Doug Dennerline of Betterworks: “To create a fantastic work culture, nurture an environment that…

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had been a sales leader for 25 years and then I was given the opportunity to become the CEO of Webex post its acquisition by Cisco. I have been running SaaS companies ever since, including as President of SuccessFactors in the HCM space. I enjoy building software that meets the needs of today’s more agile HR processes with an emphasis on the performance management process and the largely millennial workforce that demands more than just one conversation a year about their performance.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins, is an investor in Betterworks — he has taught OKRs to all his portfolio companies including Google, YouTube and Intuit and has written a New York Times bestselling book about their successes called ‘Measure What Matters.’ The most interesting thing that happened to me was having breakfast with John and the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Tomislav Mihaljevic. Tom had read John’s book and wanted to use OKRs to help align all 60,000 employees of Cleveland Clinic around their strategic objectives, and we talked about how our software can help them achieve that goal.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One thing I’m really excited about is expanding our emphasis on applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to the human resources space. There is so much important data that is part of goal setting & aligning along with progress tracking and career development conversations. HR and business leaders need to be able to quickly and easily consume the actionable insights from all this important data — insights into making promotion or succession decisions or identify troubled areas in their organizations. AI and NLP (natural language processing) can be used to create powerful visualizations that HR and business leaders can drill down into to identify areas of focus.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

There is a real crisis of motivation happening right now. There is a disturbingly high percentage of employees who don’t understand how their work helps their company achieve its mission and, as a result, feel like they spend the majority of their time on activities they don’t see the value in or impact from. That can feel intensely demoralizing. Organizations need to change how they align and motivate their workforces and ensure that everyone knows how their work supports the top priorities of the organization, and allow appropriate transparency into cross-functional progress toward these priorities.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

Unhappy workers are not going to stay with your company. If you look at it from a cost perspective, employee turnover cost US companies more than $600 billion in 2018. And 43 percent of millennials say they will leave their current company in the next 18 months. Organizations looking to attract and retain top talent are looking to HR and their management to craft an employee experience that fuels sustained motivation. Sustained motivation requires: a sense of purpose through alignment on top company priorities, career development, and regular, crucial conversations around feedback from both managers and peers. These elements of an employee experience aren’t ‘nice-to-haves’ when engaged teams show 21 percent greater profitability, 17 percent higher productivity, and 10 percent higher customer ratings compared to disengaged teams. If your competition has adapted their performance management to better motivate and align their workforce and you have not, your business will quickly fall behind.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

The critical thing is to build a “feedback culture.” If you can do that, I believe any company will be in a good place because your workforce will be aligned around your top priorities, and your employees will feel invested in and understand the roadmap for their professional development. Here are five steps managers and executives should take to build a feedback culture:

1) Nurture an environment that supports open, transparent feedback up, down and across the organization: The number one characteristic of successful teams is trust. People need to feel psychological safety within their work teams and the ability to speak freely with their managers both about work and life in general. This level of trust only comes about when people talk more with each other and develop relationships through “real-life” conversations and shared experiences.

2) Train your managers (and employees) to give and receive feedback correctly:

Good feedback isn’t about telling people what they’re doing wrong. It should focus on providing specific positive recognition and identifying opportunities for development. We encourage every person to include at least one career development objective each goal setting period. For too many managers, these kind of conversations can be uncomfortable, making coaching your both your managers and employees about HOW to have these conversations is critically important. And because “practice makes perfect”, you want managers and employees to have the opportunity to have these kind of conversations regularly throughout the year — not just once.

3) Make the performance management process as transparent as possible:

How an employee’s performance will be evaluated and how their career will be developed are important aspects of the employee experience and overall corporate culture. During new employee onboarding take the time to share HOW performance management is done in your organization. Sharing that employees can expect transparent goal setting and progress tracking, as well as regular conversations with their manager feedback and career development gets everyone off to the right start.

4) Ensure that performance related conversations happen frequently and on an ongoing basis:

To be effective, feedback must be timely and ongoing. It doesn’t help people to rehash a mistake they made five months prior in an end-of-year review. Instead, focus on building the muscle of regular, frequent conversations between managers and their reports, which will ensure alignment and reduce anxiety around giving and getting feedback.

5) Get the right tech to support your organization’s unique process:

Part of the beauty of developing a feedback culture is that the insights gleaned from these conversations do not only benefit employees and managers, but also benefit the organization overall. In order to reap these benefits organization-wide, you need HR technology that captures these conversations, tracks progress, and enables HR and leadership to access these insights.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

One thing that would have a sustained positive impact on work culture is organizations putting into place processes, tools and supports that will help manager be better managers. Gallup data shows that the vast majority of managers do not have the necessary talents to be good managers — and because managers have an outsized impact on the employee experience, this lack of managerial talent is a big cause of today’s epidemic of poor engagement. HR teams and company leaders can put processes into place that support managers doing the right things — creating and aligning employee goals, giving feedback/talking about performance, ensuring there is a development plan in place for every employee and providing personalized recognition. Organizations who have adopted a continuous performance processes like these see improvements in managerial effectiveness and a sustained positive impact on workforce motivation.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

My style is all about empowerment; I hire experienced, motivated, smart leaders and I challenge them to strive to reach new levels. I want them to have an opinion, voice it thoughtfully and then gain agreement and more forward as a team. I’m also a big believer in radical candor; I’ve always given and been an advocate for continuous feedback, so I’m running the right company.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had many mentors. I learned a lot from John Chambers at my time at Cisco; he has a stretch mentality that has served me well in my career. He runs the company out front, is highly transparent and his favorite place is in front of a customer and that’s my favorite place too.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I feel fortunate to be CEO at Betterworks, because not every CEO of a software company can have such a direct impact on the work people do every day and, importantly, how they feel about the impact they make with that work. Betterworks fuels the continuous performance process that today’s workforce is craving — one that will allow everyone to perform at their highest level and achieve their wider career goals.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” — Albert Schweitzer

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like to see every organization adopting a more continuous performance process to better motivate their workforce. Transparently communicate organizational goals or OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) quarterly and ensure managers are having the crucial conversations around goal alignment, performance progress, feedback and recognition with their teams regularly. If every organizations and society on the whole could be more aligned around what matters, the world would be a better place.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!