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New Employees At Salesforce Volunteer Out Of Office On First Day At Work

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 5/11/2015 Jenny Che
SALESFORCE © Salesforce SALESFORCE

On their first day of work, Salesforce employees might find themselves stacking grocery boxes or weeding in a public park, far away from the company's offices. 

One of the cloud-computing firm's goals is to engrain in its workers a culture of giving back. And so, all new hires participate in volunteer work during orientation, whether it's picking out fresh produce for a food bank or helping rebuild a wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Salesforce is based.

"It's part of our corporate DNA," said Ebony Frelix, who heads up Salesforce's philanthropy and employee engagement programs. "It's why employees choose Salesforce, because we have that volunteer component." 

Salesforce operates on what it calls a “1-1-1” philanthropy approach, in which it supports local nonprofits by giving 1 percent of its products, 1 percent of its equity and 1 percent of its employees' time. 

The the decade-old philosophy came out of CEO Marc Benioff's dissatisfaction that many businesses don't care enough about giving back.

“We wanted something more connected, something that had more community," Benioff recently told The New York Times. "So far, we’ve put software in 26,000 nonprofits and schools, provided $100 million in grants, and our people have done over 1.1 million volunteer hours around the world.”

As an added incentive, employees get six paid days off a year to volunteer. If they complete that, they receive a $1,000 grant to donate to a nonprofit of their choice.

Sign-up sheets for its volunteer activities often fill up within minutes. "We get asked to add other shifts," Frelix told The Huffington Post.

Those who give the most are rewarded with even more opportunities to lend a hand. Two dozen of Salesforce's top volunteers are currently in Sri Lanka helping install a computer in a school as part of Room to Read, a literacy organization.

Companies have increasingly turned to offering paid time off for volunteering as a way to retain employees. Younger workers in particular tend to prefer giving back to communities with active participation, rather than sending a check. A 2013 survey found that 20 percent of employers had a paid volunteering policy.

Benioff has been vocal about his vision for businesses that do good and inspire employees to find meaning in their work, and it looks like it's resonating. 

Earlier this year, Salesforce was among the first companies to denounce a controversial "religious freedom" law in Indiana that, in its original form, critics argued, would have enabled business owners to deny service to LGBT customers. The firm canceled planned events in the state and said it would help Indiana-based employees who sought to transfer to a different state office.

Benioff has also been active in promoting equal pay within his company. By examining the salaries of his 16,000 employees, he is able to pinpoint instances of gender gap and give women pay bumps accordingly. He expects to be "giving a lot more" over the next few years, he told HuffPost earlier this year.

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