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Salesforce's new hires are less productive, says CEO Benioff

Founder and bossman asks if WFH freedoms to blame

Salesforce founder and soon-to-be sole CEO Marc Benioff says newbies on the payroll are being less productive and he is trying to get a better handle on why this might be, asking staff if the lack of office time is a contributing factor.

In a message posted on the corporate Slack channel at the end of last week, as revealed first by CNBC, the billionaire questioned how his organization could increase the potency of its most recent hires.

"New employees (hired during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022) are especially facing much lower productivity. Is this a reflection of our office policy? Are we not building tribal knowledge with new employees without an office culture," Benioff asked.

"Are our managers not directly addressing productivity with their teams? Are we not investing enough time into our new employees? Do managers focus enough time and energy on onboarding new employees and achieving productivity?"

He finished off with one last poser: "Is coming as a new employee to Salesforce too overwhelming?"

The CEO signed off by saying he was "Asking for a friend."

According to Microsoft research in September, the number of meetings users held on Teams was up 153 percent globally since the pandemic, yet some company bosses still have productivity paranoia.

At the start of this year, Salesforce pinned its colors to the mast of hybrid work, warning that back-to-office mandates don't work. Then at the start of this month, Salesforce called hundreds of workers back into the office. This followed slowing sales growth at the company.

Benioff said on a conference call to discuss those results that some roles would be required to be done on site, on occasion, however the world of working in-person wasn't going to go back to pre-pandemic norms.

Salesforce's headcount grew from around 35,000 in 2019 to circa 49,000 in 2020, up to 56,606 in 2021 and 79,390 as of this year.

Other tech firms recruited heavily during those times too and are now coming under pressure. Google, for example, has hired 37,000 people in this calendar year alone, and Meta swelled from 58,000 in 2019 to 87,000 by the third quarter of 2022.

Meta is laying off 13 percent or 11,000 employees and Google is under fire from a large institutional investor that wants management to make employees more productive while paying less them less. Amazon is expunging 10,000 people.

Salesforce has itself started to reduce its workforce, chopping hundreds recently, but this was a small fraction of its total headcount and appears to have been a decision to clip the worst performing salespeople.

The movement of senior people at Salesforce is perhaps more dramatic, where in recent weeks the company has confirmed that chief strategy officer Gavin Patterson was leaving, as are Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterworth, Tableau CEO Mark Nelson, and Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor.

With sales slowing, these departures will no doubt help ease any pressure on operating expenses. ®

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