According to Marc Benioff, newer Salesforce reps are less productive

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Foreclosure Co-CEO Marc Benioff told employees in a Slack message on Friday that the company’s newest hires aren’t being productive enough, and he asked for feedback on why that’s the case.

“Aren’t we building tribal knowledge with new hires without office culture?” he asked in a message viewed by CNBC. He said he “asked for a friend,” a phrase people often use online to humorously show their curiosity about a topic. The message contained an emoji showing a smiling face with a halo floating above it, suggesting innocence.

Benioff’s company-wide message addresses an issue that has become a hot topic in Silicon Valley. Since the arrival of Covid sent workers home almost three years ago, companies have been trying to redesign a future workplace that allows for more flexibility than in the past. Some companies have allowed employees to work from anywhere permanently.

Salesforce, the largest private employer in San Francisco, was one of the first tech companies to tell employees they didn’t have to come back. Last year, Salesforce acquired communications app Slack, and Benioff said people can work from home very effectively. Salesforce said it would let teams decide how much time they would spend in the office.

But Benioff may recognize some of the challenges remote work brings. On Friday, he highlighted an issue he said is affecting employees who joined Salesforce this year and last year. Salesforce’s headcount grew 32% over the past year and has seen hundreds of job cuts over the past month.

A Salesforce spokesperson declined to comment on Benioff’s message but did send a company policy statement.

“We have a hybrid work environment that allows leaders and teams to work together in a purposeful manner,” the spokesman wrote. “They can choose when and where to come together to collaborate, innovate and drive customer success.”

Benioff is struggling with a slowdown in revenue growth as the economy weakens and a thinning of the top echelons within Salesforce. Last month, the company announced that 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 at Salesforce? In particular, new employees (hired during the 2021 and 2022 pandemic) face much lower productivity. Is this a reflection of our office politics? Aren’t we building tribal knowledge with new employees without office culture? Don’t our managers raise productivity directly with their teams? Are we investing too little time in our new employees? Are managers focusing enough time and energy on onboarding new employees and achieving productivity? is it too overwhelming to come into the field as a new hire? Ask for a friend. (I’m leaving this open to get the broadest possible response.)

The news sparked a flurry of comment.

Some responded with an emoji that read “THIS” next to an up arrow. Others chose emojis that said “WFH” or “citation needed.” Dozens left with a standard emoji known as the thinking face.

Benioff chimed in again with the answers.

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

He was displeased that his message found its way into the press and ended up on Twitter.

“I hope you will agree that it is also disappointing that our private conversations here were leaked to the public media almost immediately,” he wrote. “I wonder how we affirm that trust is our highest corporate value? How do we demonstrate the power of trust and transparency without immediate public disclosure. That sums it up for us at Salesforce.”

His answers were shared with CNBC.

CLOCK: Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff on Bret Taylor’s departure from the company

Salesforce Co-CEO Marc Benioff on Bret Taylor's departure from the company

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