After moving to a remote-first work culture this year, Salesforce needed to rethink how our leaders were trained. 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.
And so, we went through a 9-month-long process to overhaul the structure, design, and delivery of our leadership development programs. Our goal was to build more and better leaders at every level. Today, I’m going to share an overview of where we were, where we are now, and what we learned along the way. I hope it helps your company up its leadership game.
At Salesforce, managers are the No. 1 driver for engagement, job satisfaction, wellbeing, innovation, and inclusion. That makes great leadership business-essential. This isn’t just a technology trend; it applies to every organisation, regardless of industry, size, and location. And I’m not alone in thinking this. According to the results of PwC’s global Future of Work survey, a lack of leadership development is one of the three most significant disruptions to organisational success.
Historically, the Salesforce approach to leadership development is believing that overinvesting in top talent was the most efficient and effective way to develop exceptional leaders. We held a formal nomination process within Salesforce to identify the highest-performing, highest-potential leaders.
From there, leaders engaged in a mix of case study review, peer dialogue, volunteer experiences, and coaching to scale their impact. Led by senior internal executives and external thought leaders, the programs were widely recognised as an essential rite of passage for rising leaders.
As we set our course for change, we needed to decide what we cared about most. Through leader interviews, stakeholder focus groups, and design sessions, setting new priorities became essential for the broader transformation road map:
Anyone can lead. Great leadership can come from anywhere. Focusing exclusively on the highest-performing leaders can reinforce unintended bias and limit the participation of traditionally underrepresented employees.
These parameters created a blueprint to guide the larger transformation process. We shared them around the organisation so that we could refine them and start getting everyone involved early.
We call our new approach to leadership development the Great Leader Pathways. Each stage has its own targeted curriculum that ties the relevant mindsets, skills, and behaviours with leader success at that level. The new open-enrollment model democratises access to further deliver on our commitment to equality.
Great Leader Pathways deliver personalised experiences with bite-sized content and activities. This helps leaders at all levels get the tools they need to lead in a success-from-anywhere world. Here are the six stages:
No two careers are identical at Salesforce. Not everyone spends equal time at each stage, so Pathways focus on the relevant capabilities required by that specific stage. They are taught through memorable experiences, both self-paced and live, with a mix of curated content, community/peer learning, instructor-led workshops, virtual facilitated sessions, and face-to-face, immersive experiences.
Early results are promising, with around 22,000 employees enrolled in the first open window. We expect another 3,000 or so to enrol in the second window, making the growth in participation more than 200% from the year prior. What is more, under-represented minorities and women are participating at higher rates than our employee population averages. As programs within each of the Pathways are delivered during the months of July through November, we will continue to collect, analyse, and report evaluation and assessment data.
If you question the investment of time and resources required for this type of large-scale learning and development initiative, remember this: In today’s volatile labour market, the job of every senior leader is to attract, develop, and retain exceptional employees to remain competitive in the marketplace. Knowing the pivotal role that leaders at every level play in this process, how can you afford not to invest in well-designed, high-impact leadership development initiatives?