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Leaked Salesforce Messages Show Execs Responses to Top Layoff Questions

In a letter sent to Salesforce’s management shortly after the company began its plan to layoff 10% of its workers, employees said they felt “isolation from the lack of information” and asked the company to clarify the criteria being used to identify impacted employees. They also asked why many managers were not involved or informed about the first round, and whether activist investors were a driving force behind the cuts.

The letter, viewed by Insider, says the list of questions was crowdsourced and accessed by more than 500 employees.

Salesforce appeared to have responded to employees’ questions through a Q&A titled “Top Questions from Employees,” posted to an internal Slack channel by Salesforce executive vice president of employee communications and engagement Jill Unikel.

But Unikel’s message, published in full below, largely reiterates comments executives have already made in various forums, including a two-hour all-hands earlier this month that was poorly received by many employees who said their questions about layoffs went unanswered. At one point, the message cites a comment from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff saying ambiguity is “unavoidable.”

“It’s just a rehash of the all-hands,” one employee who contributed to the letter told Insider. “It throws around words like ‘trust’ but doesn’t back them up with actions.” Instead, the person said, “it further cements the divide” between anxious employees and management, viewed as unwilling to give more specific guidance on which people remain at high risk for cuts.

For instance, when asked about the criteria used for layoff decisions, Unikel wrote that the cuts were based on looking at things like team size and work that could be “deprioritized” but also added, “At this time, we can’t share the breakdown of roles affected.”

The Slack message also did not address questions about what role activist investors are playing in Salesforce’s cost-cutting strategy, an aspect that has taken on new urgency now that Salesforce has two of them pressing for changes.

Starboard Value disclosed a significant stake in Salesforce in October. That firm first approached Salesforce this summer and spoke with some of its executives and, a person familiar with the matter told Insider, it has since pushed for cost-cutting measures. Earlier this week Elliott Management disclosed that it has taken a multibillion-dollar position in Salesforce, a different person familiar with the matter said. Elliott, known and feared for its influence, said it plans to press for changes. Employees and Wall Street analysts believe that it could push for even bigger layoffs.

Are you a Salesforce employee or do you have insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via using a nonwork device on encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email (astewart@insider.com).

Top Questions from Employees

LAYOFF APPROACH

Question: In Marc’s #all-salesforce post, it says we will be seeing more layoffs over the next few weeks. How many rounds are we expecting? And why couldn’t it be done in a single round?

Answer: There are business reasons and varying labor laws around the world informing our approach. Marc added this context in an #all-salesforce comment. “This is a process impacting about 10% of our employees, across different geographies and laws, and it will take us some time to fully get through all of it, and while I wish there was not ambiguity it is unavoidable.” More information will be shared as possible over the coming weeks.’

SELECTION CRITERIA

Question: What criteria was used to decide who was in the 10% of affected employees?

Answer: In summary, the decisions were based on our business and financial priorities. They were made thoughtfully looking at the current and future scope of work required for important projects, as well as looking at the spans of control (size of a manager’s team), management layers within teams, and work that could be deprioritized. At this time, we can’t share the breakdown of roles affected.

As Marc shared in the All Hands Call: “In some cases, there was a job overlap. In some cases, we’ve acquired companies, so there’s duplication of roles or job functions. We’ve bought three amazing companies just in the last five years and ended up with a number of duplicities that we needed to transform.”

If you have questions about how decisions were made related to your team or organization, please speak with your org leadership.

ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES

Question: Why didn’t you ask for voluntary retirements or resignations?

Answer: As Marc shared during the All Hands, “pay cuts aren’t going to get us to where we want to get to. This is a broader, more strategic restructuring, rebalancing of the company. This is a strategic effort, not a tactical effort. This isn’t just, ‘we need to lower our salaries by 5%.’

Regarding volunteers, Parker mentioned that we are considering the idea, however we’re not ready to make a decision on that. If people have ideas, the ELT is open to hearing from you on that.

OFFICE CLOSURES

Question: We heard in the news that Salesforce will close some offices. Which properties are affected? And why did we just open new offices (eg Colombia)?

Answer: Marc said in the All Hands, “This is a larger moment for cost restructuring. When we look at how we’ll do it, real estate will be a major part of it. It doesn’t mean we aren’t still growing.”

Relina Bulchandani added, “we are being incredibly thoughtful. We also understand the pandemic has forever changed the way we work. We’ve seen it all across tech, all across the world. We also know we fundamentally believe in places — we have incredible offices.We’re growing our towers.We are going to continue putting down offices.

We also know that certain things are fundamentally better in person. And that’s the approach… We’re thinking about what do we need to do in person together — learning, mentoring, sponsorship. It happens differently in person. Here’s what I can guarantee you. We’re going to be honest and transparent and it’s an incredible opportunity for us to build a campus of the future.”

Location-specific updates will be shared in the coming weeks in our location-specific Slack channels. To learn more about the Salesforce real estate strategy, check out Relina’s #all-salesforce post on January 4.

EQUALITY

Question: With Equality as one of our core values, how will the layoff impact our Equality & Talent initiatives?

Answer: On the call, Marc commented that “First and foremost, when we think about equality, it’s one of our core values. When we think about equality, there is no finish line. I think that equality is something that’s very important to me.” Personally, but also it’s something that is core to this company. We will report on our equality statistics, like we always have. We’ll be transparent with it. We’ll do this hopefully in a way that does not alter any of the tremendous advancements that we’ve made.”

Our next Annual Equality Report will be published by the Office of Equality in February with additional data than we’ve had in previous years, including a Tableau visualization. All of our equality data will continue to be published on our website at equality.com. For the latest on all of our programs, please see https://www.salesforce.com/company/equality/ and #equality on Slack.

UNCERTAINTY: REGIONS AND TIMING

Question: Can we get clarification for EMEA based employees what this will look like, on a country by country basis, along with more concrete timelines?

Answer: Amy Weaver shared on the All Hands that unfortunately, we can’t share more clarity on timelines or impacts by country at this time, but we are going to try to do this in a way that’s as clear as possible, as compliant as possible, and as generous as possible. We operate globally and each country has different and complex labor laws that we are committed to following.

In most EMEA countries the company will make a proposal of changes and there will be a consultation process, so consultation will be the first step. Decisions will be finalized at a country level after consultation, subject to specific local processes and requirements.

We know the uncertainty around timing is unsettling and many of you have asked how to cope. We caught up with Brent and he offered these thoughts that you may find helpful: 1) Lean on your leadership, including your immediate manager but also senior leadership. 2) Take care of yourself, physically and mentally. 3) Stay focused on your job — focus on what you can control

You can also take advantage of the Individual counseling services from Lyra/ICAS, which are available at no cost to you and your family. ICAS’s care team can answer your questions 24/7 by phone at your in-country phone number, or by email at internationaleap@icasworld. (Or in the US, visit salesforce.lyrahealth.com or contact Lyra at 877-218-7553 or care@lyrahealth.com.)

SLACK ACCESS

Question: We talk about our colleagues who were affected as friends and family, but their Slack accounts were immediately deactivated. There was no way to say goodbye or wish them well. Why does this need to happen?

Answer: In keeping with Trust as our #1 value, the Security team took the appropriate steps to protect customers data and Salesforce confidential information, while balancing the needs of our affected employees. We prioritized enabling affected employees on non-working notice to manage things like benefits and other transition items by keeping systems like Gmail, Google Meet, Google Calendar, Concur, Concierge, and Workday active.

Managing access to confidential and proprietary information is critical to ensuring Salesforce remains in compliance with regulatory requirements, and honors our customer contractual obligations. As a result, we made the decision to remove access to business systems for all affected employees, including Quip, Slack, Google Drive, GUS, and Org62 as these systems carry confidential company information, including information about our customers.

FINDING NEW ROLES INTERNALLY

Question: Will those employees being impacted be provided the opportunity to interview for a different role, perhaps in a different part of the company?

ANSWER: Yes, they are able to interview for open internal roles. If an affected employee finds a new role internally before their termination date, they will remain a Salesforce employee and not receive their communicated severance.

IMMIGRATION SUPPORT

Question: For visa holders (non-citizen and no green card), what’s the policy of the immigration support. For H1-B visa holders, they have 60 days for the transition.

If an affected employee is on a work visa, they will receive immigration consultations with internal and external experts and a flight home should they wish to return to their last place of residence. For those in the US, Salesforce will support a change of status filing if they are seeking to remain in the country following termination while searching for new employment in the country.

BENEFITS FOR AFFECTED EMPLOYEES

Question: Did an affected employee receive benefits included in their severance?

Yes. To support employees affected through this transition, their separation package includes severance pay in addition to benefits such as:

Access to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for up to 6 months after their termination date

Outplacement services that can be started immediately or at a later date (regardless of termination date)

Those on a Salesforce US benefits program will receive company-paid COBRA premiums assuming they are enrolled in any of our group medical, dental, and/or vision plans through March 24, 2023.

Gratitude eligible employees will receive their forecast year-end Gratitude payment based on a corporate multiplier calculated from the Company’s performance over the full bonus period, and a 100% personal multiplier

Any unvested RSUs and/or stock options held will vest as planned through termination date and be released into the E*TRADE account.

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