WORKPLACE CULTURE:
THE PERFORMANCE BLUEPRINT

How adidas creates a workplace culture that enables

Creators – just like athletes – need an environment that motivates, inspires and empowers them to perform at their best. A workplace that is built upon the company’s culture and enables creativity to thrive.

At adidas we’ve been developing our work environment for over 70 years – moving from a family business to a local enterprise and growing into a multinational company with over 57,000 people. This journey taught us what does and doesn’t work for our creators.

Now it’s time to share our performance blueprint with you to help make your workplace better, more fun and inspiring. It teaches you how to be a creator of change in your own work and gives you a fresh perspective on what you need to perform at your best.

The importance of culture

Culture is the DNA of any company. It’s what gives a company its personality. It defines who you are and what you value. Culture is the unwritten, unspoken social norms and rules; as well as the behaviors and mindsets that you accept, reject, incentivize or celebrate.

In times where it’s easy to copy your business products and strategy, your workplace culture will be the differentiator for success. How your people behave and their dedication to perform directly influences your business performance.

The power of purpose

While viewpoints, skills, and experiences are unique to each employee, what unites people is a shared purpose and a workplace which brings that to life.

When John F. Kennedy asked a janitor who worked at NASA what his job was, he replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” It’s not about what you do, it’s why you do it.

Your ‘why’ provides your team with vision and gives everyone a chance to create real impact. It’s what gets them to work every day. It’s what they stand for. It is different for everyone. For us at adidas, it’s our understanding that through sport, we have the power to change lives.

Where culture meets the workplace

The workplace for an employee is what the arena is to an athlete. It creates the perfect conditions for them to perform at their best.

If companies are to attract and develop top performers, they need to give their employees the kind of environment that will help to amplify their talents. This investment is entirely scalable, whether you’re a start-up of ten people or a multi-national corporation with tens of thousands.

Business athlete Tobi Gbile at the adidas headquarters living workplace culture in both career and sports
The workplace for an employee is what the arena is to an athlete.

Now it’s time to look into our performance blueprint to upgrade your culture and environment with the right workplace tools, strategies, and habits.

For a workplace to enable people to deliver to the max, it has to adapt to a changing world. Here are three areas you should pay close attention to when adapting your workplace to support and emphasize your culture.

Diversity

A workplace extends far beyond simply providing a physical space, it’s everything you fill it with. When you bring different people from diverse backgrounds together, you gather richer perspectives.

Mobility

Mobility allows employees to modify their environment according to their needs, supported by the seamless transition between both physical and digital workplaces. It’s an enabler for work-life integration helping employees to make a life, not only a living.

Future

The future workplace is shaped by the people who use it and their experiences will continuously influence the crafting of more creative spaces. Employee experience is the measurement of a workplace in the same way customer experience is for business performance.

One size fits no one

Everyone works differently and therefore a variety of different environments are required to allow you to perform at your best.

What activates your own creative genius might be a quiet space, a lively coffee shop or simply sitting outside in nature; however, what works for you might not work for others. It’s all about providing choice.

Everyone experiences creative flow uniquely. It’s crucial to involve your employees in the creation of your workplace.

The value of listening

Understand the environments that help your employees perform at their best.

When you ask the right questions, you will get the insights you need to create the ideal workplace.

Jens May, VP Global Workplaces at adidas explains “our global workplace concept – MyArena – actually started with our employees telling us what they were missing. At work, they were vocal about what they needed to unlock their performance, to work better together, to become more creative, to foster collaboration.”

Employee experience shapes the future workplace. Your workplace needs to continuously evolve, it will never be finished.

Human-Centric Design

adidas runner caiptan of Kuala Lumpur co-create in the Makerlab with adidas runners showing the workplace culture at adidas
To encourage open-source collaboration, create spaces of co-creation.
adidas designers and employees at the Makerlab working in open source structure at adidas headquarter Arena showing the workplace culture at adidas
Hierarchies are getting flatter, structures more horizontal and spaces more open to co-creation.
Adidas runners captain with sneakers afro jumping on trampoline showing diversity in the workplace culture at adidas headquarters Herzogenaurach
To create an inspiring workplace experience, think about where your employees spend their breaks and the spaces they navigate between meetings.
Woman working with laptop on a couch showing the human centric design of the workplace culture at adidas and Reebok
Human-centric designs blend workspaces with home spaces to make employees feel comfortable to perform at their best.
adidas employee surfing at the 70 years campus festival showing the workplace culture at adidas
Experiences are created together – here is an impression of how we celebrated 70 years of adidas.
For a space to be open and welcoming, break down all barriers.
adidas employees at the Creator Retreat in Laces building at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
The Creator Retreat is an example of how workspaces can turn into home-like experience centers.
Speaker series with adidas runners captains at Laces showing the open-source workplace culture at adidas
To strengthen community and increase the value for your employees, empower internal and external interaction through regular public talks.
employee library at adidas headquarter Arena showing the workplace culture at adidas
Everyone experiences the workspace differently. Our new MyArena concept enables revitalization through integrated libraries in each work section.

Workplace trends to consider:

  • Human-centric design values people’s feelings, passion, and purpose over forced efficiency
  • Workplaces turn into experience centers, blending home and workspaces, in which people can feel comfortable
  • Open-source working and co-creation encourages collaboration between external and internal talent to cultivate more creative ideas
  • Horizontal structures where departments cross over help teams to learn and strengthen from each other’s experience

At adidas, our culture is rooted in sport and it empowers creativity, collaboration, and confidence. Here’s how we built this into our workplace and how you can, too.

Sport

What unites your workforce is what drives your workplace. Seeing our core belief ‘through sport, we have the power to change lives’ lived in our workplace is essential. It’s who we are and it’s what we do.

Sport and our company’s rich heritage is reflected across all adidas’ campuses: Our HQ continues to be based on the edge of the small town of Herzogenaurach in Germany. It was here where Adi Dassler created his first pair of shoes to enable athletes to perform at their best.

It’s not only the products, it’s the athlete’s lifestyle and mindset that informs our daily work. We offer an ever-evolving range of company sports and nutrition programs, with easy access to everything from football, basketball and tennis to climbing, skating and yoga. There’s even a running track through the grounds beneath ‘Arena’, the latest building to be added to the campus.

All this alongside the hundreds of fitness courses and external programs we have at our offices around the world.

It empowers a healthy and productive lifestyle. Rather than work-life balance, it enables work-life integration.

adidas employee skateboarding in front of ARENA building at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
climbing tower of adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee playing beach volleyball at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
football field at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
reebok employee APAC working out at adidas APAC the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee working out with reebok clothes at adidas APAC showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee working out with reebok shirt at adidas APAC showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee boxing at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee playing tennis at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee playing tennis at adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
adidas employee working out at adidas Asia showing the workplace culture at adidas

Creativity

Creative spaces are unique to everyone. What matters most in idea creation is providing choice, through diverse and collaborative environments. So, how can you build a workplace to spark creative thinking?

Here are some things we’ve successfully applied at adidas:

  • Choice is the biggest element of creativity. Flexible working hours, off-site working and activity-based working provides us with the freedom to work in a different space depending on our individual needs.
  • MakerLabs allow us to interact with different materials, build things with our hands and develop prototypes.
  • When we have ideas, we want to write them down. Create walls with writable surfaces or provide whiteboards for people to gather their thoughts on the spot.
  • Creativity comes with motion. Spaces that are easily adjustable, with tools that can be modified to current demands (teamwork, brainstorm, prototyping, etc.) are essential.
  • Interaction with others stimulates creativity. Spaces that bring people together naturally can be just as valuable as traditional meeting rooms.

Creative Workspaces

adidas designer crafting with hands in Makerlab of adidas headquarter showing the workplace culture at adidas
Touching, feeling and experiencing through various senses increases creativity.
adidas employees brainstorming on whiteboard at new workplace concept MyArena showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
When creative, we like to write things down, brainstorm and structure our ideas.
adidas employees brainstorming in diverse environment involving people with disabilities at new workplace concept MyArena showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
Adjustable environments help diverse teams to collaborate creatively.
adidas employees working outdoors in nature at adidas headquarters Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
Some experience their best creativity in nature and the outdoors.
adidas runners captains running outdoor doing a lunch workout at adidas headquarters Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
Creativity comes with motion – many times ideas flow during or after a run or workout.
MakerLabs help come from idea to creation – through prototyping or co-creation.
adidas employee who is a mother bringing her daughter to work at adidas headquarters Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
Providing a flexible workplace that’s family friendly saves undue stress and keeps creativity on track.
adidas employee working in nature indoors adidas Laces headquarters Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity
Coffee shop environments can bring out the best in those that love a busy spot to create.
adidas employees at Brooklyn Creator farm doing a quick brainstorm session showing the workplace culture at adidas with creativity and collaboration
Quick brainstorms and idea collaboration often drives the best creative flow.

Explore how building workplace creativity helps people perform

with Aki Ben-Ezra - VP of HR strategy, Christian Dzieia, VP of Corporate Real Estate, Jordi Closa, Director of the MakerLab Network, Jens May, VP Global Workplaces at adidas

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Collaboration

Productive collaboration doesn’t come from closed meeting areas, but through visible open interaction. At adidas, we’ve adopted the mindset that playing together as a team will help us win.

If you want to empower collaboration in the workplace, check out these approaches that have worked for us:

  • Build spaces where people can bump into each other. Visibility brings openness. It allows natural encounters and serendipitous meetups.
  • Go for staircases over awkward elevator rides. You’re much more likely to see and talk to a colleague on the stairs.
  • Build kitchen hubs into the centers of each floor. They help people who work in separate areas to meet up during the course of the day.
  • Create transparency. Open offices which give access to colleagues from other departments and approachable leaders who encourage flat hierarchies boost ad hoc collaboration.

Collaborative Workspaces

adidas employees living collaboration in Kitchen hub meeting at MyArena concept at adidas headquarters Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas
To strengthen teamwork, distance yourself from a meeting room culture and empower a culture of natural collaboration.
new adidas building Arena at headquarters campus Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration through crosspaths
Crossways enable chance encounters throughout the day.
adidas employees living collaboration in kitchen areas of new workplace concept MyArena tHerzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas
Kitchen hubs in the center of each work section encourage quick meetups.
adidas athletes and employees at cafeteria atadidas headquarter Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration
Open spaces with coffee shop flair help people meet and interact more naturally.
adidas athletes and employees workout at adidas headquarter Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration
Teams are also built on the pitch, so empower team sports or brainstorm workouts.
adidas employees at adidas China showing transparency glass office and the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration
Offices designed with transparency empower collaboration.
adidas employees having a meeting in Coffee Shop at adidas headquarter Herzogenaurach Laces building showing the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration
Coffee breaks equal brainstorming dates.
adidas employees at MyArena walking down staircase for walking meetings showing the workplace culture at adidas with collaboration
Swap elevators with staircases – they are healthier and encourage conversations.
adidas athletes and employees having a lunch meeting at adidas headquarter Herzogenaurach showing the workplace culture at adidas with natural collaboration
Meetings happen not only in rooms but also spontaneously over lunch.

Get to know, how creating a collaborative environment empowers culture

with Aki Ben-Ezra - VP of HR strategy, Christian Dzieia, VP of Corporate Real Estate, Jordi Closa, Director of the MakerLab Network, Jens May, VP Global Workplaces at adidas

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The only way to grow is to push boundaries. Having the confidence to drive change in the workplace is represented at adidas in three ways:

  • Workplace Design
  • Workplace Concept
  • Workplace Leadership

Workplace Design

The design of your workplace reflects your brand, what you stand for and what you are willing to invest into your workforce. Whether that is transparency, moonshots, elegance or practicality, it can all be reflected in your workplace. This is part of the reason why we are still in the town in which everything started 70 years ago. It reminds us where our core belief was born and gives us the freedom to create unique spaces that fit our business athletes.

adidas founder Adi Dassler at factory adidas workplace culture

Workplace Concept

MyArena was born just a few years ago, giving employees the opportunity to choose the working environment that suits them best.

It’s based upon an activity-based working model for all employees with a focus on sharing, trust and openness, mobility and flexibility and respect. It works through a mix of 12 separate modules. These include kitchen hubs that bring people together into one space for casual collaboration and spontaneous celebrations, chat booths for phone calls, lounge areas, desk spaces, focus boxes, outside areas and coffee shops, as well as more traditional meetings rooms.

It also brings entire teams into one space, thus breaking down hierarchical barriers, so management can be part of the conversation on the floor, rather than sitting in their ivory towers.

We want to facilitate unprepared meetups and quick chats and spaces where people can collaborate easily or close themselves off, depending on their needs.

Catering for a diverse workforce involves challenging fears, objections and prejudices. Each and every employee must be curious and open-minded enough to bring the concept to life.

Workplace Leadership

Leadership determines whether your workplace design and structure will actually flourish. As our leadership is rooted in creativity, collaboration and confidence, our environments have to reflect those values.

adidas employee working in MyArena workplace concept showing the workplace culture at adidas with confidence

You might embrace using kitchen areas for quick meetups or find your focus in a local coffee shop, but if your manager doesn’t support your approach, your new workplace concept is void.

Trust in your employees is vital, so they can openly choose which environments fits them best to work in. Whether that’s under a cherry tree, in a coffee shop or at the desk in front of you shouldn’t matter.

Trust must be mutual. In the same way a company trusts its people to find the ideal environment to perform, the people must trust the company to take bold steps that push them out of their comfort zone into their growth zone. Be confident to try new things and don’t be afraid of failure.

Most importantly when adapting your workplace to your culture, listen to your workforce and stay true to your values. Nothing is stronger than a lived purpose which enables your people to perform at their very best.

Tune into how confidence helps you build a stand-out workplace

with Kasper Rorsted, CEO of adidas, Aki Ben-Ezra - VP of HR strategy, Jens May, VP Global Workplaces and Christian Dzieia, VP of Corporate Real Estate at adidas

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WHAT CREATORS NEED TO PLAY

We all experience our workplaces differently. Check out how we’re using our MyArena concept. It might inspire you if you’re thinking about a workplace blueprint that will work for you.

DOWNLOADS

Create your best place to work! This workplace personality test and quick tips will help you create your ideal workplace.

10 COMMENTS

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by Sylvia Lohmaier 17.09.2019
So, what sort of personality are you:
You’re the enjoyer. You work best with lots of people around you. As a team player, you find inspiration in conversations and motivation in team sports, brainstorming sessions and mastermind groups. While you love to be around people, you also appreciate some independence while the world is happening around you. --* To be creative: take five minutes to draw a vision board in your favorite coffee shop * To energize: take a brainstorming walk with a friend * To get motivated: bounce ideas off a colleague over lunch.

Reply
Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Sylvia Lohmaier 09.10.2019
Hi Sylvia,
cool that you took the test. 🙂
Have you ever done a brainstorming walk with a friend? If not, give it a try and let us know how it worked.

Best,
Nina
Reply
by Mel 17.09.2019
What an inspiring article! Love it 😀
And am so privileged to work at adidas.
I like the approach of giving to employees in order to get back.
The more you give, the more you receive.
Reply
by Eric Larsen 18.09.2019
Natural light is the #1 requested design element in the workplace. What strategies are being used at adidas to maximize natural light and a connection to the outdoors in the workplace?
Reply
by Christian Dzieia Eric Larsen 10.10.2019
Hello Eric,
Great question. It starts with selecting the right properties and making sure we have plenty of natural light coming in. In the case where we build ourself we try to go for fully glazed facades and no to deep footprints or adding interior courtyards bring in additional light. last but not least it is a lot about the structure you create on the inside. We move the regular workplaces to the facade and move meetings rooms towards the encore to ensure every employee has as much light as possible every day.


Cheers
Christian
Reply
by Conor 20.09.2019
Enjoyed the article. For what its worth... it's really tough to read with the thick bright red border around the page.
Reply
by Michael Chaille 25.09.2019
I really loved the comment about how your workplace is far from just the place you work, and how filling your workplace with a diverse range of people and perspectives can enrich your professional life. My personal favorite workspace is the office of our department leader- the freedom with which she allows us to express ideas and concerns really allows for creative and confident decision making.
Reply
by Rachael 25.09.2019
Great read and very inspirational! I especially love "If companies are to attract and develop top performers, they need to give their employees the kind of environment that will help to amplify their talents."

When a company invests in the quality of the employees, the employees will give quality right back to their surroundings and responsibilities. From the top down, when you feel believed in, you believe in your company and strive to give only your best!
Reply
by Miriam Fuerst 27.09.2019
"It’s not about what you do, it’s why you do it." That's my favorite part...At adidas it doesn't matter which part you take in, it's about contributing to our credo that sport has the power to change lives. There's so many spots on our campus which remind me of that which starts with our Adi Dassler Statue and the adidas athletes' footprints in our main entrance. My favorite spot which I just discovered is the library meeting room on the 3rd floor where we have such a cool selection of books. I'd like to spend every single meeting there 🙂
Reply
Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Miriam Fuerst 09.10.2019
Hi Miriam,
thanks for sharing your favorite part of the story and your fave spot at the adidas HQ.
Can you describe how work environment influences your work life? Do you switch your workspace a lot? How do you decide for your preferred work environment? So many questions 😉

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Nina
Reply