What Really Makes a Great Place to Work

Photo credit: Adam Freidin

Today, we’re thrilled to share that Adobe was named to Fortune’s second annual Best Workplaces in Technology list, ranking no. 9 on a list of the top large companies with over 1,000 employees. 

The Best Workplaces in Technology is based on anonymous feedback from more than 42,000 employees in the tech industry who answered questions about transparency of communication, degree of collaboration, quality of benefits programs, opportunity for professional development and support for work-life balance. 

Tech companies are known for unique perks and benefits, so the competition for recognition and to attract the right people is fierce. We sat down with Jeff Vijungco, vice president of Global Talent, to get his take on what he thinks it takes to be a great place to work today.

Adobe has some tough competition for talent. What do you think makes it competitive?

Jeff: I wear my Adobe badge with pride but to be fair, I have to start by acknowledging that Silicon Valley is home to companies with amazing leadership. Within a five-mile radius of Adobe’s headquarters are the offices of some of the most iconic brands in the world. There’s a lot to offer out there, so it makes sense to ask why Adobe is recognized as a great place to work. 

People don’t only join companies – they join communities.  A sense of community can truly engage the employee base. So, my answer is culture – it’s our key differentiator. It’s the way we work together and get things done, and it’s a richness of culture that stands the test of time. I like to say we have a talent trifecta of heads, hands and heart; where the head is the intellect, the hands are the work ethic, and the heart is our value system. We hire, develop, and embrace talent with a head, hands, and heart orientation. It distinguishes us in a land where tech companies are all leaders in their own right.

A tip for all when job searching: Do a “lobby test.” Sit in the lobby of any company in the morning or during lunch and just observe the culture in action. Are they engaging with one another? Is there energy? It should be palpable (good or bad).

Why is this type of recognition important?

Jeff: What’s important is that employees are voting in support of the company as opposed to Adobe self-promoting itself. Employees are voting for us because Adobe is a company where they believe they can thrive and build a career – a place where they can make a meaningful contribution, be recognized for it and even enjoy themselves in the process.

Adobe’s been around for more than thirty years and we’re always thinking about the next generation. There’s been a running debate centered on what’s more important to a company – the people or the ideas? Without discounting the importance of ideas, we believe it’s people. Ideas can morph and change, as do business models, but if you get the right people, the right ideas will follow.  

For global companies, it’s tough to keep a consistent culture and environment across offices. What do you think is the common denominator that allows companies to be a great place to work no matter the location?

Jeff: The common denominator is global EQ, which includes both self-awareness and audience awareness. In this case, it’s more about audience awareness which is important because cultures can be vastly different. For context, we operate in over 50+ countries across 15+ time zones. In some countries, hierarchy matters more while in others it doesn’t matter at all and relationships are the most central.  There are countries where being on time to a meeting means being a few minutes early while in others, it’s expected to be running a little late. And, when folks in field offices travel to our San Jose headquarters, there’s a whole cadre of idiosyncrasies they have to think about. The point is that strong EQ creates more common denominators than differences.

What really makes a company a “great place to work?”

Jeff: I don’t think it’s cookie carts rolling through offices, or bean bag chairs, or free lunches, or any of a growing list of perks. While benefits are great, a company that recognizes the fact that people have different needs and supports them to the fullest extent possible is what really makes a great place to work.

My wife had a cold last week and she asked if I could take our children to school, something she routinely does. It meant I was running about 30 minutes later than normal but I didn’t stress over it. I knew it was okay because our corporate culture allows for flexibility. That flexibility also impacts a teammate I work with whose daughter is a superstar tennis player. She starts her workday at 6 a.m. so she can support her daughter in the afternoon.

I believe a company that drives employee engagement and has a sense of community; is flexible without sacrificing results; and means it when they say they want to create an environment where everyone thrives professionally and personally is truly a great place to work. 

Read more from Jeff Vijungco:

Jeff Vijungco

Identifying and developing exceptional talent is what fuels Jeff Vijungco, vice president of Global Talent at Adobe. With more than 20 years of experience in HR and hiring across continents, Jeff was instrumental in driving a holistic approach towards Talent Attraction, Talent Selection and Talent Development at Adobe by bringing these functions together. Jeff firmly believes that intellectual curiosity and keen self awareness are characteristics that differentiate good talent from exceptional talent. Today, he leads a team that hires about 1,000 new employees per quarter and a team that develops more than 15,000 employees daily at all levels from summer interns to senior leaders. Jeff speaks regularly at universities in Silicon Valley and consults Fortune 1,000 customers on Talent Management. He is a graduate of the University of San Diego.

Jeff Vijungco