First Impressions Matter

(This article first appeared in the July 2017 issue of STRIVE.)

Onboarding: Adobe Life Orientation

First Impressions Matter

By Justin Mass

First impressions matter. But what follows a first impression, the repeating pattern that emerges, is where expectations are formed. Individuals, teams or organizations will, through their behaviors and actions, have an opportunity to show what they are made of, what they are committed to, or what they are capable of. First impressions, therefore, are either validated or disproved by what follows them.One can assume an individual who has just accepted employment with an organization has formed a positive first impression of that organization. The company is then challenged with validating and sustaining that first impression. At Adobe, we know that the orientation experience can help define our standard of excellence and, ultimately, demonstrate how much we value the employee experience. As such, we sought to design an innovative and exceptional orientation experience – we call it Adobe Life Orientation.


Adobe succeeds only if our workforce is intelligent, creative, digitally savvy and engaged. Naturally, we commit to hiring people with these talents, competencies and characteristics. These individuals have an appetite for rich experiences and often want to be engaged in ways that evoke their senses and emotions. Joining a global organization such as Adobe, they want to feel connected to other employees across the globe. They also want to engage with their senior leaders to further validate that they’ve made the best career decision by joining us.

We believe it is important that new employee experiences are consistent across our global footprint to ensure a shared understanding of our core values, processes and guidelines. We want employees to assimilate the company’s core values into their day-to-day work life, vocabulary, and interactions in a way that is meaningful to them within the context of their local office.

Adobe Life Orientation, our signature new employee experience, was created to combine the expectations of our new employees with the company’s desire to deliver a consistent message and engage efficiently and effectively.

Adobe Life OrientationDigital solution for a digital enterprise

When thinking through the design constraints of an immersive, digital orientation experience, one of the most fundamental pieces was determining the right platform. We wanted a platform that could accommodate a multichannel approach to learning, interactivity and engagement, while also bridging personal connections all in a digital environment that reflected the innovative edge of the Adobe company and brand.

It was natural to leverage our own technology as a platform for Adobe Life Orientation. The decision to use Adobe Connect, our web conferencing, digital/virtual classroom, and collaboration platform, tells a powerful story. It provides firsthand experience for new employees on how we work together virtually across offices and time zones. It also is the same platform all employees use every day as they engage with their peers, partners, and customers, both internally and externally.

A digital-first design

For most of our new employees, their first impression and introduction to Adobe was through solutions they’ve used in the past. For example, collaborating on a PDF using Acrobat or developing rich digital media using Creative Cloud. In taking a digital approach to orient new employees to the company, we are introducing, or reintroducing, our new employees to the breadth of our solutions, brand, and global reach.

Orientation is delivered every week in North America and is designed to be timely and relevant. Reusing the digital environment each week gives our program scale and enables us to deliver a highly-repeatable, consistent experience. We also make updates to Adobe Life Orientation, evolving the content and experience over time. There is only ever one version of the program because we’re designing and delivering learning in the cloud via Adobe Connect.

We chose a two-host model for facilitating each two-hour session; this keeps the energy high and broadens the style of delivery. In addition, the duration provides new hires with multiple opportunities to engage with hosts. The conversations and multiple perspectives between our hosts and new hires bring this virtual experience to life.

We also embraced the modern consumer influence of social media in our design. We wanted Adobe Life Orientation to feel familiar, to be “easy to do,” and to embrace the familiar digital elements we encounter every day in social channels like Facebook. Ultimately, our program brings all these elements into the experience in a powerful, integrated way.

Building memorable experiences at scale

Adobe Life OrientationEach week, the Adobe Life Orientation hosts move through a sequenced presentation, complete with preloaded digital media including streaming videos to keep the experience engaging. This reusability translates into scale. The virtual classroom offers an ideal format to present core materials, such as an introduction to the company’s “check-in” performance framework, Adobe core values, and introductions to important processes and systems.

Reusing the same digital environment each week also means we can upload new or refreshed media quickly and easily, helping us ensure the orientation experience remains fresh over time.

Using an intuitive digital platform for Adobe Life Orientation also gives Adobe leaders an opportunity to prerecord videos to welcome and connect with new employees in a direct, meaningful way. This affords great reach vertically and horizontally throughout the company to further enrich the new employee experience with leadership perspectives that reinforce our culture and values.

The design of Adobe Life Orientation digital environment is anchored to a multi-layout framework with a balance of dynamic pods; each layout serves as a “chapter” in the digital experience. On every layout, we have pods such as the host web-cam, a discussion pod for open questions, content sharing, attendance, and an “insights” pod, which is a unique space for new employees to synthesize and share their learning in real time throughout the experience.

Far from traditional

By adopting a flexible digital platform, Adobe Life Orientation takes advantage of every opportunity for interactivity, including dynamic word clouds, screen sharing, videos, discussion pods, and polls with real time results. This “elasticity” of the digital platform helps add visual appeal and keeps new employees engaged. It also enables hosts to improvise throughout sessions, tailoring the experience to the unique conversations that emerge each week.

We also can extend the design through application programming interfaces, which provides flexibility to develop new, innovative engagement tools and activities. For example, we developed a word cloud “app” for Adobe Connect that lets us ask new hires, “What word comes to mind when you think of Adobe?” As they respond, repeated words grow within the word cloud in different sizes based on total number of shared responses. Colorful trends emerge, which results in a powerful visual memento for new employees.

Another feature that was developed is an anonymous chat app, where new employees can provide feedback to presenters or participate in discussions without attribution. We believe this creates a safer environment for asking and responding to challenging or provocative questions.

With offices worldwide, our new employees require flexibility to work collaboratively from any location and on any device. It’s important that we scaffold this flexibility with a platform that works on their preferred device without sacrificing the quality of the new employee experience. The Adobe Connect mobile app enables us to engage any employee with the same rich experience in a consistent, scalable way without compromise.

New employees respond

Adobe Life OrientationAnother advantage of leveraging Adobe Connect as the digital platform to support Adobe Life Orientation is the resulting data, analytics and insights. We track engagement and measure employee sentiment both during the experience itself and with a follow-up survey to check in with new employees after they’ve settled in.

Throughout the experience, we see nearly all new hires actively participate by taking polls, responding to questions via the various chat pods, or engaging with the hosts or other new hires directly. When compared with even smaller face-to-face classroom sessions, participation in our digital experience is considerably higher through the multichannel options for communication and engagement.

And it’s not just a spike in the quantity of interactions we observe, but also quality. According to 2017 Adobe Life Orientation surveys:

  • 96% connected with the company’s core values of being genuine, exceptional, innovative, and involved.
  • 87% had a better understanding of the overall company strategy
  • 83% cited the virtual onboarding experience as highly engaging
  • 83% understood how our check-in performance framework will enable their success

Additionally, we’re getting resoundingly positive qualitative feedback from new employees. Their perspective and insights validates our direction as we reimagine learning and talent development in richer, more immersive digital experiences.

Adopting a digital model for delivering Adobe Life Orientation has provided significant breakthroughs in creating meaningful, personal, development experiences for employees in a way that’s uniquely Adobe. From their earliest days, we can validate first impressions and generate a level of excitement about Adobe and the tools we use every day, giving our new employees greater confidence to pursue collaborative, global success. Moreover, we’re not just telling new employees what makes Adobe special, we are allowing them to experience it firsthand, having them co-author the employee experience itself.


Justin Mass
Justin is the head of digital learning at Adobe. His team is responsible for delivering a diverse and scalable ecosystem of digital learning experiences for Adobe employees worldwide including on-demand learning content, virtual classroom experiences and learning management platform technologies.

Justin Mass
Director, Digital Learning & Innovation

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The STRIVE Group

The STRIVE Group