During her keynote speech at Salesforce’s World Tour in London, UK&I CEO Zahra Bahrololoumi shared that the tech giant is going to generate $1.6 trillion of global business revenue by 2026.
“Against that backdrop, we are absolutely determined to equip people with the right skills to succeed, the skills that will make them more adaptable and more resilient” in the face of continuing challenges.
Salesforce is committed to doing this through its Trailhead platform. In an executive roundtable at World Tour, Sarah Franklin, CMO and president at Salesforce globally, shared that the tech giant created Trailhead in 2014 to “teach the business skills, tech skills and soft skills that we see our customers demanding”.
It does this in a free, gamified, bite sized way that anyone can access; they don’t have to be a Salesforce customer or employee.
Beyond learning and development (L&D), Trailhead also connects learners with a broader community of Trailblazers – Salesforce customers – and creates mentoring, collaboration and job opportunities.
When someone completes a course on Trailhead, they receive a badge – Bahrololoumi noted that 40 million badges have been acquired, suggesting Salesforce is helping to power the workforce of tomorrow.
For Franklin, it is Salesforce’s “responsibility to scale people up into jobs”, and “to change the face of tech” for the better.
“Tech is not representative of our population, whether it’s race, gender, socio-economic situation, where you live, what language you speak, your sexual orientation [etc]”, but with Trailhead, Franklin believes “we have the opportunity to remove those barriers” by making learning “democratized” and accessible.
Trailhead and democratized learning
Thinking back to 2014, Angela McKenna, who is now executive vice-president of employee success (what Salesforce calls its HR team) for EMEA, but used to head up talent development for the tech giant globally, shares with UNLEASH that she remembers telling her HR peers outside of Salesforce about Trailhead.
And they said, “why would you give away all your IP? Why would you give away information on how you lead, and how you manage?”
For McKenna, “we don’t believe in holding learning, we believe learning needs to be democratized.”
She adds that this approach isn’t arrogant. It does not claim that Salesforce’s way of doing things is the best way.
“We’re not saying this is the right way to do” L&D, but “this is what we’re trying to do and we’re going to put it out there, so anybody can get it”.
Rethinking leadership at Salesforce
The conversation then turned away from Trailhead and towards how Salesforce has reframed its approach to L&D for employees, and leaders specifically.
In response to the solidification of Salesforce’s Success from Anywhere hybrid working strategy, the company needed to overhaul its approach to leadership development.
Jesse Sostrin, Salesforce vice-president and global head of people leadership development, wrote in a blogpost: “As our employees and teams became more distributed than ever, we needed a new approach to leadership for an increasingly volatile, disconnected, and complex business landscape.”
Rethinking leadership L&D was a particular priority because Salesforce’s employee data found that managers are the number one driver of engagement, job satisfaction, wellbeing, innovation and inclusion – so good leaders make good teams.
In the past, Salesforce had a nomination approach to leadership development with the aim of identifying the highest-potential leaders. Despite the success of this approach, Salesforce realized it wasn’t the most equitable or inclusive approach.
So, the new approach (which is called Great Leader Pathways) gives everyone – both aspiring and current leaders – the ability to opt-in and access to skills-based development programs. The model also ensures that L&D happens during in the flow of work, rather than in synchronous single-point-of-learning points.
McKenna comments: “It has opened up learning to everyone in the organization, and it’s also helped us be more inclusive. in the [previous] nomination process, there was inherent bias; I am going to nominate people who like me, think like me, operate like me”
So far 22,000 employees have enrolled, and 3,000 are expected to sign up in the next phase of roll-out – this is up 200% from 2021.
Salesforce is going even further and ensuring that it is not just developing their managers, but ensuring they are applying that learning in real life.
As part of Salesforce’s twice a year Great Insight Survey, “every single employee is asked to do a 180 on their manager”.
This helps the HR team to “have greater visibility, and hold leaders accountable”, as well as figure out what additional support they may need to be successful.
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