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Marc Benioff says new Salesforce employees are less productive

Marlena Sloss | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Selling power Co-CEO Marc Benioff told employees in a Slack message Friday that the company’s new hires aren’t productive enough, and he asked for comment on why that’s the case.

“Aren’t we building tribal knowledge with new employees with no office culture? he asked in a post seen by CNBC. He said he was “asking for a friend”, an expression people often use on the internet to humorously reveal their curiosity about a topic. The post 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 burning issue in Silicon Valley. Since the arrival of Covid sent workers home almost three years ago, companies have been trying to reinvent a future workplace that allows employees more flexibility than in the past. Some companies have allowed employees to work from anywhere permanently.

Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, was among the first tech companies to tell its employees they didn’t have to come back. Last year, Salesforce acquired the communications app Softand Benioff said people can work very effectively from home. Selling power said it would let the teams decide how long they would stay in power.

But Benioff may recognize some of the challenges that working remotely presents. On Friday, he highlighted an issue he said affected employees who joined Salesforce this year and last year. Salesforce’s headcount grew 32% over the past year, and last month it cut hundreds jobs.

A Salesforce spokesperson declined to comment on Benioff’s post but did send 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 faces slowing revenue growth as the economy weakens and thinning senior ranks within Salesforce. Last month, the company said Bret Taylor would be resign 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 is the full text of Benioff’s Slack message:

How to increase the productivity of our employees at salesforce? New employees (hired during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022) especially face much lower productivity. Is this a reflection of our office policy? Aren’t we building tribal knowledge with new employees without office culture? Don’t our managers discuss productivity directly with their teams? Are we not investing enough time in our new employees? Are managers devoting enough time and energy to new employee onboarding and productivity? is coming to Salesforce as a new employee too overwhelming? Ask a friend. (I leave this question open for the broadest level of answer.)

The post sparked various comments.

Some reacted with an emoji reading “THIS” next to an up arrow. Others chose emoticons that read “WFH” or “citation needed.” Dozens went with a standard emoji known as the thinking face.

Benioff again stepped into the responses.

“Asking tough questions of employees (and customers and each other) for 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 ask questions and get answers quickly. Already today, we have almost 500 answers to these questions – amazing and incredibly helpful!”

He was unhappy that his message found its way to the press, eventually ending up on Twitter.

“I hope you will agree that it is also disappointing that our private conversations here were almost immediately leaked to public media,” he wrote. “I wonder how can we reinforce that trust is our company’s highest value? How can we demonstrate the power of trust and transparency without immediate public disclosure. It goes to the heart of who we are at salesforce.”

His responses were shared with CNBC.

LOOK: 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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