Salesforce will invest $2 billion in its Canadian business over the next five years, the company announced on Thursday, growing its office space, data center capacity, and Canadian workforce. The announcement came during a visit by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to San Francisco, where he is meeting with tech company executives to encourage them to grow their businesses in Canada, Reuters reports. In particular, Trudeau hopes to woo these tech companies with Canada’s more business-friendly immigration policies at a time when President Donald Trump is cracking down on legal immigration to the United States:
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff did not specify why the company chose Canada but he said, “Like you, we’re a city that values diversity, we value equality and we also value innovation. …We know we’ll be able to have a great business environment in Canada.” The company did not respond to a question about whether the immigration policies in the two countries influenced the decision.
Other American tech companies have bitten at Trudeau’s offer in the past year, Reuters adds, bolstering his efforts to make Canada (particularly Toronto) a hub for artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. Since last May, Uber, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, Facebook, and Microsoft announced plans to establish or expand AI research labs in Canadian cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, and Montreal. Toronto is also on Amazon’s short list of contenders for its second headquarters in North America.
Salesforce, the San Francisco cloud computing company known for its widely adopted customer relationship management software, is going public with its internal online learning platform. Conceived in 2014 and launched internally in 2016, the Trailhead program has allowed numerous employees at Salesforce to develop tangible digital skills and make stark career shifts. In a recent profile by Elizabeth Woyke at the MIT Technology Review, one employee shared how he moved from recruiting to engineering after getting certified in two programming languages through the self-guided, interactive platform:
[Greg] Wasowski’s chances of making such a transition seemed unlikely—until he began spending several hours a week (in the office and on nights and weekends) on Salesforce’s online learning platform, Trailhead. Within a year, he learned two programming languages, earned certification as a Salesforce application developer, and got a job configuring Salesforce software for customers.
The occasion for this profile was Salesforce’s announcement that it will soon release a version of the platform called myTrailhead, which will allow clients to customize it to train their own employees in the specific skills they need. Trailhead, which uses micro-learning, gamification, and a system of points and virtual badges to make its short, consumable training programs engaging and effective, already contains a range of tutorials geared toward Salesforce users, including on how to master, administer, and program for the Salesforce software itself.
In addition to allowing the tech giant’s own 26,000 employees to upskill for career shifts, the platform has also allowed them to get up to speed on technology changes after coming back from leave, thus mitigating the career risks of having a child or taking other extended career breaks due to family obligations or illness. Woyke also interviews a mother at Salesforce who used the system that way:
Artificial intelligence is beginning to make its presence felt in every corner of the working world. AI-powered chatbots are the future of workplace communication platforms like Slack, while the HR technology company FirstJob’s digital recruiting assistant Mya uses AI to streamline the hiring process and improve candidate experience. Now Salesforce is also introducing AI enhancements to its sales software, the Wall Street Journal reports:
Called Einstein, the new offering is a set of online AI services designed to automate tasks, predict behavior and spotlight relevant information. … If Salesforce can integrate AI into its applications, the San Francisco, Calif., cloud-software provider may get a jump on competitors, said Tom Austin, vice president at research firm Gartner Inc. “There are no simple, easy applications today to buy that really work,” he said. “This is hard stuff still.”
Beyond offering AI-equipped applications, Salesforce is joining companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google in making AI services available for other companies to build into their own applications. Prior to their efforts, AI was limited to companies that could afford to hire data scientists and build large computing facilities. Providing access to AI software as a cloud-computing service over the internet lets companies tap the technology with a smaller investment.
Salesforce said Einstein, which eventually will be built into a range of the company’s products, can better predict which customers are likely to buy products, and recommend which consumers a sales person should contact. It analyzes data stored on Salesforce’s servers such as customer information, email, calendar entries, and social-media posts to learn how specific consumers are likely to behave.
Another heavyweight making waves in this space is Microsoft. hot on the heels of its acquisition of LinkedIn, the legacy tech giant is building a direct competitor to Slack, which it also considered trying to buy earlier this year, Mehedi Hassan recently revealed at MSPoweruser:
At the annual TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, CEO Marc Benioff announced that the new member of the sales software company’s C-suite would be announced next week and would report directly to him, TechCrunch’s Ron Miller explains:
Benioff, speaking on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco with editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino, talked about his commitment to helping improve the world. While he has built charitable efforts and equality into his own company, and he admits there is a self-serving component to this, he believes that companies need to give back. “We can just focus on our own results, our own tech, but you won’t get the joy that comes from giving, the real pleasure of helping people. You’re not only helping other people, you’re helping yourself,” Benioff says. …
[W]hile profit and building great products is an integral part of [the value system Salesforce espouses, Benioff] hopes companies can use the wealth they gain by making great products to help make the world a better place.
The Chief Equality Officer will build those values into the fabric of the organization, bringing a voice directly to the C suite.
At the Drum, Haley Velasco notes how this new role fits in with Benioff’s assertively progressive vision for his organization:
In 2015, Salesforce worked to equalize salaries for men and women in the company by spending $3m in 2015 to close the technology gender pay gap within the company’s own walls. According to Salesforce’s EVP of global employee success, Cindy Robbins, 1,000 — six percent — of employees received a salary adjustment.
Salesforce HQ in California (Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.com)
Last November, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that his organization had spent $3 million assessing and closing pay gaps between its male and female employees. In a blog post published on Tuesday, Salesforce’s EVP of Global Employee Success Cindy Robbins released more details of the assessment, including that 6 percent of the company’s 17,000 employees (or about 1,000 people) had received salary adjustments, and that “roughly the same number of women and men were impacted.” Robbins also touted some other activities Salesforce had undertaken to make itself more inclusive of women and minorities:
To build a more diverse workforce, we’ve doubled down on our community outreach efforts to nonprofits and educational groups focused on diversity in tech, added more diverse schools to our recruiting efforts, and increased our support for STEM education initiatives that touch diverse populations. We’ve also increased access to advancement opportunities through the High-Potential Leadership Program, which is designed to provide leadership skills to advance women in the workplace. The program has led to a 33 percent increase in the number of women who were promoted last year.
In the last year, Salesforce has increased parental leave to 12 weeks off at 80% of total pay, including base and bonuses. The company also introduced a new gradual return program which offers new parents the flexibility to work reduced hours for the first four consecutive weeks of returning to work, at full pay.