The enterprise software giant, founded in 1999 by CEO Marc Benioff and a group of fellow former Oracle executives, secured its top ranking by earning stellar reviews on Indeed’s Company Pages. Here, employees praise the company’s culture, rave about “off the charts” holiday parties and are also pretty enthusiastic about a little something called “Ohana.”
Clearly Salesforce is doing something right. But what? And what can other employers learn from their example? We spoke with Ana Recio, Salesforce’s SVP of Global Recruiting to find out more about why the company keeps rising to the top.
“Giving back” since day one
Today every large company makes an effort to “give back” to the community (as do many smaller ones). But at Salesforce the culture of philanthropy dates to the company’s origins: the firm’s “1-1-1 model” was established “before the company even had a dollar in revenue,” says Recio.
What is it? Recio explains that the 1-1-1 model means that the company donates 1% of its technology to nonprofits, commits 1% of employees’ time to community service and gives 1% of its equity to nonprofits.
Employees are exposed to Salesforce’s philosophy of philanthropy from the start—or even earlier.
“We look for it in an interview,” says Recio. “We encourage candidates to talk about where they would aspire to give back if they had the time and flexibility. Because maybe in their prior environment they never had an opportunity to give back the way we are going to encourage them to do so.”
The company takes new employees on a volunteer event on their very first day of work. Salesforce also offers an unusual perk: seven full days of VTO (volunteer time off), during which employees can work for the causes they support.
But that’s just for starters, says Recio.
“There are people who have volunteered over 200 hours. People sit on boards, or they volunteer their time and their professional expertise. Sometimes they will give back to their church or to their community, or to little leagues.”
“Go out and give back. We want you to do that. We want you to represent Salesforce. We want you to feel connected to your community,” Recio adds.
How a culture of service attracts talent
This commitment to service acts as a “huge magnet” when it comes to talent attraction.
As Recio puts it:
“Not only can you be best of class in the industry, but we really facilitate an environment where you can be best of class as an individual.”
This message resonates particularly strongly with millennials, says Recio. For this generation it’s “a big differentiator” for Salesforce as part of the firm’s value proposition.
“When we go to campuses and we talk to millennials, they want to give back to their communities and where they work. They want to be part of something bigger.”
Ohana and the family principle
If the #SalesforceOhana hashtag is any indication, “Ohana” is an idea that Saleforce employees and customers and partners embrace wholeheartedly.
But what does it mean?
Ohana is a Hawaiian concept that describes how family members are bound together and responsible for one another. Inspired by his love of Hawaii, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made Ohana one of the defining tenets of the company’s culture, central to how coworkers, partners and customers work together and treat one another.
“We have many Hawaiian themed events and philosophies at the company,” says Recio, which “encapsulate our greater mission.”
Family is fundamental to the recruiting process, too. When talking to candidates, recruiters will ask questions about teamwork, collaboration and working towards collective goals, says Recio. The idea is that they should demonstrate how they’ve been part of a larger community:
“We look for those things to make sure that this is going to be an environment where they’re going to thrive, and so that they understand that this is really important to us.”
Family is also an important part of Salesforce’s relationship with clients:
“We find that by leading through these values, particularly those of trust and equality, that customers resonate around that. They want to work with honest companies, and so this becomes part of our ecosystem.”
Creating an inclusive workplace
Salesforce is constantly growing—this year the firm will add 8000 new employees—and it also acquires firms. Integrating on this scale is not easy, and Recio says that an emphasis on culture is central to making sure that everybody feels included, from the newest hire to long-term veterans.
“We try to acquire companies that share our same values,” says Recio. “We identify our shared goals, and then we can identify the resources that are going to be required.”
Indeed, says Recio, building and maintaining an inclusive workforce are of vital importance at Salesforce.
“When we think of diversity, we think of the whole picture,” Recio says.
“We’re proud of the work that we’ve done in these areas. We train our managers on seeking out diverse perspectives, and that could be not just through gender, but it could be through race, it could be through different locations, it could be through different demographics or the ages of your team.”
At, Salesforce the firm uses SIFT, a feedback tool that helps assess individuals’ core competencies while tying them closely to the success attributes of particular roles.
“As a result, we’ve been able to mitigate unconscious bias, because we’re really clear about what you need to have in the role.”
“We fundamentally believe that the more people who are thinking about a problem, from the most diverse points of view, the better the outcome is going to be.”
3 Lessons from Salesforce’s success
Maybe you don’t have the budget to bring Cyndi Lauper to your next holiday party, but you can still adopt some of Salesforce’s winning strategies to give your employees a top-notch workplace experience.
1. Establish your values early
By defining the company’s values early on, Saleforce’s founders established a great deal of clarity, transparency and trust among employees.
“When everybody knows how they are contributing to the bottom line, it really eliminates a lot of infighting,” says Recio.
2. Include culture in hiring decisions
Candidates interviewing at Salesforce can expect to hear about the company’s values and discuss how they would want to give back if they had the time and flexibility.
“We want you to find your passion, both professionally and personally. And we want you to shine in your community as well as at work,” she adds.
3. Lead by example
Some companies struggle to get employees to adopt the values that leaders have worked hard to lay out. Recio says the best way to get everyone behind your company’s core values is by making sure all employees—including top leadership—are demonstrating them.
“It’s important to really live those values, to reward those values, to recognize those values, and to facilitate those values,” she says. “If your leaders don’t walk the walk and talk the talk, then your culture will just become a piece of paper.”