorite one to use that's a driver is reducing cognitive load. So, what I mean by reducing cognitive load is how do I take away you spending time on things that really aren't adding value? Right? So, how can I make it easier for you to take home dinner to your family? How can I make it easier for you to learn how to make specific dishes? How can I make it easier for you to get your car detailed or serviced or things like that? These are all different conveniences. Same thing with commuting, we also have a wearable program for fitness, so that you can also continue to work on that.

How can I better support more of your work life integration in a way where you feel the care? Because, our well being mantra is Adobe cares. It's not anymore complicated than that. And I think that's ... so people feel that through a learning kitchen, or through whatever kind of convenience programs we've put together. What little things are we doing to help their lives be enriched? Not just simplified, but also enriched.

DEBRA COREY: But, it's interesting that you brought it back to Adobe cares because, at the end of the day, it's all about your values and beliefs, and bringing that into the workspace. And you can see it as you walk around this building, definitely.

ERIC KLINE: That's a great compliment. And honestly, when I hire anyone to my team, whenever I talk about Adobe ... the things that we use whenever we partner with anyone, and we're designing, the very first thing we talk about are our values. And those are ... so, those are from the very beginning, and they're genuine, exceptional, innovative, and involved. And those have been the same through the years. And our founders are still, in some ways, connected with our company at a really high level. And when you talk about what's important to you and what drives these decisions ... I love their quote which is basically, "Our best asset at Adobe goes home every night."

DEBRA COREY: That's a lovely way of putting it.

ERIC KLINE: And it's where our investment goes, and it's where you see our focus. And I think it's just a great place to work.

DEBRA COREY: And the values really resonate when we were just sitting outside, and something simple like you have a place where employees can grow their own tomatoes, which on its own is innovative. But then, you said you bring in gardeners to help you learn.


DEBRA COREY: So, it's sort of taking that extra step in that creative aspect of it.

ERIC KLINE: I think that's so important. Teaching people how to fish, you don't make the world a better place by giving people things. Right? I think you make the world a better place by investing in people. And I think at ... especially investing in them where they want to be invested in. And so, things like that program are things that we're incredibly proud of 'cause it's been around for five years now. And, you know, there's a waiting list to get in that bed.

DEBRA COREY: I can understand why.

ERIC KLINE: And it's amazing because it's not even just the master gardeners. Sometimes they'll come in and they'll talk to the chef about ... When's the right time for me to pull this? When is it at its most ripe? You know, what should I do with this if it's at this stage of ripeness? And having that culture of people feeling like they have people they can go to for questions that they might be embarrassed to ask other people. Right? And they've already developed a relationship with other people on site, so that they feel more comfortable. If it's the group that they're learning how to garden with, or the people that they're eating with, that's great.

DEBRA COREY: Right. So, I've got one more question because I think we've got a party to go to. If I just ... there's more and more people I can hear behind us. If people are new to the whole workspace area, and they're not sure where to begin, or what to do, do you have any words of wisdom of a couple things they could do?


DEBRA COREY: And it's hard to sum up your job in two simple ways.

ERIC KLINE: I guess there's probably two things that I would say. The first is listen more than you talk. I think that if you wanna know how to develop a great program for your employees, you have to know your employees. And then, I would say the second is really about innovation. And what I tell my team is if you aren't failing often, you aren't trying hard enough. So, and I really mean it. And I typically actually recognize my employees for failing more than I do for succeeding 'cause I think it's so important to create that bleeding edge innovation. It shouldn't be cutting edge, it should be bleed ... like, you should be that far. So that, were getting out there. And when we're doing that, we're talking to employees about what they think about these pilots.

And don't be afraid to go out there and try new things. You know, I think sometimes these things are really tough to scale, and they seem overwhelming when you start. But the reality of it is you could start with a room. You know, you could start with a piece of furniture.

DEBRA COREY: You don't have to do the whole office.

ERIC KLINE: All it takes is passion, and a little bit of opportunity, and some courage. And I think you can start to make things happen.

DEBRA COREY: Right. Well, I know you've inspired me and hopefully you've inspired everyone else. So go out there and do your first room if you haven't. Or fix up another room. I'm gonna go home and do it in my house too.


DEBRA COREY: Thank you very much.

ERIC KLINE: Thank you.