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.

Why Microsoft and LinkedIn are the perfect Tinder match

Microsoft and Linkedin Its a match

Monday 14th of June the news of Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn was breaking all over the global media landscape. I vividly remember the moment, when I was dining at a restaurant in Vietnam and my phone alerted me of the US$26.2bn deal and I got pretty excited since it seemed like Microsoft had done the same assessment as I had in my earlier article about LinkedIn’s Strategy.

On April the 4th, I wrote: “LinkedIn has one of the world’s largest databases of professionals and LinkedIn has collected an unprecedented amount of data, which naturally can be utilized to offer a wide variety of professional service.  Among these services is the Sales Navigator tool that opens LinkedIn to a whole new segment of clients.”

“What investors should assess when valuing LinkedIn is LinkedIn’s move into new and more lucrative customer segments. My belief is that the general perception of LinkedIn as a career portal is heavily mistaken and valuing LinkedIn with that mindset is potentially myopic.”

What I argued in April was that investors were mistaking LinkedIn for a career portal where it really should be assessed as a cloud services company.

Why did LinkedIn swipe right on Microsoft?

LinkedIn is one of tech industry’s most successful executors of the popular freemium business model and has been banking on converting free users to paying premium users. However, the freemium model has limited growth opportunity. LinkedIn has in recent years been transforming its business to become more of a media company, in an attempt to boost ad revenues, which I mentioned as stage 2, in my April article. However, as I wrote, LinkedIn will first become truly profitable when it enters stage 3 and this is where Microsoft comes into the picture.

Microsoft is one the world’s largest providers of business software solutions and has an impressive global sales network and millions of clients. LinkedIn has been struggling with meeting its sales targets and is in great need to boost its sales. Furthermore, LinkedIn is sitting on one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of professionals, but hasn’t managed to build professional services around it, that can be monetized in a big scale. Microsoft is however, an expert in monetizing its services and could very well be the ideal partner for LinkedIn to make its business profitable.

Why did Microsoft woo LinkedIn?

At the announcement of the LinkedIn acquisition, both parties were stressing the many synergies related to Microsoft’s Office products. Microsoft Office suits has been a cash cow for many years, but has recently experienced intensive competition from Google and other open source office solutions. This movement comes as we are changing the way we are using our electronic devices, where more and more is running on the cloud.

The strategic advantage is however, not with Microsoft office, but rather with Microsoft’s cloud based CRM solution Dynamics. It is well known that the CRM space is a lucrative market and Microsoft is already a large player, however, not dominating the playground. Allegedly Microsoft made a US$55bn offer for the cloud based CRM provider Salesforce in the spring of 2015, but the offer was turned down. Had Microsoft successfully acquired Salesforce it would have had a clear market leading position in CRM space. But with Salesforce declining the offer, Microsoft has had to look for other avenues to step up its position in the CRM space.

If you can’t acquire them, beat them!

So, this is my theory: Microsoft has been looking for a deal that could ramp up its competitive edge in the CRM space. When LinkedIn was punished by its investors in February, due to lower earnings expectations; LinkedIn appeared on Microsoft’s radar. What Microsoft saw that investors couldn’t, was the tremendous opportunity to monetize LinkedIn’s database in a way that only Microsoft can do.

With LinkedIn’s database, Microsoft suddenly has the opportunity to give its CRM solution Dynamics a competitive edge. Leveraging LinkedIn’s comprehensive database and its force in social selling, and Microsoft Dynamics can suddenly become the preferred CRM solution in the market. Especially if it can keep other competitors from accessing the same data.

Microsoft payed US$196 per LinkedIn share, equal to a 50% premium, which many commentators has said to be expensive. However, I might argue that they got LinkedIn cheap considering that the stock was trading at US$220+ in January. In January, the market had not factored in the opportunities of LinkedIn becoming a business solutions provider (stage 3 of LinkedIn’s strategy). With this new reality LinkedIn should potentially be trading way above its current US$189,-

Married but sleeping in separate beds!

The announcement stated that LinkedIn would remain a separate entity and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner would continue his work at LinkedIn. This is a strategic wise move by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as the synergies of the deal are not found in optimization of operations, but in a strategic alliance between Microsoft’s portfolio and LinkedIn’s data.

What we are going to see is a wide variety of bundles between Microsoft and LinkedIn’s products. When opting in for Microsoft Dynamics, LinkedIn sales navigator will be an affordable add-on. New professional services powered by Microsoft are going to appear as part of the LinkedIn experience, making both product suits more powerful and lucrative.

Microsoft and LinkedIn could be the perfect match! But like any marriage it requires hard work. For Microsoft to secure a solid return on investment (ROI), it must prioritize 3 important tasks:

  1. Start selling bundled LinkedIn solutions with existing Microsoft products.
  2. Build a seamless integration of LinkedIn’s services into Microsoft Dynamics solution, to ramp up competition in the CRM cloud space.
  3. Finally, develop new and innovative business solutions on top of LinkedIn’s platform, executing on stage 3 of LinkedIn’s strategy, which will make LinkedIn truly profitable.

Should Salesforce and other CRM competitors be worried?

Potentially!  Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn represents great opportunities and if Microsoft successfully integrates the two product portfolios, they can find themselves in a favorable competitive situation. Competitors should access the situation very carefully and prepare themselves to be competing against a formidable CRM solution.