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Why CMOs Should Champion Employee Engagement

Move employee experience insight from ad hoc, analog and anecdotal to daily, digital and data-driven

In one of the most watched TED Talks of all time, Simon Sinek tells us that brands are driven by their organizations’ culture and values.

I experienced this firsthand when running marketing for a large wireless carrier. The prevailing wisdom was that the key drivers of brand perception were network coverage and monthly cost. But when we analyzed the data, we found something quite different. More than any technical features, customers’ first experience with the in-store employees when setting up their phone had the biggest impact on brand perception. A big gap for a company who at the time mostly hired technology whizz kids. So marketing took on the role of shaping the internal culture of the company to focus more on customer service, in large part to improve the brand perception.

It makes sense that when employees are steeped in your brand values, whether they be integrity, fun, compassion or innovation, they will not only reflect these values to customers but also feel invested in your mission.

But how much attention do we pay to making sure our employees live our brand experience? Do we even measure our employees’ engagement with our culture and values?

We’ve Nailed Customer Experience

Companies have always worked hard to understand how customers engage with our brands. In the old days, we got a hazy picture from ad hoc and analog measuring sticks like consumer research, satisfaction surveys, focus groups and anecdotes from salespeople.

Now the wealth of real-time, data-driven, behavioral insights coming from daily customer engagement with our digital properties are helping us build strong brand-based customer experience across a range of functions like marketing, sales and support.

Many companies are now using Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies like Gong and Hootsuite in realms like sales, marketing and customer success to analyze social, phone or video calls to improve engagement. Through this goldmine of insight, we’ve become experts at ensuring customers experience our brand values across every touchpoint, and across all parts of the organization. Increasingly companies even use data analysis and AI to analyze and coach employees on how to improve their customer engagement skills.

And who owns that end-to-end customer experience? Usually CMOs. In a recent poll, 83% of respondents said the CMO is the primary owner of the end-to-end customer experience through daily digital interactions. But crucially, the majority also recognized that other functions like CROs and CFOs have a critical role in it.

But employee engagement and measurement is more ad hoc and siloed

When asked who owns the end-to-end employee experience, 92% of respondents chose the chief people officer (CPO), with less than half saying that other C-level heads played an important role. While CPOs remain the champion of the employee experience, it’s clear that most companies are missing out on the opportunity to build the employee experience across functions.

And the measurement gap is more daunting.

Most companies use employee surveys and exit interviews as the top ways to measure and improve the employee experience. But many fewer are using the more data-driven measurement methods becoming more available as we move to a remote world: things like understanding network connections and engagement on Zoom, or building expertise graphs from email threads.

But those same data analytics and engagement tools that have transformed customer engagement can also transform employee engagement. When a company tracks, measures and connects the dots in a data-driven way on how well a new employee participates in the various internal communications channels, instead of  just from a weekly check-in with their manager, it leads to both higher employee satisfaction and better business outcomes.

This was backed up in our survey. Respondents felt that surveys and tracking employee engagement data were equally important. But they rated their ability to survey at 3.3 out of 5, and their ability to track employee data at only 2 out of 5.

There are clearly challenges: it’s hard to gather and analyze the data, and can create invasiveness and privacy issues. And the analysis needs to lead to suggestions and ideas for improvement, not just measurement. But in the end, these changes are likely to be as transformational for employee engagement as they’ve been for customer engagement.

Why CMOs Can (and Need to) Help

CMOs are a key partner in helping CPOs in making this change. CMOs should help drive the shift from siloed, ad hoc and analog to an integrated, daily digital employee engagement for three reasons:

It’s central to the marketing mission and building the external brand. As Sinek noted, the culture, engagement and values of employees are key to driving the external brand experience. CMOs have a key stake in ensuring that their companies both build and live their brand values.

CMOs have experience balancing the trade-offs inherent in using data to deliver experiences. CMOs have been grappling with the use of behavioral data for external engagement for many years: from personalization to targeted advertising. Learnings from this journey should inform similar discussions on the benefits and trade-offs of using behavioral data to supplement survey data within the organization.

Employees need to reimagine how they build their internal brand in an increasingly remote world. CMOs are often trusted advisors to employees as they build their personal brand externally, whether through speaking events or social media activities. The rise of remote working and communications has started to make some of the same skills and feedback loops applicable now within the organization. The CMO can be an evangelist for mastering employees’ personal brands.

Just like digital ads overtook broadcast TV, data and analytics are going to transform the understanding and evaluation of the internal experience. The CMO has a critical role in this transformation: connecting the dots and showing the benefits to all involved, driving a new level of brand leadership, and actively strengthening culture and talent retention.


  • Doug Bewsher

    Doug Bewsher, advisor with Leap by Demand Spring, is an executive in residence at ArrowRoot Capital, a growth equity firm focused on growth stage B2B software investments. He is passionate about how data and AI is transforming sales and marketing, and has led and invested in some of the most influential companies in the space.

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Doug Bewsher
Doug Bewsherhttps://demandspring.com/leap/
Doug Bewsher, advisor with Leap by Demand Spring, is an executive in residence at ArrowRoot Capital, a growth equity firm focused on growth stage B2B software investments. He is passionate about how data and AI is transforming sales and marketing, and has led and invested in some of the most influential companies in the space.

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