CMOs Are Thinking Differently About Keeping Top Talent Around in a Post-Covid World

Marketing leaders offer tips on recruiting at an unprecedented time

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As the world gradually re-opens from various stages of quarantine, CMOs are facing a much different set of considerations when it comes to attracting talent than they were more than a year ago.

At Adweek’s CMO Summit this week, marketing leaders discussed how they are approaching recruiting and retention in a world where companies and employees are rethinking the fundamentals of a workplace culture, struggling to stave off burnout and navigating a new post-pandemic normal.


Sephora CMO Deborah Yeh stressed the importance of maintaining transparent lines of communication in order to keep morale up among a far-flung team.

“Personally, I’d find like new avenues of connection to a workforce that was incredibly dispersed, dealing with their own lives,” Yeh said. “And I went back to old school [methods]—I wrote a weekly newsletter to people about what was going on in my life, what we were actually proud of as a team, the changes that we had made.”

Coming together

AT&T chief marketing and growth officer Kellyn Smith Kenny said her challenge with retention is about uniting the various cogs of a business as wide-ranging as the telecom’s around a singular vision. That means providing each division with a different story that feels relevant to each employee while also contributing to a broader overarching goal.

“Because we are multifaceted as a company, we’ve got this huge enormous entertainment arm and Warner Media, and then we’ve got a communication side of business working on fiber, internet and mobility as well as business solutions. There are different sort of motivating factors that maybe make people want to join, but the same sets of things make people want to stay,” Smith Kenny said. “And so I would say, we have to make sure that our combined company all is bought in our CEO, his vision about what this company is going to stand for.”


For Ariel Kelman, evp and chief marketing officer at Oracle, his biggest priority has been to make sure that each employee has a clearly defined role in which they feel empowered to do their best work.

“One of the most demotivating things that can turn candidates away is when they realize, ‘Wait a second. This is one of these like roles where I’m a cog in the machine or I don’t really have the ownership of the the outcomes,'” Kelman said. “And so I just like to beat my team over the head that their their roles need to have clearly defined purpose and strong ownership where they can explain to the candidate, ‘You’re actually going to have control over the resources required to make that outcome or that achievement that I’m selling the job.'”