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Building a Strengths-Based, Engagement-Focused Organization

Building a Strengths-Based, Engagement-Focused Organization

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 19
  • Learn how a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach has brought about a "virtuous cycle" that focuses on CliftonStrengths and workplace engagement in his organization.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

Greg Kirsch, Senior Vice President of Learning and Development at Intouch Group -- and a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a trained Engagement Champion -- was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. Greg shared the discoveries he's made along the CliftonStrengths journey that he and his organization have been on since 2008, including getting organizational leadership to adopt CliftonStrengths and then Gallup's Q12 employee engagement assessment, and the changes that have happened as a result.

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.

We've created the ultimate guide to improving teamwork in the workplace!

When people are engaged, they like their jobs better. I mean, they want to go to work, and they're going to provide better client service. And like you said, they're going to treat their teammates better. And it's this virtuous cycle.

-- Greg Kirsch [43:32]

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison and live from -- not the Gallup Studios, but -- here in Omaha, Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on March 17, 2020.

Jim Collison 0:21

Called to Coach is a resource for those who want to help others discover and use their strengths. We have Gallup experts and independent strengths coaches share tactics, insights and strategies to help coaches maximize the talent of individuals, teams and organizations around the world. And that could never be more important than it is right now. If you're listening live, we would love to have you join us in our chat room. There's just a link right above me here. There's a link to the live page. There's a chat room there. You can just log in and join us; if you have questions, put them in there. If you're listening to the recorded version -- and many of you are, whether you're listening on podcast or on YouTube -- send us your questions via email: Don't forget, if you are listening on YouTube, there's a button down below there, a subscribe button to subscribe; you'll get a notification every time we go live. And if you're -- maybe now it's the time to join us in the podcast world, right? Listen to those when you have some extra time. Any podcast app, search "Gallup Webcasts." Lindsey Spehn is our host today. Lindsey is a Regional Manager with us at Gallup. And Lindsey, great to have you on Called to Coach, and welcome.

Lindsey Spehn 1:18

Thanks so much, Jim. It's a pleasure to be here. Well, on this St. Patrick's Day, we are lucky to have our guest Greg Kirsch with us today. Greg is a Senior Vice President of Learning and Development at Intouch Group. He is a key player in making Intouch a strengths-based and engagement-focused organization. Greg specifically leads a team of learning professionals whose mission is to empower Intouchers by nurturing talents and strengths and enabling continuous learning for personal and professional growth. Gallup is a -- sorry, Greg is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. He's a trained Engagement Champion, and he's also great completing his certification as a Certified Professional Coach through the Co-Active Training Institute. Greg, could you please share with us your strengths as we kick off today?

Greg Kirsch 2:10

Hi, Lindsey. Thanks for having me. Sure. I'm Maximizer, Positivity, Strategic, Communication and Futuristic. And if you want me to keep going, I can.

Lindsey Spehn 2:23

Please, yes!

Greg Kirsch 2:24

Let's see, No. 6 is Woo; that should make Jim happy. Woo is the best strength, according to Jim. Yay! Ideation is No. 7. Empathy is No. 8. Arranger, my only Executing theme, is No. 9, and Includer rounds it out at the Top 10.

Lindsey Spehn 2:45

Fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. I think that always helps our listeners know a little bit more about you. So as Jim and I were putting our heads together and our growing space of small- and medium-sized clients, when we are thinking about success stories to share, Intouch came into mind pretty quickly. And today, we'll hear a little bit more about Intouch Group's journey to become a strengths-based, engagement-focused organization.

Lindsey Spehn 3:10

So today we'll kick it off to Greg to share a little bit more about his organization. We'll kind of divvy up the day or the session with learning more about how it all came to be -- how did the strengths and engagement journey happen? We'll get into some strategies and the approach that Intouch took, and then we'll close with some of the impact that they've seen so far. So let's get to it. Greg, could you share a little bit more about Intouch for our audience?

Greg Kirsch 3:37

Sure. Intouch is a leading ad agency for the pharmaceutical industry, for -- we're in the pharmaceutical space. We are -- we're headquartered in Kansas City, but we've got a presence across the United States. And in fact, we've got a small presence in London and Mumbai as well. Our headquarters in Kansas City, offices in Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego. And like I said, a small presence internationally.

Lindsey Spehn 4:09

Great, and about how many employees do you have?

Greg Kirsch 4:12

We're right at 1,000. Right at about 1,000 employees. And yeah, it's, it's amazing to me, because I was actually the -- I was employee No. 94 when I started in 2008. So it's been pretty remarkable to see this fantastic growth.

Lindsey Spehn 4:26

Yeah, I know, it's been a pleasure to get to partner with you and the Intouch team along the journey. So maybe let's kick off with telling us a little bit more about how it all began.

Greg Kirsch 4:35

OK, sure. Well, I -- I'm gonna have to go back to kind of when I got involved in strengths. I, I've been kind of a fan of strengths since the beginning. I think I took my my first assessment in 2002 and was just really fascinated with the philosophy of strengths. It was, it was just so refreshing to know that there, there are some things that I do better than, than a lot of other people. And throughout my whole career, I've kind of been told, Gee, you need to do this better or you need to do that better. It's just refreshing to find out those things that I'm really good at and focus on those.

Greg Kirsch 5:11

And so, 2002 took my first assessment; read all the books, I read, First, Break All the Rules; Now, Discover Your Strengths, and so forth; became kind of a fan. I started at Intouch in 2008. And I was looking for a way to get my team engaged that I was managing at the time, and I thought, well, strengths would be a perfect way to do that. So I went out and bought StrengthsFinder 2.0 for all of them and had them take the assessment, and, and then I would talk to them about their strengths and try to leverage their strengths and so forth. And, and it was, it was, it was successful -- everybody seemed to buy into the philosophy.

Greg Kirsch 5:50

So I went to the head of HR at the time and I said, Hey, we ought to do this for everybody. And like I said, I was, I was employee No. 94, so the head of HR at the time said, "Sure." So we went out and bought a bunch of StrengthsFinder 2.0 books and gave them to all the new employees. And it was, it was great. I would put together some "Lunch and Learn" sessions and, and tried to explain the philosophy and tried to help people interpret their strengths. And it kind of went along that way for quite a while.

Greg Kirsch 6:24

Then, gosh, I don't know, we went along that way for, for quite a while. Several years ago, Wendy Blackburn, who is our exec in charge of Marcom, she came to me and said, "Hey, I know that you're really into this, this strength thing. Is that something you could do for our clients?" And I was thinking, Well, you know, I'm kind of like a doctor practicing without a license here. I, I know a lot about this. And I've got my own kind of interpretation. But I said, "Well, let me, let me look into and see what's available." And then coupled with that -- with the fact that we had had this really remarkable growth of 20 to 30% a year, we were also looking for ways to really leverage the strengths work that we had done already.

Greg Kirsch 7:10

So anyway, I went to the website and I think I filled out an inquiry. And I think you actually called me then and, and said, "Hey, I guess you're interested in being a Certified Coach." And I said, "Yes, I am." So you directed me to a couple of options. I ended up going to an Accelerated Strengths Coach class in Denver, with Austin and Tim Simon were my, were my instructors, and that --

Lindsey Spehn 7:34

Awesome, great partners of ours.

Greg Kirsch 7:36

Yeah, exactly. And so I came back and totally, totally charged up and ready to go and and that's kind of where we are now. So I guess to summarize, in terms of our challenge, it's how do we leverage the investment that we've made in strengths? And secondly, how do we stay competitive in a really, in a really challenging environment where we're growing by leaps and bounds? That's really -- that's the challenge we are facing.

Lindsey Spehn 8:06

Right. Yeah, I know, Greg, you've told me just in our conversations over the years, just how, how competitive your industry is, and staying competitive certainly is a key factor. I think you've mentioned that voluntary turnover in your industry is upwards of 20%. So I know that you've specifically found strengths to be a key piece to that.

Greg Kirsch 8:27

Absolutely. Yeah. When we, when we, when we get to the impact part, yes, I, our turnover is significantly lower than that. And at least part of that has to be credited to the fact that our culture focuses on strengths.

Lindsey Spehn 8:41

Mm hmm. Absolutely. So as we kind of bring the story along, you leave that certification course. What happened then?

Greg Kirsch 8:48

Well, I came back, you know, Positivity is No. 2, so I'm totally enthusiastic and I'm trying to sell this to anybody that will buy it. I -- totally pumped up. I went to Christy, my boss, who is our exec in charge of HR. The L&D team that I manage as part of the bigger HR team. And I said, "Hey, I've just been certified in strengths. Let me take our team through a strengths journey." And she said, "That would be great. We need to do a team-building exercise." So I took the HR team, which was probably about 15, 18 people at the time. And we did a team session where we talked about individual strengths, and we printed out everybody's individual strengths profiles and their insight reports and gave them all highlighters and asked him to highlight the parts that were most resonant with them. We kind of interpreted those, had people talk about their strengths. And then we kind of branched into a strengths-based partnership session where we paired people up and gave them other people's strengths, insights and said, highlight those areas that really resonate with you about the person that you're, you're analyzing here.

Greg Kirsch 9:58

And it was, it was really a very empowering session. We filled out little cards: Here's what you bring to the team; Here's, here's how you can help the team; Here's how the team can help you. We put little stickers of metaphorical pictures of what you represent to the team on card; I actually still have my card. And when I'm down, I pull it out and look at it just as kind of a, you know, as a affirmation tool. But it was real successful, everybody loved it, and, you know, took their strengths tents with their strengths on them and put them outside their, their cubicles in their their offices. And it was, it was great.

Greg Kirsch 10:35

So Christy came to me later and said, "Hey, listen, that was great what you did for the HR team. Could you do the same for the executive team?" And so I said, "Wow, yeah, sure. I would love to!" So I went to New York for one of their periodic meetings, and did a very similar thing for the 11 people on the executive committee. And a similar kind of response: People responded favorably. There was a lot of laughs and people, you know, liked it a lot. And so that was great. That led to an invitation to do a similar thing for the entire VP group. So at the time, this is about 3 years ago, there were probably 50 people in the VP group. So I wasn't able to do the stickers and all that; that was that was too cumbersome. But we did a lot of the exercises that you'd be familiar with: love, crazy, envy; we did a scavenger hunt; we -- everybody was roaming around learning everybody else's strengths. And it was just a real empowering session and then, then the floodgates kind of opened because many VPs started coming to me, saying, "Can you do this for my team? You know, my team could really use something like this. And what else do you have to offer?"

Greg Kirsch 11:48

So then suddenly, I -- my Influencing was on steroids at that point because it was out of control. So luckily, there was a woman on a different team who was very interested in strengths, and she asked me how to become a Certified Strengths Coach. And her name is Ann; she eventually joined my team to be part of the L&D team. And another member of our team, Jasmine, has become a Certified Strengths Coach in the meantime. So the three of us are, we're pretty much handling the demand now. We're able to do strengths for teams; do a lot of Strengths for Team sessions. Jasmine and Ann also lead our Strengths for New Hire sessions. And so all new employees that join the company -- and we're still experiencing some pretty dramatic growth -- all new employees go through what we call Strengths for New Hires. And they get, they get the strengths code; they get their assessment. We make a, we make a strengths card that they can put outside their, their cubicle. They look at their insights and they learn why we focus on strengths and what the benefits to the individual is and what the benefits to the company are. So that's pretty much where we're at with strengths.

Lindsey Spehn 13:06

Yeah, I love that. You know, when I work with organizations of really all sizes and all industries, it's, it's not honestly that common that we're going from zero to 100, right, in the journey of strengths. It's not actually very common that no one knows their strengths one day, and then everyone knows their strengths, day 2. So what I love about your story, Greg, is that, you know, you started really intentionally with some smaller groups, and, as you described very well, you know, word caught on and energy is just, you know, contagious at that point. And people hear about this; they, you know, hear the buzz about strengths and then it kind of happens at a more organic level. So I love that piece of your story.

Lindsey Spehn 13:51

As you look back at, you know, maybe when that was all happening, can you think of anything specifically that people really latched on to -- what was kind of the key factor around strengths that drew people in and got people excited?

Greg Kirsch 14:05

I'd have to say it's, it's probably -- it's such a positive message. And, like I said, my own journey was such that throughout my whole early career, I was being told all the things that I did wrong and all the things that I couldn't do. But this is the total opposite philosophy. It's, it's here's what's right about you. And I think when I am leading teams through this or coaching individuals, that's what I really like to focus on is that positive aspect. It shouldn't surprise you: Positivity is my second strength. So it's easy for me to do that. But I think that's the message that really resonates with people: that here's, here's what's right about you. Let's leverage that. Let's not try to fix what's wrong about you or what's not a strength; let's leverage around that. Let's really focus on what you do well, and how you can,how you can do that to be more productive.

Lindsey Spehn 14:56

Yeah, it just kind of at that point becomes a common language. And it's not about judgment, you know, what, how you're different in what you bring to the table. It's more of a positive mindset about how can we honor those differences in each other and really partner strategically in that way? So I love that. Absolutely. And then when you think about some of those first sessions that you did, you mentioned that very first session, and then good enough to be invited to speak with the executive team, which says a lot about you. That's awesome. Can you think about any specific resources or things that you learned in that certification course that helped you in those beginning courses or sessions?

Greg Kirsch 15:38

Sure. There is a, there's a presentation that was on the Learning Center that I, I downloaded, and I adapted it for our own use; part of it applied and part of it didn't apply. And it was, you know, frankly, I pretty much followed the script that I learned in training. I adapted it for us. Some things I thought, Oh, this would never work here. So I didn't try it. Other things, Hey, I'll try it. And if it works great, and if it doesn't work, well then, I'll learn that. Mainly the, the presentation and the, the meetings you should have with managers and then the, the sessions with teams.

Greg Kirsch 16:18

So what we're doing right now is we basically have 4 sessions with teams. We've got the first one, which is just Discover Your Strengths. Understand what your strengths are, and we really focus on the individual. Then the second meeting we have, or the second session we have, is strengths-based partnerships. Now that you've kind of understood your own strengths, and you can name them and claim them, understand how they manifest themselves in your life and actually aim them at very specific challenges or goals that you have. Now that you've, you've, we've gotten you taken care of from an individual standpoint, now start to learn your teammates' strengths. How can you leverage their strengths? And in fact, my own team is a good example of that.

Greg Kirsch 16:55

I'm high in the Influencing themes and, you know, Positivity and Maximizer -- or Positivity, I guess, is a Relationship Building thing. But the Communication and the Maximizer; Woo is way up there. So I'm out there selling all the time. But a lot of times I have a hard time getting things done. So that's where it's really important that I can, can partner with someone like Jasmine on my team, who's very high in the Executing themes. And that's what I'm talking about when I talk about a partnership. We complement each other. Ann kind of rounds it out because she's really high in the Thinking, so, so she'll think of it, I'll go sell it and Jasmine will go make it happen is pretty much the way that it works.

Lindsey Spehn 17:34

Love it! The Power of 3 is what we call that. I love that.

Greg Kirsch 17:36

Yes, exactly. Then we we move on then to some team, some kind of collective Strengths of the Team sessions, where we look at the collective strengths of the teams, how -- what do you as a team bring and how do you get your work done and how can you be more effective leveraging the strengths of your individual team? So that's, that's pretty much the cadence that we've been following.

Lindsey Spehn 18:01

Got it. And so, I guess, looking ahead then to the next step in your journey, I know it was about a year ago, Greg, that you and I first talking -- we first, you know, sort of speaking about layering in our Q12 employee engagement tool. So do you want to tell our listeners a little bit more about how that came to be?

Greg Kirsch 18:19

Sure. Ironically, at that, that meeting with the VPs that I was just talking about a second ago, after my, after my session, Mary, one of our HR business partners in, in our Chicago office, was giving an update on what was going on in the HR world. And she mentioned that we are considering doing an engagement survey, just kind of by way of an update. And we're vetting companies right now. And I saw that Gallup Q12 was on the list. So as soon as the session was over, I tackled Mary. And I said, "Hey, if we -- I'd love to be on this task force!" And she said, "I'd love the help!" And so we vetted a number of organizations; settled on the Q12; sold it in, and, and it was, it was adopted. So you're right. It was just about a year ago, just a little over a year ago that we launched our first survey of the Q12. Prior to that, we identified 5 people, including myself and Mary, to, to be -- to go through certification training. Well actually, I guess it's not certification training, but to get our certificate in, in the Q12.

Lindsey Spehn 19:28

The Engagement Champion training.

Greg Kirsch 19:30

Thank you. The Engagement Champion training. So we went through that, and it was a lot to absorb. It was a totally new way for us to do things. So we came back and we met and we were nervous and called Mike McDonald, Dr. Mike, our, our workplace consultant and probably drove him nuts with all the questions we had, but he actually gave us a series of webinars and video calls to kind of calm our nerves. So anyway, we finally launched it in March and felt pretty good about, you know, the way everything turned out. We -- so now we have strengths working for us. And we're also -- we just last fall conducted our second wave, our second survey, and, you know, we're, we're making progress.

Lindsey Spehn 20:20

So what was that specifically about the Q12 that you think brought value to what you're already doing with strengths?

Greg Kirsch 20:28

Well, they're very synergistic. The, you know, the whole concept of strengths is to be, to use, you know, my, my talents, so that I can be more productive, use it so that I can be more, more engaged at work. And that's what the Q12 is really all about is engagement. In fact, I think the third question is, "At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day." But that's, that's what strengths really are: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best. I love my job because I have the opportunity to use my Communication skills. I have the opportunity to make things better with Maximizer. I'm, I'm kind of a cheerleader for the team using my Positivity, and I can look ahead and see what's coming as far as Futuristic and Strategic. So I have found the role -- my role is, I kind of fashioned it around my strengths, and -- which makes me engaged. And that's really what the Q12 measures is your engagement. So, so they really work hand in hand. It's really nice.

Lindsey Spehn 21:30

So let's, let's break that down just a little bit for our audience. So you, you talk about -- it was easy, you felt, to get kind of the buy-in around the Q12 in the first place, and then you -- pretty soon, I think we crafted a strategy for you and some other key partners you mentioned, to become trained engagement champions.

Greg Kirsch 21:48


Lindsey Spehn 21:48

Let's, let's break down what the next steps looked like in terms of your approach to measure engagement.

Greg Kirsch 21:55

OK. Well, we came back from our training to become Engagement Champions. And again, like I said, it was -- to be honest, it was a little overwhelming at first. I mean, there's -- it's a, it's a new way of doing things. But we, we met, we met periodically; mapped out a strategy for who's going to take which teams. We engaged Dr. Mike to help us in terms of what do we do first, what do we do next? And again, much like strengths, we kind of followed the script. We started off with dividing the teams up among the five of us. I think we quickly learned that there weren't enough of us for a company the size of 1,000. And since then, we've gotten another, I think five people have gone through the training. So we've gotten -- so reinforcements have arrived and we're in much better shape.

Greg Kirsch 22:45

But we conducted, conducted the survey, I -- you know, would you like me to talk a little bit about how we, how we launched the survey? Would that be helpful?

Lindsey Spehn 22:54

Yeah, that'd be great.

Greg Kirsch 22:55

Well, we, we wanted to have a high participation rate and so -- because we know how important it is to have everybody participate. We're in a, we're in the communication industry. So making posters and crafting emails comes pretty natural, naturally to us. But we conducted a series of meetings that we hosted from Kansas City. I think in total, there were eight meetings, where we Zoomed these out to our various other offices; anybody could tune in. And we talked about why we're focusing on engagement, why engagement matters, how engagement benefits the company in terms of increased productivity, and increased loyalty and less, less absenteeism and those kind of things. And also how engagement benefits the employee -- from things like lower stress and lower depression all the way to (this one kills me) those people who are engaged at work actually have lower levels of bad cholesterol, which I thought was fascinating.

Greg Kirsch 23:53

So at any rate, a lot of benefits for both the employer and for the employee. And we, we kind of coined the phrase, "If we're all engaged, everyone wins." So, we, we put this out on posters and sent it out in emails; we conducted these meetings, these eight meetings. And with about 1,000 people -- at the time, it was probably closer to 750 people, maybe 800 people -- but we had almost half of the people in the organization attended one of those meetings. So that was, that was pretty cool. And we were, we were tracking our participation rate as we rolled out the survey. And we, you know, like I said, our goal was to get to 80%. And we were at about 76% with one day to go.

Greg Kirsch 24:40

So Antonio, one of the guys that works out of our Chicago office, suggested, he said, "Hey, you know, what we ought to do is have a, have a pizza party. And why don't -- Greg, why don't you send out an email and invite everybody to have a piece of pizza! And the theme behind that one was it's going to take you less time to fill out this survey than it will to eat a piece of pizza. So we, so we sent out a goofy video and sent it out to everybody and had pizza in all the different kitchen areas so anybody that wanted to could come take the survey and have a piece of pizza. We ran out of pizza; everybody showed up. But the bottom line was, it worked. We ended up getting 85% participation rate in our first time out of the gate. So we were pretty pleased with that.

Lindsey Spehn 25:28

Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, I remember you -- you shared that video with me, Greg. And I just loved that; I had to share it with my own team. You know, when I think about one of my favorite parts of my job is getting to see ways that our clients like you really adapt what we have and make it your own. And, you know, as you maybe reflect, before we get into your impact, back into, you know, some of the approaches and strategies that you have just described -- both strengths and engagement. You mentioned weaving strengths into your own onboarding program. I love that. You know, weaving your own personality into bumping up the participation rate. Can you think of any other ways that you kind of put the "Intouch touch" on some of your strategies that you've rolled out beyond the ones that you've shared already?

Greg Kirsch 26:19

Well, we've designed our own strengths cards that we put -- that we give to everybody; we do them in our team sessions. And we're also making those available to anybody that attends to Strengths for New Hires session. And, you know, again, being within a communication company, we've got our whole group that just does wonderful design and wonderful -- our stuff just looks so good. And that just adds another kind of touch of professional -- professionalism to them. But boy, you walk around your offices and you can see, I would venture to say, more than half; certainly probably close to 65% or 70% of the people have their strengths posted outside their office. We do team sessions and the table tents that we have. People have those hanging over their cubicle walls. Strengths has kind of become part of our lexicon. You can hear people talking about it.

Greg Kirsch 27:17

So we've designed our own -- the meetings that I mentioned earlier, put them in our own template, put them in our own format. So they look -- they look like they came from Intouch. I think that was pretty important. So those are some of the ways that we've kind of put our own stamp on. Like I said, we looked at what was provided, and much of it was -- most of it was awesome. Some of it didn't apply, or some of it didn't feel right, like it fit in with our culture. So we kind of threw those out. We've adapted some others. In our most recent session we started using -- you provide some cards, pictures, those metaphorical pictures. Instead of, we've asked people to go pick out a card that represents you and explain why you picked this card to represent you, which has been a real kind of a neat little adaptation. So we keep evolving, we keep adapting, we keep changing it. It just -- and it's fun for us, too, because as we do it, it's become less. It doesn't become stale. It's not rote. It's it's organic and continues to grow.

Lindsey Spehn 28:21

Sure, and it's yours; you know.

Greg Kirsch 28:23

And it's ours; that's right.

Lindsey Spehn 28:24

You've made it your own. Let's get into impact. So as you think about, you know, all your hard work with you. I know Jasmine and Ann are also key partners of yours and your team. What, what are some of the ways that you have seen, you know, those approaches take shape within your organization, both quantitatively and maybe even qualitatively too?

Greg Kirsch 28:46

Probably the biggest -- the biggest quantitative number we have are the results that we've gotten from the Q12. And so I'll probably start off there. Like I said, we wanted a high participation rate. We ended up getting 85%. And, which was great, we were all very pleased with that. Our first survey, which was done a year ago, our GrandMean was a 4.0. And frankly, I was pretty happy with that, considering it was our first time out of the gate. The Gallup average, I think, is 4.06. And that's for Gallup clients. And so, being, being at a 4.0, right out of the gate, you know, being pretty close to what your average client is, some of whom, I presume, have been working with you for years, I felt pretty good about it. We had 45% engagement, which was, again, much better than the average across the nation, which I think your research says is about 33%.

Greg Kirsch 29:49

So right there, our first engagement scores seemed to indicate that yeah, we've got a relatively engaged workforce -- not solely due to strengths, of course, because we got a wonderful culture here and a wonderful company. But certainly strengths plays a part in that. So that would be the first thing. We did our second survey in October of this year -- so just last fall. And the results came back, and they were even more gratifying. Our participation rate jumped up to 92%. So 92% of 1,000 people is pretty remarkable when you think about it. We got 92% participation rate. The GrandMean went up from 4.0 to 4.07. So we're actually right at, at your average now with all of your clients, which is great. Probably the single best metric that we had, though, was our Engaged number. We went from 45% to 50% Engaged. Mike McDonald said that was a huge number. So I believed him. He said, that's literally a 5% more people are -- like what they do and like who they work with. And so that's, that's pretty, that's pretty cool.

Greg Kirsch 31:09

So I think the very fact that we are doing things like strengths -- again, not, not the sole contributor because we've got so many great cultural things going on here. We've really doubled down on our culture as a way to deal with this spectacular and rapid growth. And strengths and the Q12 engagement survey certainly is a big part of that. Higher engage -- excuse me, higher engagement, higher GrandMean, higher participation. So from a quantitative standpoint, that's, that's one metric. You had mentioned our turnover earlier. Advertising is, is -- kind of has a reputation for having a "revolving door." The, the business churns people through. The number that I most commonly hear is about a 20% annual turnover for people in the agency business. Take that number and set it over here for just a minute.

Greg Kirsch 32:08

Your research, I think it was your research, said that about 38% of the American workforce are millennials -- are under the age of 38. So at Intouch, however, our percentage of that age cohort is closer to 65%. So we've got a very young company. And again, your research seems to indicate that those -- that that cohort tends to change jobs more frequently. In fact, I think the number -- I think the number was 6 out of 10 people in that age cohort are looking for a new job. So we're in a very high-turnover industry. And we've, we've got -- we're, we mainly employ the cohort that changes jobs most frequently.

Greg Kirsch 32:53

So taking those two factors, but if you take a look at our voluntary turnover, it's actually very low, considering that we're in the low, low teens -- in the lows -- in the low double digits. So compare that with a 20% turnover rate for the industry, that, that says something. Something's going on in terms of our culture. And again, I can't say it's only strengths, or it's only the Q12 engagement and so forth, the strategies that we've employed because of that, but I got to believe that that's played a part.

Greg Kirsch 33:25

And then one other metric that's tied into that is the fact that we've got is our client turnover. Traditionally, clients stay with agencies. Again, I'm not sure I've got the most recent figures, but to be safe, let's just say that it's in the, it's in the single digits, in terms of years. You know, maybe five, maybe seven, maybe seven years. Our -- this is great. We've been in business for 20 years. The company was started in 1999. And we started with two, with basically with two clients. Those two clients are still with us. They are still clients of ours. And so not only are we retaining our employees, but we're also retaining our clients because of the fabulous client service that we provide and, you know, the fabulous, the fabulous product that we help deliver for them. But they're obviously very happy with this. And part of that has to be because we've got lower turnover because we've got an engaged workforce. So add it all up and you'll see that we've got an engaged workforce. We've got clients who are sticking with this. We've got employees who are sticking -- staying with us. And I think they all work together.

Lindsey Spehn 34:43

Sure. I think. Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Jim.

Jim Collison 34:47

No, let me -- hold on. Based on what something Greg said; and Andrea had asked this question earlier. Greg, based on you'd said earlier about maybe taking strengths or talking about it with your clients.

Greg Kirsch 34:59


Jim Collison 34:59

How is that -- you just kind of mentioned that now. How has that, you know, how has that progressed? Or where are you at with that? Or tell me, dig, dig in a little bit more on that. How has that worked?

Greg Kirsch 35:11

Sure. To be perfectly honest, we really haven't pursued that strategy. It was an idea that came up and that was kind of the catalyst for me becoming a Certified Strengths Coach. But what we've found is, and it's still certainly an offering if we wanted to. I have done strengths, in fact, I think, Lindsey, you put me in touch with another organization here in Kansas City that -- talk about a good cultural thing, we allow people a certain amount of time just to do philanthropic things in the in the community. You get, you get paid time off just to do philanthropic things. So I use my time to, to go do it with one of your other clients that didn't -- that hadn't been certified yet in strengths. So we've we've been able to do it for other people and we've been able to share the philosophy with other people.

Greg Kirsch 35:59

The idea of doing it for our clients per se has not, has not taken hold, although now I feel -- whereas before I didn't feel qualified to do it because I felt like, like I said, a doctor practicing without a license. I feel very qualified to do that now if the need would arise.

Jim Collison 36:17

Let me let me also ask this. Nate asked this question: Was there anything within Intouch that prepared the culture for the rapid adoption of strengths?

Greg Kirsch 36:26

We're a very entrepreneurial kind of company; we were started by an entrepreneur. Faruk Capan started the company 20 years ago, you know, in his, in his basement. Had an idea that maybe this internet thing might catch on, I don't know. So, and obviously it did. So we value, we value innovation. We value people taking initiative, it's kind of one of our core values. So the fact that I was able to kind of be an entrepreneur in that sense -- or maybe a better term would be an intrapreneur; I was able to build this internally. The company culture itself rewards that. So that, that was something that was really going in my favor. The fact that people were open to it; people are open to change; people are open to trying new things. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. And we'll move on. In fact, when I first became a Strengths Coach, one of the conversations I had with Christy was, she said, "Well, let's give this a year. And if it doesn't work, we'll move on to something else." I said, "Great." So a very, a very open company in terms of new ideas. Well, we'll try anything. And, you know, and if it works great, and if it doesn't, we'll move on to the next thing.

Jim Collison 37:42

Yeah, certainly helpful. Lindsey, in your work, how important it is to have somebody like Greg, who's in it, live in it. I mean, how important is that? Sponsor, stakeholder, whatever you want to call it. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you've seen Greg work. He can talk about it, but sometimes it's nice when we hear it from somebody else as well.

Lindsey Spehn 37:59

Yeah, absolutely. Well, as you all have heard, I mean, Greg just has this amazing "Get it factor" -- is what we call it at Gallup. So he from the beginning realized, you know, it was not going to be an overnight culture change; that it was going to take some hard work, some investment. As you've heard, he's relied on our data, our colleagues and experts along the way. And I think it's just so huge to have a key champion like Greg.

Lindsey Spehn 38:27

One other piece I would just add to what, Greg, you just shared around, you know, how were you able to get it to catch on so quickly. We know that one of the very first key pieces in creating a strengths-based culture, from a best practice standpoint, is to get leadership engaged pretty quickly. As much as we have, you know, great champions within the organization, we know that it won't really take flight in a big way to make it, you know, truly impactful organizationwide without that leadership support pretty soon in the beginning. And so, I think what was really key was for you to actually meet with that executive team, you know, your, your peers and fellow leaders pretty early on. Because I think once they are able to learn more about their strengths, and have you teach them a little bit more about what this could look like and get a little taste of it, I think from there, we just see that catch on. You can't, you can't help but feel the excitement after a session like that. So I think that was really smart -- to credit you -- in the, in the beginning and your partners to start with that type of group for one of the very first sessions.

Greg Kirsch 39:33

Oh, thank you. I -- it's kind of fun. The -- it's become part of our lexicon now. In fact, if you walk by the, the C-Suite, row of offices, Faruk has his strengths outside his office, and Wendy has them outside her office; Christy has them outside her office. Chris Sherling, our CFO, has them outside his off -- I was talking with Chris the other day. And I forget what the topic was. I was probably over budget on something, I don't know. But, but Chris said, Well, you know, [Competition] is in my Top 5. So you know that, you know. And it was just -- that just kind of warmed my heart to know that it's just become part of our lexicon. People are talking about it. So -- and that's kind of another, you asked about impact. That's another element of impact. It's, it's just, it's not totally there yet. We're still, we're still pushing and prodding and selling and evangelizing whenever we can. But yeah, it's, it, I think your point is well taken. That getting that buy-off at the top certainly made, made the climb a lot easier.

Jim Collison 40:44

Justin out in the chat room asked Greg, you mentioned the industry standard for clients to stay with their agency is around 5 to 7 years. How do you think Intouch compares to that now?

Greg Kirsch 40:53

Well, I only anecdotally. I'm off to the side now that since I'm not really dealing with our clients as much anymore, and I'm really more of an internal resource. I got to believe it's more than that. Because, and again, I don't have a number. I don't have a hard number and I'd be scared to mention one. I do know that like I said, our two longest-tenured clients have been with us for 20 years. So, by definition, they're going to skew the, the average higher than that. I, I probably could find that number. And, in fact, I could get back with you guys if you wanted to share with Justin later. I don't have the number off the top of my head.

Jim Collison 41:33

Sure, sure. No, and I think, you know, we hear this all the time, is customers will say, Well, we just really like working with you guys. Like it creates a culture of, of -- internally where people are kinder to each other; where people really are -- they work better in partnerships. They get things done more efficiently. You're probably seeing that as teams start working better together, right? They stop trying to sabotage each other and they start trying to figure out how to help one another. Because they know their success is tied together. Do you see, as it gets, as it gets communicated more -- and even with the engagement number, right, we can measure the effects of strengths that's having in an organization with the engagement survey. Do you sense an overall movement like that inside the organization? Did you see it become a more helpful, more productive? Could you feel that and could you see it as it was happening?

Greg Kirsch 42:23

Yeah, I think the answer to that is "Yes." You can see it happening even more. Well, again, let's go back to a quantitative measure. The company has always been a very caring company, as long as I've been here, since 2008. And even in face of this dramatic growth, we haven't lost our -- that human touch. Question, I think is question number 5, "At work, my supervisor or someone at work cares about me as a person." That is our single highest Q12 score. And, and you can see that in the organization. It's just a very caring organization.

Jim Collison 43:03

That is some -- that's some great insight to see that question and then to point that right back to a definite culture. You know, in other words, this reflects our culture. And it's a great measurement of that, and I think gives you the opportunity to also to celebrate that in the organization. We say that, you know, in other words, as an organization, we say that, but is it proven out in the numbers when we survey our employees? Do they believe in it as well? And so it's not -- you're just not making it up. It actually is true based on the numbers, right?

Greg Kirsch 43:32

Yeah. And we know, I mean, we know, when people are engaged, they, they like their jobs better. I mean, they, they want to go to work, and they're going to provide better client service. And like you said, they're going to treat their, their teammates better. And it's, it's, it's this virtuous cycle. If I can, if I can get somebody -- if I can empower them by focusing on what's right with them, and then they become more engaged at work. So they, they start treating their coworkers better and start treating their clients better. And like you said, Jim, then the clients say, "We just like working with you guys." And so it just and boy, if you like working with me, I like working with you. So I'm gonna work harder! And it just, it just keeps going around like that. I, you know, it's hard to quantify, but I got to believe there's something there.

Jim Collison 44:17

Yeah. No. Lindsay, what else do you have for us?

Lindsey Spehn 44:19

Yeah, Greg, I'd be curious to know, what are some ways that you and, and Jasmine, your other trained Champions, your fellow coaches, how do you stay sharp in your role?

Greg Kirsch 44:28

Oh, great question. Well, we, we meet periodically, and we, we share things. Probably one of the, one of the best things we've done is we -- I went to the Summit that you provided a couple of years ago. And I was kind of a neophyte, and I was roaming around. I didn't know anybody, other than I did run into some of the people that, you know, had attended my Accelerated Strengths Coaching class, which was fun. And I, boy, I just, I just absorbed a lot of stuff. I just -- it was like, it was like drinking from a firehose, there was so much. I downloaded every single presentation afterwards and put them in a file, so that I could, I could, you know, refer to them.

Greg Kirsch 45:10

And then last year, I convinced a couple of my cohorts to go with me, or my compatriots to go with me, and they did, and the three of us then started, you know, then we were able to branch out a little bit more. And we all mapped out our, mapped out our sessions. Which one are we going to? I'll go to this one; you go to that one. Let's get back together. Let's compare notes. And so that was great. I'm hoping to get even more people to go to the summit this year. I -- you talked about last year's summit. The book that had just been published, It's the Manager, it had just been published. And so I got a copy -- everybody got a copy, but I bought a copy for the CEO; I bought one for one of our, David, our -- one of our enterprise leaders. Bought one for Christy, trying to, you know, just, Hey, you should read this. You should read this. Use it as a reference book.

Greg Kirsch 45:59

And one of the things that we had decided as a business imperative is try to, well, the broader imperative is to make Intouch a better place to work. And as part of that, I had suggested that we need to teach, we need to teach our employees, or our managers, really, how to be coaches. How to be a coach, as opposed to a manager. And your research suggests that with the changing workforce, as the, as the workforce is turning over, today's workforce don't want a boss, they want a manager. They don't want a, you know, they don't want a paycheck; they want a purpose. These kinds of things.

Greg Kirsch 46:33

And so we've really invested, pretty much like I said earlier, we've doubled down on this cultural idea that we need to, we need to change the way that we're doing -- although the company just started from such a great base already. But let's, let's start to invest in coaching. Let's start to develop this culture of coaching. I, as you mentioned, in my bio, I've actually decided to become a Certified Professional Coach. So that -- and we're launching a coaching initiative internally to help those, those high performers become even better. And my background as a Strengths Coach is only going to enhance that; it's only going to really add to it. So -- actually, I got off on a roll and I forgot your original question. But we're, we're trying to develop a coaching culture here. And again, the company has been very open to that.

Lindsey Spehn 47:29

Yeah. We were just talking about how you stay sharp as coaches. I know summit's been a key thing that you and others have prioritized within Intouch in attending. It's a good, always a good reunion point for your fellow ASC course attendees too.

Greg Kirsch 47:43

Exactly, yeah, yeah, it is fun. And it's fun to meet people there. You've introduced me to several folks that I've met and, and then actually run into people that I didn't even know were coaches that I knew from a previous life, that were there. So yeah, it's been kind of fun to reconnect with people.

Lindsey Spehn 48:00

That's great.

Jim Collison 48:00

Lindsey, we probably have time for just one more question from you. What would you like to kind of wrap it with?

Lindsey Spehn 48:06

Yeah, let's, let's end with this one, Greg. So if you knew then, back when you started with the strengths rollout, if you knew then what you know, now, what would you have changed?

Greg Kirsch 48:19

Well, gee, I don't -- things have worked out pretty well. So I probably, well, here's what I would have changed. I would have become a Strengths Coach much sooner, if I'd only known it was available, I was unaware that I could become a Strengths Coach. And I probably would have done that. When I came back from my Accelerated Strengths Coaching, I was pretty much willing to talk to anybody that would listen. You know, it's like, "I'm going to have a strengths session." and they'd say, "What time?" I'd go, "What time can you be there?" You know, I, I would really just talk to whoever wanted to talk to me about it.

Greg Kirsch 48:53

And so, yeah, I guess my advice would be, start -- there's different strategies. You know, have it just kind of happen grassroots level and organically. I kind of did that kind of strategy. But I also kind of did a pull strategy as well, when I got the, the executive team bought in. Then it became much, much easier. So I guess having to do it all over again, maybe get -- I will tell you, from an engagement standpoint, I think we started off with too few Engagement Champions for a company our size. And I think we were a bit overwhelmed coming out of the gate. So I might suggest getting more Engagement Champions involved. The very first time out of the gate with our engagement initiative, I think the Engagement Champions tried to take on too much. And so I would suggest that we try to influence our managers to take on more of that responsibility.

Lindsey Spehn 49:52

Sure. Thank you. Well, what I personally really like about this success story is two things -- just to kind of credit you, Greg, and your team. One is, you know, from the beginning, your huge commitment to it. As Jim mentioned, you know, the having a partner like you is really, really key to having this really take off and catch on in a big way, and, most importantly, make that impact that you mentioned from a quantitative engagement standpoint and in the value you bring to your customers.

Lindsey Spehn 50:19

Second is, as I mentioned already, you know, how you've made all of our tools, Gallup's expertise, how you've made it your own. You know, we find that there's actually a 7% increase in employee engagement after just simply doing the CliftonStrengths assessment. But then when you truly create more of a culture and have intentional touchpoints around coaching and manager development -- all the great things that you're mentioning that you've developed with your fellow trained coaches -- we see a 23% increase in employee engagement. So that's what the data says. And that's certainly what you have done very, very well. So, Greg, with that, I just want to thank you again on behalf of the Gallup tribe for, for joining us today and sharing your success story. I know, I personally am incredibly grateful to be along for the ride. And I'm excited to see where this heads.

Greg Kirsch 51:11

Yeah, me too. Well, thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Jim Collison 51:14

Appreciate it, Greg. With that will remind everyone to take advantage of all of our resources. Greg mentioned a ton of them, and they're using a lot of them. Now on our new Gallup Access platform, you just head over to You can log in there. By the way, that link will take you directly to your strengths dashboard, and so kind of a convenient way to get it done. We'll also post this as plenty of -- as well as other success stories over on that site. So again, will get you there. While you're there. Sign up for our CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter, a monthly newsletter that comes out. Just kind of keeps you close to all the things that are going on here in the strengths world; allows us to send you that monthly newsletter. If, if you have any questions on anything along these lines, you can send us an email: -- an easy way to get in. So if you, if you want to do that, you can do it as well. And then, don't forget, if you want to take a course from us -- and we've got some interesting things coming up, so you might want to stay close to us. By the way, you should stay close to us for everything anyways, but head out to our Courses page: And if you want to be a part of these webcasts, and you want to know when they're going to be live, because they're way more fun live, let's just be honest, you want to come out and join us when we're doing that. Follow us on our Eventbrite page, go to If you haven't joined the social communities, do that via Facebook: And if you're not a Facebooker, you can join us on LinkedIn. Just search for CliftonStrengths -- all one word -- "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches." You don't have to be one of our trained coaches to be in there. We'd love you to be, but you don't have to be. Just ask for permission to come in. I will let you in as well. Want to thank you for joining us today. We'll be back all week with a whole bunch more of these, so stay close. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Greg Kirsch's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Maximizer, Positivity, Strategic, Communication and Futuristic.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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