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Simplicity and Individual Impact: Strengths, Engagement at Ameritas

Simplicity and Individual Impact: Strengths, Engagement at Ameritas

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 8, Episode 58
  • Learn how a large insurance firm is leveraging CliftonStrengths and Q12 -- and an emphasis on simplicity -- to foster individual and organizational growth.
  • Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.

April Rimpley, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Ameritas, and Larry Keiter, Second Vice President of Talent Development at Ameritas, were our guests on a recent Called to Coach. April and Larry talked about the success Ameritas has had in creating a corporate culture that centers on CliftonStrengths for every employee and employee engagement. Their discussion included:

  • How strengths can power diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • The importance of simplicity and individual impact in creating a positive culture
  • The role of conversations in employees' engagement and effective use of their strengths

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

We just recently started really focusing on that D&I initiative. Well, guess what? Strengths is about respect at its core. What better tool to have in our toolbox as we talk about diversity and inclusion than strengths itself?

Larry Keiter, 18:27

You can't eat an elephant but one bite at a time. Same with engaging your organization. It doesn't come overnight.

Larry Keiter, 25:03

You don't want to just take an engagement survey, and then go, "Well, here's the results. Gee, wish this or that would have been better." Or "Look how great this was." It's about the ongoing conversations.

April Rimpley, 26:11

Jim Collison 0:00

I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world, or at least maybe here in Nebraska, this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on July 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. If you're listening live, love to have you join us in our chat room. There's a link right above me on the live page to that chat room. Click on it; it'll take you to YouTube. Sign into the chat. Leave your questions there for us, like to hear them. If you're listening after the fact as a podcaster there on YouTube, love to have you send us an email if you have questions: Don't forget, if you're on YouTube, subscribe. Hit the notification bell so you get notified whenever we do something new. And if you want to listen to it as a podcast -- and certainly the pandemic has changed the way we listen to podcasts -- but if you want to listen to us as a podcast, search "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast app. Lindsey Spehn is our host today. Lindsey is a Regional Manager with Gallup. And Lindsey, always great to have you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!

Lindsey Spehn 1:13

Thanks so much, Jim. Appreciate it. Thanks for the invite. And Happy Friday to you!

Jim Collison 1:17

Happy Friday to you as well. We've got a great program ahead. Why don't you take a second and introduce the program and our guests?

Lindsey Spehn 1:24

Yeah, absolutely. Well, today, I could not be more thrilled to be joined by two very special guests from Ameritas. So we'll talk a little bit more about Ameritas, but first to introduce our guests. April Rimpley is joined by us. She is a Senior Vice President of Human Resources and joined Ameritas in 1998. She began her career as a temporary associate and a client services representative in Group Administration, and has worked in a variety of roles in the Group Division Operations, including Customer Relations Trainer, Customer Relations Manager, Senior Manager, AVP and Second Vice President. April, could you please share your top themes with us?

April Rimpley 2:05

Yeah, my top themes are Activator, Individualization, Input, Relator and Learner.

Lindsey Spehn 2:12

Thank you so much. And we also have Larry Keiter is joining us today. Larry is the Second Vice President of Talent Development at Ameritas. Larry joined Ameritas in the Retirement Division in 2008 and is responsible for the Org and Leadership Development. Two years after that, he was brought into HR as Director of Organizational and Executive Development for the enterprise. Larry is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, like many of you listening in today, and he uses his strengths today to vote to focus on associate engagement, succession management and talent development at Ameritas. Larry, as we get to know you, could you please share your themes with us?

Larry Keiter 2:51

Absolutely, Lindsey. Starts with Harmony. Then my ever-fun Significance, Achiever, Discipline and Arranger.

Lindsey Spehn 3:01

Perfect. I love that. Thank you. Well, as Jim and I continue on with our Success Story series, one of our closest partners here locally in Nebraska really warranted the spotlight. April and Larry have been working with us to build a strengths-based, engagement-focused culture with their teams at Ameritas for the past 5 years. As they will describe, Ameritas has seen significant growth and has relied on CliftonStrengths and employee engagement tools to help drive their impact along the way.

Lindsey Spehn 3:29

So like previous webcasts, we'll have kind of a similar structure. And that will start with kind of the, the, how it all began, you know, how, how our partnership really came to be. We'll get into the second chapter of, you know, the implementation that Ameritas took, and then we'll wrap into the impact that they've seen out of the result of all their hard work. Of course, we welcome your questions throughout. So please continue to type those in the chat, and our friend Jim will circle back on those towards the end of the, of the session. So let's get to it. April, would you mind sharing a little bit more about Ameritas with us?

April Rimpley 4:03

You bet. So Ameritas Life Insurance Corp does offer a variety of insurance and financial services products. And one of the most, I'd say, fortunate things I have to be a part of is our mission. Because we do feel that we help the lives of our customers and their families to be better by offering proven and trusted and valued insurance products and financial services over their whole lifetime. And so connecting our associates to mission and vision is something that we are fortunate to be able to do.

April Rimpley 4:35

We also have core values that I think embody how to help people be better, which we also feel that StrengthsFinders does. And so some of our values are making sure that we work hard to earn the trust of our customers and partners, like you at Gallup, and each other, making sure that we are good stewards of our business resources and making sure that we do attract, challenge, grow and reward our most valued assets, which are our associates. And making sure that we really serve our communities with purpose, which, during this time of COVID, and many other events worldwide that have happened since we became a company back in 1887, have offered us that opportunity.

Lindsey Spehn 5:20

And for our audience, Larry, could you share with us a little bit more about associate headcount, where your locations are, any other details like that?

Larry Keiter 5:28
You bet. So Ameritas has right around 2,400 associates. We're located -- Lincoln is our main office, but we also have offices in Cincinnati, Ohio; Wayne, Nebraska; San Antonio; and a lot of our agencies are across the nation. So we kind of spread a broad map across the United States.

Lindsey Spehn 5:50

And I know I mentioned your formal titles, but it might be helpful for the group to know a little bit more about what you get paid to do in your own words. So Larry, could you share that with us?

Larry Keiter 6:00

Absolutely. So I always tell April I have the fun part of HR, right. I get to really explore that core value of helping our associates grow. You know, no matter what business we're in, we're in the people business first, and so the talent development -- and this is why strengths is such a natural -- is it's about getting the best out of each individual. an individual that starts with us today onward to that associate that's been with us 40 years. So I get to help with those things, everything from change management to, of course, executive development, and everything in between that. So that's what I get paid to do.

Lindsey Spehn 6:40

Great. How about you, April?

April Rimpley 6:42

I feel like really what I get paid to do is figure out how it is we can have a lot of offerings, to make sure that our businesses can not just achieve their objectives, but become more successful and maybe embark on things that we hadn't first believed we could achieve. And so I think that sounds kind of maybe "out there." But what I would say is it's just like the strengths and how you build that: You do one step at a time. And so figuring out what businesses need and how we can help them with talent is to me the main job I have.

Lindsey Spehn 7:17

Great. Well, let's, let's kind of start with our story here. So April, could you help us know, you know, what sparked the initial interest in CliftonStrengths and, eventually, engagement at Ameritas?

April Rimpley 7:29

Absolutely. I think we were looking for a way to make sure that we could all speak a similar language and use what we knew was the best because we do feel that the associates have the best opportunity to improve everything we do. We had done some research, obviously, over the years at what programs might be beneficial to us. And we were very fortunate that because of close proximity and offerings in our communities, we could learn about Gallup just there through word of mouth. And then because of the proximity of you being close, we could really get in under the covers there and see what mattered.

April Rimpley 8:05

And so, starting with strengths initially, we did not even indicate we were a strengths-based organization, which I do feel we have moved to now. But we started brick by brick, saying, you know, Do you want to learn about your strengths? What if we could facilitate beyond what Gallup could? And people like Larry and others became a Strengths Coach. And from there it went, I will be honest, by some word of mouth, where now we have an on-demand list of different teams that have seen how different outcomes can happen, and how fun it is. And I would say how much we can value the variety of talents we have when we understand how to use strengths.

April Rimpley 8:46

So that started, you know, a number of years ago, so it wasn't all at once; it was step by step. And then when we started offering the Gallup engagement survey, it was really like a couple puzzle pieces clicking together. And those two things, to me, started to really create, you know, the the tide that rises and then all boats come up with that. And we've done that now for over 5 years and started to set goals about impact plans and how to make sure that people's voices were heard, that we understood what they needed, and show that we're listening to them. And through that, I think we harnessed a collective power that even we maybe were surprised to see.

Lindsey Spehn 9:30

Yeah, Larry, would you add anything to that?

Larry Keiter 9:34

Certainly -- the, you know, the -- it really is, as April mentioned, it's been a progression. And what I, what I love about it is the more that we've learned about it, the more it's become a part of our, the way we speak to each other and the awareness that we have with each other. And it's progressed, as April mentioned. You know, we started with doing some leadership academies at the Gallup location with our senior most leaders. And to this day, there's still some things that we did back then that resonate today. And then engagement, as April said, and most recently, our culture initiative. It's a very progression, a varied progression, of how we've incorporated not just the strengths but really thinking like our associates and really understanding what matters most to them. So some great tools that we've harnessed and we continue to harness today.

Lindsey Spehn 10:30

As you think about kind of the beginning of the partnership, was there anything notable that you would say, you know, as we have some listeners that are maybe hoping to spark interest in CliftonStrengths or employee engagement within their own organizations, or maybe wanting to take it to the next level? Was there anything that you learned in the way of buy-in with lead other leaders within Ameritas that you might worth sharing with the group?

Larry Keiter 10:56

One thing that I would just say, and it really, it hit me just solid right between the eyes the other day when I was looking through LinkedIn, and one of our interns, our communication interns, had a picture of her laptop open. And there was our CEO, Bill Lester, talking to who we call our "next gen bison," and they're having a lunch and learn, right. And so, Bill was simply sharing his Top 5, and she had put a little sign there that said, "Listening to my CEO tell us about strengths. And I realized that we both have Individualization. And I saw that and here's an intern, nobody was telling her to do this, but she's seeing her CEO say, "This is important." And so that really resonated to me, and it started early on. And to this day, April will say something about, she appreciates my Discipline, and I appreciate her Communication. And, you know, we, we have that in our -- as we interact with each other. But when your CEO does it with a brand new intern, there's the magic right there! There's the impact that must be important. So --

Lindsey Spehn 12:06

Absolutely. As we think about, you know, the kind of start of the relationship too, I know there's some industry kind of nuances that, that you and April and I have discussed, Larry, around, you know why you feel these tools have kind of given you an edge. Would you be able to speak about that a bit?

Larry Keiter 12:25

Sure. When, when you think about it, you know, we've really watched the norms, and I know Gallup collects a lot of data that's out there. And, you know, in our most recent engagement score, we had great improvement. And I know many people probably have experienced that. But having those norms to look at and how the finance and insurance industry is doing -- those are great metrics to know about and to seek, and then to find peers that you can reach out to and understand what they're doing. But it's very important for us because those are markers, those are measures, you know, that we talk about every day -- those metrics to help you run your business. And no more important marker than the most important assets you have: your people. So yeah, this has, this has been very important for us. And it has given us some tools to measure, because because if you can measure it, you can manage it. And that's why these markers are so important to us.

Lindsey Spehn 13:22

Absolutely. Well, as we get into kind of more of the implementation piece, we've talked about how, you know, it kind of got sparked and some of those beginning workshops, Larry, you mentioned at the at the Riverfront office here in Omaha. Could we break it down into, you know, a little bit more around the story of how the rollout happened? I know, April, you mentioned it was somewhat of an organic approach. And I think that's pretty common as we think about, you know, creating a true strengths-based culture. It's not very common, as we've discussed, excuse me, in this, in this series, how, you know, very frequently it is going from, you know, zero to maybe 10% through small teams and kind of getting more of an organic approach versus going from zero to 100 overnight. So April, could you share with us and the audience a little bit more about how that rollout specifically was strengths started at Ameritas?

April Rimpley 14:17

Yes, yeah. And I would say we did have senior leadership buy-in to start. And that's because through the years, having seen in the community different workshops, and people come back from those and they're actually doing different things is what created our prior CEO's, I think, intention to say, Look, this does make a difference and it matters. So starting to offer those sessions inside of our walls instead of sending people out to do that, and inviting Gallup in, even to our own HR team, realizing that you can't be your own facilitator and your team effectively understanding strengths is just as important as maybe you sort of prescribing it or offering it to others were key indicators along the way.

April Rimpley 15:01

And then what we did is, whether it was onboarding, or management training or executive training, we made sure people knew what their strengths were. When we had teams that might have reorganized or changed or just said, you know, we haven't done a team-building workshop for a while, we offered strengths to them. And so initially, they saw the output and started talking about it with other people. And that moved us to a place where we have more than one workshop series, where teams can build even more understanding of how to get, you know, basically increase their results. And that made such a big difference to them that they now request it. And so having it be voluntary, not pushing it so hard that it feels like an assignment, I think made a big difference to people.

April Rimpley 15:53

And then the proof is always in the pudding, and they can see that if you put the work in to understand and learn, that you're going to get something out of it. And it's not just going to be another session where you show up one day and hear about a bunch of stuff. And you kind of think it's cool when you listen, but then you just go back to doing the same old thing. And so I think also having some actionable outcomes where you could say, "This is how we're going to use it. And this is what we're going to do." That made a big difference. So it wasn't just an idea or a seminar to attend.

Lindsey Spehn 16:27

Yeah, you know, that's really key April, I think. When we work with organizations, you know, we know the intentionality of saying, Why are we doing CliftonStrengths as an organization? And communicating that out is really key. So that from the very beginning, with that first workshop, be it, you know, with one team or with the leadership team, we kind of know why we're doing it and that there's this ongoing commitment. You know, this isn't just kind of a "one and done" feel-good activity, and we're not, we're not going to tuck our strengths results in our drawer after this. This is you know, something we're really committing to. So I love that about your story. How you so effectively did that. Larry, what would you add about the strengths rollout as the internal strengths champion at Ameritas?

Larry Keiter 17:07

Yeah, it's, again, finding ways to make it a part of your regular communication. And, you know, I, I think of the some of the tools that we're learning now with Gallup Access. We've gotten more sophisticated, right. As Gallup has grown with us, the rollout continues. But the neat thing about it is, it's built on the basis of what strengths really mean and, and one of these sessions is the first time that I've ever heard this term is that strengths at its core is about respect. And there we go. There was another thing that these all these learnings that are coming through -- I'd never heard that. And I thought I knew a lot about strengths. But that was so powerful because if you think about it, strengths doesn't see the background, doesn't see the ethnicity, doesn't see the different pieces that make us who we are; they simply call out what your tendencies are.

Larry Keiter 18:05

And so that's how we've kind of built on that. And if you think about the engagement survey, that really focuses on, you know, what is the individual need, and them to grow and them to develop and them to interact with their manager, and do they have the tools that they needed? So it's very focused on that individual. So these are great building blocks. And we're getting more sophisticated. We just recently started really focusing on that D&I initiative. Well, guess what? Strengths is about respect at its core. What better tool to have in our toolbox as we talk about, you know, diversity and inclusion than strengths itself?

Larry Keiter 18:44

So you see how it's just kind of stacking up, and we're able to go back to that very core about how we interact with each other, like April. She'll never miss an opportunity for -- to recognize, Larry, thanks for keeping me on track, harnessing my Discipline. And, of course, I always thank her for scheduling meetings and planning years out. That's her strength. That's her strategy. That's the domain she lives in. And I live in the Executing one. So knowing those things has helped us be better teammates as well.

Lindsey Spehn 18:47

And I know you've had some key partners as part of your journey. I know Liz is one of those key partners. Can you talk about, you know, how you have brought others along for this, for this journey in helping you you know, really with that strengths rollout?

Larry Keiter 19:29

Yeah. And you know, I, I really don't think I brought anybody along. It's, I think I just was aware of the strengths that they were bringing to me. For instance, Liz shared with me -- I think she got this from Gallup -- you know, about the successes and how do you harness those to strengths? And so she started doing it at a team meeting one time when I was out for a week. And she held the team meeting, and when I came back, the team said, "Can we keep doing that?" I'm like, yes! But the other thing is, we have interns coming from UNL [University of Nebraska-Lincoln] and UNL and Tim Hodges and that team do a great job of preparing and talking about strengths to that group that are coming in.

Larry Keiter 20:07

And so I have interns that are coming in and know their strengths better than I know my own strengths, because they're talking about it. And they link it to that purpose and what they're meant to do. So we got, we got to pick up our game. So Lindsey, it's really about me being aware of the expectations of our associates that are coming in and wanting to be a bigger part of the mission and purpose at Ameritus and just keeping up with them, right. But allowing them -- getting out of their way, in some cases -- to allow the strengths to grow. And that includes our supervisors. And April can share, you know, our whole leadership team has their Team Strengths Grid, their Full 34. And so it was an eye-opener for some to say, This is what I'm really good at. And here's where my tendencies aren't. That's important for that growth.

Lindsey Spehn 20:53

Absolutely, yeah. Well, and I would say not just specific to you know, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but we work with, Gallup works with universities and colleges globally. And so we're finding that, you know, so many students know their CliftonStrengths. And as they enter into the workforce, how great would it be if they're, you know, stepping right into a strengths-based organization as a place where they start their career? So I love that you've seen that benefit, and that kind of, you know, re- reignite, you know, some of the interests that you already had and some of the great efforts that you already had an Ameritas. April, to Larry's point, would you speak to that? Tell, tell us about what impact having like the team strengths spread within your leadership team? What value has that brought you?

April Rimpley 21:36

Well, I think it gets people to talk about what is their core strength and how is that good, or are they surprised? And so it sort of creates this ability to open up and talk about then how to use those, and the fact that usually they'll need to go through a strengths workshop before they get that. And what we saw people do is we started seeing them carrying it around in a binder or having it up on their laptop screen all the time, so that while they're going through a session and looking at who can take the "A" on this, and who's the person that can help us communicate, they refer to that grid. And they think about it. And I'd say, you know, a little bit of it is also that every year we do have more tools from Gallup.

April Rimpley 22:20

So, you know, not just the Access platform, but a lot of the publications and articles give you some quick hits on what to do. And we see people pass that information around, and they're using those grids to understand that, even if you have, like the bulk of your top put you in the Influencing category, or they put you in Strategic -- that there is not a wrong or right there. It's simply an awareness to take forward and to use it to empower people to do better. And so I do think that it was super interesting to see some leaders that were like, "Wow, I thought I'd have Strategic as the big thing, and I don't. and is that a problem?" And of course We're like, "No, that's not a problem." It has, though, then, created this atmosphere where they'll give associates, they'll say, Hey, you're on my team, and you have more of this Strategic. When you think out, what is, what does that bring your conclusion to? And so I think it does allow input from different places. And it creates to, you know, Larry's point, that higher degree of respect and enablement. So --

Lindsey Spehn 23:28

Great, thank you. Yeah, that's a powerful testimony, for sure. Well, we know based on our Gallup data, as you mentioned, April, that people who focus on their strengths are 6 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And Larry, you mentioned, you know, the employee engagement survey has been weaved in to your already-great strengths work, work at Ameritas. So could you tell us a little bit more? Larry, let's start with you. And then April maybe you can also add to it. But how and when did you first introduce the Q12 employee engagement survey into your work?

Larry Keiter 24:00

Absolutely. So we, prior to this, we were using a company -- I won't name the name, but we had 64 questions with that. And about 5 years ago, we really started looking closely at the Q12. And it was funny, because when we transitioned, we didn't want to give up all of those 64. And we said, the Q 12 plus, how about 16 more that we want to bring with us? Well, guess what, today we're doing the Q12 and the accountability questions -- 3 more, and the open-ended questions. So really, what we've come around to is a realization of KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly! And when you do that, it's easier to identify.

Larry Keiter 24:43

And what I love is the triangle that Gallup shares with us -- the pyramid hierarchy, right, it's just like the Maslow hierarchy of needs. When it starts out and you think about the Basic Needs and then you go to the Management Support, Teamwork, and then finally, Growth. That's helped me; that's helped our leaders kind of compartmentalize. And again, break it down; you can't eat an elephant but one bite at a time. Same with engaging your organization. It doesn't come overnight. It's a series of steps and really identifying and having those conversations. What, what the Gallup Access has allowed us to do is it's, it's helping us realize that the impact is on the individual. Don't get so caught up in overall, how we did; look at where that's coming from and the "why." So that's been very helpful with us, keeping it simple. And then now we're kind of getting into that routine of, of not really perfecting, but getting better. There's no such thing as perfect, but we can always get better.

Lindsey Spehn 25:40

April, how has weaving in the Q12 as an employee engagement measurement helped and brought value to you and the other leaders and Ameritas?

April Rimpley 25:49

I think it gives us a great understanding of how we can make a difference because we're also taking that verbatim comments section and we're looking at the themes. And then when we build our action plans, we think about, well, what might that mean? Because it's just like what I mentioned, you know, you don't want to just go to a strengths workshop and then leave. Well, you don't want to just take an engagement survey, and then go, Well, here's the results. Gee, wish this or that would have been better. Or look how great this was. It's about the ongoing conversations. And it's about thinking about how you take those results and look at individual development plans, look at team goals, which of course tie to our enterprise goals. And how do you weave that in so that you can make a difference and make it better?

April Rimpley 26:36

And some of it is talking about it so that people know that they've been heard; they have a voice. What are some ideas they have? Because I think that also then brings us together collectively, to think about the fact that we're all part of the solution. And we are all part of the evolution of our culture and where we want to go and what we're hearing from our customers and partners about what they need from us. And so, to me, those are the big tie-ins where it isn't just something you do every year, and then you get the results and move on. You're actually learning and growing together from those.

Lindsey Spehn 27:09

Absolutely. Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself. You know, that's, that's amazing, April, what you just said there! You know, a lot of times, myself and other consultants at Gallup will say, It's not about raising the numbers; it's about what the numbers raise, you know, when we think about employee engagement scores, and, and the data behind it. The most important piece, as you said very well yourself, is the conversation, you know, and what, what you do with that data, and then the scores will just, you know, come organically from that. So, thank you for sharing that.

Lindsey Spehn 27:40

As we think about, you know, both CliftonStrengths and engagement, Larry and April, you know, one of my favorite parts of my job, as I've mentioned in these in these series before, is getting to see how organizations really take our tools and our sciences and kind of blend them with your own culture. And I know you have a number of great examples of how you've done that at Ameritas. And, as Jim said in the preshow, we were lucky to have you both present to a large, large group of us here at Gallup earlier this year -- before COVID, when we could all actually be in person. And that was such a treat, and everyone really enjoyed hearing from you all. But could you share with this audience, you know, some of the ways that you've really brought Gallup sciences and tools into the culture at Ameritas?

April Rimpley 28:28

Yeah, well, I think, you know, in addition to the onboarding, and a few things I mentioned, we're also trying to just create a natural way for things like recognition. So we created this thing called Recognition Drops and How full is your bucket? And are you passing those around? We've put this into our wellbeing. So we do address the 5 types of wellbeing, change management that Larry mentioned, and then winning behaviors and how do you foster high performance. And so I think taking all of those tools, and having also, you know, we mentioned, Liz Shotkoski, having some ambassadors. So it's not an HR program. This is something we all believe in, and we're offering it to people.

April Rimpley 29:11

And so maybe your strength isn't Communication. And it doesn't come naturally for you to just go say, Hey, Lindsey, I think that was great. Well, you know what you just saw? You saw a little spot, to your point, we're going electronic now, but initially, an actual little raindrop, you could write a note and just give that to somebody. And so, I think, creating several avenues for people to be able to recognize, discuss, and think about how to use their strengths with others and how to --

Larry Keiter 29:41

Yeah, the -- some of the programs and some of the development that we're doing. We have what we call the Ameritas Foundations of Leadership. And it's for our newest managers. And they go through, and with our HR business partners, we'll go through a strengths exercise, a strengths workshop. We'll do a Team Strengths Grid with that entire group that's come together just for this, you know, 8-session workshop over a period of 3 months. It's pretty rigorous. And they go through a lot of things, including labor laws and things like that, but strengths is a part of it.

Larry Keiter 30:15

And then, most recently, we have our senior management. We have a lead team. And this is about 80 of our officers that really set the example, right. Well, we did a little team-building with them. And we broke them up into small groups of about 7 individuals. And we gave them a Team Strengths Grid that we created very quickly with Gallup Access. And it's a tool that they use just to interact through MS teams, we're using that. But they have a Team Strengths Grid, and our hope is that when we have more cross-functional exercises and business work to do, maybe that Strengths Grid is where we start when we form that team. So that's one of the ways, it's just kind of being incorporated -- it's a piece of not just the training and the development, but also how we interact with each other.

Lindsey Spehn 31:11

Absolutely. Well, and April, you mentioned, you know, that, that group of engagement ambassadors that you have internally at Ameritas, and, you know, whether that's Engagement Champions that we have, or in the strengths vein, you know, a group of internal trained Gallup coaches for strengths, we know that having those internal kind of critical-mass groups of experts really take some ownership in your initiatives is a huge critical piece of a success story and, and really what we see amongst, you know, organizations like yourself, who are very best practice. So could, could April, could you start by speaking about, you know, the power of those groups and what that's meant for, I think, in your own words, not making it an HR thing?

April Rimpley 31:58

Yes, absolutely. So I think we wanted to understand how we could spread the information out and also create different points where people could come and ask questions that might be newer, or maybe might be on a new team. And so we just asked initially, so again, we kind of started with volunteering versus prescribing, and saying, Would you be interested in helping this? And, and part of it was also, because we've had some career conversations with people, we know that this can help different associates to develop their leadership skills further. You know, what happens when you're the person that receives the feedback, and you have to think about ways to react to that or help other people?

April Rimpley 32:42

And so we asked initially, and I think because we had been successful in having requests for people to, "Hey, I want to be able to put my strengths on my email." Well, let's go through a StrengthsFinder workshop first, and some of that that we did have a very common language and another -- a number of people who already knew what it was. So this created these peer-to-peer discussions. And it wasn't not only just not an HR thing, but it wasn't a thing that -- Larry looked at ... leader and said, "Well, this, this score dropped; what are you going to do about it?" And it also wasn't me saying, "Well, why'd you answer the question this way?" Right?

April Rimpley 33:19

Because we want the engagement survey to be positive and we want all of that feedback to be welcome, it's this more collective effort of OK, what does that mean, and how do we move forward? And what do we want to do? And it wasn't just about what leaders thought we should do, or about HR. And so now we have people who rotate in and out of being ambassadors, and who look forward to meeting. And I'd say we created some similar language and options to link to different information points, so that if I'm an ambassador in this month, "I don't know what to say. I been so busy doing this work, I'm not sure what to say about strengths." We have some resources they can look at. And then they can edit that and make it right for their team and send it out. So I think making it easy and simple, even though it can still, you know, easy and simple doesn't mean that you reach your goal without a challenge. But we have those tools there.

Lindsey Spehn 34:23

Larry, could you talk about any challenges or barriers that you've come across, as you think about, you know, kind of this implementation, the ongoing rollout of CliftonStrengths and weaving in the Q12 engagement survey?

Larry Keiter 34:39

When I think about barriers, and it -- the first barrier that I encountered, it was so cool, because it was, it was at our first Leadership Academy. And one of the attendees was really learning about it. And this attendee was actually speaking with our, one of our Board of Directors, and, and she said, "Yeah, I tell Larry that we can't always do what we want to do; we sometimes have to do the tough thing. So you can't always do things that are in your strengths." And I, and my first, I was like, "Whoa!" And I was pretty new at it. And -- but those barriers come across from really not understanding.

Larry Keiter 35:17

And so that was, that was one of the first barriers. But again, it doesn't go away quickly, because our associates are bombarded with a plethora of shiny objects that are out there. And -- "What about this? And what about this? And oh, this company is doing this." And so we get so many of those things. And we need to listen to those because people learn differently, right? And so, you know, where I'm a big proponent of thinking of the individual and how they learn, everybody's different. I remember the barrier of not understanding another person's language, and they were speaking strictly from Strategy and I was on Executing. And we never saw eye to eye until we realized we think about things differently.

Larry Keiter 35:58

So, Lindsey, they -- the barriers are ongoing because you're faced with, Well, I think this will work; I think this will work. But when you stay with the basics, and you keep it simple and you do those basics very well, then you can go on and say, Well, let's take a look at how those shiny objects fit in, because we believe competencies are important -- both those competencies that you learn about the job, but also just the basic competencies, communication, etc. Those are important because your experiences you bring. So we blend in the strengths with those things. And then finally, what's the drive? Where does that associate aspire to go? So knowing that every one of us is a complicated mix, but strengths is that simplistic piece that maybe helps us do the basics very well. That's taken away some of the barriers, in my opinion.

Lindsey Spehn 36:47

Yeah. So just a matter of education and intentional coaching and kind of just slowly, you know, creating that common language amongst everyone.

Larry Keiter 36:55

Yeah. And Lindsey, one of the things that -- one of the barriers, because Gallup has told us this, Jim Clifton has said it -- with 70% of engagement is the manager. So when you think about that, and you unleash that power of the manager, you just don't unleash the manager, but everybody that person responds to -- that is responsible for. So that was very helpful with articulating 70% because that focus on the manager. And sometimes you think, Well, we should educate everybody. Well, let's start with that manager. And let's make sure that that isn't a barrier that accidentally gets put in place.

Lindsey Spehn 37:35

Absolutely. Well, as we get into kind of our third chapter here, the most important piece potentially is impact. So, you know, that's why we're all here. You know, we, we do CliftonStrengths, we do employee engagement, you know -- not just for the fun of it, though it happens to be fun sometimes. But, but we're here for you know, real organizational impact and results and metrics. So, April, I'll hand this one over to you to speak on first, but tell, tell the audience a little bit more about some of the evidence you've seen -- whether, you know, quantitatively or qualitatively, how has this impacted Ameritas?

April Rimpley 38:12

You know, I think that we are seeing different results. And we're seeing this excitement, which is maybe one of those qualitative items. That people want to be part of these teams; they want to learn about their strengths. We've had even someone come in and say, "I don't have all my 35 -- or my Top 34, and these other 5 people do I really want these." Which to me was just sort of that little anecdotal evidence that someone would want to demand to see that and really want to have that.

April Rimpley 38:40

And so I do think that we've seen people reach across our organization into other functional areas. Because we did realize early on if you only train the executive team, you have the masses that aren't aware of what these strengths are and how to use them. And we did have them do some testimonials and put out some videos and different things. And I think that created buy-in and engagement and the idea that strikes are worthwhile.

April Rimpley 39:08

And so once we started to see people seek to understand, and we welcomed sometimes, to Larry's point, that there were some skeptics. And so how do you show them what could happen and what could be different? Or what could be better? That's a very important piece. And so, cross-functional teams coming together. We did start an innovation lab. And I think people became more aware of maybe, Hey, if I could create an innovation idea, who would I want to partner with? And because I've gone to these strengths workshops, and this different leadership training, I know different people that I could call on. And so I think the ability to submit ideas and think of different solutions for business problems comes out of that. And honestly, we are very proud, I would say, this year, that our engagement scores have gone up.

April Rimpley 39:58

So quantitatively I think engagement -- people that are willing to do individual development plans because again, they don't see it as an assignment, they see it as an opportunity. And moving that ball forward has been just very monumental. I think that they will get on MS Teams, and actually just through a chat thread, talk about how they're going to go ahead and face the next issue is huge. Because they realize who and they realize, yeah, maybe I'm not the one that starts the chat thread, because Communication's not my core strength. But I know that, you know, this other person will. And this is what I can offer.

April Rimpley 40:36

And so I think the focus on, This is what I do well, and I'm going to get better at it. Even though, yeah, you can't only do what you want to do, it changes your perspective. And it shifts your paradigm. So that when you do work together on different teams, either the team you work on every day or a special assignment team, you're just able to communicate more effectively and you're able to find good solutions. So I think we look at the scores to a degree. I think we look at are associates happy working here, relatively speaking? What does that do to the culture? And we have seen involvement increase, which I think is positive for the culture. We've seen people be more confident to speak up about what their ideas are. And we have seen remarkable impact to our engagement score, where the engaged to unengaged ratio more than doubled in a positive way this year.

Lindsey Spehn 41:33

Incredible. Congratulations on that to you both, as well as many, many other folks that you represent. So it's exciting. Larry, talk a little bit more about that. You know, I know over the past couple years just being very close to your work, we've seen some pretty neat things come in the way of the connection between CliftonStrengths and engagement. So would you want to speak about that along with any other kind of organizational metrics that, that you've noticed along the way?

Larry Keiter 42:02

Absolutely. Again, you know that, that, the people position -- especially the talent development one -- that's a slippery one, right, especially when times get tough. You really have to measure the activities that you're doing. But one of the outcomes, when we look at our engagement score, and April mentioned that doubling the ratio of engaged to disengaged people -- and I'm sure COVID played its piece and our technology, great hats off to them, because I have the tools I need to do my job, right. So we were able to check that one off the list, allowing our, you know, engagement score really to blossom.

Larry Keiter 42:37

But beyond that, you know, does my manager care about me, does he ask, do they ask my input? Those things are going on, and we saw that in our scores, raising our mean, you know, .2 -- meaningful percentage point year-over-year. And we seem to be doing that because we also look at the accountability score, and there's a link between managers who follow up and share the results and then not to share them but make a plan and then follow that plan. But probably my favorite slide -- and you know this when we, we do the recap with our executives, is the correlation between those associates who have taken their strengths and engagement scores. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Larry Keiter 43:23

And when you spell it out, and you can see there is a correlation on most of the Q12, where they will go up. And I truly believe that's because you're checking a lot of the boxes on the Q12. Knowing their strengths is helping them do a better job. Knowing their strengths allows them to be a bigger part of the mission and purpose of the company. Knowing other people's strengths then is How do I do my job even better, and how will I grow to do better? So there -- that one excites me when I see that because, and my hat goes off to our HR business partners that are, you know, conducting more strengths awareness and giving more assessments. You know, we're targeted to do 400 more assessments, April, this year with our associates. And pretty soon we'll, we'll have all of our associates that will have gone through strengths -- the strengths assessment.

Lindsey Spehn 44:16

Just amazing. That's incredible, incredible impact. So as you think about what's next in, you know, in your journey with CliftonStrengths, engagement, anything else, Gallup, April, what does that look like for you? What are some of the things that you're focusing on right now?

April Rimpley 44:34

Well, I think we are thinking about what's next. So we did have these outstanding results. But we've also just, like in years where we said, "Boy, we'd like to improve." It's not about just the score. It is about what does that raise and what do we do next? And so I would say, you know, this is again, where sometimes we feel like hats off to Gallup because you always come up with new tools and new ideas that we can play off of. And so using that Access platform, you know, yesterday, we spent some time looking at some heat maps and thinking about what does that mean? But what does the 3-year rolling average mean? And maybe how do we pair some people up where it's like, if I need some help, maybe another person that's had a big increase in their scores could come to us.

April Rimpley 45:20

And so we are going to create more opportunities to keep the basics moving along, make sure we're offering that strengths training, and connecting it to all the different offerings we have, whether it be a Read to Lead program or the Ambassadors meeting, or how we might be called to serve our communities in the future, and how is that the same or different?

April Rimpley 45:41

And so I think we're just looking for more ways to each time just build another step. It doesn't have to be 0 to 100. But how do you go one more step and make sure that you're continuing the journey, because it's a process and you never really get to this place called "perfect," as Larry said earlier. So more ways there. And I think, too, because we have found that we have great technology tools from our team. How do we parlay some additional opportunities to put it out there? We've adapted most of our offerings that had been in classroom to the online, and we're working on some breakout rooms that we're figuring out. And I think we'll look at strengths. So we say, who's going to be in those breakout sessions? Well, we want a balanced approach from the strengths impact, not just what team they're on.

Lindsey Spehn 46:33

Larry, would you add anything to that, with regards to what's kind of on the docket for you in the way of, you know, priorities and goals you have?

Larry Keiter 46:42

Sure, absolutely. Well, fortunately, we're blessed with working with a group of individuals that are, that are so much better at articulating what they're good at and using their strengths. And an example of that is, April, Marla Higgins, who was doing some things, call-centerish kind of things, but her passion and her strength was in training and development. And so now she's out there impacting people, and we get so many comments about, you know, "She's awesome!"

Larry Keiter 47:15

So, you know, just an example of, it's not a heavy lift; it's just an awareness. And one of those awarenesses I mentioned in diversity and inclusion, right? The little nudges. We don't have to have this, this personality-altering initiative that changes who Ameritas is, but simply we nudge our people through awareness of strengths and, and how that is about respect. The culture, you know, we're doing a culture survey. Same thing there. How do we, how do we learn about ourselves? And it's very important because all companies are going through change.

Larry Keiter 47:52

And you had, you had somebody on your show, a Mara Hoogerhuis, I remember that name -- that stuck with me. But she made a comment about Change starts with the individual. And I think our steps are simply to really realize giving everybody that opportunity, that potential to be their best. I think that's what it is. Whether it's diversity and inclusion, whether it's change, whether it's innovation, whether it's leadership, whether it's a brand new associate starting, is to really focus on that pace. That's, that's going to be our challenge. That will never go away. Making that better and better every day.

Lindsey Spehn 48:28

Love that. Jim, did we have a question from from the chat room yet?

Jim Collison 48:32

Yeah, we've had a couple. One, Larry, congratulations on getting "Hoogerhuis" right, by the way. That's fantastic!

Lindsey Spehn 48:37

No, I was thinking that too. Nailed it!

Larry Keiter 48:39

Never forget that name. That's a great name!

Jim Collison 48:41

That's great. And thanks for, thanks for watching those. You know, we provide all this content available from some of our very best SMEs available out to you, and those are great resources as well. So thanks for watching those. Holly had asked kind of earlier on, as you guys were talking about team exercises. And I won't ask you to explain each one, but can you give some examples of team-building exercises? We know that you're using the Team Grid. But are you using anything out of our Activity Guide, our Team Activity Guide? Or do you have others, or maybe one in particular, besides the Team Grid, that you're using?

Larry Keiter 49:12

Well, I know we're, we're stealing ideas every day. And I will, I will tell you, we've got so many great HR business partners that are involved in this. And they'll say, Well, you should have told this and this and this and this. One of the things that I think is, is so cool is, now with the virtual reality, we, you know, one of the ideas was about finding something that displays who they are. We've always had success with the cards, right? Laying the cards on the table and identifying who you are, because some people are very visual. And when you find that perfect card, people don't give it up. I mean, we've had people those, you know, when we first went through, April, we were talking about these decks. It's like, yeah, we can order more, but can't give them away at every session. Because people see that card and they're like, Oh, I'm gonna put that on my wall. And they -- you see the power of really them being able to articulate what they tried to say. So that's one of the ones that just resonates every time we do it.

Larry Keiter 50:08

And then, of course, the Team Strengths Grid is so valuable. As April mentioned, when you go into a meeting, having that on the front side is so powerful to do. So taking time when we do our team workshops, and getting them to understand that it isn't just about looking where you're not, but then how do you take the people who are there? So there's, those are two of the things that we try to harness.

Jim Collison 50:33

April, you want to add anything to that?

April Rimpley 50:35

The thing I would add is maybe there's also a workshop that I was part of where we, at the end said, Why don't you talk about two things that you've learned about the person to your right that you might have previously misinterpreted or you just didn't know about. And so I think that when we do the team-building exercises, we want them to connect more, but we also want them to maybe open up and and talk about how those avenues of understanding are greater. And so those are things you can still do virtually, I would say we have done some cookoffs and some building bikes for our communities that we can't, you know, get together and do right now. So, also there are some tangible hands-on activities where you're also coming out of the realm of what your discipline is. If you're an underwriter or an actuary, maybe you're dealing with numbers all the time. And if you're in marketing, maybe you're dealing with communication. And when we do these team-building exercises, if we pull them out of the discipline of what their job is, it just feels like it enriches them as a person, and the connection point is deeper than if it was just a work-product item.

Jim Collison 51:42

Yeah, it's, it's a great, a great way to kind of go beyond that. I mean, I think we -- Maika taught me this one -- you guys can steal this as well -- is starting a meeting of picking an individual and then saying, say, categorize or talk about their themes in 3 words. And so it gets people thinking about it. And then someone gets recognition out of it, as well as some learning that goes on about the awareness of what they're really bringing to the team. And so even -- and that's, that can be done in person or virtual very, very easy. I think sometimes we overthink it a little too much. Kind of, you know, like, like, Oh, we -- you know, that's virtual now. So, I think make things simple for people. Mark had been asking, as well about Do your associates receive one-on-one coaching sessions? Or is that the responsibility of their manager? How does that work inside the organization?

Larry Keiter 52:34

One of, one of the things that, again, it's about the manager, right, 70% of that. And so, as far as when they go through a workshop or when they get their assessment, we definitely want to share that with them. But what's nice is we have a pipeline now of managers that are going through AFL -- Ameritas Foundations of Leadership, right? And so they're, they really understand what you just talked about, Jim, about some of the things that you can do to really bring the best out of them. So those one-on-one conversations are best with that manager. And we give that manager the support, the resources, the tools, including now Gallup Access, where, you know, somebody talked about a coaching opportunity they wanted to do with managers, coaches. And you simply type in "coaching" into Gallup Access, and we received just a ton of articles to help these managers to do that. So those one-on-ones, nobody should ever get between, in my opinion, the manager and their people. But we certainly support those managers that way.

Jim Collison 53:39

Ladies, would either one of you add anything to that?

April Rimpley 53:42

I would just add that there is sort of this patchwork or, you know, myriad of items we touch base. So to Larry's point, we're not going to get between that, but we might add or help, and I think that's where it is important sometimes to take on a role of facilitator and kind of help open up the dialogue. And that is why we do also believe it's so important to have some Strengths Coaches on hand, so that when we do those workshops, it really is somebody that's sort of stepping back with that more objective view to help teams come together.

Jim Collison 54:12

Yeah. And how great is it to have some of those interns coming from UNL that have that strong strengths program; even some of them come in as coaches. And so some great opportunities. We'd love to see some additional education institutions kind of implement that, and then push those folks out into organizations with that strong strengths and strengths coaching background. Lindsey, as we kind of wrap this up, any final thoughts, final questions, thank our guests, those kinds of things. And we'll bring this in for a landing.

Lindsey Spehn 54:39

Yeah, let's do one quick question for April. And then we'll wrap it, Jim. So April, if you knew at the beginning of our partnering between Gallup and Ameritas what you knew now, what would you advise to yourself or is there anything that you would have changed as a leader within Ameritas?

April Rimpley 54:57

I think I might have picked the pace up a little bit more when I had some skepticism about, Well, are we really sure everyone's ready to say we're a strengths-based organization? And really looked at active ways to show that people are ready for that. Because I think it's a super valid question. But I think we waited for the groundswell, and this on demand. And we could have taken the tools that we have through strengths, and really said, OK, well, why don't we see what people think? Do you think we're a strengths-based organization? How has this helped you? And maybe risen that up at a just a little bit faster pace.

Lindsey Spehn 55:38

Great, thank you. Well, as we close here, Jim, I just wanted to say a couple things. You know, what I really love about the success story, April and Larry, is, you know, 1) How you've made our tools your own. You know, it's not a Gallup thing; it's very much an Ameritas thing, thanks to you two and other exceptional partners that you have. And then, 2) As you heard it, you know, they, they achieved some really great success this year. But Ameritas isn't resting on their laurels. You know, they're really committed to raising the bar and maintaining that, and continually looking ahead to to improve. And I love, I love that spirit. And, you know, April and Larry, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this incredible story with, with our, with our audience. I personally feel incredibly lucky to get to partner with both of you. And on behalf of the Gallup team, you know, our close partners on the Gallup Ameritas Team, Sherzod, myself, thank you for your time. We're really, really grateful for your partnership and excited to see what's next.

Larry Keiter 56:38

Thank you, Lindsey. Thank you, Jim.

April Rimpley 56:41

Always a great opportunity to see you. Thank you.

Jim Collison 56:43

It's, it's always exciting to see it in person. This is the best part of my job, right, is that I get to have all these conversations and, you know, you work in this and you're immersed in it all the time. And you think, Is anybody really doing this? And so we get some great opportunities when we hear these stories. Thanks for coming -- what seems like 100 years ago -- to our awards program, and thanks for sharing. As soon as you did, I said, OK, we gotta have them both on Called -- I like raced to run you down. I was like, OK, before they go, we got to get them on Called to Coach. So thanks for doing that.

Jim Collison 57:12

If I can have you guys hang tight for a second, we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources that are available, now on Gallup Access. Larry did a great job of mentioning that a whole bunch of times. No, we didn't pay him to say that, but it's available there as well. In fact, the easiest way to log in to Access: Take you right to your right to your strengths profile if you log in that way. A great way to see that all the resources that are available. On that site as well -- the CliftonStrengths site -- tons of resources available. Larry mentioned searching inside of Access but on, if you search, there's plenty of information there as well. You might want to check that out today. While you're there, sign up for the CliftonStrengths Community Newsletter. We just released one of those yesterday. Monthly update, just what's going on in strengths world. You can sign up for that and get that delivered right to your Inbox. If you have any questions, email us: If you want to sign up for these events in advance, you can sign up at If you want to join our social groups: gets you in our big coaching group, about 15,000 out there. And maybe Facebook's not your thing; you can join us on LinkedIn. Search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" on LinkedIn. And I'll let you in there as well. Want to thank you for joining us live today. If you're listening to this as a podcast, thanks for subscribing to it or on YouTube. Click the Like button while you're there. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

April Rimpley's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Activator, Individualization, Input, Relator and Learner.
Larry Keiter's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Harmony, Significance, Achiever, Discipline and Arranger.

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

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