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Marc Benioff says newer Salesforce hires are less productive

Marlena Sloss | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff told employees in a Slack message on Friday that the company̵[ads1]7;s newest hires aren’t productive enough, and he asked for feedback on why that’s the case.

“Are we not building tribal knowledge with new employees without an office culture?” he asked in a message seen by CNBC. He said he was “asking a friend,” a phrase people often use on the Internet to humorously express their curiosity about a topic. The message included an emoji showing a smiling face with a halo hovering over it, suggesting innocence.

Benioff’s company-wide message addresses what has become a hot-button issue in Silicon Valley. Since the arrival of Covid sent workers home almost three years ago, companies have tried to rethink a future workplace that offers more flexibility than before. Some businesses have allowed employees to work from anywhere permanently.

Salesforce, the largest private employer in San Francisco, was among the first tech companies to tell its workforce it didn’t need to come back. Last year, Salesforce acquired the communications app Slack, and Benioff said people can work very efficiently from their homes. Salesforce said it would let teams decide how much time they would be in the office.

But Benioff may be aware of some of the challenges remote work presents. On Friday, he highlighted an issue that he said affected employees who joined Salesforce this year and last year. Salesforce’s workforce grew 32% in the past year, and last month it cut hundreds of jobs.

A Salesforce spokesperson declined to comment on Benioff’s message, but provided a statement about company policy.

“We have a hybrid work environment that empowers leaders and teams to work together with purpose,” the spokesperson wrote. “They can decide when and where they come together to collaborate, innovate and drive customer success.”

Benioff is struggling with slowing revenue growth as the economy weakens and a thinning of the upper ranks at Salesforce. Last month, the company said Bret Taylor would step down from his position as co-CEO in January. He had just been promoted to share the top job with Benioff a year earlier. And days later, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield announced his departure.

Here’s the full text of Benioff’s Slack post:

How do we increase the productivity of our employees in salesforce? New employees (hired during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022) especially face much lower productivity. Is this a reflection of our office policy? Are we not building tribal knowledge with new employees without an office culture? Aren’t our managers directly addressing productivity with their teams? Are we not investing enough time in our new employees? Are managers focusing enough time and energy on onboarding new employees and achieving productivity? Is it too overwhelming to join the sales force as a new hire? Ask for a friend. (I’m leaving this open to get the broadest level of response.)

The message led to a number of comments.

Some responded with an emoji that said “THIS” next to an up arrow. Other selected emojis with the text “WFH” or “citation needed”. Dozens went with a standard emoji known as the thinking face.

Benioff chimed in again with the answers.

“Asking hard questions to employees (and customers and each other) for their answers is one of the most effective ways to get answers as a manager today,” he wrote. “That’s why we bought Slack because there’s no better way to ask questions and source answers quickly. Already today we have almost 500 answers to these questions – amazing and incredibly useful!”

He was unhappy 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 almost immediately given to the public media,” he wrote. “I wonder how do we reinforce that trust is our highest company value? How do we demonstrate the power of trust and transparency without an immediate public disclosure. It gets to the core of who we are in the sales force.”

His answers were shared with CNBC.

SEE: Salesforce co-CEO Marc Benioff on Bret Taylor’s departure from the company

Marc Benioff says newer Salesforce hires are less productive

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