The government needs to do more to fill the tech skills gap, says UK Salesforce Executive Vice President and CEO Zahra Bahrololoumi.
Speaking with City A.M., Bahrololoumi explained that the current talent shortage for tech and software roles is a “crisis,” pointing to the company’s own research, which found that over three-quarters of the global workforce don’t feel ready to operate in a digital-first world.
“We have a crisis in the UK where we are not prepared to skill up a nation to thrive and work in jobs productively to support our economy,” she said.
Because of this inertia, firms like Salesforce have been forced to plug the hole for themselves: investing in diversity apprenticeship schemes and free ‘Trailhead’ training schemes.
“The UK needs an overarching digital skills strategy, where we pinpoint what would drive productivity,” she explained. “What is absolutely clear is that this requires continual collaboration with business and government.”
Despite this, London remains a key hub for Salesforce, with the City acting as a “priority market in terms of investment” and Bishopsgate’s Salesforce Tower remaining the company’s second busiest office, just behind San Francisco.
On why she thought employees and clients were still drawn into the office, she said it was down to the “buzzy atmosphere.”
“People long for that connection and I don’t think that will ever go away”, Bahrololoumi explained.
Survive, thrive and cost-cut
In many ways, Salesforce is its own pandemic success story, monetising on the overwhelming demand for digital transformation across sectors; it now serves more than half of the FTSE 100.
In Bahrololoumi’s view, the Covid lockdowns “made us [Salesforce] more relevant than ever”, attracting clients like Asda, Currys and PensionBee to name but a few.
Salesforce also flexed its software muscles last year, snapping up messaging giant Slack for a whopping $27.7bn (£23.1bn), and completing its ‘digital HQ’.
However, Bahrololoumi believes the driving force behind digital strategies and customer relationship management systems are evolving.
“Digital transformation was initially driven by survival for companies at the start of the pandemic, which then shifted into how companies could then thrive during the pandemic”, Bahrololoumi told City A.M.
Now she said the focus from client and customers is increasingly on rising input costs, ongoing supply chain woes, and concerns about talent inflows.
“It has shifted to customers looking at digital transformation to automate services”, she said, suggesting that efficiency and cost-cutting was now at the heart of a lot of emerging digital strategy.