Marc Benioff tells Salesforce workers new hires ‘experience less productivity’
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sales force Co-CEO Marc Benioff told employees in a Slack message on Friday that the company’s newest employees aren’t productive enough, and asked for an opinion on why that is.
“Don’t we build pre-knowledge with new employees without an office culture?” he asked in a letter seen by CNBC. He said he was “friend asking,” a phrase people often use on the Internet to humorously express their curiosity about a subject. The message included an emoji showing a smiling face with a halo hovering over it, indicating innocence.
Benioff’s company-wide letter addresses what has become a hot-button issue in Silicon Valley. Since the arrival of Covid that sent workers home nearly three years ago, companies have been trying to reimagine a future workplace that would allow more employee flexibility than in the past. Some companies allow employees to work from anywhere permanently.
Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, was among the first tech companies to tell its workforce it doesn’t have to come back. Last year, Salesforce acquired communications app Slack, and Benioff said people can work very effectively from their homes. Salesforce said it will allow teams to decide how much time they will spend in the office.
But Benioff may be aware of some of the challenges remote work presents. On Friday, it highlighted an issue that it said affects employees who joined Salesforce this year and last year. Salesforce’s headcount grew 32% in the past year, and in the past month it has cut hundreds of jobs.
A Salesforce spokesperson declined to comment on Benioff’s letter but did send a statement about company policy.
“We have a hybrid work environment that enables leaders and teams to work together with purpose,” the spokesperson wrote. “They can decide when and where to come together to collaborate, innovate and drive customer success.”
Benioff is grappling with slowing revenue growth as the economy weakens and the top echelons within Salesforce decline. Last month, the company said Brett Taylor would step down as co-CEO in January. He was just promoted to share the top position with Benioff a year ago. Days later, Slack CEO Stuart Butterfield announced his departure.
Here is the full text of Benioff’s Slack post:
How do we increase the productivity of our employees in the sales team? New employees (hired during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022) in particular are facing much lower productivity. Is this a reflection of our office policy? Don’t we build pre-knowledge with new employees without an office culture? Are our managers not directly dealing with productivity with their teams? Are we not investing enough time in our new employees? Do managers focus enough time and energy on onboarding new employees and achieving productivity? Is coming in as a new employee to the sales team too stressful? Friend request. (I’m leaving this open for the broadest level of response.)
The letter prompted a variety of comments.
Some have interacted with an emoji saying “this” along with an up arrow. Others chose emojis that read “WFH” or “citation needed.” Dozens have used a standard emoji known as a thinking face.
Benioff chimed in again at the responses.
“Asking tough questions of employees (and customers and each other) to get their answers is one of the most effective ways to get answers as a leader today,” he wrote. “That’s why we bought Slack because there’s no better way to quickly crowdsource questions and answers. Today we have nearly 500 responses to these questions – amazing and incredibly helpful!”
He was upset that his message found its way to the press, and eventually ended up on Twitter.
“I hope you will agree that it is also disappointing that our private conversations here were reported almost immediately to the public media,” he wrote. “I wonder how do we promote that trust is our company’s highest value? How do we demonstrate the power of trust and transparency without immediate public disclosure. It gets to the heart of who we are in the sales force.”
His responses were shared with CNBC.
Watch: Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff on Brett Taylor leaving the company
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