What can you learn about onboarding new talent from Salesforce?

This article is about my experiences and learnings working for Salesforce and what the organisation taught me about onboarding new talent. In my current business, I find myself sharing how Salesforce successfully onboards 600 employees every single month, and brings every single talent up to speed in less than a month. The strategy behind this impressive onboarding process is worth reading.

Why is onboarding new employees important?

Any role has its own unique requirements that demand unique onboarding. A challenge that many organisations are facing is that the standards for onboarding differs from manager to manager. Certain managers are extremely good at onboarding new team members. Whereas, other managers might be caught up in their daily to-dos and not find the time to focus on onboarding. The result of a non standardised onboarding processes is that employees will begin with different baselines for achieving success in their jobs. The worst case scenario is that a non standardised onboarding will create an unfair advantage for some employees, giving them better access to promotions and monetary benefits. Another aspect to consider is that insufficient onboarding can be very costly for the organisation in terms of lost productivity.

The Salesforce Way

What I experienced at Salesforce as a new joinee was truly impressive. For many years, Salesforce has been the fastest growing tech company in the world and is rapidly expanding its employee base. Successful operations at this scale naturally require to be streamlined and efficient.

At my first day at Salesforce, I was given a personalized login to trailhead.salesforce.com, Salesforce’s training platform. Trailhead is used by millions of customers and partners to improve their Salesforce skills and is also ingeniously used as an internal training tool. Depending on your role at Salesforce, one receives access to specially designed trails containing about two weeks worth of interactive course work. The modules are in general very well designed and at the end of each completed unit, one is quizzed about what one just learned. The setup requires little to none interaction with your colleagues, ensuring that the team’s productivity is not affected by a new member.

The Salesforce Boot Camp

At the end of every month, every single employee despite their office location is flown to San Francisco for an intense week of training and socialising. The week is known as Boot Camp, and is a signature event for Salesforce. Boot Camp is the exam of your two weeks of self studying, but also the time where you get properly introduced to the Salesforce culture. Besides training, it is also an incredible opportunity to network with colleagues from Salesforce offices all over the world. I made some good friends doing my Boot Camp week that I am still in touch with today.

Alexander Hold at Salesforce

What fascinates me the most about the way Salesforce manages onboarding is how it takes just one month to teach 600 people a comprehensive and complex product portfolio and that every single employee after just one month is put on target and ready to do their job. Naturally, everyone will get better at their job over time, and Salesforce is investing a lot in continuous training to retain and improve its talent pool. Very few companies can claim to be as efficient at onboarding new talent, and especially not at this scale.

If you are running a business or are in charge of talent at your company, adopting the Salesforce way could be a very lucrative investment. There will always be a calculation of Return Of Investment (ROI), but for medium to enterprise companies with multiple teams with different team leads there is a potential great upside of standardizing and automating your onboarding process.

How FlixBus uses AI to make bus travel sexy

With my latest relocation to Munich, Germany, I have discovered a new way to explore all the exciting destinations across Europe for no more than a few euros in the form of FlixBus, a long distance bus service.Typically, there is nothing sexy about buses, but FlixBus has reinvented this traditional business model and this is certainly making ripples in the travel industry.

FlixBus is the leading long distance bus service company in Germany and has acquired 90% market share in just about 5 years. The market for long distance bus services was liberated in Germany in 2013, and as co-founder Jochen Engert commented in an interview with CleverIsm: “How often is it that a market is liberated? This was just an opportunity too good to miss.”

FlixBus’ Business Model

Germany’s largest bus company only owns one bus and employs no bus drivers. That might seem a little odd, but that is what makes FlixBus’ business model so interesting. FlixBus is structured similar to a franchise, where FlixBus takes care of Marketing, Branding, Sales and Route-Planning, but relies on 3rd party contractors for operations.

FlixBus sees itself as a technology platform that offers services to transportation companies. The typical contractor is family-owned businesses that knows a lot about driving and operating vehicles, but very little about acquiring customers, via web, mobile and other platforms. FlixBus has a revenue split with its contractors and one will argue that it is a mutually beneficial partnership, as both parties brings unique competencies to the table.

The technology platform

FlixBus is creating a competitive advantage with branding, but the true competitive advantage is their technological platform. With Artificial Intelligence (AI), FlixBus can plan future routes and through large-scale data collection FlixBus can accurately forecast demand. The ambition of FlixBus’ CIO, Daniel Krauss is to offer on-demand bus services, similar to the  Uber concept. This would allow FlixBus to instantly offer a new route to meet demand. However, with the current regulatory body, where every bus route must be approved, this innovation is yet to be realised.

Consolidating a fragmented market

One of the things that FlixBus has done really well is to consolidate a fragmented market and make the bus booking system convenient for the customer. With hundreds of smaller bus service companies it used to be both expensive and inconvenient to take the bus, but with FlixBus it has become just as easy as booking a flight.

Consolidating a market has different operational benefits. When you control 90% of the market you can optimize for efficiency and you are not forced to operate half empty buses. Contrary to the general theory that competition is beneficial for the customer, the customer is actually benefiting from FlixBus having something close to a monopoly. The theory is that Flixbus has an incentive in keeping prices low to keep its competitors out of the market. The breakeven point for a bus route is something like 70% to 80% passenger capacity. If a competitor starts operating a competitive bus route he is expected to have 40% to 50% passenger capacity making the route unfeasible. Eventually it will be a matter of who has the deepest pockets.  

Rapid market expansion

FlixBus is already targeting markets outside of Germany and in 2015 they moved into France. In the first half of 2017 FlixBus has transported 3.3 million passengers in France, an increase of 70% compared to 2016. It is currently 30% cheaper to ride FlixBus than to go carpooling. Today the network spans all across Europe from London to Rome, From Paris to Prague.  

The biggest threat

All over, the business model of FlixBus appears bulletproof to the naked eye. However, even FlixBus is not immune to accidents and when a bus crashed into a car on the Autobahn on Sunday 17th September 2017, it was FlixBus in the headline, despite the bus not being operated by FlixMobility GmbH and the responsible driver not employed by FlixBus. The lack of control of the fleet and the inability to enforce control of the drivers might be FlixBus´s biggest threat, just as we have seen with Uber hitting the headlines in the past for similar reasons.

Why is FlixBus so fascinating

Just like AirBnB and Uber, FlixBus is a great example of how data has become the most valuable asset in the modern internet driven economy. In record time, FlixBus has become the dominating mobility company in Europe without operating its own fleet. Because of FlixBus’ market position and its intelligent technology platform, the company has successfully created a competitive advantage that is hard for its competitors to copy. When you know where the customers want to travel, it is easy to effectively meet demand and design or adjust your network accordingly.

FlixBus is such an interesting case study because it exemplifies how no industry is immune to disruption. Nobody thought bus travel could be sexy but FlixBus has proved everyone wrong. If you are a leader of a traditional business it is just a matter of time, before someone will make your industry sexy and potentially take you out of business. The takeaway is to stay nimble and constantly keep adapting to the ever evolving market forces.

Victory to “Be My Eyes”

Team Work at Arla Food

I took part of this year’s Appy Days, which is an event bringing together companies and developers, with the shared purpose of developing a mobile App!

The event started on a Mondays morning in the idyllic Danish town of Silkeborg, with some interesting speakers speaking a language that only nerds understand. First speaker was Frank Allan Hansen from the Alexandra Institute. He gave a great overview of the development within applications for cell phone devices and summed up the different development platforms and their market share. Frank was followed by Martin Esmann from Microsoft, who gave a quick introduction to the Windows Phone Platform and why it belonged in the marketplace. Furthermore, was given a quick introduction to app development on the Windows Phone platform, which surprisingly seemed fairly easy to work on. That was also one of Martins primary sales arguments for the Windows Phone oppose to IOS or Android. According to Microsoft the cost of app development on the Windows platform was up to 50% cheaper than Apple IOS.

“Lunch also very much appreciated”

The presentations were all very technical, and it required full attention to keep track of the details. Therefore, was lunch also very much appreciated and some great networking took place.

After lunch the companies pitched their ideas to the forum of developers, graphics people and people like me called project managers. Some very interesting ideas were presented and after the pitch it was time to find the perfect match between developers and companies. I choose to join Arla Foods and immediately after the team had been settled, the discussions about features and functions began.

For the next two days our team of 5 would be working hard on saving time for families with kids, planning their weekly meals. The solution would be an app working across Iphone, Ipad and Web, all synchronised with the Arla’s Database supplying more than 4000 professionally tested recipes.

“You might think we were guinea pigs”

The two days at Arla HQ was a great experience and included a lot great snacks supplied by the wonderful ladies from “Karolines Køkken” (the kitchen where all recipes are developed.) You might think we were guinea pigs, but I like to think of us as the luckiest individuals at work. Thanks a lot to Arla for great treatment.

The final day of Appy Days was the day of the grand finale, where every team presented their app prototype. There was even a team that had a fully functioning app operating and ready to be place in the app store, which must be considered a great achievement for 72 hours of work. However, this app was not the winner of the completion. Instead the concept from “Be My Eyes” took victory for their solution to connect blind people with a community of volunteers ready to help out via a video conference call.

The concept of Appy Days was great, and my impression was that both developers and companies made good use of each other and that connections was made.