Employee Engagement Vendor Overviews


Leading Recognition Brands

Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services

Wait. What? If you thought Sodexo was just a food services and facilities management company, you’re not alone. That’s how most people know the Sodexo brand. However, Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services (BRS) is very much in the recognition space and larger than any of the better-known category competitors. It’s no surprise that its most immediate challenge is a significant functional association problem. Based on our research and briefings, we believe that this €20 billion Paris-based global enterprise currently has enough market share to be the category leader and, with sound investment in brand and marketing, the potential to dominate.


As one of the biggest brand powers in recognition, we’d feel like we’re splitting hairs with its messaging and brand presence. The company is clearly investing in thought leadership and overall brand, and it still has market share growth potential. It’s experienced rapid growth over the past few years after pulling an IPO offering in 2014. Since then, there hasn’t been a visible attempt to return to the capital markets, especially considering the unfavorable current conditions. After social media was filled with customer frustrations about a service outage in late 2015, we have some concerns about Globoforce’s ability to scale and continue its growth trajectory against large, well-capitalized players. Also, we believe that the ability to monetize the software will be key to future growth among market leaders. If Globoforce can manage these issues, we believe it could be in position to contend for category leadership.

O.C. Tanner

The size and breadth of O.C. Tanner’s business has positioned it among the most powerful brands in the category. However, the company hasn’t always been known for all the right reasons. Its focus on developing world-class manufacturing and fulfillment capabilities, combined with past missteps with technology, has allowed competitors to position O.C. Tanner as a laggard. But that’s actually not the case. The company has taken great strides with its technology in the past few years, driven in part by its internal tech incubator, Tanner Labs. Because of its strong consulting and thought leadership capabilities, O.C. Tanner has proved to be a strong fit for large enterprise and multinational companies. To continue to succeed, it needs to continue its rapid progress in UI/UX and mobile. Its impending re-launch of a wellness product (Welbe) and moves into next-generation talent features are sending a clear message to the market — underestimate O.C. Tanner at your own peril.


Although smaller than other leaders in terms of revenue, the company has already announced plans to build out an Employee Engagement Platform, combining recognition with well-being, learning, and safety, among other areas. We believe that its multiyear focus on its technology, message, and brand is putting the company in the right place at the right time in the market.


After being acquired by Blackhawk Network in mid-2015, Achievers experienced a temporary and to-be-expected dip in brand power and message focus during the transition. In spite of competitor FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), Achievers has emerged in a strong competitive position because of the financial stability gained from the acquisition, as well as direct inroads into major accounts, thanks to Blackhawk’s connections. Unlike other industry players, Achievers has focused since 2012 on monetizing and driving innovation through the software part of its business. Today, Achievers is an anomaly because a significant (and increasing) percentage of revenue comes from the software part of its business. Also, Achievers posts some of the highest Net Promoter Scores (NPS) in the category. If Achievers can communicate these positive trends through brand and message, it’s in a position for aggressive growth.


BI’s message focus and some new technology have definitely helped it shed its dated, legacy-brand image. But, like many recognition and rewards players making the transition to engagement, it’s still searching for the right brand and thought leadership to help gain mindshare among new engagement buyers. The biggest opportunity (and challenge) for BI will be continuing to communicate a strong employee recognition message and not getting muddled with the part of its business that focuses on channel and customer loyalty and sales incentives.

Michael C. Fina Recognition

Sure, Michael C. Fina has good brand recognition, but its message focus is still primarily B2C due to the company’s original specialization in jewelry and luxury gifts. Brand confusion is a reality and it will hold the company back as long as it continues to lag in differentiating itself from the high-end rewards providers of the past.


Maritz is a huge company that many people simply don’t know enough about. It offers a wide variety of services, but there is a downside to that. Maritz is a great example of how challenging service communication can be. Does Maritz specialize in travel? Does it specialize in employee recognition? From its messaging, it’s hard to tell. Differentiating service offerings better would help build brand and functional association in this critical area. Although the company has strong thought leadership and some compelling technology, much of the value of these solutions gets lost in messaging for other parts of the business. Because of the company’s size and scale, there’s a huge upside opportunity if it can bring more focus and attention to its employee recognition solutions while maintaining clarity across the business.

Engage2Excel (Formerly TharpeRobbins)

What do you do when you have a 100-plus year-old heritage brand? If you’re TharpeRobbins, you drop that name and history and start from scratch. We’ll admit, it made us scratch our heads. After bringing in a new CEO from Kenexa, its focus on a new ROI-based employee recognition platform is interesting, and it’ll be even more interesting to see how the company can move its brand forward after such a radical (and we think mistaken) shift.

Madison Performance Group

Madison Performance Group has done some fine work with its brand over the past several years. It’s been No. 1 in HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen and has benefited from a clean and visually appealing brand. However, we believe Madison’s message needs to be more focused, but the biggest problem may not be just about language. Bucking the perception it’s a solution that hasn’t aged well compared with its competitors is going to take more than just a message refresh. The company will need to take big steps to show the market that it can move ahead in a very crowded field.

Other Recognition Brands to Consider

MTM Recognition

MTM Recognition is an awards company that just needs to reflect it in its branding and messaging, or change its offering to reflect a more recognition-driven approach. Pick a path and stick to it.


Terryberry’s a great example of the old-school rewards and recognition approach. Brand is secondary. The focus is traditional recognition markets such as public sector (police and fire) and manufacturing.

ITA Group

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, ITA Group’s primary focus is sales and channel incentives with a focus on travel, but it also offers employee engagement, performance, recognition, and well-being solutions. It has a nice-looking brand, but its differentiation isn’t clear at all. ITA has the building blocks to be a player in the employee engagement category, but it needs to focus its message and invest in awareness.


This Canadian company is a well-regarded, tech-forward upstart that suffers from a bit from a me-too brand and message. We fully expect it to be an attractive acquisition candidate as activity in recognition begins to heat up.


Rideau is a plucky Montreal company that often find itself boxing above its weight with bigger competitors. It’s got the heritage and some decent thought leadership, but something about Rideau’s brand makes us think of weddings — and not in a good way.


Formerly known as Corporate Rewards, WorkStride has actually been around since 1999 and has benefited from a well-executed rebrand and focused message to position it as a tech-forward company in recognition and not just an incentive company. It may have weak brand power at the moment, but its strong PR practice is starting to earn some of the right coverage for its positive messaging.


This Chicago startup has a beautiful visual brand, a spot-on message, and a recently closed $7.6 million Series A. It’s a tech-forward recognition provider with the performance review square in its sight — combining recognition with coaching and feedback, pulse surveys, analytics, and benchmarking. HighGround is really more than recognition — it’s a great example of how solutions are beginning to transcend old category designations to come together in more productive ways and, as a result, truly belongs in the new employee engagement category.

Reward Gateway

This London company has an impressive client list of big brands such as American Express, IBM, and McDonald’s, and has made great progress toward an employee engagement platform with recognition, well-being, benefits, and communication functionality. The recent acquisition of health-based startup Yomp demonstrates that it’s clearly moving in that direction. It’s executing well on brand and message, but it needs to turn up the volume because brand awareness is still low. That said, the company will continue to see benefits from a direct and early play for ownership of the Employee Engagement Platform designation.


With a focus on enabling service and sales operations, such as call centers, this Sunnyvale, Calif., company is a great example of where the employee engagement platform is headed — complete integration with the software where employees actually work. Bringing together learning, performance, recognition, and team collaboration puts PlayVox further into the future than most in the category. Its brand is well executed and its message is trending in the right direction.

Recognition Brands to Note

  • Motivosity: This Utah-based recognition provider is still hanging on to the rewards part of the industry. We don’t feel like its brand, message, or position are moving in the right direction.
  • Nudge Rewards: This Toronto company focuses on retail employers with a mobile platform and strong learning component. It’s a great position and its brand and message are well executed.
  • Point Recognition: It’s a small legacy rewards-focused player with a weak brand. Not much to say here.
  • Redii: It’s still early days for the Sydney startup, but it’s off to a good start with an attractive brand.
  • Teamphoria: Charleston, S.C., is a great startup scene and Teamphoria is off to a good start with a cool brand and a focus on the right things — recognition, surveys, communication, and performance.
  • TemboSocial/TemboStatus: The formula’s right — recognition and engagement measurement — but we think the bifurcated brand creates confusion for this Toronto startup. Employee engagement is going to be about bringing these pieces together, not dividing them up between related but still distinct brands.
  • USMotivation: This Atlanta company is really more of a travel incentive company — a smaller ITA Group, so to speak. All we’ll say about the brand is this: It looks like there’s a pot leaf on the logo.
  • WorkAngel: Combining this U.K. rewards and recognition company with Ceridian’s experience in employee engagement and wellness and the Dayforce HCM platform could immediately make them both a player as an emerging employee engagement platform. That said, without a cut-and-dried acquisition, WorkAngel still needs to tell this story effectively through brand and message.
  • YouEarnedIt: This Austin, Texas, company has a cool visual brand but doesn’t clearly communicate why it’s different.


Leading Wellness Brands


Despite slipping consumer market share, the exercise juggernaut Fitbit continues to dominate the wellness space from strictly a brand perspective. While Fitbit’s offerings are on the weak side — it really only focuses on activity-based challenges today — the overall corporate wellness offering is high on uptake, with more than 1,000 customers already taking advantage of its employer-focused programs. Fitbit has a huge advantage in brand awareness over other wellness and well-being competitors, and we believe that will buy the company some time to figure out its employer offering. We think there is a risk in the fickleness of consumer tastes. People may be lining up for their free Fitbits at trade shows today, but will it last?


No two ways about it — WebMD is a household name, and WebMD Health Services is a major player in the wellness industry. Look, WebMD isn’t going away. Its brand name alone can carry it into many deals. However, we believe its focus on services isn’t aligned with the growth in the wellness category and doesn’t position the company to compete in employee engagement. We believe that WebMD will continue to be a player in wellness because the demand for services isn’t going away. However, we don’t believe WebMD will be a factor in the employee engagement category without a significant change in direction — and that might involve buying a wellness technology provider.

Virgin Pulse

It’s Virgin — one of the sexiest global brands around. Need we go on? Fine. Virgin Pulse is more than a decade old, and it continues to make waves in the wellness and employee engagement industry, especially with its recent team-up with ShapeUp and Global Corporate Challenge. It has focused on building brand, thought leadership, and product development, but could Virgin Pulse be doing better? Of course. That being said, Virgin Pulse is acknowledged by even competitors as being a vendor they look at most frequently. The company’s report “State of the Industry: Employee Well-being in 2016” is worth the read and its studies on millennials are beneficial, as well. Like Virgin’s charismatic leader, the company is here to stay for a long, long time. It’s building toward the future direction of employee engagement, and its strong brand will keep it in contention for leadership.


The San Francisco-based Keas has become a cautionary tale, and a story about what might have been. Its technology is among the best in class for wellness, but taking its eye off the ball and deciding to focus on health management has taken it out of contention for category leadership. Today, it’s frequently mentioned as an acquisition target. The main message that Keas is sending to the market is one we’ve learned time and time again: The best technology isn’t always the solution that wins the day.


Bellevue, Washington-based Limeade recently ranked in Entrepreneur’s Top Company Cultures list, Fortune’s 100 Best Workplaces for Women, and is making waves with solid new hires. Limeade is drinking its own champagne, and because of that, its brand in wellness continues to rise. Continued investment in brand-building along with a focus on improving product capabilities should help it expand its reach in the coming 12 to 18 months. Its message is focused and it’s doing a great job of continuing to build brand awareness through aggressive marketing and promotion.


UnitedHealth Group is one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, with several different offerings. Though its Optum branch has seen incredible commercial success, the wellness messaging gets lost in the overall size and breadth of the company. Optum’s brand power carries weight based on the sheer size of UnitedHealth Group’s reach, but it lags from its potential. Also, like WebMD, its services focus isn’t aligned with the growth of the category. That said, Optum’s strategic investment in Rally Health allows it to stay focused on its core business — which is completely complementary with UHC services and business needs — while still benefiting from a tech-forward and future-focused solution.

Rally Health

There’s a lot of positive stuff to say about San Francisco-based Rally Health, but we’ll start with the important stuff: Kevin Hart is their health ambassador. From a brand perspective, we actually think that’s more noteworthy than a strategic investment from UnitedHealth Group. Beyond that, it has a beautiful, well-executed brand. At the product level, it approaches engagement from a combination of benefits management and wellness engagement that incorporates surveys, rewards, coaching, gamification, and communities. In some ways it looks like Jiff, Castlight Health, and even Maxwell Health. Unlike Keas, it hasn’t let adding benefits management divert the company’s focus away from engagement or cause market confusion. Keep an eye on Rally Health — it could become a major wellness player very quickly.


San Francisco-based LifeDojo has a differentiated product and a beautiful brand. It takes a holistic, science-based, clinical approach to healthy physical and mental behavior change, including the emerging category of financial wellness. In a very short period of time, this young company has become a hot, high-potential brand. Its biggest immediate challenge is amplifying its marketing efforts and building brand awareness.

RedBrick Health

When it comes to wellness, RedBrick Health has continued the march it started 10 years ago. Although it’s making a name for itself with national health surveys, a recently expanded management team, advanced integration, and personalized decision support, its investment in brand building is weak for how mature the company and product are. RedBrick’s health message is singular and simple, but the company needs to pull out its megaphone and start getting the attention many category competitors are already earning.

Other Wellness Brands to Consider


The San Diego-based wellness vendor already has 3.5 million members in its programs, but could benefit from strengthening its brand and developing a more differentiated message.


This company has a lot of advantages, including a strong brand, a spot-on message, and a partnership with Gallup. Healthways is also making its way into businesses and communities through the Blue Zones Project® and is providing Healthways with solid consumer brand awareness along the way. From a financial perspective, the company is a bit of a hot mess — and it’s no wonder, it’s doing a lot of different things. If Healthways can get its act together and focus, it could be a contender.


StayWell has been around for almost 40 years, and not surprisingly, the brand’s power and message focus are stale due to its lack of understanding of how its customers are evolving.


Dallas-based Viverae may be one of the fastest-growing tech companies in North Texas, but right now, its brand is mostly regional. Does Viverae want to become a national brand, or is the company content where it’s at?

Vitality Group

Vitality Group suffers from a common mistake: a muddy message that doesn’t tell the buyer what it actually does. That hurts its potential to grow beyond its current standing.


Although the Oakland-based company has an enterprise health management focus, it has the potential to be more of a player in the well-being space. It can be Rally Health or it could be Castlight. Whichever route Jiff chooses, we believe it needs to focus its message.


This Denver-based company has collaborated with IBM to build a Watson-based wellness app. However, we believe its brand and message need a lot of help.

Wellness Brands to Note

  • CrossKnowledge: It’s better known for its learning focus, but if CrossKnowledge can build functional association for its well-being product, it could make some moves in employee engagement.
  • FitLinxx: This wellness company has been around since 1993, and, unfortunately, its brand looks like it.
  • Shine by JouleBug: This app-based approach to wellness targets retail store managers and directors who want an easy, turnkey wellness solution that encourages healthy behaviors and engagement through the community. It’s a beautiful brand with a differentiated message and position.
  • Sonic Boom Wellness: A dated website design, challenge-focused product offering, and little brand investment don’t project much market share growth.
  • Sprout At Work: The brand and the message are spot-on with this Toronto-based company. However, it needs to put more energy into promotion if it wants to grow.
  • Welbe: O.C. Tanner’s wellness product is getting a makeover, and early previews look very encouraging.
  • WellRight: This privately held Chicago company has an acceptable visual brand, but it needs to hone its message and clarify its differentiation.
  • WellSource: The brand of this Portland, Ore., company is far too clinical for its own good. It’s also more focused on assessment rather than engagement — and potentially to the detriment of what little engagement focus it does have.
  • Whil: Mindfulness, yoga, and leadership development are the focus of this San Francisco well-being company. It’s differentiated and very interesting. This brand is off to a good start.
  • WORKTERRA: This Pleasanton, Calif., company is better known for its HCM and benefits administration solutions. But the company also has a very capable and competitive wellness product.


Leading Engagement Measurement Brands

Aon Hewitt

With its recent acquisition of Modern Survey, Aon Hewitt continues to be a dominant figure in the measurement space. Modern Survey provides just the right edge that a large consulting firm like Aon needs. Because of its size, scale, and abilities to take on acquisitions to keep it competitive, Aon Hewitt should be in a good position as the market shifts. The only question mark: Will its size limit its agility as the speed of change increases?

Willis Towers Watson

Another giant player in the measurement space is Willis Towers Watson. As one of the world’s largest advisory groups, WTW continues to make a name for itself. It’s always been at the forefront of employee engagement with strong thought leadership that highlights the strength of its consulting services. However, what hasn’t been as well known is the strength of its talent technology offerings, which will position it well in the category as the market opportunity increases.


Gallup is one of the few household names in measurement vendors. Although best known for its public surveys that find their way into news reports, Gallup is a force in employee engagement. Its biggest challenge is in overcoming the perception that it’s an enterprise-only consulting opportunity. In fact, its Q12 and StrengthsFinders products are widely adopted among organizations of all sizes — even down to the SMB level. Although Gallup will always be competitive, it may be surprised to see ankle-biting competitors taking bigger and bigger bites.


Qualtrics has huge clients on its roster and well-regarded technology that’s getting traction in all aspects of market research. However, will employee engagement be enough of a draw for Qualtrics? Because of its focus on customer and market research, the changes in the engagement measurement market may present the risk of pulling Qualtrics too far away from its core business. Based on that decision, it will need to focus its messaging accordingly.

Quantum Workplace

Because of its relationship with American Business Journals, Quantum Workplace powers 41 Best Places to Work contests around the country. Quantum Workplace has built a lot of goodwill toward its brand, but this has also caused it a bit of a functional association problem. Quantum Workplace is so much more than a traditional engagement survey provider. It has already built out a number of essential next-generation features, including pulse surveys, recognition, goals, feedback, and one-on-ones. Even though it’s based in Omaha, Neb., it’s scoring impressive client wins in tech hubs such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston. It’s doing a lot of things right, and it has a strong, clean, clear brand. All it needs to do now is turn up the volume.


Launched by TINYhr in 2012, TINYpulse’s messaging is still muddled, but its brand is starting to find its way. Its recent launch of TINYpulse Perform made some waves, and its mission to end the annual performance review is admirable. However, we believe that the two descriptive names the company uses are limiting and create brand confusion. A more focused message and a name change would improve the company’s chances in an increasingly competitive category.

Culture Amp

Culture Amp has some big, big clients, which landed it a nice feature in Fortune. It has done a great job with its brand and building out People Geeks as a global community and industry movement. It’s a brand that’s really starting to emerge. The one caveat? It may be messaging too far ahead of the market. The conversation is headed toward culture, and Culture Amp understands that. However, it’s not there yet.


Glint was a winner of The Starr Conspiracy Brand Marketing Award in 2015 at InfluenceHR for the potential of its brand in this category. Its product is at the leading edge of the engagement upstarts in this category, with a beautiful UI and powerful back-end analytics. However, in spite of beautiful logo at the center of its visual brand, its website and message are rather “me-too” and miss the big opportunity in the category.

Other Engagement Measurement Brands to Consider


Employee engagement measurement is only one of many things this Santa Clara-based company does. The company says most of the right things, but its brand and message are truly uncompelling.


This New York City startup is coming on strong and — like Culture Amp — focusing on the “culture” end of the engagement spectrum. Like Culture Amp, it may be too far ahead of the market.


Down to the name, RoundPegg’s brand is really starting to hit its stride. Powered by a strong product, and as its messaging continues to improve, its brand will continue to grow.

SoapBox Innovations

The Toronto-based company has a friendly, understated, and efficient brand and message, and an impressive client list as well.


This Ottawa-based firm has focused exclusively on employee engagement since 2000, with a blend of technology and consulting. Its brand and message aren’t flashy, but both are clear and efficient.

Survey Tools such as Inquisium by Cvent, Questback, Voxco

Inquisium by Cvent:



Like Qualtrics, these three firms are more of pure-play survey providers. Employee engagement is a secondary message for them — more aligned with a use case or product than a leading message. Based on their business models, that approach may be a fine strategy.

Engagement Measurement Brands to Note

  • 15Five: This company has become a much-talked-about SF-startup and has integrated check-ins, pulse surveys, recognition, and analytics to simplify and expedite the employee engagement process.
  • BlackbookHR: This Cincinnati-based company has a really solid product, but its brand focuses far too much on the features, not the benefits.
  • Engagement Multiplier: This Chicago-based company focuses on the SMB in the U.S. and U.K. with a streamlined, straightforward brand.
  • Happiness Works: This small U.K. company is going all-in on brand and message with the business benefits of happiness.
  • Herd Wisdom: Small, privately held company with a nice brand and a spot-on message.
  • Hyphen: For better and worse, this mobile app feels very San Francisco and seems tailor-made for startups there. YMMV.
  • Kanjoya: This San Francisco startup is a Workday partner and newly minted Gartner cool vendor. It has a nice visual brand and a strategic (workforce intelligence) message angle.
  • Officevibe: This Montreal company has a cool little brand and very polarizing message position — annual surveys are broken. C’est bon.
  • Peakon: This Danish company has suddenly become a hot brand of the moment based on its recent Series A funding and expansion into the U.K. Keep an eye on them.
  • Perceptyx: This Temecula, Calif., provider takes more of a traditional employee survey approach, but has taken great strides with its brand — it’s fresh, different, and well executed.
  • Plasticity Labs: This Kitchener, Ontario, company plays the happiness angle well and has a strong core competency around research. It’s a very interesting brand.
  • Responster: This early stage Swedish company focuses on survey tools and needs to put a little more zip in its brand and differentiation in its message.
  • Waggl: This is a very cool early stage San Francisco company with a good brand and a simple yet strategic message focus.
  • Workplace Dynamics: Best known for media partnerships for Top Workplace Awards with The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, it takes more of the traditional engagement survey approach. Its visual brand is pleasant enough, but its message focus is unexceptional and undifferentiated.

Other Employee Engagement Vendors Worth Noting

The following solutions fall more in the talent management and learning areas, which will be covered in future brandscapes. However, because of the strong connection to the employee engagement category, we believe they also deserved to be mentioned here.


The problem with the movement to jettison the performance review is that many alternatives don’t have any idea how to address the management and measurement of goals. BetterWorks has built its business on solving this problem, and it’s using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) system made famous by Google as the foundation. After entering the market with a big brand splash at HR Tech in 2014, this Palo Alto-based company landed a $20 million Series B in March 2016. Armed with that cash, BetterWorks needs to focus on building awareness and creating a greater sense of urgency for buyers to adopt goals. For better or worse, the management and measurement of goals still takes a back seat to the performance conversation in the minds of most buyers.


The term “integrated talent management” is a loaded one. So what’s different about San Francisco-based ClearCompany? Well, almost everything. Make no mistake, it may look old school, but when you look under the hood, what you find is an employee engagement platform that has very purposely and thoughtfully integrated its talent tools — from recruiting and hiring, to onboarding, to measuring and improving goals and performance. As a result, employers hire candidates who have the DNA to be engaged in the first place, then nurture that engagement appropriately when the candidates become employees. And based on the latest G2 Crowd research, ClearCompany is blowing away its better-known competition. It’s getting its brand and message dialed in — now it just needs to generate more awareness and build functional association with next-generation – not previous-generation — solutions.


Positioning as “the anti-LMS learning management system” has become more common in the corporate learning market. Degreed goes way beyond this position into truly unique and refreshing territory with a platform that scores and validates all manner of formal and informal learning — college classes, corporate training, conference attendance, or self-taught learning such as Lynda.com. Here’s how confident Degreed is: It will API integrate into most LMSs. Watch this San Francisco/Salt Lake City company very quickly find its way into the engagement conversation with its January 2016 Series B round of $21 million and the subsequent talent influx.


Career-pathing technology is the biggest missed opportunity in employee engagement. But not for long. Many upstarts in the engagement measurement space are already beginning to develop this technology. However, Fuel50 has the science behind it. It most recently won a Gold Award for Best Advance in Career Management or Planning Technology in the 2015 Brandon Hall Group Excellence Technology Awards. And it’s able to demonstrate significant and immediate impact on engagement scores with enterprise clients. Watch this brand as an acquisition target.


The only reason this San Francisco-based company isn’t mentioned in another part of this report is that it’s very directly performance management, which places it more as a next-generation talent management system. We expect it to very quickly find itself in the conversation as a player in the employee engagement category. Irony alert: Its October 2015 $3.5 million seed round from Andreessen Horowitz was led by SuccessFactors founder Lars Dalgaard.

The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC)

This company would be on track to be a player in employee engagement if it were only about its charismatic and talented founder, Marcus Buckingham, the author of First, Break All the Rules. However, it has also built a very interesting and compelling platform that balances individual and team performance with pulse surveys, feedback conversations, machine learning, and robust analytics. The company has a lot going for it: a top-flight brand evangelist, first-class thought leadership, tons of experience on the product and sales side, and a polished brand. The only potential flaw: It might be a little too far ahead of the market, which could result in a functional association problem. To us, it looks like an employee engagement platform/next-generation talent management solution. We fear that the market will see it as a leadership development solution and put it in the same category as Korn Ferry, Ken Blanchard, and those types of solutions.


This Toronto startup is founded by two former Achievers employees and addresses employee engagement not through recognition, but through facilitating the conversations between managers and employees at both the one-on-one and team levels, then holding everyone accountable to the commitments they make. We see this as a perfect example of where the employee engagement category is going — fundamentally rethinking the approach based on how people actually work and creating an actual productivity tool, not another HR system. It’s still early days for WorkTango, but it’s got a compelling, differentiated brand and position.