Kat Holmes, SVP of UX and product design at Salesforce
Photo: Salesforce

Salesforce SVP: The definition of 'team' is changing

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today, Salesforce’s SVP of UX and product design is rethinking what it means to be a “team” in this new distributed world of work. Say goodbye to the Great Resignation, and hello to the Great Breakup. Plus, women in the U.S. were less likely than men to get raises this year — and when they did, they got smaller ones.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Designing the 'next stage' of work

Here at Workplace we spend much of our time talking to CEOs and CHROs — but they’re far from the only tech leaders pondering the future of work. I recently caught up with Kat Holmes, SVP of UX and product design at Salesforce, about how she’s thinking about the challenges and advantages of working together in 2022 and beyond. Holmes wrote the book “Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design” and spends much of her time contemplating the “next stage” of work, both with customers and internally with her own team. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You’ve talked about how the new workplace means businesses need to become more interdependent and collaborative — how do you accomplish that when the remote environment can feel so siloed?

There’s some forced benefit that you get when we’re all sitting in the same office at the same time, but if we actually had to unpack it and look at it almost from a design perspective, what are the stages of getting to know people? What does it mean to make sure that our environments are accessible and participatory? And what does it really mean to contribute to each other?

That’s something I learned along the way with inclusive design: That sense of belonging that people have in relationships really comes down to being able to contribute to one another, and we can do that in a virtual environment. There’s places where that works very well, but in the business context, we just haven’t had to design that into the way that we work.

The way we reward employees or recognize employees is still very much built on this individual model of, “What impact did you have this quarter? What individual outcome did you accomplish?” The truth of it is, “Where did people contribute to you, and how did you contribute to other people’s success?” That’s a shift that’s deeper than just the language of it. It’s really in framing what it means to be a successful team in a virtual environment.

What practices does your team use to communicate and collaborate?

One of the things that’s been really interesting is thinking differently about “team.” I’m sitting in Seattle, and there’s 500 other Salesforce employees who aren’t working on the same product, but are sitting in Seattle as well. [There’s] connection that can be built through that local community. Some of the things that we’re doing locally is finding a shared time. As a leader, it takes me saying every Wednesday and Thursday, I go into the office. I communicate proactively. I sometimes bring treats. Even when people come into town, they know when to come into town. It’s just knowing when to be together.

My team’s spread between Tel Aviv and India, West Coast, East Coast, Buenos Aires, Brazil. I’m not a social psychologist, but … there’s some number in the human psyche that’s like, if I feel like I have physical connection with this core group, we facilitate that, then we know that that group has some shared accountability out to other groups that are dependent on them for work.

That’s a balance that we’re working on right now. At the smaller group, you want to have a tight sense of identity, a tight sense of counting on one another, being able to work in a similar style, and then being able to open up our paths of communication so we really understand who needs to know what I’m doing because they’re counting on me to get something else done.

What’s the hardest thing about this new way of working as a designer?

It’s the sense of shared time and being able to meet and build relationships and share time in a way that doesn’t always have to be structured. A lot of things happen through happy accidents and through chance meetings. I think one of the challenges is spontaneity and how to retain that in this environment. You can solve a system, you can reshape it and all those things, but leaving space for uncertainty and spontaneity and chance encounters is a real challenge.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

The broken rung

Women want more from their workplaces and they aren’t afraid to walk away to get it.

Women are leaving workplaces at higher rates than ever, a study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org found. Women’s voluntary attrition was 10.5% this year, compared to 9% for men. That’s up from 7.2% for women and 7.1% for men the year before.

  • Women are also still dramatically underrepresented in higher-level and C-suite roles, due to what the report calls the “broken rung”: For every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. Because of this, the higher you go, the fewer women there are to promote.

Women are leaving for more than just a higher paycheck or new title. Women often face more opposition, including microaggressions undermining their authority or bias in promoting, according to the report. They’re also often overworked and under-recognized, and will walk away from their companies if leaders don’t value employee well-being and DEI initiatives.

Talent gaps are wider in tech. In hardware, for example, women make up 32% of entry-level positions and 26% of the C-suite. In software, women represent 41% of entry-level jobs and 27% of C-suite roles. This includes tech roles at non-tech companies, Alexis Krivkovich, managing partner at McKinsey and co-author of the report, told me.

  • These gaps are only getting wider, Krivkovich said. “The difference between men and women holding tech roles is 2.5 times more men than women. In 2018, it was 1.9 times.”
  • Because few women are in the tech workforce, few women are wanting to join, she said. “Women in tech disproportionately experienced being an ‘only’ in the workplace. That is associated with worse day-to-day interactions.”

But there are ways to bridge the gap. Companies that train managers to care about and invest in DEI and wellness initiatives are more likely to recruit and retain women. Embracing a flexible work model — and avoiding proximity bias while doing so — can also help make women want to stay in your workforce.

—Nat Rubio-Licht, reporter (email| twitter)

Raises not coming

More than 1 in 3 U.S. workers haven’t received a raise in the last year, according to Bamboo HR’s 2022 Compensation Trends report. And men did better than women in terms of both getting raises and the size of their increase.

  • Men were more likely than women to have received a raise, with 66% of men getting a pay bump, compared to 62% of women.
  • Men’s raises were also larger than women’s raises, on average. Men walked away with 6.39% more pay this year, versus 5.24% for women.
  • Women (16%) reported higher rates of frustration about their pay than men (11%) did. Across genders, almost 1 in 4 workers reported negative feelings (whether frustrated, unhappy, or resentful) about their compensation.


Today, we expect instant results from our every action, from calling an Uber to ordering a t-shirt. Companies can no longer afford to not adopt technologies like automation. We are now living in the Automation Economy – a new world that requires agility and a complete reimagining of how we work.

Learn more

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ Attrition at Amazon costs the company $8 billion per year, according to leaked documents cited by Engadget.

⬇️ Microsoft announced layoffs on Monday, with an unnamed source telling Axios fewer than 1,000 jobs were cut.

⬇️ As heard on the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt. TC Editor-In-Chief Alex Wilhelm: "Is there anyone left at Better.com? Because I feel like — " Natasha Mascarenhas, senior reporter: "Their CEO. Just the CEO." (Editor’s note: This is an exaggeration.)

For more news on hiring, firing, and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.


Today, we expect instant results from our every action, from calling an Uber to ordering a t-shirt. Companies can no longer afford to not adopt technologies like automation. We are now living in the Automation Economy – a new world that requires agility and a complete reimagining of how we work.

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

It’s a TRAP! Training Repayment Agreement Provisions are on the rise, but legislation might be coming soon that would prevent companies from charging employees for training after the employee quits.

HR teams at big tech companies don’t know what to do about TikToking at work.

Remote work means working moms are multitasking more than they ever did before.

That's one way to do it.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com.

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