Betterworks: How This Company Drives Higher Employee Engagement And Greater Manager Effectiveness

By Amit Chowdhry • May 28, 2024

Betterworks is an intelligent performance management solution that empowers your people to reach their highest potential. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Betterworks CEO Doug Dennerline to learn more about the company.

Doug Dennerline’s Background

Doug Dennerline

What is Dennerline’s background? Dennerline said:

“I’ve been working in Silicon Valley since 1982 at companies including HP, 3Com, and Cisco, and had a hand in massively scaling those companies. I was also the president of SuccessFactors, where I was responsible for all revenue-generating activities of the company, including, but not limited to, customer success and results, renewals, and marketing. In my last role at Cisco, I became the CEO of Webex after the acquisition of Webex by Cisco. I’ve been running SaaS companies ever since and have been the CEO at Betterworks since 2018.”

“I’m also the co-author of the book Make Work Better: How Great Bosses Lead, Give Feedback, and Empower Employees, and I am passionate about using technology to transform the employee experience and drive real business results.”

Formation Of Betterworks

How did the idea for the company come together? Dennerline shared:

“Betterworks was founded on the premise of bringing OKRs (objectives and key results) to the masses. The company quickly recognized that goals were a critical element in driving high-performing teams, but there were other capabilities needed to create an effective performance management solution.”

“Today, Betterworks offers goal setting alongside conversations, 1:1s, feedback, recognition, employee engagement surveys, and calibration. We augment the human capital management systems that don’t focus on innovation in performance management — but that’s our primary focus, and we’re helping many companies transform how their employees work.”

Favorite Memory

What has been your favorite memory working for the company so far? Dennerline reflected:

“The ability to develop the company’s culture into one in which people can be authentic and do their best work has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my time at Betterworks thus far. As the former CEO of Webex, I’m a big believer in remote work, and by using our own application as well as supportive technologies like Zoom, we can easily see how we are progressing in the most important work. Our remote-first work environment also gives our people the flexibility to be fully present in both their professional and personal lives.”

Core Products

What are the company’s core products and features? Dennerline explained:

“The Betterworks solution incorporates goal-setting, manager-employee conversations, feedback, employee engagement, and recognition — all accessible in the applications employees use daily in the flow of work, like email, calendars, and messaging apps.”

“The solution also combines generative AI and data analytics that enable organizations to make smart, data-informed decisions linked to performance, calibration, skill development, career development, and succession planning. Betterworks’ modules capture structured and unstructured data to provide HR with comprehensive views of employee performance, which enables managers to easily coach employees in both performance and career development, continuously improving performance and elevating the employee experience.”

Challenges Faced

What challenges has Dennerline faced in building the company? Dennerline acknowledged:

“Certainly, both COVID and the downturn in the economy have affected the speeds at which companies are looking to improve their antiquated performance processes. We are seeing a growing interest in companies looking to improve their performance programs to be more forward-looking, in the flow of work, and having a measurable impact on business performance.”

Evolution Of Betterworks’ Technology

How has Betterworks’ technology evolved since launching? Dennerline noted:

“As mentioned, we have added a suite of talent and performance management capabilities that replace the 70-plus-year-old annual performance process. These features include goals, conversations, 1:1s, feedback, recognition, employee engagement, and calibration. We are also weaving generative AI into our solution, allowing users to incorporate performance data into the feedback they give, conversations they have, and goals they create.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of the company’s most significant milestones? Dennerline cited:

“There are many. A few that come to mind are surpassing 200 employees, landing our first customer with more than 150,000 users, surpassing a revenue goal that we don’t share, and attaining world-class customer retention and incredibly high implementation scores. Over the years, we have also won a total of thirteen awards from Comparably, including Best Company Culture, Best Company Outlook, and Best Leadership Team.”

Customer Success Stories

After asking Dennerline about company success stories, he highlighted:

“A particular story that comes to mind is the success the University of Phoenix has had since implementing Betterworks. When they first came to us, they were seeking to transform their performance management and performance review processes. They had already implemented quarterly check-ins in place of their annual performance review cycle but switched to Betterworks to facilitate these conversations. As a result, participation in the quarterly check-in conversations rose from 37% with their former HCM system to almost 90% with Betterworks. The University of Phoenix’s employees also became more confident in management because of the transparency Betterworks provides and more regular conversations being held. This change was evidenced by the measure for employees’ confidence that management is listening to and acting on feedback from workers rising from the 50s to the 80s after implementing Betterworks.”

“Crakmedia, a web marketing company based in Canada, has also had success with Betterworks. From 2018 to 2023, Crakmedia’s workforce more than tripled as they worked to create an inclusive, growth-centric culture. Crakmedia sought to implement goals, feedback, and regular check-ins and was looking for an agile solution that would allow them to best carry out these practices. After implementing Betterworks, the company reached 100% adoption of the platform. Additionally, with the strides the company made in prioritizing an inclusive and growth-oriented culture, aided by the use of Betterworks for their performance processes, the company’s voluntary turnover rate dropped from 34% in 2019 to just 15% in 2023. Crakmedia’s engagement score, measured by Officevibe, also rose from 7.4/10 in 2019 to 8.2/10 in 2022, when the average score for similar companies is 7.7/10.”


After asking Dennerline about the company’s funding information, he revealed: “We have raised over $150 million in funding.”

Total Addressable Market

What total addressable market (TAM) size is the company pursuing? Dennerline assessed:

“We are focused on the higher end of mid-market and large enterprises and those companies that are running on HCM platforms with complex and outdated performance management platforms. Considering that all employees in enterprises of all kinds need an ongoing review of their performance, the TAM is considerable.”

Differentiation From The Competition

What differentiates the company from its competition? Dennerline affirmed:

“Betterworks offers a modern, enterprise-ready performance management solution that fosters higher employee engagement, greater manager effectiveness, and intelligent decision-making for HR leaders and organizations. The platform’s modern architecture is scalable and extensible, and processes can be embedded in the flow of work, meeting employees in the places they’re already working. Betterworks also brings expertise to the implementation and program design process, partnering closely with leaders in the customer’s organization to ensure program success.”

Future Company Goals

What are some of the company’s future company goals? Dennerline pointed out:

“We are very excited about artificial intelligence and its impact on HR. One of the reasons the performance process is so widely disliked is that it’s cumbersome and time-consuming, and most leaders don’t know how to give meaningful performance feedback. AI will now be able to act as a co-pilot that can help managers write bias-free, professionally worded, and actionable feedback. AI will be able to help managers be better leaders by prompting them when they need to reach out to make sure their people are making the progress necessary to be able to reach both their personal and professional goals as well as company goals in a timely manner.”

Additional Thoughts

Any other topics to discuss? Dennerline concluded:

“While the conversation around whether AI will replace employees remains widely debated, the way that I think about this is not that AI will replace jobs but that employees who leverage and build skills around AI will come to replace those who don’t. The efficiency gains AI allows for are clear, and the use of AI for rote tasks as well as in strategic initiatives will make employees more productive and able to better drive business results more effectively and efficiently.”