March 9, 2023

Engage Employees First – A Deep Dive into Employer Branding

As the war for talent ebbs and flows, the need for a strong employer brand stands steadfast. An employer brand is the #1 way to give current employees a reason to stay, and to attract top talent looking for a fulfilling place to land. 

Enter CMOs Deidre Hudson (previously of Payability), Lynne Capozzi (retired from Acquia), and Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek of Skillsoft, here to share their insights into the role marketing plays in building and evolving an employer brand that people talk about. Tune in to this episode as we cover everything from navigating layoffs to building brand ambassadors to measuring employee satisfaction. You don’t want to miss it.

What You’ll Learn  

  • How to build an employer brand 
  • The key to developing brand ambassadors 
  • How to measure employee satisfaction 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 335 on YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 


  • [2:58] Deidre Hudson & The Salvation Army   
  • [4:17] Employer brand at Payabliity  
  • [4:54] The impact of layoffs on recruiting  
  • [6:44] Payability’s cultural task force   
  • [11:53] Lynne Capozzi & Boston Children’s Hospital  
  • [13:19] Acquia’s brand DNA  
  • [16:16] Aligning your brand and employer brand  
  • [19:45] Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek on Skillsoft’s CSR initiatives  
  • [23:02] Employer brand during the pandemic  
  • [25:51] The war for talent  
  • [27:59] Product + employer brand  
  • [29:50] CMO Huddles testimonials   
  • [32:33] Who owns employer branding?  
  • [33:35] Brand ambassadors  
  • [35:50] Measuring employee satisfaction  
  • [42:28] What’s tougher? Retention or recruiting?   
  • [43:22] How to strengthen your employer brand  

Highlighted Quotes  

“The more real you allow your brand to be in the market, the better off you will be in terms of attracting the kinds of people that you want to work with in your organization.” —@_deidrehudson Share on X 

“Focus on the employee experience and the brand halo will come.” —@MichelleBB @Skillsoft Share on X

“If you don't have a brand DNA, then build it. Build it and practice it.” —@lcapozzi @acquia Share on X 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Deidre Hudson, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, & Lynne Capozzi


Drew Neisser: Hey, it’s Drew. And I’m guessing that as a podcast listener, you will also enjoy audiobooks. Well in that case, did you know the audio version of Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, was recently ranked the number one new B2B audio book by Book Authority. Kind of cool, right? Anyway, you can find my book on Audible or your favorite audio book platform.

And speaking of audio before we get into today’s show, I do want to do a shout out to the professionals that Share Your Genius. We started working with them several months ago to make this show even better, and have been blown away by 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 with 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! Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite the top rated podcast for B2B CMOs and other marketing-obsessed individuals.

You’re about to listen to a recording of CMO Huddle Studio, our live show featuring the CMOS of CMO Huddles, a community that sharing caring and daring each other to greatness every day of the week.

This time, we’ve got a conversation that aired live a few months ago with Deidre Hudson, who at that time was the CMO of Payability, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek of Skillsoft, and Lynne Capozzi, who has since retired from her role as CMO at Acquia, all about Employer Branding. Let’s dive in.

I’m your host Drew Neisser live from my home studio in NYC. Last week, unemployment in the US dropped to 3.5%, matching the lowest rate in decades. And while a few large companies like Oracle laid off workers, most CMOs that I’ve talked to have openings in their departments, openings that remain stubbornly hard AND increasingly expensive to fill. Thus the battle for talent may actually be tougher than the one for new customers, pointing the spotlight on employer branding and the roles marketers can play in the fight for talent. To get a sense of both the challenge and potential solutions, we have three amazing CMOs to share their experiences today, right now!

And with that, let’s bring on Deidre Hudson, CMO with Payability. Before we dive into the topic at hand, I couldn’t help but notice that you’ve been volunteering at the Salvation Army for 17 years. A nonprofit that was the favorite of my father in law’s. Can you share what you’ve done for that org over the years and what’s maintained your commitment.

Deidre Hudson: Volunteering at the Salvation Army is something that I started doing years ago with a good friend. We had volunteered one year on Thanksgiving, serving food to people that came in for a hot meal. And over the years, it just became a tradition. And I was able to get some family members interested in the idea. And one year I helped organize a corporate Volunteer Day, where co workers worked together to help prepare and serve meals. So it was really rewarding.

Drew Neisser: Amazing, and I imagine that over those years, you’ve watched the number of people in that organizations grow up. And I’m particularly interested in that because in many ways, a commitment to a nonprofit, they’re not paying you. You’re doing this as volunteer and whatever that stickiness is that gets you to keep coming back it feels like something that employers can learn from. That there’s an employer brand opportunity there.

But anyway, so let’s talk about Payability from an employer brand perspective. What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Deidre Hudson: Yes. So from an employer brand perspective, I think that there’s two things. I think there’s internal employer branding and I think there’s external branding. And I think recognizing those as two separate audiences with different needs is key because the internal helps to feed the external. From my previous company, as a matter of fact, we actually maintain two separate branding. One of them was consumer facing, which we use for customer acquisition, and another that was used for employer branding, for attracting and hiring employees.

Drew Neisser: I liked the distinction between internal and, you know, obviously we need to get our employee and make sure that they understand what our brand is about and externalize as in recruiting. But so where are you in terms of your challenges right now?

Deidre Hudson: Authenticity and maintaining a positive image in the face of layoffs, right? Because especially, we’ve gone through layoffs like a lot of other companies have. And we’ve been announced those layoffs and have been very candid talking about them. But from a recruiting perspective, that definitely can have an impact on recruiting. If the market is seeing that you’re laying off people, then that’s going to have an impact on your recruiting pool.

Drew Neisser: So how are you walking that fine line? “Hey, we’re doing great. But we did have some layoffs.”

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, we addressed this in two ways, right? It’s the authenticity and it’s maintaining that positive image about the layoff. So for authenticity I’ve never been a fan of kind of the obligatory social posts for things like, you know, national this day on national that month. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not against those causes are the need for recognition. But I think it’s more important to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, right?

So one of the things that I’ve talked my CEO about a lot is let’s not just do a social post shout out for Women’s Day or Black History Month, for instance, let’s actually do something to promote equality for women and to ensure this diversity in our ranks. And I think having that level of authenticity, where we’re not just doing these obligatory posts, but we can actually say, “Hey, this is what we’re doing.” I think that helps to increase your authenticity.

Drew Neisser: And you’re really talking about, in my mind, at least, is the difference between the fluffy kind of marketing thing and the realness, right, of actually doing something. And you can’t just say, “Oh, we live in DEI.” You got to do stuff. And employees have to believe it.

So I’m curious in that area, I know you said you’re in progress. But how are you sort of making progress in that area?

Deidre Hudson: This is an interesting thing, I started a cultural task force within the company. And the cultural Task Force, the purpose is for us to gather people from different areas within the company, and talk about things that we want to do to increase the culture and to improve the culture. And those things that we do, again, back to that internal and external distinction. The things that we do internally will then start to play itself out externally, right? So we can’t just go on LinkedIn and started announcing that, “Hey, we are DEI friendly.” Or we’re doing this without having actually built up that internal consensus and internal programs within the organization.

Drew Neisser: And talk about that. I’m very interested in the task force approach. And how did you pick the people on the team? Did they volunteer? How did you make sure that departments were represented? I know that not every company has taken these steps. So talk a little bit about the process of building that. And then what role do you play?

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, so the process of building that was really, you know, I talked it over with my CEO. And I was like, you know, I think that people are kind of bringing up some great ideas. Let’s find a way to kind of coalesce those ideas, and really make it concentrated and make it something that we are actually doing something about, right? Not just bringing up these ideas at meetings, and then they kind of float away. But what are we actually doing about that?

So I started the task force, I just made an announcement to the company, and I opened it up. I was like, “Whoever wants to join, just let me know.” We did get an overwhelming response and we had to turn a couple people away only because we were trying to make sure that we had representation over all the different areas. We didn’t want it to seem like there’s going to be a marketing driven show. It was something that was really going to be  a company wide initiative.

Drew Neisser: And as you’re talking, I’m also wondering, what role does HR play in this conversation? Because in some ways, you’re potentially stepping on their toes. So how do you make sure that that doesn’t happen that they feel included in the process?

Deidre Hudson: Yeah, so I’m glad you brought that up because I had a discussion with our HR person, we have a very good relationship. And the way that we structured the taskforce was that we brought people who were interested together, we discussed, Okay, these are the many topics we have interest in, we think that we can do something about it. Then we narrowed it down and the format of the taskforce is that there are committees for each project. And there is a leader on each committee. So we have a committee that’s talking about things like how do we increase our internal education? How do we do things—we have something called Payability University—how do we make that something better so that new hires that come in get access to learning about the company and learning about the industry if they don’t come from an E commerce FinTech background. But how do we make that more systematized and consistent. And we have an HR person that leads that charge.

And then we have other initiatives to that we have people from our risk department, our marketing group, I think we had someone that was from our customer service group that was leading something. So that’s how we prevent this from being kind of a A Marketing Show, so to speak, but we make sure that people who want to be involved are involved and there’s opportunity for equal voices to be heard.

Drew Neisser: And going back to that, because a lot of people volunteered for the task force, is there a size that you recommend for something like this? And then it sounds like from the task force, you then have the subgroups of committees. But I’ve always struggled with the size of some of these things, where’s optimal in your mind? I mean, you need to be inclusive, but you got to get stuff done.

Deidre Hudson: I think it depends on the size of the company. At the time we started the task force, I think we were about 80, maybe 100 people within the company. So the task force was about 14, maybe 15 people. Another challenge for us is that we have a significant portion of our employees that are based in Poland. And we really wanted to make sure that this was not going to be perceived as kind of a marketing thing, that it wasn’t going to be perceived as just kind of a New York office thing, right? We made sure that we have representation from the developers from our Poland office. But for us, it was about 14-15 people. I think that was a good size.

Drew Neisser: Got it. And I love the University as well. I did a whole episode with the former CMO of Deloitte. And they have this—and this was pre pandemic—but an amazing university, where they even teach things like empathy. Which one might argue, “Wait, what?” In the show notes, we’ll include a link to that episode. But I love the idea of having a culture that is so strong that we can teach this culture, we can teach it and when a new employee arrives, they are inculcated, if you will, into the community.

All right, well, we’re going to move on now. We’ll come back to you. We’re going to bring on Lynne Capozzi from Acquia and star of episode 160 of Renegade Marketers Unite and episode 7 of this show.

Hello, Lynne. Now, I know that in addition to your day job, and we talked about this on Renegade Marketers Unite, is that you’ve been running a nonprofit through Boston’s children’s hospital for over 11 years, while you’re still CMO. Talk a little bit about the juggling act, but also the value that that brings to what you do as CMO at Acquia.

Lynne Capozzi: You know what I think it is a juggle, it’s always a juggle. And there are times when I’ll have a lot of my focus on my nonprofit and working with the hospital. And there are other times where it’s a little bit deprioritize just kind of based on what I have going on at work happening at Acquia. So it definitely peaks and valleys in terms of time commitment, and so forth. But I do try to make sure I do have that balance. And I think what it does help, for me, it helps me to bring another side, it helps me to bring a little bit more compassion to the CMO role. And I actually spend quite a bit of time encouraging all of my marketing team members to give back in some way.

Drew Neisser: Well, the other thing that occurs to me is that you’re probably really good at one, time management and two, it really forces you to have strong number two’s wherever in each of their positions. So that you know that when you’re spending more time over here, that the good stuff is still getting done.

Lynne Capozzi: Absolutely, I mean, I have tremendous leaders here at Acquia on the marketing team and I depend a lot on them. They are amazing!

Drew Neisser: There you go. All right. So now this is your second stint at Acquia. The first was when it was in the startup stage of 2008 to 11. And the second since 2016. And you’ve been overseeing significant global expansion. Talk about how Acquia has evolved as an employer over those two periods. I’ve imagined the brand is quite a bit different and the reason to work there. And maybe even the culture has evolved a lot.

Lynne Capozzi: I would say the culture has evolved and it is different. But in many ways, it’s actually very similar to the beginning. So you know, we’re an open source company. And so we are all about giving back to the community and the open source community. And I think that that is a component part of our DNA that we ingrained with all employees and we live it day to day. So I’d say yes, it’s expanded quite a bit. But it still comes back to kind of that core DNA.

So we have 5 components. We publicize this, we have 5 components of our DNA. They’re on the wall when you walk in the building. We talk a lot about them:

–Jump in and own it

–Committed to awesome

–Do the right thing

–Dare to be different

–Give back more.

So these are components that are in our DNA, we talk about them, we show them, we even have company awards that we give internally to our employees who most demonstrate these components of our DNA. And so it really is an important part of who we are and that has evolved over time.

Employees have adapted. And we had an employee Task Force get together and look at our DNA. Are these the right components? Do they still work going forward? We made a few adjustments based on their feedback. So employees really own it, they manage it, and it just becomes internally something that we all look towards. So I’d say that the adapting and updating the DNA is probably one of the most important things.

And also, we’re much more public. Meaning we’re much more vocal about who we are, what we do, what we do in the community, and what we’re all doing around giving back. So I think we are all spokespeople, and we ask our employees to be the representatives and ambassadors for the company. And I think all employees do a great job of that. And our HR team is fantastic. They lead our branding, when it comes to company brand externally. And I love that. We work really closely together between HR and marketing, but they do a tremendous job. And we work really closely on that.

Drew Neisser: First, can you just repeat those five things?

Lynne Capozzi: Committed to awesome, do the right thing, jump in and own it—which is my personal favorite—give back more, and dare to be different.

Drew Neisser: And I promise for anybody who’s read my book, I didn’t steal that from Acquia. Because Dare to be different is one of the chapters in my book. But that language has been used. I love all 5 of those, I can see how—first of all, there’s a very human language, they’re easy to remember.

One of the ways that values like this—and people call them values we call it a brand DNA—become even more real is when it shows up in evaluations and compensation. And are those things aligned with compensation?

Lynne Capozzi: I’m not sure I can say I have a direct correlation that way. But if someone is really adapting and adhering to the DNA and is following the DNA, it certainly is mentioned in reviews.

Drew Neisser: This is where it gets really interesting in some of these things. Because, you know, the famous scenario is the sales person is the Star Jerk who has not embodied any of the values but sells a lot of stuff. And that’s where these things sort of start to, you know, really the rubber meets the road, right? It is in the type of employees that you promote and the type of employees that succeed. And I’m just curious if that sparked any thoughts in terms of the alignment of an employee with the DNA? Or the misalignment?

Lynne Capozzi: I think it’s so much in our culture. I think what we see is those people who can’t adapt to it and who can’t relate to it, they actually don’t end up staying very long. So it’s a natural kind of weeding out factor.

Drew Neisser: So you mentioned activating this, you do a words against them. I’m wondering if there’s any other things that you do to make sure that these become inculcated, that every employee understands. You mentioned you want them to be ambassadors, but they got to sort of drink the Kool Aid first.

Lynne Capozzi: Right. Well, the first is to tell them about it, right? So it’s part of our new employee training. So when they come in, we do a session on what our DNA is. And we give examples, we talk about various awards that we’ve won around the industry and outside the industry on what we’ve done as a company. And so the first thing is to train them on it and to tell them what it is. And to give examples of how it gets applied here at Acquia. And then it’s encouraged.

So every quarter, we run an employee satisfaction survey that our human resources and talent team runs. And that gives us a pulse of where people are at. It gives a chance for all employees to be able to write any comments to be able to give any feedback. And all the execs actually read every single comment that comes in. I know that I do every quarter. And I think that’s a good way to take a pulse on how people are feeling about the DNA.

Drew Neisser: You mentioned that HR, or your partner’s their, own employer brand. And I’m just curious, how does that work? And how do you make sure that employer brand is aligned with brand brands?

Lynne Capozzi: Yeah, well, they better be aligned, right? I mean, it’s a mismatch if it’s not. So we are definitely aligned. And the marketing and Talent Team work really closely together on that. We share messaging, we make sure that the look and feel is right, the message that we’re doing as a company fits within the brand. So it’s a tight relationship between my talent team and marketing. And the Talent Team is really terrific at it. So they run with it. I’m very happy with what they do and and I look at everything to make sure everything is on brand.

Drew Neisser: So there is a shared reviewed process to make sure. Right, okay.

Lynne Capozzi: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: All right. We’re gonna bring on Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, otherwise known as Michelle BB—thank you for that and the world thanks you for that—the CMO of Skillsoft and star of Episode 196 of Renegade Marketers Unite and episode 3 of this show.

So I know that you’re the head of Skillsoft’s CSR initiative, can you talk about what you’ve been doing there?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Yes. And it is quite a lot. And, look, our company Skillsoft has a strong history of corporate social responsibility. And we believe that it’s really important to keep our purpose close to our product by accelerating skilling opportunities and improving economic outcomes for people in underserved communities. And so when we look at where we’re focused, a lot of our efforts have been on 3 core areas: women plus, learning deserts, and research to advance the science of learning. And I think when we talk about Employer Branding, it’s one of the reasons our employees come here. Because they believe so much in the purpose that we have. And what’s, you know, I think what’s exciting for me is that I’ve actually seen it firsthand.

So back in April, I had the opportunity to travel to a refugee camp in Kenya and spend some time helping bring our platform to some of the young women and girls there who are looking to increase their economic prospects. And hopefully do it through skilling agenda and learning things like how to code. And becoming not just aware or proficient, but really mastering the ability to get these skills.

Drew Neisser: So it’s amazing alignment, obviously, between what the company does and your CSR activities. And I commend you. Very few companies are that well aligned. And it’s so important, because if you don’t have that alignment, often the CSR is perceived as sort of, we’ll just call it greenwashing or the equivalent of that. And I’m very interested in the science of learning, because one would hope that’s progressed.

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: You know, it really, really has. And the thing that that we’ve learned about learning is there’s intrinsic and there’s extrinsic motivation, right? How do you get people to learn? Because the reality is, is that when it’s just training, when it’s just a check the box exercise, I’ve got to do it because somebody tells me to, it is unlikely that you’re going to retain it as much, right? But learning is absorbing. When you really get excited about what it is you are getting out of it and when it becomes a daily habit. That’s when I think people start to learn more, they take in more, and they’re able to build skills that then address the capability needs of an organization.

And what’s really interesting is somebody will say, “Well, Michelle, I don’t think global code of conduct or you know, some other kinds of training/learning is really going to be all that interesting.” And I would posit that I think everybody said that airline safety videos were kind of boring, until Virgin Atlantic came along and really put a new face on them. And I think that’s really where learning is going to go. How do we make the broccoli delicious? And how do we start to get people to really engage with the learning in a way that they retain it, but it’s also something that they want more of.

Drew Neisser: There’s no excuse to be boring. You cannot teach someone by being boring. You cannot market effectively by being boring.

Let’s talk about this now getting back to the employer brand aspect of this. It’s been a pandemic roller coaster, right? I mean, we’ve been through, we’ve been talking through this whole period. Talk a little bit about your employer brand. And you know, what happened?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Yeah, I don’t know if he recall, Drew, but I’ve only been at Skillsoft for a few months when we had to respond to the challenges of the pandemic. And we think about Employer Branding at its base level, it’s what the market perceives it’s like to work at Skillsoft. Well, that was completely upended. And so, at that time, the first thing we did is we had to focus on the employee experience. Recognizing, ultimately, that there would be a brand Halo. But we were in Maslow’s hierarchy this was food and shelter. And so there were two things that I think we did that were felt most by our employees. Number one, we put safety above all else. We didn’t hesitate to offer employees an opportunity to work from home. And almost immediately, we opened our aperture and hiring practices so that we could fill roles with people who were nowhere near an office. Or people who had decided to move away from cities at the height of the pandemic. And it started to shape and frame what it was like to work at Skillsoft. So that we now have a flexible and connected policy that allows people to gather as I am here, right? To collaborate, but also this remote first culture that became very attractive and people started to talk about.

And then, as I just mentioned when we were talking about CSR, we’ve kept, and we do keep, our purpose close to our product. And that is very exciting for a lot of our employees. And during the pandemic we developed a lot of new programs to address things like business continuity, the challenges of managing remote/hybrid/distributed workforces, we created learning experiences around diversity, equity, inclusion, particularly in the summer of 2020, when organizations recognized that they really needed to do evolve their programs. And we made these programs available not just to our customers, but we opened them up to everyone, because we knew it was the right thing to do. And I think what resulted in this was a sense amongst our current employees and prospective hires, that we valued them and that they would be doing valuable work. Because I think Deidre mentioned it, it really comes back to the actions that you take day to day, which are then felt and known by employees, and then can be amplified in market. And that, to me is the essence of employer branding.

Drew Neisser: And, you know, as we’re talking about remote, and certainly many organizations like yours have gone remote. Here you are today in the office. It’s funny. And so it’s Lynne, which is amazing. I’m in my office. But I’m wondering now, from an employer branding standpoint, what do you see as your biggest challenge?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Talent. We are still, even despite a looming recession, we are still in a war for talent. There has been a sweeping moment of reevaluation and I think people have reassessed the relationship with work. And so in the face of this, it’s not explicitly about branding our company, but instead focusing on our talent and the experience that they have with us. I think we have to continually invest in our people so that they stay nimble and competitive if we want to be seen as the employer of choice. And of course, our best source of employer branding is word of mouth, we have to retain our talent. We have to build a culture that aligns with their values and we have to establish policies that address this sort of new balance of power equilibrium shift between employers and employees.

And we have to ensure that people are not only in the right roles, but they see a path, because it does go beyond role and compensation. I think our employees are pushing us to create better, more innovative working environments and invest in them. And when they are happy, and when they feel like they are being developed. And when they feel like they are in this environment, they are going to talk about the organization in a positive way. We are going to be seen as an employer of choice, and they’re going to bring more people into this organization. And we touched on it before. But the relationship that we have with HR, I mean, my closest ally in this organization, is our Chief People Officer, because what we do externally has to be felt, understood, adopted, and evangelized by our internal audience.

Drew Neisser: One question that I have before we sort of bring everybody back is, you have this in some ways an advantage in that, in theory, your product is something that could be sticky with employees who are interested in continuing education. And I wonder how much that goes into it. Because if you believe that lifelong learning is an important part, then you’re more likely to say, “Boy Skillsoft is a company dedicated to lifelong learning. I want to learn, I want to be part of that, and I want to keep learning.” Am I finding a connection? Is that real?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: 100%. So one of the things that we found both with ourself in organizations that I think subscribe to this notion of lifelong learning is that there is mutual benefit and mutual gain, right? So the organization is going to invest by having talent development, by having learning experiences that are available to them. But individuals benefit because they’re able to learn and grow and expand their own horizons, both professionally but also personally. Because, look, you may want to be a better public speaker, and that’s going to help you within your organization or you may want to understand agile better. But all of those skills, particularly the power skills, leadership, communication, agility, flexibility, resilience, grit, all of that has applicability in our day to day lives. And so we’ve found that when people are engaged with the, ‘what we do’, meaning they are in our platform, and they’re learning and they’re spending time, right? We’ve made learning a daily habit. Not only are they stickier from a retention perspective, but they’re out there talking about what they’re learning and why and they’re enthusiastic.

Drew Neisser: So all right, we’re going to switch now a little bit. We’re going to talk about CMO Huddles.

Okay, it’s time to talk about CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an exclusive community of over 100 highly effective B2B CMOs who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Everything about CMO Huddles is designed to be a force multiplier, helping CMOs to make faster, better, and more informed decisions. Where one inspiring hour a month delivers 10 hours of perspiration saved.

Since no CMO can outwork their job, CMO Huddles is here to help you outsmart it.

Deidre, Michelle, Lynne – since you’re all huddlers, feel free to share your experience

Deidre Hudson: I have to say that I think after my first experience with CMO Huddles, I felt like it was a support group for CMOs, right? Because you’re speaking with people who are going through the same experiences that you are, coming to share ideas, and just really be open and supportive and just willing to help each other out. So I found it to be an invaluable resource.

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: I get so much value, not just from the meetings, but also there’s this tremendous recap. And I’m like, “Oh, my God, these are the same topics that my organization is facing. And I need to connect with someone who’s having this particular challenge.” Or I need to find someone—like there may be someone in my organization who I need to connect with someone in another organization, because maybe they’re deploying ABM, and they have used 6sense and want to learn more about. And it’s a wonderful way, I think, for us to not only connect at the CMO level, but then to get our organizations aligned with other companies that are having similar challenges or implementing new technologies.

Drew Neisser: I love that I really appreciate the recap, because I think some potential huddlers looking to go, “Oh my god, I gotta meet every month? I don’t know if I have the time.” But sometimes just those recaps alone will spark thought. And Lynne, I don’t want to leave you out. If you want to add anything.

Lynne Capozzi: I would like to. One of the biggest values I get out of it is it tends to be a nice look at different industries. And so I actually like, you know, being in the software industry, I tend to have like my network of people, which is all in software. But I love it when I can hear from CMOs in other industries, because you can learn so much from other people in those ways. And I also love the fact that when you start those huddles, you always ask the question, “What’s on your mind?” Even if there’s something that’s scheduled on a topic you ask people, “What are you dealing with right now? What’s your issue of the day?” And 9 times out of 10, the issue that someone brings up, I’m dealing with as well. And I always wonder, like, how does that work out that way? But it does.

Drew Neisser: Okay, so we’ve talked a little bit about this, but I want to clarify who owns employer branding at your company? Lynne, I think you said HR. Michelle, did you say HR too?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: No, it’s definitely a partnership between marketing and HR. But I would tell you that if somebody asked me that within my organization, I would say, “We all own it, we’re all responsible for it.” Because really, it is just that one single moment that someone can have that really can shape how your company is felt by someone else. And so we all have a responsibility to it.

Deidre Hudson: I agree with Michelle, it’s marketing and HR. But I think that everyone at the company has some component of it. Because if you’re doing LinkedIn posts, if you’re doing Twitter polls, if you are at an event and you’re taking pictures or posting content, that’s part of employer branding too. And that’s something that people need to be aware of how to do it properly.

Drew Neisser: So Lynne you brought up this notion of wanting employees to be brand ambassadors, let’s talk about what does it mean? What does that look like? Are you doing formal brand ambassador programs and using any tools?

Lynne Capozzi: I wouldn’t say we have a formal brand ambassador program. But we ask people to be active on social, things like that. So it’s not anything kind of formal around that way. But we do invite people, we give them suggestions. They can obviously post whatever they want. But we try to help them and guide them and give them some possibilities. I think that’s probably mostly what we do.

Drew Neisser: Okay, Michelle or Deidre do either of you have any kind of formalized ambassador program?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Yeah, we do. And what we’ve really done is we’ve looked across the organization at people who are really passionate about the what we do, again, aligning purpose with the product, and ask them to come and serve as brand ambassadors for a period of time. And there’s no formal platform in which we use we actually do it. It’s all through Microsoft Teams. But they are our first line, if you will. And they are really there to help when we introduce something new, when we launch something new, when we’ve got new messaging, materials, etc. Those random ambassadors are so critical to helping to shape that message with their part of the organization because they speak the same language. So if you’ve got someone from IT, you’ve got someone from our PMO, you’ve got someone from product, you’ve got someone from content, all of those individuals are going to be you our brand in the what we do in a slightly different way. And so their ability to talk to their peers and counterparts is absolutely critical. Which is why having that brand ambassador program be cross functional is so essential.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny, as you’re talking, I know that a lot of companies think about that when they launch a new campaign. And it’s like, you train a group of people, and then they can go and train the others. But to have that all the time feels like a tremendous asset for both you as a marketer, but also for HR as programs and things happen. So I love that thought and formalizing that.

So you guys have been doing this a while. I’m curious how you measure this? And what kind of metrics do you look at in terms of evaluating the success or the opportunity or challenges that you face in employer branding?

Deidre Hudson: Well, one of the the metrics that we use is we do an employee engagement survey every year. But the important part of that is that we look at the questions and we look at the answers, and we look at the differences and how those scales and how those numbers changed from survey to survey. So we could see, okay, we’ve had a drop in people who say that they feel that there’s a work life balance. Or we’ve had an increase in people who feel that their job is more stressful. And then we take that information and then we create some programs or something to address it.

And I think what’s important is that we looked at everything kind of from a groundswell position, right? So we look at what’s happening with feet on the ground with employees. And then we take that and we use that to build it up, you use it to address the issues, to build up greater confidence and greater or more positive feelings about that. And then we take that and we leverage that for employer branding. We don’t start with kind of a top down employer brand. And we start from the ground and work up.

So for instance, one of the things that we found on one of our last surveys was meetings. People were feeling like they were spending a lot of time in meetings. So we took that, we take it to the cultural Taskforce, and then we figured out, “Okay, what can we do to help alleviate this? This is a problem we’ve identified, you see a measurable change and how people are feeling about this in an adverse way. What can we do to affect that?”

Drew Neisser: Lynne, in terms of your measurement, you did mention that you do CSAT, what’s your frequency? And what do you do with the data?

Lynne Capozzi: We do it every quarter, we’re actually in the process now of doing it. So I just saw it come through yesterday. So we survey all employees. It’s a pretty quick survey. We’ve narrowed it down to just a few questions. But we compare. So, like Deidre, every quarter we compare how we did the last time to this quarter. And we’re able to see those stats over time, we’ve been doing this for quite some time. So we have a lot of history for us to be able to look at.

And then what happens is, based on what the feedback that we get, as an exec team, the entire exec team will get together and we will look at the data to figure out what do we need to act on? What should our action plan be? And then we develop an action plan based on that feedback. And we review that action plan when we meet as a team every other week. And so it’s a very formal action plan that we set. And then we will report back to employees after in terms of what it is that we’re working on and what we’ve accomplished over time.

Drew Neisser: And so one of the things that as you’re talking I’m thinking about and I’m interested in, is there are things that people will complain about that you could address that may or may not impact. Retention, recruiting, right? And I’m thinking about specifically, and this is, again, you have to stay with me on this. But it was an article or a research study that talked about how McDonald’s is having success by ignoring their haters, and only focusing on the people who love the brand. And only responding to that. And so part of this challenge is you as a marketer have—because we’re marketing now to employees—is to decide, what do we need to act on that is going to have an impact? How do you sift through that? Because I agree that like teachers had meetings, we all have too many meetings, and that we should do that just because it’s a good idea. But that may not be the thing that keeps people there. So, Michelle, help us sort through this world of tracking and measurement.

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Yeah, I mean, look, I don’t know that I have the best answer. I think the way that we’ve handled measurement is very much the way that Deidre and Lynne talked about in terms of the employee engagement survey, and then we do NPS, right? I think your point, though, is a really, really good one. Because when we look at the verbatims, which is really what gives you insight into what’s happening, you got to decide where are you going to place your focus. And I think that there’s sort of the higher order value. What are the things that are going to make a real material impact? And then what are the things that are a nuisance? What are the things that are really bothersome? And maybe you can address those too. But we really do try and focus on the things that are going to have a real impact. Like workplace policies, right? So I will tell you that the biggest thing, and it may not seem, you know, now that we’re sort of, at a different stage in the pandemic, but there was a lot of focus on were we going to force people back into an office? And it created so much—I wanna say swirl—but it was certainly a topic that was really at the forefront of everyone’s mind. And so we had to focus on that first. We had to put a policy in place that would address the needs of the majority of our employees. And I think we did a good job there. Other things, not nearly as important, because that was what was really keeping people up at night.

Deidre Hudson: I think that that makes a lot of sense. And if I can add to that, is that, as I looked across the responses that we got back, and similar to Lynn, we develop an action plan and we tried to figure out okay, what can we address and what can we maybe not address? You know, we took cues from Tes Lasso. I don’t know if anyone has watched that show but I love that show. And we just want to build trust signals, right? So just like Ted Lasso, he just got the water pressure in the shower working. And from that, he was able to start to create trust, and we’re able to build on that. So maybe we couldn’t address big things like giving everybody a 20% pay raise. But we could start with little things like okay, we understand that you are in too many meetings, and how can we at least help that and use that and that we can build upon?

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I love that. It’s such a great, great story. I’m also thinking about what word you’re putting up in your locker room, Deidre to inspire the group. And then the one thing I wonder is, because there’s obviously exit interviews, and you know, most companies do those. And is there a comparison between what happens in an exit interview and what they say the reason they’re leaving? And the things that you were working on? Does that play a role in any of this, Lynne?

Lynne Capozzi: It does play a role. Yes, yes, definitely. So we do the exit interviews, and we make sure that every kind of manager gets to hear and get the feedback from HR on what happens in the exit interview. And that definitely is applied. We look at those, we read those. And same thing, we try to make sure that we capture the glaring things and make sure that we have actions around it. And we hold people and hold managers accountable for them.

Drew Neisser: So we’re running out of time, but just a quick, which is the bigger challenge for you right now retaining employees or recruiting new ones?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: I think this is really, really hard, because we know how much more costly it is to go out and acquire new. I think what we’ve been really looking to do is, what roles do we have? Do we have people who may be doing different work that we can put into new roles? How do we scale them up? So it’s not acquisition and it’s not retention, it’s really about reskilling and helping people find some ability within an organization so that we can spend less time going out and acquiring because it is in fact really costly. And we’ve got so many great people in our organization. I think it’s an opportunity for us to say, “Hey, is there something here that you would like to do and let’s give you an opportunity to try it out.”

Drew Neisser: So I want to ask each of you for some final words of wisdom for CMOs who are looking to strengthen their employer brands. And we’ll start with Deidre.

Deidre Hudson: I would say show authenticity and show empathy. I think that the more real you allow your brand to be in the market, the better off you will be in terms of attracting the kinds of people that you want to work with in your organization. Be authentic, be empathetic, and don’t be afraid to let those human qualitys show, right? We’re organizations. Nut we’re organizations of humans, so don’t be afraid to be human.

Drew Neisser: Okay, and Michelle BB?

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Focus on the employee experience and the brand Halo will come.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Okay, So employee experience, as in everything from the minute they arrive to all the aspects of how you interact.

Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek: Absolutely.

Drew Neisser: Okay, and Lynne Capozzi, final words?

Lynne Capozzi: I would say, if you don’t have a brand DNA, then build it. Build it and practice it.

Drew Neisser: And that’s so important because it’s the foundation for why that company exists. And I imagine there’s an intersection. But I’ve never done a show without mentioning Ben Franklin, so I can get him in real quick. I see in this conversation that recruiting employees is quite a bit different than recruiting customers. And so it does require a slightly different mindset and a tool set. So I think Dr. Franklin would say, “Don’t hunt two rabbits with one dog.” All right. Thank you Deidre, Michelle, Lynne, you’re all terrific sports.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your own questions while we’re live. Join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile, that’s Drew Neisser, every other week.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me! This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and our B2B podcast partners Share Your Genius. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro Voice Over is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about B2B branding, CMO Huddles, or my CMO coaching service, check out I’m your host, Drew Neisser. And until next time, keep those Renegade thinking caps on and strong!