- Salesforce surveys employees twice a year on how much they enjoy work and how burned out they feel.
- Managers’ scores — on measures such as how motivated their employees feel — are published to the whole organization.
- Salesforce looks at which managers have the most engaged teams, then asks those managers what they do to inspire their reports and tries to scale those practices company-wide.
- As it turns out, some of Salesforce’s best bosses allow their teams to take risks and make mistakes.
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Lots of companies give lip service to the importance of transparency.
Salesforce — the cloud-technology giant with a market cap of $143 billion — takes organizational openness to a new level.
Twice a year Salesforce runs a survey that asks all employees to respond to some standard prompts for gauging how people feel about their jobs. Do you see yourself working at Salesforce in two years? Are you willing to give extra to get the job done? Are you comfortable telling your boss when your workload becomes unmanageable?
The next step in the process is less traditional. Salesforce’s HR department collects the survey results — and instead of keeping that data to themselves, they publish it to the entire organization. Responses are anonymized, so that if Sara in marketing says she plans to quit within the next two years, it’s not like all her coworkers find out.
What everyone can see is how well an individual manager is performing. Assuming a manager has at least five direct reports complete the survey, those employees’ aggregate scores, on measures like how engaged or burned out they feel, are made accessible to the whole company.
The goal isn’t to publicly shame low-performing leaders. Instead it’s to find out which management practices are working and which aren’t, and to help employees figure out whether they’d rather join another team (with another boss) at Salesforce.
There’s reason to believe that this emphasis on transparency has contributed to the company’s success. Salesforce consistently ranks as one of the most desirable companies, and its employees say they’re happy at work.
Jody Kohner, Salesforce’s senior vice president of employee engagement, shared with Business Insider her key takeaway from the surveys. The company’s best leaders don’t just make their numbers, whether that’s revenue or new client leads. Beyond that, Kohner said, “We’re able to hold managers accountable to creating teams that are enthusiastic about Salesforce and who are having a great experience.”
The best bosses at Salesforce allow their team to take risks and make mistakes
Salesforce has been surveying employees for a while now. But only in the last five years has it started releasing the survey results to the entire company.
Since then, the organization has been better able to pinpoint its most effective managers, figure out what they’re doing well, and then scale those behaviors companywide. It also helps turn abstract strategies (emphasize the importance of personal well being) into more concrete behaviors (lead by example; don’t hesitate to let employees know you’re leaving at 5 pm to make your kid’s soccer game).
Generally speaking, Kohner said, Salesforce’s most successful managers “embody our core values” of trust, customer success, innovation, and equality.
The best bosses at Salesforce are also more likely to cultivate psychological safety on their teams. That’s a scientific term coined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson to describe an environment in which people feel comfortable taking risks, like admitting when they’ve made a mistake or asking a seemingly naive question. When Google looked into the traits of its most successful teams, psychological safety turned out to be the most important.
At Salesforce, Kohner said, “you have to be able to work in an environment where people can take risks, where they can have courageous conversations, where they can really feel like they are connected and they are empowered to do the best work of their lives.”
Salesforce employees can use the survey results to find another manager they’d like to work for instead
As for those leaders whose teams aren’t so engaged, at least according to the survey, Salesforce might recommend management training to help the leader improve.
Salesforce offers programs including “Fearless Teaming” (which focuses on psychological safety), as well as programs on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. These resources are all available on Trailhead, the company’s online learning platform designed to train current and aspiring Salesforce employees.
The survey results also allow employees who are considering a new role within the organization find a manager they might like to work for. Since Salesforce launched an internal mobility program (which creates more opportunities to switch teams) in 2018, employees have been staying longer at the company.
When Kohner saw the results from her own team, she noticed one manager who’d scored highly on almost every measure in the survey. “I started leaning into her best practices more and asking for more guidance from her,” Kohner said. In particular, Kohner learned that this manager expended “extra energy and effort” to “really connect with each person as an individual.”
Kohner added, “The depths of the relationships that she has built on her team have created an incredible foundation of trust. And when you have that, you can build anything on top of it.”.