As CIO of Salesforce.com, Kirsten Wolberg leads the IT organization responsible for building and maintaining the global technology infrastructure and business applications for all employees and business units. Salesforce.com has a strong company culture and makes on-boarding a priority. For Wolberg, hiring the right talent and getting them productive quickly is key to delivering technology services to this rapidly growing, global company.
Why is on-boarding important at Salesforce.com?
It’s critical that IT partner with human resources to create best practices that ensure an employee is up to speed as quickly as possible. To be truly effective, on-boarding must start the minute a new employee signs the offer letter.
Salesforce.com has three streams that can continue for six months and beyond. The first is getting the new employee the technology they need to do their job. IT gets a new-hire ticket and, depending on the hire’s role, provisions them with the appropriate equipment. At Salesforce.com, employees have a choice. They can have a Mac or a PC; a Blackberry or an iPhone. We want them productive as soon as possible, and that means letting them use the technology they are most familiar with.
Second, managers are mentor matchmakers. We have a buddy system based on chemistry and personality. Every new hire has a mentor who greets them on their first day, shows them around, and is their go-to person during their initial weeks.
The third piece falls into the “people and culture” category and is the most important aspect of Salesforce.com’s on-boarding practice. We have a formal training program that includes a one-day orientation class. This lays the groundwork for a new employee understanding the vision, values and metrics the company uses to strategically and tactically manage our work.
How does technology affect the process?
We use our collaboration application, called Chatter. Each new hire is part of a Chatter Group, a cross-functional group from IT, finance, sales and other functions, including people from outside the United States. We can see through the news feeds that Chatter helps us become less functional and more solutions-focused. An employee’s level, function and country do not matter; they all have access to one another. This democratizes an employee’s contribution to the company and access to information.
As the CIO and a manager, do you have your own best practices?
I hand every new IT hire a pin that reads “I heart my job” and give the same speech, regardless of level. It is our goal to make people not only like their jobs, but love their jobs. If there is a problem, they need to own it and their manager needs to help them with it. I also interview every finalist candidate before an offer is extended. Later on, I try to check in with them personally.
What have you learned about the on-boarding process over time?
One size does not fit all. As I look across the IT organization, we have many job types: development, quality assurance, network engineering, help desk, analysts and so on. We empower managers to do on-boarding customization. For example, we get thousands of tickets a day and hundreds of questions. A new hire can be overwhelmed, so we establish solutions groups that a new hire can sit with and address certain types of tickets. This is a very different on-boarding process than what we do, for example, in applications development, where we give them a sticky problem to solve and set them free to code on their own.
Phil Schneidermeyer is a partner in the New York City office of Heidrick & Struggles. He specializes in the recruitment of CIOs and their direct reports across all industry sectors.