The Salesforce Talent Gap

As Salesforce continues its climb towards their $20,000,000,000 revenue target for FY2020, new customers and products mean there is a wealth of employment opportunities being created around the world.  To meet this growing customer base, some project that the market needs to increase the number of delivery consultants 50%+ each year.

In fact, all you have do is mention ‘Salesforce’ in your LinkedIn profile and the recruiters will come calling.  A casual search of open Salesforce positions will find dozens of jobs in nearly every city across the United States with more being posted everyday.

People from all backgrounds are looking to Salesforce as a potential new career and with readily available study materials, Trailhead, and other resources more and more of them are looking at the ADM201 certification as their gateway into a Salesforce career.  Newly minted certification in hand, they set out to find a job and despite the abundance of openings, finding that first Salesforce role is a significant challenge.

The truth is many of the positions (either admin/analyst or consultant) want several years of experience working with Salesforce; a certification, 300 badges, and passion for the platform are not easily translated into that first job, resulting in the common chicken/egg dilemma most are used to facing when graduating from college.

In the Trailblazer Community I see a post like this every few days: “I am recently certified and looking to get more Salesforce experience.  Does anyone know how I can get started?”  Many people offer suggestions and well wishes but I think we all hold back from saying what we know, that is finding that first position without much experience is going to be battle.

Meanwhile Salesforce is projecting that there will be over 3 Million new jobs created by 2022.  With so many certified professionals unable to break into the field and a increasing shortage of consultants, how can the Salesforce ecosystem address a talent gap that is becoming greater every day?  I think there are a few practical solutions for everyone involved.

For Partners: Create a Minor League Team

Acquisition costs for talent are growing higher and higher and with such limited talent available many partners turn to recruiters, paying 20%+ of the first year salary in finder’s fees.  I believe Partners would be better served developing talent internally through internships & mentoring, creating their own minor league team that will become the next wave of consultants & developers.

The structure is simple enough to implement – create a 6-month intern or apprentice program that pays a decent wage, albeit one greatly lower than the cost of a standard consultant.  The time limit allows partners to end the agreement if the apprentice is not a good fit or if they do not develop fast enough, it can be extended.

The apprentice works on internal projects to help learn the business, implements improvements on the partner’s Salesforce instance, attends workshop & trainings, and starts to participate in client projects by taking notes, doing minor configuration.  Partner’s assign one of their team members as a mentor with occasional conversations around their progress, interests, challenges, and strategy for growing.

With the nation-wide average for consultant salaries around $80,000, a recruiter’s share of that hire can be between $15,000-20,000.  Investing that same $15-20k into a 6 month apprentice would produce talent that knows your business, processes, team members and has the skills to step into being a contributing member of the team.

Harvard Business Review notes that most employees leave to achieve career progression with an average salary increase of 5% when they move.  By hiring newer talent you be able to offer significant career movement and as they develop and you hire the next wave of apprentices, they can help mentor the next wave.  With the lower acquisition costs, you also have the ability to increase compensation significantly year to year; giving you two big chips to retaining the talent you developed.

.For Volunteers: Find a Mentor

Volunteering with non-profits is a great avenue to get some hands-on time and while the non-profits are happy for the assistance, despite your best intentions, its possible to do some harm. In our non-profit user group I have come across many instances where volunteers and inexperienced consultants have used approaches that are overbuilt, not scaleable, or simply do not work. 

To make sure you are able to get the much-needed experience & non-profits have access to high quality work I think the fix is relatively simply, find a someone to review solutions & builds.

Once you’ve found a non-profit to work with turn to LinkedIn, Mentorship Central Community Group, local User Groups, Ohana Slack, and the Trailblazer community in general to find someone who can offer you advice.  Their involvement does not have to be significant, an occasional phone call or email is all that is needed.

Discuss the business problem you are attempting to solve & the solution you plan to take, let them offer you feedback on your approach and work that into your plans.  You will gain a better understanding of best practices & learn faster through the wisdom of the community, while the non-profit you are working with gets stronger builds.

For Salesforce: Set the Stage

Salesforce has done a tremendous job of providing resources around their certification program & on-demand learning with Trailhead.  While these are great for developing platform specific abilities, soft skills needed in the business analyst, admin, and consulting worlds are not readily addressed.

Salesforce has already started an innovative solution in Indianapolis, the Pathfinder Training Program, that combines certification & trailhead material with soft skills being taught by one of their larger partners, Deloitte.  This is a wonderful start, one that hopefully rolls out to more cities and partners.  They are also rolling out training programs and student groups in universities across the country, introducing the platform to the next wave of talent.

However, while Salesforce is surely providing funding and existing materials from certification & trailhead content; I think there is room for more action.  As Salesforce grows to $20B in revenue and creates 3.3M new jobs, I would argue they could own a larger role in helping to address the growing talent gap that exists in their ecosystem.

This is a harder one to address with a concrete plan, but a few ideas are:

  • Offer partners ‘points’ towards their program level for having a apprentice program & hiring apprentices
  • Create a more formal channel for non-profits to be paired with volunteers AND for those volunteers to be paired with mentors
  • Develop more curriculum around soft skills & business knowledge; consider adding a Salesforce Business Analyst certification
  • Offer courses or materials around effective requirements gathering & solution design strategies
  • Work with more universities to introduce CRM courses in business & technology programs, ex: a a scripted 2-week exercise for students to build and implement a Salesforce instance to solve particular business challenges.

For All of Us: Each One Teach One

Somewhere along the way in our Salesforce journeys, we’ve all been helped by others both directly and indirectly.

Every admin, business analyst, developer, and consultant has googled their way to answers and most of us do so several times a day.  Many have searched for solutions or asked questions in the Trailblazer community.  Most of that knowledge was created by members of the Salesforce community in the form of Trailblazer community answers, blogs, how-to videos, and more.

User Group members get support from their peers and user group leaders, others have mentors or co-workers that helped them develop their skills.

The point is nearly all of us had help achieving success in our Salesforce related careers and it is our responsibility to pay that forward to those in need.  The great part is there is no shortage of ways to give back.  Join Mentorship Central, be active in the Trailblazer Community, help out with your local user groups, sign up to be a mentor on LinkedIn, volunteer with PepUp Tech, take an interest in your younger co-workers, contribute to a blog, etc, etc, etc.

Many of us have changed careers and landed in amazing Salesforce related roles and all of us have gained from the effort of others.  Help the next wave looking to do the same by picking a meaningful way to engage in the Salesforce Ohana.

As always, I’m open to and appreciate your thoughts – feel free to leave a comment to agree, disagree, offer other ideas, etc.  I look forward to hearing from you. – Tom


  1. Lex Leonard says:

    Great article Tom, you make many valid points about the struggles of the newly certified 201’s of the world. I’ve spoken to several partners who are in the process of building programs very similar to what you mention above. Hope to see this become more mainstream in the coming years

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Alex – we had an apprentice program at Summa, but there was not much of an emphasis on Salesforce talent (only 1 in my time there). I would love to see a blueprint that can be exported and shared across the industry…how else can we possibly solve what will be a talent crisis in a few years?

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