November 3, 2022

Deloitte CMO on Exceptional Employee Engagement

Deloitte added 156K new hires in 2022. You heard that right—in the middle of mass-resignations and the war for talent, the professional services brand’s employee base has grown to 412K-strong. What’s their secret? 

Enter Deloitte CMO Suzanne Kounkel, who has been with the firm for 27 years, serving countless consumer and business brands while leading relationships with many of the firm’s largest clients. In this insight-heavy episode, Suzanne shares what it means to win at employee engagement, how Deloitte keeps its culture strong in a hybrid world, and the integral role brand plays in all of it.

This episode is largely about creating the formal programs that lead to those informal magic moments—where a brand’s culture lives freely in the wild in a way that captures the attention of talent, customers and prospects. Tune in!

What You’ll Learn in This Episode 

  • How Deloitte engages a 412K-strong employee base 
  • How the pandemic impacted recruiting, retention, and culture 
  • How to make a brand promise real internally   

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 317 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 

Time-Stamped Highlights 

  • [3:45] Lessons from working under E. Gordon Gee  
  • [6:12] Hiring 156K people in 2022  
  • [8:21] From Deloitte consultant to CMO   
  • [12:14] How the pandemic impacted recruiting  
  • [13:47] The advantages of remote culture  
  • [18:54] Adapting Deloitte University   
  • [21:31] The moments that matter: When to meet in-person   
  • [23:09] Ad break: CMO Huddles  
  • [23:45] Building culture in a hybrid world  
  • [26:59] The leadership paradigm shift  
  • [28:45] Brand’s role in recruiting  
  • [31:35] What are your 3 behavioral values?   
  • [34:05] “How you do everything is how you do anything”  
  • [35:21] Deloitte’s brand values  
  • [37:45] Ad break: B2B market research at Renegade  
  • [38:80] Internal comms at Deloitte  
  • [42:48] A winning employee advocacy program  
  • [48:23] Measuring employee satisfaction   
  • [50:41] Lessons learned: employee engagement  
  • [53:24] Dos and Don’ts for marketing to employees  

Highlighted Quotes 

“You have to talk to your employees a lot about why you're doing things versus what you're doing.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet 

“If your employees know why you have a rule or policy, then they can adjust that in the actual scenario, and your customers will be so much better served.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet

“We have a master brand that we need to be vibrant and evocative and compelling in two markets: In the talent market and the client market.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet  

“Life is lived in the small moments every day.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet

“You can do formal things, but when it's informally part of the fabric, that's when the magic really occurs.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet 

“Employees can be a really important focus group for your external messaging because if they don't get it or it doesn't resonate, it's probably not going to work externally.” —@suzanne_kounkel @DeloitteUS Click To Tweet

Suzanne Kounkel’s Two Dos & a Don’t for Marketing to Employees  

  1. Find ways for employees to participate, direct, and shape what the internal communication looks like, whether it’s topics or channels.  
  2. Lean into the variety of voices you have in the executive suite. What we have found is that people listen more to the people that are directing their performance, their day to day lives, etc. All of the other speakers, funnel them through those voices.  
  3. Don’t think that any one channel is sufficient. 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Suzanne Kounkel


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know that the audio version of Renegade Marketers: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority? Kind of cool, right? You can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform. And speaking of audio, before we get into today’s show here’s a shout out to the podcast professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make sure that the show got even better and had been blown away by both their strategic and executional prowess. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast or want to turbocharge your current show, be sure to talk to Rachel Downey at and tell her Drew sent you. Okay, let’s get on to today’s episode.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade Drew Neisser.

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! If you’ve read my book, you know that I think most marketers have their targeting priorities backwards, focusing on prospects, then customers then employees. Now I understand— I’m not naive— I understand why this happens. CEOs, boards, and investors expect marketing and marketers to have a direct impact on revenue. And by the way, with a recession looming, if not already underway, the tendency is to shift dollars to demand generating activities with that tendency will only increase. So why then am I imploring B2B marketers anywhere and everywhere to think about your employees first. To make them the priority from your first day on the job, to involve them and your positioning research, to empower employees to advocate on your behalf of your brand, and to measure the pride they feel in working at your company. Lots of good questions, but rather than having me answering questions, I think it’s a good time to introduce our very special guest today, Suzanne Kunkel, CMO of Deloitte. So welcome Suzanne. How are you?

Suzanne Kounkel: I’m great. It’s great to be here.

Drew Neisser: And where are you?

Suzanne Kounkel: I am physically in San Francisco. In my home, as many of us are.

Drew Neisser: There we are. With the appropriate number—at least some books in the background. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Exactly.

Drew Neisser: It’s important, particularly once folks see my background, they go, “Okay, I gotta beef up on the books.” Since we’re recording this on a Friday, I’m a little closer to happy hour than you are. But my apologies on that front, but we’ll get there. Now, you’ve been at Deloitte for over 27 years and it’s the only company listed on your LinkedIn profile. But I did notice that there were a few years between your graduation from Boulder and your start at Deloitte. Now I’m hoping that was your like ski bum period, or…?

Suzanne Kounkel: I wish it was as well. You know, it’s interesting that many people notice that. But I actually was asked, as I was graduating from my undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado Boulder, I was asked by the President of the University and the University of Colorado systems of 5 campus university. So I was asked by the President to come work for him at the time, Gordon Gi, which was an amazing experience. And he said, which was also amazing that he would be supportive in terms of time and tuition if I wanted to do a graduate degree at the same point in time. So I did work for him for a couple of years while I was doing my Masters.

Drew Neisser: Very cool, and I’m just curious, from that experience, what did you learn or that really stays with you?

Suzanne Kounkel: You know, I learned so many things from Gordon. But interestingly enough, a lot of things that are directly relevant to what I do today. So the first thing was Gordon was very big—and, you know, lead into some of the things we’re talking about today—around both brand and customer experience. And at a state university like that, customers can be taxpayers, they can be students, they can be professors, they can be legislators, they can be a lot of different people. And so he was very mindful about that, and did a lot of things around instilling pride in the organization and the shared ownership and engagement. So that’s one thing. The second thing is Gordon was absolutely amazing around being thankful and appreciative. You know, every day he wrote 5 thank you letters, which was an amazing thing to see up front. And then the third thing I loved about Gordon was we’d be done with a long day and he would call me into his office. And he’d be like, “Okay, Suzanne, what are you doing? Where are you going? And what are your dreams? And what are you doing to make them happen?” And then after a little while, he turned to me and he would say, “Okay, now let’s do me.” And it was such an important lesson because, you know, here’s this individual that you think is at the pinnacle of his career. And in his mind, he was like, “There are next adventure. They’re bigger adventures. There’s the next thing.” And he always wanted to be learning and growing and getting better. And so I feel very, very appreciative that I was able to work in that environment.

Drew Neisser: Wow, what a great—I mean, so many life lessons there. I mean, the thank you notes alone, just being appreciative at that level. And you hear that, you know, it just reminds me of Jim Collins, whenever he talks about sort of the invisible—a great leader of what I think he called it, and it was this Invisible Hand. But they were always so kind of people who would do that. They didn’t stand up and thank everybody. They did it in a very methodical, discreet way. And then the notion that he actually said, “Okay, now that I’ve helped you, let’s talk about me.” That’s amazing, great story.

Suzanne Kounkel: It was amazing. And remember, with those thank yous, those had to be either handwritten or typed up at that point in time and mailed.

Drew Neisser: Right. Yeah, no. And by the way, there’s still nothing more powerful than a handwritten thank you note. 

Suzanne Kounkel: I really agree.  


Drew Neisser: Mainly because you get so few of them. And I have to say that’s a skill. I mean, my wife and I complain about this, our handwriting skill has gone down so much. 

Oh, my gosh, so yeah, when I have to write a thank you note, probably takes me 3 or 4 drafts. But anyway, now you’re at Deloitte, you’ve been there 27 years, you’ve got 345,000+ employees—whatever—that’s what Google said you had in terms of employees worldwide. You gotta be one of the most foremost authorities on recruiting and probably retaining employees in the world. So let’s just set the stage on this from a recruitment standpoint. I think you gave me a statistic of the number—like, what is it 1 every 2 site…? What was the number?

Suzanne Kounkel: It’s an amazing number. And by the way, that’s what Google told you. Our global CEO just sent out a message saying we’re at 412,000 employees. That’s how quickly we’re changing with respect to people. You know, we hired 156,000 people in 2022. And the other thing that’s amazing, Drew, that we do exceptionally well that’s part of our kind of corporate muscle that we don’t think a whole lot about—which is pretty amazing—is that because of the nature of the work we do, right? It’s project based, and we’re always moving through projects. Some portion of that workforce, you know, let’s call it a third is being redeployed about every 6-12 weeks. So it’s mind boggling. But yes, we do spend a lot of time on recruiting, we spend a lot of time on retention, because those 2 things are really closely linked.

Drew Neisser: I mean, the only employer that I can think of that might have had hired that kind of numbers, at least is Amazon, right? And that was certainly at the beginning of the pandemic. But that’s a very different worker. I mean, you’re hiring 156,000 people, most of whom I’m imagining are on the front lines.

Suzanne Kounkel: Absolutely. I was—I always joke when I’m on any panel with a B2C CMO. Because I say, “Imagine if your products walked and talked, right?” Which is absolutely on the front lines, and they are our best brand stewards and brand ambassadors.

Drew Neisser: So I realized I missed something as we were getting—you and I met 4 years ago, doing a live streaming webinar when Deloitte sponsored the US Open at Shinnecock—qnd by the way, that was the only time I’ve been at US Open Golf, incredible experience—but you are new to the role—or relatively new because I had interviewed your predecessor in 2017. So that means that for the last 4 years, you’ve been a CMO. But before that you spent 23 years as a consultant. How different has it been being a CMO?

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, I laugh frequently with my clients, because I say that the role I’m in as penance for all the times I was frustrated with them, or I said to them things like, “It’s not that hard. Just do it. Why is this taking so long?” And now I’m sitting in that seat, and I’m like, “Okay, I get why it is very hard, and it takes quite some time.” But you have to kind of keep agitating around it. 

But it is amazing, because there are things that you learn as a consultant. A big tenant of our brand is this whole notion of impact that matters. So when we do consulting projects, we’re pretty maniacally focused on do what matters and what will make a difference. So I try to keep that same mentality in place. 

Another piece of the way we think about the work that we do is we are always trying to engage those around us. And leaving the world a better place. So I’m thinking, hopefully, at my best, I’m thinking a lot about how can I make the organization stronger and raise everyone and sort of teach everyone? So hopefully that comes through the notion of sort of broader collaboration. 

The one thing that has been interesting to me is I grew up with the firm—obviously, as you mentioned—and so I had a lot of what I would call street cred coming into the marketing part of the organization. Because when I interact with other partners and managing directors, they know I know their world, right? I sold, delivered, and worked for a lot of years. And still, it was surprising to me, even though I’d been counseling other CMOs for years and years about this notion of collaboration and the C-suite and speaking the same language and all those sorts of things. Still, I was surprised at the difficulty of that and the importance of getting that right. So that’s been something that I’ve been really working on.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I would imagine. So when you’re a consultant, you have your clients, and you’re focused on impact that matters. You can say, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do for you and you can assemble a team and go do it.” Obviously, the client has to say, “Yes.” But what happens is the CMO—and this is one of the reasons why it’s such a challenge—there are too many dependencies. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Right.

Drew Neisser: You’ve got people who are, quote, product, you’ve got people who look at marketing as an expense, not an investment—this is coming right out of their pocket, this is a tax—or they want a specific part of the company promoted, right? And so, “Why are you promoting that when I do this?” There are a lot of potential cooks in the kitchen, there are a lot of dependencies, it’s a different job. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, it is a very different job. And I think the trick is to make sure that you draw upon the strength of that, because you are going to—not pay the price, but it’s going to become necessary to get things to stick and to move faster. Ultimately, you do need to kind of go slow to get that engagement to then be able to go fast later.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, no. And we talk a lot with CMOs—and the audience knows this—I do a lot of CMO coaching and those relationships that you build with the CEO, the CFO, the CRO, and your HR person, all of those are so critical to the things that the potential that marketing has to really have an impact on the company. As you said, “To have impact that matters.” 

We’re going to go back to recruiting and retention. There was this thing called the pandemic that came up in March 2020, or certainly earlier in some parts of the world. Talk a little bit about how the pandemic impacted recruiting for you, was it harder or easier? I mean, I’m just trying to get a grasp of hiring 156,000 people virtually. That’s sort of basic part of this and then I have a lot more questions related to that.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, so there were parts of it that were a lot easier. And there were parts of it that were harder, right? So the parts that were easier is, you know, you think about all of us. It was easier, because you could get to people, right? In pre COVID, for most of the recruiting activities, you needed to physically get to someplace to have an interview. And so that meant that there was timing delays, that meant that people may or may not have been interested enough to actually hop on a plane and go see somebody or take that time away from their existing job and that sort of thing. So the access, and the availability was much easier. I think there were some things around truly understanding the organization and understanding what the experience might be post COVID, that was harder. And so we really had to lean into storytelling. And then we really had to lean into people feeling good and connected once they got here. And that was something that I think was tricky about it just because we weren’t thinking as much about it. And I think that’s true of most organizations during this time.

Drew Neisser: And I really want to focus on that. This notion of connection, because we’ve been talking a lot about this and CMO Huddles about in the old days, just 2 years ago, office was sort of the way that culture was built. You think about it in that what made a company sticky is the relationships that you have with people, you talk to the top of the show about your first boss, and how much you learned from them. That is what keeps you, accompanies you. And one of the things that everybody has seen, and I’m imagining, and I’m putting words in your mouth, that it’s been very hard to keep the people that you hired in the pandemic, they don’t have the same relationship with their fellow employees that they did before. And so I mean, first, let me stop talking and just confirm that that is a proof with the Great Migration must have had an impact on you all. And if you looked at the people you hired in 2020, and you looked at the relative number who stayed 2 years later.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, we hired directionally, this is correct. We hired about 50,000 people in the US in 2020, right. And those were individuals that a year later had never been to a Deloitte office or have been co located. And so many of our rituals, traditions, culture was enforced by behavior where we were together on a project doing work for a client. And so we did things, we were no different than any other organization. But we really had to try to do a lot to lean into, well, what was the advantage? You know, I’m a big believer that what you like most about a person or something is inextricably linked with what you like least. The thing about the pandemic was, it certainly curtailed our ability to be physically together. But the appetite and the capability to be together virtually went up dramatically. And what did that mean, what were the advantages of that mode? It meant that you could actually get more people involved, right? When you’re talking about being physically together in a conference room, you sort quickly to a small number of individuals, right? So all of a sudden, you could try to, and try to lean into dramatically into greater participation in activities that you wanted to share. 

The second thing that was a big thing for us was all of a sudden, you know, I have people that I’ve traveled with for years, I knew what their loyalty was to travel programs, I knew whether they were United or American, I knew whether they were Starwood or some other company. But I didn’t know what books they would have necessarily on their shelf, I didn’t know how they would react when their spouse or significant other walked in the middle of a Zoom, I didn’t know whether they had a dog or a cat. And all of those things, we started to know about each other. So really leaning into the humanity at the moment. But it was still tricky. I mean, you know, we tried to do all of those things. But we’re now at a place where we’re really trying to say, “Let’s be super thoughtful about what needs to be done, you know, we say virtually, digitally, and physically, and what are the moments that matter in each one of those areas. And then to be really dogmatic about keeping ourselves honest, to staying within those modes. And I’ll give you an example. 

Drew Neisser: Okay, great. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Like one of the things that was unexpected for us was management meetings. All of a sudden, in COVID, those were amazingly successful and productive. And there were 2 reasons. The first one was, we might have had people on, you know, phones and all that sort of thing. And they weren’t actually looking at each other, right? And the other thing was, is that in COVID, you probably got 90 to 95% of the people that you needed involved in a decision in a Zoom meeting. When we do management committee meetings in person, you might have gotten 70%. And so it was a little bit hit or miss about whether or not the right 70% was in the room when a decision needed to be made, right? And so those kinds of things were really better executed. Now, we learned to make sure that we had breaks and we learned how to make sure we were going to break out rooms. And we laughed at how much better it was to come back from a breakout, you know, in zoom, right? Because it just cuts you off. 

Drew Neisser: Right.

Suzanne Kounkel: Right? But that also meant that we had to do some other things so that people could kind of catch up and do the water cooler type.

Drew Neisser: You know, I’ve seen that there’s no doubt that if you worked with a group of people prior to the pandemic, going virtual was a pretty easy thing to do, particularly with senior people. I think where it gets trickier is with junior people earlier in the career, what’s even trickier now is the lack of appreciation for proximity and learning and training. And these little tips that you get by watching someone or being in a meeting with them and seeing how they react and that learning. You just can’t beat it. And that’s the part I think that there’s a generation that’s just not going to get it. 

One thing I was thinking about with you all, because when I talked to Diane O’Brien 5 years ago on the podcast, we talked about Deloitte University and how this was the place where people came together to bond. You had—so it bonded new recruits, it bonded them over a common thing, like, “We’re going to teach you empathy. These are the things that are characteristics of a Deloitter.” And I’m imagining that you probably converted it to virtual and that may have had some advantages, but I just can’t imagine it had the same impact.

Suzanne Kounkel: No, absolutely. And so as quickly as was possible and safe. What we did was we spun up an experience Deloitte at Deloitte University program where we took every individual—that wanted to, right?because we are still sensitive to different levels of comfort around the environment—but every individual that wanted to was able to go to a 3 day—I’ll call it a class but it was really an experience—at Deloitte University to be able to lean into. And we did things around, like, what are our cultural values? And we did big parts of the day that were, you know, really around our culture and getting to know each other and making connections across either parts of the business or parts of the functional domain areas, really just trying to get a little bit more acclimated to who we are, and how we’re different in a very experiential way. You know, we did fun, like activities at night, whether it was a barbecue or comedian or we did wellness activities, you know, optional wellness activities. So it really was trying to show people the magic of Deloitte in a physical, experiential basis. And we did that really, as quickly as we felt was safe as the environment continued to improve.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, and that’s really telling to me, in just thinking about this. It’s so funny because we used to, we’d be at the office, and we’d have to go to an off site in order to get work done. Now, people talk about is coming to the office to do work, to collaborate. And so sometimes that means and what I think folks are missing sometimes is we bring people in for 8 hours in a conference room, without what you talked about the fun and the things that allow you to bond. And I think that the key lesson to me of all of this is when you create a physical—when you bring people together—just remember the bonding opportunities, not just the word.

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, and literally, the way we’re thinking about it is we are trying to be very dogmatic. And it was our executive group that really was thoughtful about this. We don’t have a lot of mandates around like “you should” or “you have to do this” or whatever. But we have published a list of sort of what we would say moments that matter. And we are asking the people to be very deliberate about what are the moments that matter and what did they suggest is the right mode to be in, right? So to your example, what we would say is, “If you have a brand new team that doesn’t really know each other, get together in person, right, get together over a meal, get together over a hike, get together for a brainstorming session to talk about what everybody has going on, and how we’re going to let the project unfold. Don’t get together, if it’s really more about like status of the project, the to do list, is everybody tracking on their deliverables.” So really, it’s about kind of the moments that matter. And what they then suggest is the right is the best place to do the work.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s such a great framework, and you just need to go through them. But the recognition here that it is our physical time together that is going to bond the people to the organization and defining those and then making sure, of course, that everybody understands the values can the leaders can reinforce this. 

Okay, there’s a lot more to cover. We’re gonna take a quick break. Give me a second, so I can plug CMO Huddles. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Sounds good. 

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Drew Neisser: Okay, we’re back. Now, we started to talk about the challenges of building culture in a hybrid world or a work from home world. And you’ve mentioned that defining the moments that matter. I’m wondering if there anything else that we should…because I know you think about culture, because the thing that I want to emphasize to the audience is Deloitte product is the Deloitter 

Suzanne Kounkel: Right. 

Drew Neisser: So if the folks don’t have shared values that they don’t have a shared process, then Deloitte is Sam and Joe and Frank. And it doesn’t—there isn’t the brand. So the people are the brand, but I think there are lessons for companies where the people are the brand representative. And so just talk a little bit more about anything else that you’ve done in the area of building culture in a hybrid world?

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, yeah. So a couple of things come to mind. You know, the first one is, and I mentioned this before, but it’s worth underlining. Is that there are lots of things that are better than a virtual world. And so really making sure that you can magnify that while diminishing the downsides, right? So again, for example, for us, it was a really human time where we got to know a lot more about each other and the challenges that we face and the circumstances we were in and all that sort of thing. So we really tried to lean into that, right? We had more people speaking on Zoom calls than probably normally would, we had more participation than we probably normally would have had, if we were in the traditional office space. So I think really thinking about the unlock that the virtual component provides to you is a big part of it. I talked about the moments that matter as well. I also think that there are, you know, significant things on that, what is it unlock around diversity and the level of participation. You were exactly right, when you said, “It’s harder to learn around the campfire, if you don’t have the campfire.” But if you can make sure that more people are involved, then at some level, you start to get that benefit kind of smoothing out. And then again, the other big benefit, I would say, from virtual as well. So we were able to live our lives. And one of the things that I have seen companies pay a price for is trying to eliminate the hybrid part of it, when people don’t have their lives optimized to be able to go back to the old way of working, and they’d lost any interest in doing that. One of the things that’s interesting is we’ve done a lot of studies, both of our organization and the broader population. And we’ve talked about how big Deloitte is, if you think about all of the capabilities we have, in our firm, we represent every demographic in the world, you know, literally, right? With respect to age, group, education, skill sets, functional experience, and all that sort of thing. And the one thing that I would say is that how people are reacting to these times, does not easily stratify to some of the ways that we used to think about it, it doesn’t fall neatly by age, it doesn’t fall neatly by function, etc, etc. So that means you have to talk to your employees a lot about why you’re doing things versus what you’re doing. 

And we found that to be—I actually think that that’s one of the most profound things that will come out of COVID that people overlook. Is that I believe the leadership paradigm changed dramatically in COVID, because of how rapidly the environment was changing. And so at least, I’m always really proud of our leaders, and our executives at Deloitte. But I was never prouder than during COVID when Joe would say, as our US CEO, “Let me tell you why I’m making the decision I’m making based on the facts I have today. And I want you to understand why. Because if the facts move tomorrow, I will make a different decision. And I only know what I know today.” And that’s a very different leadership paradigm than what many of us, you know, which was the leader is omniscient, he or she knows everything. And I believe that that will be the strength and the resiliency of organizations going forward. Because if your employees know why the decision was made, they don’t get as flustered when the what changes, and they can actually participate in lean into changing the what, because they understand the why. And we’ve seen this again, and again, you’re hinting at it with the employee engagement, anybody—and I believe most organizations and things always are in a service industry—if your employees know why you have a rule or policy or whatever, then they can adjust that in the actual scenario, and your customers will be so much better served.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I just love the notion that you’ve given your executives and leadership, the ability to say, “I’m basing it on what I know today, and then when that decision has to change. I was wrong before I’m smarter now.” And that’s—great leaders can do that. But only if they built this as you’ve talked about this a little bit of vulnerability. 

Interesting, and I’m curious how that manifests itself. So we’ve talked about recruiting, I want to make sure that we close on recruiting with what role do you see marketing playing in recruiting? And what kinds of things have you done that help in that area? And then I do want to talk about retention and all that.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, so a couple of things that I think are really important for marketing to participate in. One is the way I think about the world is we have a master brand that we need to be vibrant and evocative and compelling in 2 markets. In the talent market and then the client market. And in order to do that, those things have to be really well integrated and tied. Which is not always an easy trick, right? And there are things within the branch, you know, we say impact that matter, as we say connect for impact that’s showing up in the things we’re saying, like from a recruiting perspective, because it’s around like, choose your impact. And so people start to get a sense of why that is a compelling place to be and to be their best and that sort of thing. So that is first and foremost. I think the other thing that the CMO could do—and marketing in general—can make sure that the organization is making those choices in a way that not only engages employees, but is done in a way—what you want is kind of the highest intersection point between what’s important to employees and what’s important your customers. And I think the CMO has a strong voice in that Last but not least, I do believe that all workers today want to make a difference with the work they’re doing. And I think they want to believe in the company, and what the company stands for. And so if you think about all of the things that marketers talk about externally around purpose led brands and ESG. And the way the impact of the work that’s done, I think making sure that you share those messages internally is as important, if not more important than what you share externally.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting. I mean, if ever there was a case to be made that you could, in fact, given the number of people that you need to recruit, you could have an employer brand and you could have a client brand. But what I’m hearing you saying is, there’s a master brand here, and there’s a master idea behind it. And that idea and story infiltrates whether we’re talking to recruits or whether we’re talking to—and of course, I think every company could do that. It happens that it’s even more important for your company, because of the sheer volume of people is your product and the number of folks that you need to recruit, year in and year out.

Suzanne Kounkel: So it’s interesting that we talked a little bit about my roots, right? When I was coming up through the organization, and I was serving clients, I did a lot of work in M&A environments around the notion of marketing and sales. And did a lot of work around what is the combined customer and employee experience based on the 2 organizations? And how does that need to come together? So I absolutely believe—because, you know, again, the personality of our brand should be clear, competent, and human. It matters a little bit what I do in marketing. But if our people show up every day, and they’re not clear, confident, and human, then there’s nothing that I could do, because they’re spending 200, maybe 2000 times the amount of time with our, what we call clients, with our companies called customers, than I could from a marketing perspective. So I do believe that they’re inextricable.

Drew Neisser: I love the fact that I mean, clearly clear, confident, and human or is language you’ve used before, that is universal within the organization. I’m imagining that if I were to talk to 10 Deloitters and said, “Hey, what’s important in terms of how you behave, clarity, confidence, and human express, probably as empathy would come through?” Everybody knows these things. 

So for the listeners, here’s the question that I have for you. If you’re listening to the show, could your employees play back 3 characteristics of an employee at your company? And my guess is no. For most companies, the answer is not, “Oh, it’s easy, clear, confident, and human.”—or whatever the 3 are. So pause for a second and ask yourself why? Why don’t employees have a common understanding of what it means to be an employee of the company. And what we’ve been talking about is the intersection of—we’re doing marketing to get new clients, but we’re also doing marketing to get new employees, and we’re doing marketing to keep our employees and make them motivated, feel important, and part of the overall story. These things are really fundamental. So I want to pause and let everybody think about that and say, “Oh, yeah.” By the way, if your company and you’re listening to this show, I’m expecting a note on LinkedIn with your 3 or 4 behavioral values because I want to hear them. You’ve been, you’ve been challenged. 

Suzanne Kounkel: In the interest of full disclosure, I believe you would get some version of that from Deloitte. But it is, again, I talked about that we hired 156,000 people in 2022. So, this is never a rest on your laurels activities. 

Drew Neisser: It never stops.

Suzanne Kounkel: Like constantly being rejuvenated and you have to be very deliberate about how do people actually see that. I always say that life is lived in the small moments of every day, right? Janet Foudy, who’s our board chair in the US talks about—not her quote, but she quotes other people when she says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Right. And I love that notion of being really deliberate about how will people feel it and being dogmatic about infusing it in those points

Drew Neisser: That standard of how you do anything is how you do everything has been keeping me up at night. When you mentioned that in our pre-show. And I thought is that…it just it’s an awesome promise when you’re thinking about it, the reality of life can get in the way. And there are times where for example, we might say, “Good is the enemy of Perfect.” So does that mean that at that moment in time, we’re not a perfect company? Because we don’t do everything perfect. I don’t know, you really, that created more anxiety and interest. I want to quote that all the time, but I’m terrified of doing it. Because I just wonder if that means that everybody listening is going, “Oh my god, I can’t deliver on that bar on every single thing we do.”

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, I’ll give you two examples. One is we do have cultural values where we’ve done some good work on a water bottle. And what we’re trying to do is do shout outs, right? So acknowledge when it is happening, because the more you acknowledge when it is happening, the easier it becomes to have that muscle memory. So rather than worry about as much about when it doesn’t happen, you know, really kind of leaning in and saying, like, “This is amazing. I just saw this happen. And that was great is a big thing.” I will tell you that I try really hard and I personally called up one of my team leaders for one of my work streams the other day, and I said, “I’m sorry, yesterday, I’m not proud of the way we interacted. And this is what I learned from it. This is what’s been bothering me about it. And I’m just sorry.” And that’s okay, too, right? Because that’s human, you know, a big piece of being human is we are going to make mistakes. So in my opinion, it’s not about getting it right every time it is about trying to get it right every time, giving yourself some amount of grace when you don’t, but remedying it and always trying to get it right the next time.

Drew Neisser: Okay, my anxiety is going down just a little bit. You know this is just therapy for me. So maybe you could before we take another break, just read the values that are on your water bottle.

Suzanne Kounkel: Sure. And I’m trying to decide whether I read—okay, I’ll read these. These are an interpretation of—we also have corporate values. So our values are lead the way, serve with integrity, take care of each other, foster inclusion, and collaborate for measurable impact. And then what we did as a marketing organization, we said, “What are the things where we want to be uniquely marketing, what we want to really hold ourselves accountable for showing up in a way that contributes to the organization.” And so we said, be bold, were driven by the why—so I talked about why we do things and sort of the data—be proud of your superpowers—that was really important for us—in teams we trust—I don’t love the wording of this one. My team will cringe when they hear this but—anticipate adjust act—which is the notion of always reacting—and then it’s underlined by finding joy in everything you do.

Drew Neisser: Love it. Awesome. Okay, we’re gonna talk about those a little bit more, that we’re going to take another break so stay with us. 

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Drew Neisser: Okay, we are back and we’ve just gone through the values. So we’ve gone from a conversation about recruiting and the connection of employee brand and brand brand. What kinds of things do you do to—there’s 2 questions here. One is to market your marketing, but also just in terms of we’ll call it inculcating, helping them live the brand.

Suzanne Kounkel: Let me make sure I understand the question. Within marketing or within the broader organization?

Drew Neisser: Well, so that’s an interesting question. We can start there who owns internal comms? 

Suzanne Kounkel: Well, I do. 

Drew Neisser: Okay. So marketing is responsible for internal comms, by the way, that is not always the case. And so a lot of talk about how CMOs have to partner with there because typically, CMOs are better at communicating and telling stories and making information more sort of emotionally rich and receptive. That’s a general characteristic of marketers. So you own internal comms, but let’s talk about what kinds of things you do to reinforce values, communicate the marketing that you’re doing and why that matters, and how that helps the organization. I guess two different questions.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah. I will tell you that this is something that we are working very hard to do better. Several other things that we do do exceptionally well I’m really blessed because the executive team in the US firm right now are amazing communicators. They are Pitch Perfect with respect to being clear about what it is that people need to understand and know. And they do that with a great infusion of humanity and their own individual voice and all that sort of thing. And that is fabulous. We, in COVID, did a great service to ourselves, because in COVID, we shut down a lot of the miscellaneous communication, because we said, “In times of confusion and Quick Change, we need fewer voices, not lots of kind of cacophony of voices.” As I as I like to say. And then we’ve tried to really instill some of those rule sets and that thinking in the post COVID world. One of the things that we’re trying to build stronger muscles around is not only being clear about how to what I would call doing internal activation to make sure that our external activations are stickier. Because again, our people are going to be in front of our clients much more significantly then marketing is and so that’s really important. And for us, that’s twofold, because our business is so diverse, it is about trying to, you know, have an orchestration of what is the information that needs to be understood. And then there’s also a really big piece about making sure that people can find that information. Because at the time, you may present it to them may not be the time that they can either hear it and it probably won’t be the time that they’re actually going to need it. So making sure that they can then quickly find that information in the times when they need it is an important thing. 

I will say that the other piece of it that we’re trying to do is really make it multi channel, right? If you look at the work that we did around the marketing culture work, you know, we did do a lot of visual things we did the stickers for the water bottles, we did jackets, we did zoom background, so you can actually see it, we did things in the signature, we did shout outs. And then we did Instagram posts within our internal on like we called it culture in the wild. So times where we catch people either using those phrases or some visual identity around the culture. And I think all of those things are sort of a fun, playful way. But that’s actually where the magic happens is when, you know, it’s one thing for me to say it. But when I would be on meetings, and I would hear team members explaining what they were doing, and then make a cultural reference, that’s when we knew we were really on to something and it was starting to work.

Drew Neisser: I love culture in the wild. And that sort of gets to this broader part. 

So when I started the conversation, I mentioned that why employees are so important. Obviously, in your case, they are everything, they are the brand, they are the product, but they’re also the future, they are potentially the brand advocates. And for most companies, employees are the brand advocates. And there is no doubt that companies that have employees who feel better about the company feel better about the work that they do outperform companies that don’t. I’m sure you guys have a study on this somewhere. But it’s self evident, having just read a review of 1776 self evident that that is the case. So what we’re trying to get to at this point in time is we’ve built a culture, we have a shared set of values, we’ve done all sorts of communication. And the employee feels such a strong sense of pride that they want to share it, they wear the brand. For example, they tell prospects or just their friends proudly that they work for the company, they’re advocates. And in some case, there’s formal advocacy and if you ask me sort of 3 or 4 secret weapons to marketing in a recession, employee advocacy is one of them. They’re already on the payroll. So do you have a formal program?

Suzanne Kounkel: We do have a formal program. We have a brand ambassador program, we have lots of formal programs, and we have lots of ways that people can lean into it, right? So we do have a formal brand ambassador program where we give content to our brand ambassadors, it’s easy for them to share in meaningful ways. And we do a lot of those kinds of things that can be very viral and that people can opt in and that sort of thing. You know, I have seen it go both ways, right? I mean, what you need to really do is make sure that people are sharing authentic things that are meaningful to them and that are not just kind of like I call it kind of 10,000 rays of light, which is the danger, right? Because then it just kind of adds to the noise rather than being personal and high impact. 

And then I think that there are a million things that our employees do every day. We did an internal campaign that was actually led by our talent organization that was called, “We Are Deloitte”. And we did a lot of things around—it was everything from very significant talent policies and programs that were rolled out, we made swag available for lots of people. And just seeing that, and then seeing people like post on their Instagram about things like that. That’s when you really know you’ve got it when you can do some formal things. But when it’s informally part of the fabric, that’s when the magic really occurs.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And I think while I am advocating employee advocacy programs, I’m not necessarily saying what you said, “Hey, get one of those companies that will allow everybody to share 10 posts at the same time.” What we’re talking about is doing things with your employees, like giving them cool swag, or doing something amazing to save the world, you know, and or anything in between, that would make them so prideful they want to share, right? 

Suzanne Kounkel: Right. 

Drew Neisser: So it’s about the actions that you as an employer can do. And it doen’t have to be a trip to Hawaii, they can be really inexpensive things.

Suzanne Kounkel: You know, one of the things we have every year on—Drew, I’m sure, you know what this one is called—Impact day. Where every employee in the US—and we do it globally, as well, but I’ll just speak about the US. So we have one day a year where everyone in the US is expected to go to an actual volunteer site. There’s a lot of organization we work with. We hope that our people are volunteering lots of days, but it is one day that we as an organization. And again, to your point about our people and our products, that’s the big thing for us. Because it would be the equivalent of stopping the line, right? What we encouraged multiple years ago, was that people would put in their out of office for the day, because we wanted to make sure that we’re still seeing as responsive and we gave some suggestions around like putting you’re out of office what you’re doing. And that was spectacular, right? Because it was just a really easy way to first of all, give people an additional layer of permission. And then to be really transparent around this is what we’re doing and the care and how people had picked where they were volunteering that day. Like, it was just amazing to see those stories come through.

Drew Neisser: You just reminded me, and what a great sort of out of office is a marketing opportunity, it’s a really good messaging opportunity. And the fact that you thought of the little things they could say. They can do make it their own. But you also want to make it easy. And that’s part of this—all of this in fact, when we think about employee marketing, it’s the same as it is with customer and prospect in that we have to keep it simple, we have to make it easy, and we have to give them something that they can do. 

So here we are, I love that. And it makes me think of there’s probably a bunch of other things. For example, a lot of senior executives don’t always put out of office when they’re on vacation. 

Suzanne Kounkel: Right.

Drew Neisser: And they don’t do it because they don’t ever want to be seen as not working. And that sends a very bad signal to their employees. So hey, if taking personal time is important and recharging is important, then the executives also have to do it.

Okay, we are running out of time here because I have so many more questions for you. But quick question, I’m assuming you measure employee satisfaction on a somewhat regular basis in some way or form or another…

Suzanne Kounkel: We do. We do a very significant survey twice a year on the dimensions that we want. And again, this is another connection, right? It’s a way to make sure the questions are measuring things that we believe should be showing up on our values and the experience. And then those things are all published. Their are expectations around the leader, making sure that their group understands their own scores, and what’s been tracked, and it’s tracked visa vie other parts of the organization. We have goals with what we want the threshold to be. And a big part of that is again, in a very human environment we know that there are going to be ups and downs, but really leaning into what are we doing about it? How are we listening to that feedback and then doing something to change that perception is really important to us.

Drew Neisser: Right. It’s one thing to ask for people’s input. It’s another thing to actually act on that input. I’m just going to put one little plug for a measure that I think if you haven’t done an employee survey, and a lot of folks will include a question that looks like net promoter score called e-Net Promoter Score. I think that’s okay. My suggestion is ask them if they’re proud to tell their parents they work for the company or their friends that they were just that word, because boy if they are proud, all of the other good things that you’re looking for will happen. So, again, that’s on the cheap. You may not do this twice a year. 

Suzanne Kounkel: No, no, it is great. And it is squarely one of ours is would you recommend the firm?

Drew Neisser: Right. And I think there’s something different between recommend my point between recommend working there and prior to. Yeah, and it’s a subtle thing, but I’ve noticed it in a couple of surveys that we’ve done,

Suzanne Kounkel: We’ve actually asked both, because both are important, right? 

Drew Neisser: Okay, that’s awesome, good validation. If any of the listeners are in need of an employee survey, we have one that I put in the book, and I’m happy to share it with any listener, and it’s like 15 questions, and you can add your own. And you’ll see that there’s sort of standard set of questions and also open ended ones that are really important. 

Drew Neisser: Okay, 2 last questions. One, have you tried anything that didn’t work or perform as well as you had hoped? In the area of internal marketing and comms?

Suzanne Kounkel: The easy answer is yes, I’m sure. We’ve done many things that haven’t worked. I think that I think the one thing that we—I think being really—first of all, we’ve over communicated, and that’s a problem. I think the other thing is that we over utilize certain channels. So again, being really deliberate about assuming that people will read things in any like newsletters, whatever, whatever. 

But one of the things that wasn’t working was our leaders necessarily saying, “Here are the top things I think are on our people’s minds. So that was one thing that wasn’t working. We started getting really better about polling and pulsing the organization to sort of see what was misunderstood what were people feeling uncomfortable, and then making a point of opening meetings with that, because it’s a great way for employees to actually lean into it and shape it. And for leaders then to be responsive. And then leaders don’t again, or talk before it when they don’t have to be omniscient, like making sure that it’s sort of everybody feels like we can make this better with all of our voices is actually a really important thing.

Drew Neisser: I love all of that. And I’m gonna package it a little bit slightly differently. From a broader perspective, there’s an assumption that you can send an email and you’ve done your job. But you would never try that with a customer or prospect, you need frequency, right? We need repetitive frequency. And I think that was a CMO. I don’t know if it was on a show or in a huddle said, “7 X 7 channels is what it takes to get an employee to understand a new idea, or new direction.” 7 X 7 channels. Now if we translate that to a marketing world, in huddles, if I ask that average CMO, how many touches does it take before you get a prospect to what they call a closed one or whatever, sometimes the number is 24. So your employees are the folks that you’re trying to communicate to you’re trying to engage you’re trying to—and so what you have to be conscious of is not messaging too often, but messaging the same idea with frequency in a way that they can connect with emotionally.

Suzanne Kounkel: Yeah, different times and in different contexts. And I think it’s great. And they can be a really important focus group for your external messaging. Because if your employees don’t get it, or it doesn’t resonate, it’s probably not going to work externally.

Drew Neisser: Love that. And that is so great because that means you can show, “Hey, we’ve done a concept board for marketing and what do you think?” And if they say, “I don’t like it’s not resonating.” There is a chance. And by the way, if they don’t like it, forget it anyway, because it’s not going to do half of the work that is supposed to do. 

All right, we had a wrap this up. 2 do’s and don’ts when it comes to marketing employees.

Suzanne Kounkel: 2 do’s: Find ways for them to participate, direct, and shape, what the communication looks like. Whether it’s topics or channels. Another one is absolutely lean into the variety of voices you have in the executive suite, it’s actually really important. And what we have found is that people listen more to the people that are directing their performance, their day to day lives, etc, etc. So all of the other speakers, funnel them through those voices not adding to the fray. And then don’t think that any one channel is sufficient.

Drew Neisser: I love it. All right, well, we know that any one podcast is insufficient. So of course, you know, you can go to and find the show notes. Thank you, Suzanne, and thank you, listeners. If you found this episode of value, please thank Suzanne on LinkedIn and do me a favor and rate us on your favorite podcast platform. Okay, thank you, Suzanne!

Suzanne Kounkel: Thank you, Drew, it’s been fabulous.

Drew Neisser: For more interviews with innovative marketers visit and hit that subscribe button. Thank you.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me. Audio production is by Sam Beck. Show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius.

To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about my new book and Renegade visit I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.