Benefits and Compensation

NWoW—adidas has a New Way of Working

adidas® and its 50,000 employees have a New Way of Working (NWoW), says adidas Senior Vice President, Human Resources—Commercial, Gregg Tate, GPHR. In a packed session at SHRM’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Tate offered insights into the company’s intriguing NWoW.

adidas Group AG, headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany, was founded by Adi Dassner; hence, the correct pronunciation is AH-dee dass, with the accent on the first syllable. (Note: adidas is spelled with the lower case “a,” even at the beginning of a sentence.)

Who We Are by the Numbers

First, says Tate, take a look at the company by the numbers:

  • World’s second largest athletic footwear and apparel company
  • 50,000 employees, average age of 31, and average length of service of 6.9 years
  • Global commercial structure of 10 sales markets around the world
  • 3,000 of their own retail stores globally, with over 1,000 in Russia alone
  • Operating in roughly 200 countries around the world
  • Will open 200 to 250 stores this year alone
  • Brands include:
    • adidas
    • Reebok®
    • TaylorMade
    • Rockport

Who We Really Are

The numbers above reveal that adidas is very competitive, Tate says; however, those numbers don’t tell the real story of who we are. The following graphic does a better job of that:

In fact, the careers page of the adidas website says:

Sport is the foundation of everything we do
The passion, energy, excitement, teamwork and effort you need to invest on the field of play to make it to the top is exactly what you need to bring to work. You do not have to be a professional football player or the next big basketball star to apply for a job, but love for sport and a sporting lifestyle is pretty much a must-have.

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What was the impetus for developing an NWoW? Three separate methods were used to collect data:

  • Employee Engagement Survey
  • Management opinion e-Forum 300 top executives
  • McKinsey & Company Organizational Health Index

From those three directions came similar findings:

  • adidas has great leaders but a horrible leadership team—they don’t link up.
  • adidas’s processes are too complicated. For example, says Tate, on the form to secure agreement to open a new retail store, the CFO was the 12th person to sign off, and there were 3 more after that.
  • Meetings at adidas took “too long to get anything done.”

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The NWoW has five characteristics:

  • Open and honest—You talk about the elephants in the room.
  • Fact-based—You must have a single version of the truth. (They had been having debates, but the different sides had different sets of data.)
  • Nonpolitical—This was probably the toughest characteristic to work on, Tate says.
  • Collaborative—“Those people didn’t collaborate with us.”
  • Efficient—This was also hard to work in. Long-time execs were entrenched in the old way of doing things, but eventually, all signed off.

The organization’s business plan, Route 2015, consists of five mindsets that leaders and people are expected to embrace.

  • Grow others.
  • Think customer/consumer.
  • Play to win.
  • Never stop training.
  • Team up for top results.

How would the company know that NWoW was a success? When NWoW was no longer the new way, but was the norm, Tate says.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, how NWoW was implemented, plus an introduction to the all-things-HR website,®.

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