‘Asking for a friend’: Marc Benioff wants to know why Salesforce pandemic hires aren’t as productive

‘Asking for a friend’: Marc Benioff wants to know why Salesforce pandemic hires aren’t as productive

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told employees on Friday that staffers hired during the pandemic have not been as productive as previous generations of workers.

In a message to staff in the #all-salesforce Slack channel which contains 86,000 members, Benioff said that employees hired during the pandemic in 2021 and 2022 are “especially facing much lower productivity.” He then asked for feedback and thoughts about what might be causing the problem.

“Is this a reflection of our office policy?” Benioff asked. Or, he spitballed, among a half-dozen theories, “are our managers not directly addressing productivity with their teams?”

Benioff’s solicitation of employee feedback — which he signed with a smiley emoji and the words “asking for a friend” — come as the company’s upper ranks have been roiled by a raft of surprise departures recently, including co-CEO Bret Taylor and Slack founder Stewart Butterfield.

An employee at Salesforce told Fortune that Benioff’s message about productivity was extraordinarily peculiar since many employees at the company are taking advantage of Salesforce’s generous PTO for the holidays. The company also recently terminated a pandemic-era benefit that allowed for one Friday off every month, which ended 2 weeks ago today.

Benioff’s message did not make clear what data the decreased productivity claim was based on, and Benioff did not address the question when asked by Fortune.

“The quality of your business is the quality of your questions,” Benioff said in a message to Fortune. “Asking hard questions of employees (and customers) for their answers is one of the effective ways to get answers as a business leader today.  It’s why we bought Slack because there is no better way to ask questions and crowd source answers quickly.  Already today I have almost 500 replies to my question—amazing and incredibly useful as the ceo of salesforce.”

Employee productivity and the future of work-from-home arrangements in the wake of the pandemic have become hot-button topics in Silicon Valley. Managers and workers at Meta, Apple, and Alphabet have clashed over plans to require employees return to the office. At Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has made employees vow to accept a “hardcore” worklife that has reportedly included sleeping in the office.

After Fortune reached out for comment, Benioff sent a follow-up message to employees in the same channel.

“I hope you will agree it is also disappointing that our private conversations here were almost immediately given to the public media,” Benioff wrote. “I wonder how do we reinforce that Trust is our highest company value? How do we demonstrate the power of Trust and Transparency without an immediate public disclosure. It gets to the heart of who we are at Salesforce.”

Do you have insight to share? Got a tip? Contact Kylie Robison at kylie.robison@fortune.com, through secure messaging app Signal at 415-735-6829, or via Twitter DM.

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