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  • Andrea Fielding

Salesforce's Journey to #1 Best Company to Work for

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

At World Employer Branding Day 13-15 May 2020 | Lisbon delegates will hear the stories of the successes and key learnings behind the employer branding journeys at companies such as Unilever, L'Oreal, Philips, EY, Microsoft and Carlsberg as well as numerous case study insights from world leading agencies TMP Worldwide, Ph.Creative, Tonic, Peoplescout, , Synergy Creative, Branded.Careers and Symphony Talent.

At World Employer Branding Day 2018 in Budapest, Jennifer Johnston Di Loreto, at the time, Global Employer Brand Lead for Salesforce, presented a great presentation on Salesforce's journey to become #1 on The FORTUNE '100 Best Companies to WorkFor®' List. Below is a copy of the case study which was published in "Employer Brand Excellence-A Case Study Approach Volume III."

Company overview Founded in 1999, Salesforce is the global leader in customer relationship management (CRM), enabling companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies—cloud, mobile, social, internet of things, and artificial intelligence—to get closer to their customers.

The Salesforce Customer Success Platform includes industry-leading services spanning sales, service, marketing, commerce, communities, collaboration and industries, all on a single trusted cloud platform. Salesforce will power 2 trillion B2B and B2C transactions this year for more than 150,000 companies and millions of Trailblazers.

We are committed to a set of core values — trust, growth, innovation, and equality of every human being. Our 30,000 employee Trailblazers work in 24 countries and more than 80 cities around the world.

#SalesforceOhana If you've been following Salesforce, you might have heard the word ‘Ohana.’ What is that and why is it important to us? If you're looking for the one overarching concept that makes Salesforce a great place to work, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better answer than Ohana.

In the late '90s, our CEO Marc Benioff wanted a break. He decided to take a sabbatical, so he rented a beach house in Hawaii (doesn't get much more relaxing than that). On the islands, he connected with locals and learned about many of the Hawaiian's traditions and customs, including the concept of Ohana. In Hawaiian culture, Ohana represents the idea that families — blood-related, adopted, or intentional — are bound together, and that family members are responsible for one another. When he created Salesforce in 1999, he made sure that ‘Ohana’ was in the company's foundations.

Today, the Salesforce Ohana is a deep-seated support system we nurture inside our company. And, it doesn't stop at our employees — it extends to our partners, customers, and members of the communities that we call home. We take care of each other, have fun together, and work collaboratively to make the world a better place.

And, we don’t just talk the talk; we walk the walk every day. But don't just take my word for it... Members of our Ohana share their experiences on social media using #SalesforceOhana.

Project objectives Salesforce is growing fast. We have an ambitious mission to help companies connect with their customers in entirely new ways, while also improving the state of the world. To accomplish our goals, we needed to build a powerful employer brand to serve as the foundation of our ability to attract, engage and retain the best talent on the market. Our objectives were threefold:

  1. Attract talent: Increase and ensure our ability to meet our aggressive hiring targets in some of the toughest talent markets and segments in the world.

  2. Engage talent: Build pride and inspire our employees to give us more of their discretionary effort to drive the business forward faster.

  3. Retain talent: Increase our ability to hang on to our talent in the face of ever-increasing competitive threats.

Challenges Rapid Growth: Over the last 5 years, Salesforce has grown rapidly from 13,000 employees in 2013 to 30,000 employees in 2018. Onboarding thousands of new hires each year onto our employee base of our size is a huge pressure test of the strength of our culture and of our ability to maintain an exceptional employee experience.

Enterprise vs. consumer brand: Our biggest competitors for talent are some of the hottest consumer brands on the planet: Facebook, Apple, Google etc., and we are an enterprise software company, which means, in general, people haven't heard of us unless their company uses us.

Making culture a priority among competing business priorities: The technology landscape is shifting rapidly, and we have to move fast to stay ahead of competitors by incorporating the latest trends and making our enterprise solutions as social, mobile, smart and connected as consumer solutions. In this landscape, convincing leaders to prioritize employee experience initiatives and to spend valuable time and resources on them is a challenge.

Immature processes and systems: Fast growth challenges the processes and systems that support every stage of the employee journey from hiring and onboarding to ongoing engagement and loyalty. Having a powerful employer brand is largely reliant on our ability to deliver an engaging experience at each stage of the journey that earns the advocacy of our employees. To continue to earn this advocacy, we had to reimagine, build out and scale processes and systems at each stage, which takes resources and time – two things that were hard to secure.

Accessing and analyzing data to help inform decisions: Data is central to making faster and smarter talent decisions and to evolving to a more employee-centered experience today's employee expect. However accessing and analyzing data also takes time and resources.

What we did

Step 1. Created and executed on a strategy We created and executed on a strategy to transform our employee experience and drive the deep levels of employee engagement that would enable us to build our employer brand. Our formula is culture + technology + data = employee engagement.

  • Culture: At Salesforce, we are highly intentional about our culture strategy. We write it down, we prioritize it, we build our employee programs around it, we measure it, and we are constantly evolving it because we believe building this culture of trust is our greatest competitive advantage and differentiator. If you think about it, the day-to-day tasks of any job are basically the same – what’s different is the people you do it with and the environment you do it in – and that comes down to culture. Culture is what creates the sense of belonging and purpose that drive passion, productivity, pride and loyalty. Learn more about our culture at

  • Technology: A great culture is not enough for today’s employees. They also want a connected experience at work – a social, mobile, and smart consumer-like experience like the one they are having outside of work. When we give it to them, it’s a huge accelerator. When we don’t, it’s a huge productivity and engagement killer. To create this type of experience, we and many of our customers are taking the Salesforce Customer Success Platform and turning it inside the house to create a system of engagement for employees. For example: we deliver the right message at the right time to our employees with Marketing Cloud Journeys; we use our customer-grade Service Cloud to provide frictionless service to our employees; we connect, communicate and collaborate in our Employee Community; and we build apps on our Salesforce Platform to help employees take advantage of micro-moments of productivity.

  • Data: When you move work out of meetings, emails and spreadsheets and into journeys, communities and apps you get more data that you can use to make smarter, faster talent decisions and evolve to a more personalized, employee-centered experience. If you stop to think about it, the brands I do business with, know me. They know my preferences. They know where I am in my customer journey, and they serve me relevant content and opportunities that help me get the most out of my relationship with them. But the brand that should know me the best – the company where I dedicate the bulk of my time and my talents – often doesn't seem to know me or what I want and need at all. It's a huge disconnect. So, we are using data to meet our employees where they are and proactively and predictively serve the info and resources to optimize their performance and uplevel their experience.

We are working our culture + technology + data = engagement strategy to build success across every stage of the employee journey. Every business thinks a lot about how to engage customers at every stage of the journey (see figure 1). We need to do the exactly the same thing internally. Our employees are every bit as important as our customers.

We need to reimagine everything and apply this engagement equation at every stage to transform employee experience, optimize and get max value from our talent, and build a powerful employer brand. This can't be gamed. You have to actually deliver the experience to earn the advocacy that helps you attract, engage and retain employees.

Figure 1: The employee journey at Salesforce

Step 2: Formed a team to drive the strategy Our SVP of Employee Marketing & Engagement, Jody Kohner, was previously our head of Competitive Marketing. During her time in this role, she had a eureka moment. She noticed that, our employees are our competitive advantage. Those brand advocates, those people who bleed Salesforce blue, never needed help in customer meetings. When they went into customer meetings, the prospect or the customer would say, “I want to work with this person! Whatever they're selling, I'm buying.” So, she realized she could try to triage competitive deals until she was blue in the face, or she could build a stronger army of brand advocates by helping the company more deeply engage employees.

Today, our Employee Marketing & Engagement team drives engagement at every stage of the employee journey. It starts with building a powerful employer brand that helps us attract the best talent. Then we work to recruit the right talent through an efficient and effective candidate experience. Our onboarding process helps new employees adopt our ways of working so that they can feel like a local fast. Then comes the really hard work – making sure all our employees feel deeply engaged with us and set up for success on an ongoing basis so they have a great experience with us. We know when we’re successful because we win their loyalty and their advocacy.

Step 3: Secured executive buy-in and prioritization To get this team the resources we needed to succeed, we had to learn to speak the language of the business by highlighting the real risks and the measurable ROI of driving employee engagement. To do that, we used LinkedIn Talent Flow data cross-referenced with Glassdoor Employee Review Ratings (see figure 2). When we did the exercise, there was an absolute clear division where the people who were taking our talent had higher ratings than us on Glassdoor and the people we were gaining talent from had lower ratings. Our execs said, “Well get our ratings up”. We said, “Sure, but there is only one ethical way to do that – you have to commit to providing a better experience for our employees.” Culture and people had always been on our company goal plan, but now instead of being #7, #8 or #9, it was made priority #1 in 2016. And it was #1 again in 2017 and 2018. This #1 prioritization means that we have the time and resources needed to succeed.

Figure 2: Glassdoor rating vs. LinkedIn talent inflows

Step 4: Enlisted leaders, managers, and employees We knew we would not succeed in more deeply engaging employees if our leaders and managers abdicated the responsibility to HR. We had to enlist their support and enable them to make the changes necessary to up our game. To engage leaders, we began to survey our employees twice a year. We asked them to rate the effectiveness of our engagement efforts and to provide feedback on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. A lot of companies do this, but what's different about the way we do it is that the data is not held by HR. It is transparent to everyone in the company. When the dashboard of results is published the day after the survey closes, leaders with 10 or more reports can go to the portal, see how they are doing, compare their results with their peers, and then share the results with their teams and enlist their help in making improvements. And in just 6 months, they can see if their efforts have moved the needle. It's so simple, yet so powerful.

There is an old saying that employees don't leave companies, they leave managers, so we knew if we were going to build an experience that would be best-in-class, we needed to enlist managers and drive change in how they engage employees. We did two things to accomplish that outcome.

First, we built out a fun and interactive on-demand “Manage the Salesforce Way” training that was accessible and easy to complete. You can check it out on Then, we launched our Feedback App that gives employees the opportunity to anonymously rate and give feedback to their managers monthly. The app is not a replacement for conversations, rather it provides data that makes those conversation between the manager and the team on how they're doing and what they could do better richer and more actionable.

Step 5: Focused on the human factors Our amazing employees are fueling our incredible growth and innovation story, but all that passion and pace can have an unintended consequence – burnout, so we balance the hard work out with giving back, equality, wellbeing and fun!

Giving back has been part of our culture since Day 1. Through our 1-1-1- model we donate 1 percent of time, 1 percent of equity and 1 percent of our product back to the communities where we live and work. You can learn more at

Equality has been elevated to a core value at our company over the last few years, and we are working toward a more equal world across four pillars: Equal Rights, Equal Pay, Equal Education, and Equal Opportunity. Learn more at

Wellbeing is our next big push. For example, all of our buildings now have meditation areas, which, with the cost of real estate, is a meaningful and visual daily reminder that we want our employees to take care of themselves.

And, while we take our work seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously (see figure 3). One example: wearing Aloha gear on #AlohaFriday – it not about how the gear looks it about how wearing it makes you feel!

Figure 3: Salesforce employees have fun at work

When our employees are living our values, we encourage them to post to their social networks using #SalesforceOhana. When they do, we get millions of free and targeted employer brand impressions, and they get virtual high fives in the form of likes and comments that increase their employee pride and loyalty. It's a win-win.

These human factors are embedded in our workplaces, our customer events and in all our interactions with our #SalesforceOhana. The workforce of the future is looking for companies that stand for something – companies that have a purpose beyond profit. But I’ll let you in a secret belief – it’s not just the millennials that want these things – they are just bold enough to ask for them.

These are five of the most impactful ways we transformed employee engagement and our employee experience to earn the advocacy and loyalty of our employees.

What we achieved Over the last five years here are some of the results we’ve seen:

  • Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List: Increased our ranking to #1 Glassdoor

  • Overall Employee Review Rating: Rose from a low of 3.8 to 4.3 Glassdoor

  • Recommend to a Friend Percentage: Rose from 73 percent to 87 percent

The business impact

Over the last five years here are some to the results we’ve seen:

  • Discretionary Effort: Increased to an all-time high of 96% of people saying they are willing to give extra to get the job done

  • Attrition: Decreased 7 points to a 5-year Record Low

  • Business Performance: Salesforce is the fastest growing top-5 enterprise software company in the world. We reached $10 billion in revenue faster than any other enterprise software company in history.

Key learnings

The key learnings from your employer branding journey include:

  • Your employer brand can't be gamed. You actually have to deliver an exceptional employee experience across the full journey to earn the employee advocacy that builds a powerful employer brand.

  • Culture has to be priority #1, and it has to owned by leaders, managers, and employees not HR.

  • Building a culture of trust and an engaging employee experience is a never-ending journey vs. a destination - you have to prioritize it, write it down, measure it and evolve it.

To learn more about developing a CRM strategy that best fits your business click here>>

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