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The Growing Value of Ethical Values at Salesforce

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I was recently a guest at Dreamforce, the annual gathering of Salesforce customers, partners, and employees in San Francisco. It’s what they call their “Ohana”, a Hawaiian term for extended family.

There were thousands of presentations over four days on data, devices, and technology, and you can see many of these online. But what really stood out for me was how Salesforce is an example of the GROWING value of ETHICAL values.

I’m not saying that Salesforce is perfect, but what they are doing is working in their growth, and in their appeal as an employer. So I think it’s worth thinking about how what Salesforce is doing could be applied where you work.

When Salesforce was created, the co-founders, Parker Harris and Marc Benioff, were very intentional about the culture they wanted to create.

I got to meet Parker at a panel discussion about how they keep the culture strong while also growing really fast. Or as Parker put it, “Our ability to walk our values, and not just talk about it.”

The first value at Salesforce is TRUST. Trust is not a fact, it’s an opinion about competence, reliability, and care.

Competence is your ability to do things, like solve problems and create solutions. Reliable is doing what you say you will do. But care is in another dimension, it’s about commitment to someone’s well-being – now and into the future. And this is where Salesforce puts ethics in the equation.

As artificial intelligence grows, more and more algorithms will drive decisions about people like you and me. The problem is, the data used to create algorithms today reflects our standards from the past. And that may not be what we want more of in the future.

So Salesforce is asking itself, “How do we create the world we want, and not just more of the world we already have?” This is a huge ethical question, because who gets to decide “What IS the world we want?”

To earn your trust in answering this question, Salesforce has created an “Office of Ethical and Humane Use of Technology” to ask over and over “Is what are doing today ethical and humane?”

In his opening keynote speech, Marc Benioff said, “We all have to ask that question. And every company and every CEO had better be ready to answer with their values.”

The second value at Salesforce is CUSTOMER SUCCESS. This is not just helping customers improve the bottom line, but helping customers take better care of their customers, and their employees, and the communities where they work and live.

At Salesforce.com you find information about the commercial enterprise. But Salesforce.org is where you can find their commitment to social enterprise.

One the services offered here is called Philanthropy Cloud, which matches people with the projects and causes they care about, helping whole communities become stronger all over the world.

That’s focusing on customer success way beyond the budget. That’s focusing on the real bottom line, which is where and how we live and grow together.

The third value at Salesforce is INNOVATION. Invention is when you come up with a new idea. But innovation is when the ideas is successfully adopted in real practice.

One example ETHICAL innovation was at the Dreamforce event itself. 197,000 people came San Francisco from all over the world. And the whole program was “decarbonized” using recycling and offsets to achieve a completely carbon neutral event. And taking this even further, Salesforce publicly announced a commitment to 100% use of Renewable Energy by 2022.

The fourth value at Salesforce is EQUALITY. And this commitment to equality shows up in many ways, including equal pay, equal rights, and equal opportunity.

One way Salesforce does this is by making online learning available to anyone, anywhere in the world with a site called Trailhead. Of course this helps Salesforce grow – and they are one of the fastest growing companies around, but from a values standpoint, this open access to education gives everyone an equal opportunity to develop themselves, build their skills, get a better job, and become a more valuable member of their family and their community.

Check it out. You’ll find free courses on communication, public speaking, leadership, management, recognizing unconscious bias, storytelling, interview skills. And a lot about how to use, develop and administer Salesforce.

Now I’m not saying Salesforce always get it right, and neither are they. Every company makes mistakes. What’s ethical is being able to say so, and then fix it.

Marc did that in the keynote when he said: “We’re not going to always get it right. Sometimes you have to take a big 2×4 and hit me over the head.” And bravo to Marc for being so open about this with Salesforce customers and partners and employees from all over the world.

So what happens when a company does get it wrong? Then the ethical thing to do is be transparent. Create a safe environment for people to speak up. And build a culture where when your people see something, they know they can say something.

What is the economic value of these ethical values? After all, Salesforce is a company with employees, customers, and shareholders.

From an employee perspective, Salesforce is ranked #1 on the Fortune “Best Companies to Work For” survey.

And I’m not surprised, because 97% say “I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community”, 96% say “Management is honest and ethical in its business practices.”, and 96% say “I’m proud to tell others I work here.”

From a customer perspective, 95% say they are more likely to be loyal to a company they trust. And from a shareholder perspective, well the Salesforce stock has been one of the strongest performers in the technology sector for years.

So, is Salesforce taking values to a higher level? Or are the values taking Salesforce to a higher level? And that’s whole point. These are connected. For company like this, and a company like yours.

Thank you for watching and for thinking about the growing value of ethical values where you work.

I look forward to bringing you more stories about companies and communities that are building a future we can all be proud to share.

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