- Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
- Season 8, Episode 72
- Find out what a healthcare nonprofit has learned about employee engagement and CliftonStrengths as it seeks to maximize worker performance and serve a diverse clientele.
- Interested in learning more on this topic? Read more about how to improve teamwork in the workplace.
Renny Arensberg, Executive Vice President of the nonprofit Kansas-based KVC Health Systems, was our guest on a recent Called to Coach. Renny shared her vision for moving her organization's performance forward, including:
- How the Q12 employee engagement survey and CliftonStrengths assessment are the engine that is propelling change
- What KVC is learning from its collaboration with Gallup
- The difference coaching certification is making in her efforts to spread CliftonStrengths throughout the organization
At the heart of what I get paid to do is to lead organizational change. And at this time, I am leading a cultural shift to a high-performance culture.Renny Arensberg, 6:22
We have learned through the Q12 ... that ... people need additional assets to work with. ... They need to know how to better work with their team ... [and] what are their strengths. So it really becomes a self-awareness process.Renny Arensberg, 39:03
Having the certification has really empowered both Erin and myself to go now throughout the organization and really become evangelists for the strengths work.Renny Arensberg, 40:33
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio and video are posted above.
Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and live from our virtual studios around the world -- or at least here in the Midwest today -- this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on October 9, 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 on our live page, right above me, actually, there's a link to the, to the YouTube channel that's got the chat room in it. Click on that. Join us in chat. We'll be taking your questions live. If you're listening after the fact -- recorded podcast, YouTube, one of those kinds of things -- you can always send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget, if you're on YouTube, go ahead and subscribe; just that way you get notified whenever we do something new. And you can listen to us as a podcast just by searching "Gallup Webcasts" on any podcast player. Lindsey Spehn is our host today. Lindsey is a Regional Manager with Gallup, and Lindsey, it's always a great Friday when I get to see you on Called to Coach. Welcome back!
Lindsey Spehn 1:06
Thanks, Jim! Great to be here!
Jim Collison 1:08
Let's, let's spend some time -- we've got a great guest today. I'm excited for this one. Let's jump right in.
Lindsey Spehn 1:13
Perfect. Thanks, Jim. Well, today, as you said, I'm thrilled we're -- to have our guest Renny Arensberg here with us today. So a bit about Renny. Renny is Executive Vice President of KVC Health Systems, which is a leader in child welfare behavioral health, based in Kansas. Over her 17 years at KVC, Renny has become known for her unique combination of energy, insight, agility and authenticity that motivates her teams to high achievement and meaningful results for tens of thousands of children and families each year. In 2019, Renny shifted from leading KVC's Administrative Shared Services teams, which is HR, Marketing, Communications, Development and Facilities, to launching a multiyear employee engagement initiative for KVC. Renny is also a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, like many of you joining us here for this show, and she's transforming KVC into a strengths-based organization, having trained hundreds of associates already. Ultimately, Renny is a leader known for creating change one manager at a time, through energy, leadership, creativity, and the belief that you can have a great job and a great life. I love that! Renny, could you please share your top themes with us to start?
Renny Arensberg 2:32
Well, my Top 5 themes are Arranger, Connectedness, Responsibility, Individualization, and Self-Assurance. But I really love my Top 10. So I've got to share 6 through 10, which is Positivity, Woo, Command, Activator and Futuristic. And all of those really have combined into a really a perfect combination for me to be doing this work here that I'm doing now.
Lindsey Spehn 3:05
Absolutely, yes. I think we'll see those great themes shine through in this next hour together. So thank you. As we all know, this episode's part of our Success Stories series. So though KVC is relatively early on in their journey with Gallup, they've really exhibited some great creative strategies and some powerful impact around both CliftonStrengths and engagement in their short 2 years with us. So like previous webcasts, we'll loosely structure this story into 3 chapters. We'll start with how this all began. And then we'll get into the approach implementation that KVC Health has taken so far, closing with talking a bit about the impact that they've seen already. So, as Jim mentioned in the preshow, we do welcome your questions and reactions in the chat room if you're joining us live. He'll join us at the end of the show with some of those, and we'll have Renny speak to those as well. So let's get to it. Renny, if you could, would you start with us by sharing a bit more about KVC Health Systems?
Renny Arensberg 4:04
Well, as you mentioned, KVC Health Systems is a nonprofit. And actually next week in our annual meeting, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary, which is amazing. We were started 50 years ago, in 1970, by a small group of powerful women who were members of the community and they were members of the Junior League. And they saw a gap in services. And so they band together, bought a small house and that began KVC's journey as Wyandotte House, which was our first name and it was a small group home for boys. And it was just a really an amazing beginning and to take us 50 years later to where we are serving 71,000 people a year with our services. Our services are a broad continuum of services from in-home family support, foster care, adoption, behavioral healthcare and children's psychiatric hospitals. So we really focus on families that are in crisis, people who are experiencing mental health distress, and then children who have been -- who are experiencing abuse and neglect. And we do this through 1,500 employees, 5 states -- Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, West Virginia and Kentucky -- and throughout 35 office locations.
Lindsey Spehn 5:47
Thank you. Wow, just incredible, incredible work! That's, that's amazing. So tell us a bit more about your role. I know I read your formal bio, but could you please tell us in your own words, what do you get paid to do, Renny?
Renny Arensberg 6:03
You know, I thought long and hard about this, because we all wear a lot of different hats at KVC. And our mission is what really propels all of us to do the work that we do, because we are working in child time, and we're working with children and families in crisis. But I think really at the heart of what I get paid to do is to lead organizational change. And at this time, I am leading a cultural shift to a high-performance culture. And we had identified, several years ago, 3 key performance indicators. And the first performance indicator is focused on our employees. And that is increasing engagement and retention. The second is focused on our customers, and that is increasing our customer experiences across all programs and services. And then finally, it's our financial health, and really having a positive income through diversification and cost containment.
Renny Arensberg 7:11
So we know that the first KPI has to be there for the other 2 to really be there. And so the organization is 110% behind this very first KPI. And we are honestly all committed to increasing our engagement and -- as a lead, really, as a lead indicator, and knowing that that will result in greater retention.
Lindsey Spehn 7:44
Sure, fantastic. It's always great to have that, you know, mission, that "Why?" really clearly in mind. So you kind of spoke to some of the pieces we're going to get into now. But as you think about the start to your formal partnership with Gallup, Renny, could you talk about, you know, with regard to those KPIs you just mentioned, what, what were some of the things that led you to reach out initially, or to say, you know, Now's a great time to be thinking about some of these things?
Renny Arensberg 8:11
Well, for me to do that, I need to go back a moment. So you're gonna have to indulge me for a second. Our tagline is, "We all need connection." All right. So I want you to keep that in the back of your mind. In 2001-2002, I was with a multinational energy company. And I had the opportunity of working with Gallup that, that long ago, and I was impressed by the value proposition, the evidence-based research and the incredible products.
Renny Arensberg 8:46
So fast-forward, I've been now with KVC for approximately 17 years, and we're a not-for-profit. Clinically, we do some of the best work. And our associates are very, are very trained in clinical, evidence-based treatment modalities. But we knew that we wanted to focus on this KPI, and we were doing a variety of things to, to really move the ball forward, so to speak. But I knew that we needed a more applied approach, you know, something that was more systematic. And, and really, what I thought of is, it's the yin and the yang. I needed to have something -- the sophistication of Gallup and the simplicity of Gallup.
Renny Arensberg 9:39
So, in 2000 and, gosh, I think 16 may -- or, no, 2018, we actually did a -- let me back up. In 2016, we did a strategic planning process with our new CEO. So our former CEO had been our CEO for 35 years, and he announced his retirement. And our -- the replacement is Jason Hooper, who is our current CEO. And one of the very first conversations I had with him about what he wanted to see in his future, is he said, I want everyone to love their jobs at KVC. I want our associates to love their jobs at KVC. So we, through this strategic planning process, we identified 6 focus areas, and one of the primary areas that resonated with everyone is "Make KVC a great place to work." So how do you do that?
Renny Arensberg 10:40
So we had lots of low-hanging fruit, lots of tactics, some sound strategies, but nothing that we were applying across the board. And so, so in 2018, I thought I, I loved Gallup, it's an ama -- Q12 is an amazing tool. I'd actually taken my team through, which was fairly large at the time, through CliftonStrengths with a local consultant here in town. So I knew and had apprec -- an appreciation for that material. So I thought, I'm going to take a key person from our communication staff, bring them up to Omaha and attend one of your sessions.
Renny Arensberg 11:27
And I had like an old paradigm in my mind that kept surfacing. And that was, "I think this is going to be so expensive, and it's going to break my heart." I just, I want to do it so badly, that maybe we'll write a grant and get funding for it somewhere. Because we write, you know, a lot of grants, and we're funded by different foundations and organizations and individuals. And so I came up, and that is when I met you, Lindsey, and it was a really fun day and a marvelous experience.
Renny Arensberg 11:58
And then you and I had some conversations after that, and started exploring what is the possibility of KVC -- 1,500 employees -- being able to put our arms around the sophisticated process, but the sim -- the simple process? So that's how it got started. It really started with our CEO identifying what was his wildly important goal? What did he really, really want to see happen in his tenure, especially in the first several years? And so that's what we're working on.
Lindsey Spehn 12:37
Fantastic. Yes, I vividly remember when you came in. I think we had just kind of an informational session here at the Riverfront. And I remember you had some experience with a Q12. But as you just mentioned, you know, you weren't sure what it could look like for an organization of KVC's size. And as you and I have talked about at length, you know, Gallup's really poised to be able to help any size organization: smaller than KVC, much larger, obviously. But what's exciting is we can bring, you know, the Q12, CliftonStrengths to really any size organization, any industry at this point. So, so thrilled it was able to work, it was all able to work out for us.
Renny Arensberg 13:16
Oh, we're, we're over the moon, we're actually, today, we're nearing the third Q12 launch. And I was on the phone early this morning and sending, sending updates to the the entire organization and our leaders about where we're at. And so we are, we've embraced it. It's still a very exciting process for us. And it's not just, you know, the Q12. But it is everything that we're doing that is really allowing our employees to "Share their voice and be heard," which is our tagline for this whole process.
Lindsey Spehn 13:55
Yeah, we're right in the middle of it. Right? You just, you just sent out your survey, your Q12's in the field right now. And I think you have a pretty impressive response rate already. So we'll get into that a bit more later. But as we get into, you know, kind of the beginnings of our partnership really, just a couple years ago. Could you talk to us a bit, you know, we we've got some listeners, and maybe some champions, who also believe in employee engagement, CliftonStrengths. But as we all know, it's really key to get leadership bought in from the very front end. So could you talk a bit about what you did, you know, with your fellow leaders, what you shared, what you hit on, that could kind of make that case to say, "This is something we should look seriously at"?
Renny Arensberg 14:39
Well, I think that, you know, the, looking at Gallup, I mean, let's just take it from why Gallup? So it's hard to -- it, first of all, it's evidence-based. And that was very important. Your reputation is unbelievable. You have 37 million respondents. You have 3,700-plus clients. You work with 4.4 million workgroups. I mean, that's just -- you're in multiple languages, multiple countries. So having those assets for a company the size of KVC is truly the biggest gift that we could be giving ourselves right now.
Renny Arensberg 15:30
So making the case was not that difficult. I think, as I was preparing, you know, when looking through the timeline, I believe I came up in the fall, and by December, I sealed the deal with the CEO and our executive team. And in February and March, we were working on our contract. So I made the transition to fully support, as the Executive Vice President, this employee engagement initiative in February of 2019. And from there, we, you know, we were off to the races really and running with our first Q12 late that spring, early summer.
Lindsey Spehn 16:21
Yes. And so as we get into kind of the implementation, as we, you know, we got our buy-in with, with your fellow leaders, Renny, we, you know, have the agreement in place. Talk to us a bit about how we started to make this implementation, this culture change that you talk about. We're really clear, I love that we're so clear on the "Why." We are really focusing on, you know, our retention of employees, and that's very well-known. Talk to us a bit about how you formally introduced the concept of employee engagement into the organization. And then, of course, strengths comes in a bit later as well. But, but let's start with the Q12.
Renny Arensberg 16:59
The first thing that I did is I created a very comprehensive 100-day road map. So when I hit the ground, I just had a very aggressive and very intentional road map for, for what I needed to communicate to key stakeholders and, and how I needed to, it was a collaboration strategy, really. Pre -- many presentations on Q12, using the materials from Gallup, customizing those materials to our culture, weaving in your values, our values, which are completely aligned and complementary, working with each business-unit president and their key leadership to make sure that there was complete buy-in and that they didn't feel like this was something that was being done to them, but that they felt complete buy-in.
Renny Arensberg 18:07
So it was really managing up front, you know, the sponsorship plan, if you will, and making sure that, you know, they were -- understood that they were going to be a critical piece of this, of this movement, and that they were going to have a significant position in terms of their leadership. That, you know, I can't create employee engagement by myself; I need, you know, the top leaders of the organization knowing they're going to participate in goal-setting. They're going to monitor the progress. They're going to allocate resources. They're going to align reward and recognition, you know, and really pull all of that together.
Renny Arensberg 18:57
So that was foundational. And once that was in place, then we went about selecting engagement champions, and I was able to, I was able to negotiate training 9, actually 10, engagement champions, including myself. I was, I wanted to go through the training so that I could be the best coach I could be to the engagement champions, who were selected based on their credibility in the organization, their respect within the organization, their interest in a development opportunity, and many of these engagement champions are at, you know, significant levels in the organization.
Renny Arensberg 19:45
So this was considered -- it, and it still is today, a very desirable opportunity to be able to be a part of. And so we, we were all trained within a few months of one another, and I host -- hosted regular phone calls with the entire group so that we could begin to build as a team. And I will say that we're a matrixed team. It makes our success even sweeter to me, knowing that we are matrixed team. I do not, they do not report to me, officially. But we are a team that I provide them leadership, direction. I give them, you know, overall guidance in terms of the global macro approach, but we're also a very -- our business units, you know, are very self-sufficient and independent. And so they take those plans, and we, we plan globally, and they take those plans and, and work them locally.
Lindsey Spehn 21:01
Yeah. I have just a couple comments on what you've already shared, Renny. First, you know, starting with that 100-day plan: so much intentionality there and credit to you for really having the foresight to bring that together, really, when introducing both the Q12 as well as CliftonStrengths. It's a brand-new language for an organization. And I know you had to use CliftonStrengths in pockets, and we'll get back to that here in a second, but to roll out a survey, there, you know, are really some good best practices that we can do on the front end and make sure we all know, Why are we doing this as an organization? And really smart to have that intentionality on the front end so we're not launching it within, you know, just a month of getting everything on our, on our Gallup Access platform set up.
Lindsey Spehn 21:45
So I love that as part of your story, just the intentionality there in making sure we're all aligned on the front end. And then the, the strategy to have engagement champions. So for those on the on the show who aren't familiar with this concept, Gallup has a training that essentially trains your own internal folks within your organization to be internal experts around the concepts of employee engagement. Absolutely great strategy. And KVC is a prime example. Many other organizations are doing this as well, where instead of having Gallup, you know, needing to come in and train all your managers for every single session (we're happy to do that), but instead of needing that reliance on, you know, on other parties, training your own folks to kind of have the keys to the car, so to speak, and get some great curriculum from Gallup that they can sit down and use internally.
Lindsey Spehn 22:38
And so Renny had the great foresight to have a priority to form that group of 10 engagement champions. So they all went through a 2- day training with us and hosted the, hosted that group here at the Riverfront one day when she brought them in just for an, a development opportunity. Talk to us a bit more about what that group has meant for your ongoing efforts within KVC.
Renny Arensberg 23:06
They're amazing. They're amazing. I, I absolutely love them. And they love being a part of this team. In fact, because we're in another Q12 period here, I got a text the other day, and it was a group text that we were on. And we were encouraging one another about where we were at with our business-unit statistics, etc. And somebody did the hashtag #bestteamever. And I just said, "Oh my gosh, you've made my day!" that you you know, you think this -- this is amazing.
Renny Arensberg 23:43
But there's been a lot of applied approach to, to this team feeling highly valued, critical to the operation. We could not be initiating and be at the success -- at the place where we are at. And we're not, we're definitely in progress. We are a work in progress. It is a journey. We're not -- our numbers aren't hitting it out of the park yet. But we have improved every time we've taken this survey.
Renny Arensberg 24:21
And it's, it's not necessarily about the numbers, as Gallup trains; it is about the conversation that the numbers allow you to have. And so our engagement champions are experts. I intentionally embedded them within each business unit. So there are, in some cases there are multiple engagement champions within a business unit, if they are larger. And in some cases there is one one engagement champion to a business unit, but I am there to really help them. And they are there to coach their supervisors and their managers, which is another thing that we wrapped our arms around very quickly.
Renny Arensberg 25:07
Gallup was just coming out with your book, It's the Manager. And it was perfect timing for when we were launching and, and really focusing in on our manager. And so we actually took that book as engagement champions. And there were book clubs that were started. Our Kentu -- or actually, our West Virginia business unit, had me come up when we were traveling, this was, you know, a year ago. And we led a book discussion with everyone having read that book, and talked about, you know, how, what changes we could make, what changes were under their control that they could make, within their business unit. And so just the, the, the education that they are availing themselves of every day through Gallup Access helps them consult in a, in a better way to all of their clients. And so we couldn't do it without them.
Lindsey Spehn 26:07
Incredible group, very, very impressive group. And they are your internal coaches around engagement. So I think that's a great strategy, because it makes it, to your point earlier, Renny, not as much of an HR initiative. It really kind of decentralizes it to be owned within the business units. So I think that's an incredible piece of your story. Well, there's lots to cover here. There's a few things that I think that you've done personally just amazingly well, with regards to your communication strategies in employee engagement. I know that you have introduced videos to encourage participation in the, in the height of when your survey is launched. I know you've got some posters. I think that's one right behind you that I see, just to kind of advertising engagement survey coming up and some ongoing ideas. But talk to us a bit about some of the, the communication strategies that you've taken here, Renny.
Renny Arensberg 27:05
Within the 100-day plan was a very aggressive and comprehensive communication strategy as well. We, we built a tagline -- I -- just looking for my notes here, because it was, it's just so impressive. And it's a strategy that we -- that has served us well over the test of time. Our, our tagline is, Creating a positive, supportive KVC, where we love doing our best work." And our survey campaign theme is, "Share your voice and be heard." So everything around Gallup usually includes those two pieces. And we did a positioning statement, as well as publish KVC messaging and talking points for managers who really needed to be able to talk with their associates and explain what it is that we're doing and why.
Renny Arensberg 28:01
So we right off the bat put information into employees' hands. One of the things that I really appreciate from Gallup, and it's been so helpful to us is, when we went through the training, they said, "Oh, yes, you know, share, share all of this with all of your employees." So nobody felt like after the training, we couldn't share this but we could share this. I mean, we just were sharing information like crazy. And that really helped -- it's like the saying, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I mean, everyone felt like they had a lot of fantastic information at their fingertips.
Renny Arensberg 28:40
So part of the communication/training strategy was to really get in there and train everyone, all managers, immediately on some of the primary tenets, and we took that training, and we, we trained every single manager group. And in addition to that, we probably created about 15 videos during the first 6 months or more of our partnership. And these videos, we started off with a traditional sort of corporate video where we, you know, we're, you know, saying all the right stuff, but we were, you know, it was pretty professionally done. And then we started to loosen up and say, OK, you know, we're talking to our employees. Let's just be, you know, let's say all those things, but just be natural and not worry so much about, you know, all of, all of the things that you worry about when you're trying to create a perfect professional video.
Renny Arensberg 29:43
And so we started to have leaders from different business units, you know, just shoot videos with their employees on the spot, you know, asking them questions and getting their answers and sending them in. And so then we -- it became this wonderful mix of synergy and collaboration across all of our business units where we were, you know, enjoying, you know, what was going on over in the hospital business unit or getting a video of something really funny, you know, from Kentucky business unit. In fact, just last week, we all got a video of our hospital business unit, who had challenged, two leaders had challenged one another, that if they could get to a certain percentage by the end of the day, they would do a "gallop for Gallup" in their parking lot. And so it was, it's corny! But, you know, it rallied the troops. And so the next day, they -- these two leaders joined in the parking lot and did a "gallop for Gallup," and, you know, employees loved it, and, and they sent it around.
Renny Arensberg 30:49
So just making it a part of, like, every day. We, initially we also went around, and we interviewed a lot of folks who were just learning about it. So this is early on in the process. And we asked them, you know, what did they want? What did they expect to see? And those provided, you know, those interviews provided us just amazing, you know, focus-group research on what we really needed to deliver for our employees. We're asking them to share their voice and be heard. So what is our obligation? You know, how do we treat that information? It gave us a true appreciation for, we cannot waste this. This is an opportunity that we really have to seize and, and be very intentional and deliberate about what we're doing with this valuable feedback.
Renny Arensberg 31:42
So we had town hall meetings; we have semiannual town hall meetings. We always talk about employee engagement, either, you know, "It's happened. Here's what we're doing; here's where we're going." Or "It's going to happen. Here's where we're going. Here's what we're doing." In every single board, board meeting, it is discussed. Each one of our business units conducts a monthly board meeting with our executive team and other key leadership, and engagement is a part of their board report where they're highlighting employee stories, heroes, you know, maybe, maybe roadblocks. And that is really then teeing the engagement champions up for, OK, Hey, we've got some roadblocks; what is it that we can do to help, you know, help that situation?
Renny Arensberg 32:35
So really, we've got communications that are ongoing with managers. We communicate once a month just engagement-oriented messages to all employees. And then we have a very targeted message for all of our managers the other part of the month. And those are stories that, you know, can really serve as best practices to those managers who are all learning together.
Lindsey Spehn 33:06
I love that. And there's a couple things here. I can't believe how fast that the time is going together, Renny. There's a couple of things here I want to get to before we mention the introduction of CliftonStrengths, because I think that's an important, important piece of the story here and an important lever that you'll pull -- that you're pulling.
Lindsey Spehn 33:22
But you sent me this 2020 planner, which I'll just hold up. The title is "Use Gallup's Q12 to strengthen your KVC team and create an amazing year." This is incredible. You know, I think this is a really well-done product. You know, there's aspects of teaching about engagement, but I believe you sent these to all the people leaders across KVC. And then another piece, too -- we could talk about that for 10 minutes; we'll have to keep moving here -- but another piece you, you sent with me that you and your teams came up with is this employee engagement annual report. And not only is it visually beautiful, I will say -- my whole team has been, you know, loving it and saying how impressive it is -- but it really is just an incredible mix, Renny, of being up front around your "Why"; clarifying that; highlighting some best practices, to your point around what some of the top managers are doing; taking a point to recognize them and share those best practices. And you sent those, I believe, to all 1,500 associates just a few months ago, to their homes. Is that right?
Renny Arensberg 34:30
That's correct. Yeah.
Lindsey Spehn 34:33
Just incredible! Talk, talk to us maybe for a couple minutes just about, about that.
Renny Arensberg 34:38
Well, I, I felt like it was important to be accountable to the organization. And I felt like we are spending a lot of energy and time and expertise focusing in on this and I wanted the organization to all -- and I think also because we, we left. Let me back up one second. We, in February, we got our second, second survey results on employee engagement. And we had increased in every single metric; we had a 9% increase in our GrandMean. And it just was an amazing -- it was an amazing accomplishment. And so it wasn't just the accomplishment, but it was this annual report really served as a milestone. This is where we've been. And it's a very honest piece. It's this is where we've been; here is our "Why." And this is where we're at.
Renny Arensberg 35:54
And then in this, I interviewed our top 15 managers, and that was so fun. And so we highlighted each one of them with their quote, and honestly, the best advice I got, well, actually, I gleaned a lot of really wonderful things from each one of them. But one of our managers said, You know, I work for the trust factor. And then he talked a little bit about, you know, what that involves. And then he said, You know, my other advice to other managers is simple: "Let it flow. Let it go. Listen, and learn." And he said, "It feels weird at first. But I just step back and let my team tell me what it's going to take to make it a 5." And I love that.
Renny Arensberg 36:45
So this is, you know, this really is an opportunity of celebration for the organization. You know, we highlighted all the managers, who would we -- I coined -- managers, if they got 100% [participation] on their Gallup Q12, I started publicizing that as a way to just thank managers for encouraging their employees to get in there and share their voice.
Renny Arensberg 37:11
And so, participation. Absolutely. And so, we also in this included everyone's action plan. So every single business unit and every engagement champion who was, who's responsible for that business unit committed to 3 actions, and what, and so their actions and their tactics are all in this plan. So it's not just a retrospective piece; it's also a forward-looking piece of, This is what you can expect in the next year, as well as outlining, What are your responsibilities? You know, what do we want you to do as an employee? And what do we want you to do as a manager? And so it really just serves as a reminder of, you know, really, engagement involves everyone.
Lindsey Spehn 38:01
Absolutely. And it's so much more than just the annual survey, as you have, you know, really taken to heart and described so far, Renny. It's, it's a year-round initiative. And, you know, really the best results that we see are when it's interwoven and, you know, branded and really made your own within KVC so that it's not just, you know, "the Gallup survey that we're doing every now and then."
Lindsey Spehn 38:26
So I think that's, it's an incredible, incredible job and incredible product, you know, so early on in your, in your journey. I do want to get to CliftonStrengths. I know a lot of our folks joining are Certified Coaches. And that's a big piece of your story. And, I know, a big piece of your future. So I know that you've mentioned, and having been partnering with you now the past few years, that you felt that the Q12, the employee engagement survey, really brought some framework to CliftonStrengths. So talk to us a bit about why it felt natural to, to weave that in and some of the beginning steps you took with strengths.
Renny Arensberg 39:02
Well, I think one of the things that we have learned through the Q12 was that, obviously, people need additional assets to work with. And they need to know how to better work with their team. They need to know what are their strengths. So it be -- it really becomes a self-awareness process. Because you're, you're, if you're, if you're doing it, if you're putting your arms around it, you know, you're working with your teams, you're listening to them, and you're creating your state-of-the-team goals. And so we found more and more that people were asking for team training and, and, and really, they were asking for CliftonStrengths.
Renny Arensberg 39:50
And so Erin Keltner from West Virginia and I went to the training actually in January. I was so glad we were able to, to have that in-person training in January, not being able to look into the future of, I know that the training is still great and vibrant, but it was an incredible experience. But actually, we were sort of tip tipping our toes in that work prior to becoming certified. And actually, over the years, I, I, you know, have used CliftonStrengths, you know, just, you know, with teams, you know, and having them, you know, go through and take the assessment in and talk through it.
Renny Arensberg 40:33
But having the certification has really empowered both Erin and myself to, to go now throughout the organization, and, and really become evangelists for the strengths work. So, West Virginia, is, you know, one of our business units that put their arms around it very early. And they actually have an amazing value proposition that I hope that they realize here in the near future, and that is not only to have their associates understand their strengths, and you know, name it, claim it and aim it, but to actually infuse this training into their foster parent education, and that is a game changer. That is really the sweet spot.
Renny Arensberg 41:25
In addition, our Nebraska business unit, as trained, I've trained all of their associates, and they have a very aggressive plan to not only name it, but to be claiming it. And their president, Ashley Brown, sent me some information a couple weeks ago, and she was saying, we have created a "sip strengths and sweats" meeting. It's their online meeting, because, of course, we all went online in March. And she said, "We didn't want to call it a meeting. And so we named it something different, because we really just want our leadership to come and share and talk about, you know, their strengths and their vulnerabilities, and how they can structure their, their work, to more align with their strengths."
Renny Arensberg 42:21
And so she is completely on board for, for how to really maximize this opportunity. And then our Vice President of Information Services here in our Shared Services Department, she's -- we've trained that entire group. And, you know, I would really, I really wanted to do all of these trainings in person. So in the beginning, I was like, "OK, all right, like, you know, I'll come and see you in April or in May." And then April, May hit, and I was like, "OK, Renny, you've got to say "Yes"; you have to say "Yes." And so that became my mantra of, I'm going to just say, "Yes," and then we're going to, we're going to tackle this online.
Renny Arensberg 43:04
And I have to say that the way that Gallup demonstrated their willingness to do their summit all online, and it was such a first-class experience, I said, "All right, you know, we're no Gallup, but I know that they have put before me and other members who are doing this training -- engagement and strengths -- they put before us a template, and so we can try to replicate this." And so that's really what we've done. So our strengths training has all gone online. And even when they're, when it's now in the business unit, I mean, they're doing this all, you know, on WebEx, which is our platform.
Lindsey Spehn 43:48
Wow, that's incredible. That's, that's amazing. I think we've all had to get creative a bit and pivot. But I'm, I'm glad that, you know, this period of disruption hasn't, you know, stopped your ongo, ongoing, CliftonStrengths efforts. So --
Renny Arensberg 44:02
I will say that the most creative session I've done was 2 weeks ago, and I met a group in the park. They had, they wanted to get out; they hadn't seen each other for months. There's a beautiful park. Everybody brought their lawn chair, we were way, way, way spaced apart. And it was, it was a blast. It was really, really fun. And so I think when there's a will, there's a way. And I think we're all trying to be creative and agile and flexible. And we're, we're making it happen!
Lindsey Spehn 44:35
And how incredible that, you know, not only is it so -- the CliftonStrengths language -- not only is it so a part of your internal culture and is really, you know, getting embedded and becoming a common language like the Q12, but it's also, you know, starting to get brought to some of the folks that you serve -- the children and the, and the families that you serve. And, you know, I think if there's any example of, you know, how strongly an organization believes in a tool, it's when they not only use it internally, but then they use it with, with those that they serve -- their customers and those that they impact.
Lindsey Spehn 45:12
So I think that's incredible. And I'm excited to see what we keep, what we keep doing there at KVC. Well, we have just a few minutes left, and then we'll, we'll bring it to Jim to see what kind of questions we have so far. But I did want to talk about impact. So as we kind of round out our third chapter here, Renny, there's so much great content here. And you've done so many great things with your, with your fellow leaders and your engagement champions in your teams. You've talked a bit about what impact you've had on your own engagement scores as a result of your hard work. What other metrics, other numbers, what other things are you seeing, even qualitative examples? What other impacts are you seeing of this work within KVC?
Renny Arensberg 45:55
Well, I think the quality of our conversations with all employees has dramatically increased. I actually -- well, I can't get to it -- I took a picture of a comment that was shared with an engagement champion yesterday by an associate, by an associate, and she was doing a recalibration with this manager. And it was, it was incredible. I mean, it was everything that you would want to hear, based on, you know, everything that we've been teaching, and, and, and coaching. And so, I think, you know, the, the biggest metric that, you know, we want to see some movement in, is our retention. And we know that if we continue to do what we're doing, we're going to see that. In the first year, we saw, you know, a positive, you know, 2% to 3% increase in our retention. And so that, that's very encouraging.
Renny Arensberg 46:58
We also have seen, you know, increased focus on safety, and creating more concrete plans around safety. We've always, that is one of our tenets, is to keep every child safe. And actually, you know, our, our vision is a world in which every person is safe and connected to a strong family and a healthy community. So safety is paramount in the work that we do.
Renny Arensberg 47:26
But, you know, just a tighter focus in on, on safety, with, you know, you know, input from our employees, as well as, you know, executive sponsorship. And then, you know, we've actually done a lot with our Learning Management System and our HR department, along with, you know, our, our CIO is, you know, adding just, you know, a number of new learnings into our Learning Management System, as a result of getting feedback from, you know, our state-of-the-team meetings and what employees really need. So I think that we're improving in a lot of different areas of the organization, that, I think, we would, you know, we are in that game, but I think we're taking it to a higher level.
Lindsey Spehn 48:18
Absolutely. Incredible. I love the way that you've, you know, you've taken the Gallup tools, but then you've really operationalized it and, and made it your own. I know, when thinking about some of the things that you've done, you mentioned the It's the Manager book. And I know that a lot of your focus per that statistic, that over 70% of the variance in a team's engagement is dependent on their direct manager or supervisor. I know that you've really taken that to heart. What are some ways that you're focusing on managers right now in the spirit of that topic, and what are some ways that you're infusing this into your future work at KVC?
Renny Arensberg 48:57
Most of our training through engagement champions is focused on the manager, and then supporting that manager if they need help in, you know, communicating with their, with their employee group. We are, you know, auditing their state-of-the-team action plans so that we know that they're, that they are producing, you know, the, the most powerful action plans that they can produce, and helping them see where they can tweak them to really tie them to producing real business outcomes and business results. And I think that, you know, just continuing to build that muscle is, is, is critical for us since we're so new in this process.
Renny Arensberg 49:44
I also have a fun thing that's coming up in, gosh, the middle -- actually in the next couple of weeks, sort of the tail end of October, where we are taking an hour every day for a week and we are targeting training to the manager. And it's being team taught by engagement champions. So each champion's got a different topic, you know, for a specific day. And it's all, it's all employee Gallup materials, but we're using it as a refresher for all of our managers. And that will be, they will be accompanied by an executive sponsor. So our Chief Operations Officer, our Chief Intelligence, or Information Officer, you know, our Chief Financial Officer -- each one of those chiefs will be assigned to a day to be the executive sponsor. And we will have this hour, you know, to really work with all of our managers.
Renny Arensberg 50:44
And then from there, you know, our engagement champions will go into high gear -- once our results are released, the first of November, will go into high gear and really follow the format that Gallup lays out for us. And that is, you know, for managers to be looking at their data and analyzing that, and then structuring their state-of-the-team meetings, creating the action plans, and we have a very intentional focus of getting those managers into Gallup Access, and using Gallup Access for the amazing resource it is, and putting their action plans into that format. So then we can be able to look at the macro information that's, that we're getting collectively.
Lindsey Spehn 51:29
Great, yes. Love hearing that feedback on Gallup Access and love that you have made the decision to, you know, give that technology and those resources to your managers so that, you know, real-time, they can look up, you know, what is that best friend at work question mean again? What does that Achiever theme mean again? And they can have those resources really at their fingertips. Great. Well, how -- you talked a bit about this period of disruption and ways that you've stayed agile in your training with your strengths and engagement efforts. Are there any other tips or learnings that you've had, and, and why, you know, this work is important to keep going? You know, I speak with some organizations that are maybe a bit nervous around, you know, introducing strengths or measuring employee engagement or doing any sort of employee, employee survey during this time. What would you say with regards to that?
Renny Arensberg 52:25
We want to know. It's important for us to stay connected to our workforce. And I would say that one of the most important articles that we got early on from Gallup that we, we just replicated and shared in multiple ways is, you know, it was on COVID. And it is "What your followers need from you: hope, stability, compassion, trust." How are you showing up as a leader today, you know, for your workforce? And do we have a clear plan? And are we, are we communicating a future that your associates can be inspired about?
Renny Arensberg 53:15
So we have kept engagement, relevant. We've kept it visible. We have kept it, you know, accountable. There is, there really isn't a day that goes by that an engagement champion isn't weaving in employee engagement into their conversation, into their coaching. And I would guarantee that many, many, many of our managers are weaving engagement into, you know, how they're talking with their associates. I will also say -- and I know we're running out of time, but -- during the period of between March and you know, I'd say now, we used our Gallup Access platform to initiate 8 COVID pulse surveys, which were extremely valuable to get a read from our employees on how they were feeling. How they were feeling about our, our policies and our procedures and, and just their mental health.
Renny Arensberg 54:18
I mean, we're in the mental health business. So, you know, we, we, you know, work with our clients in this capacity, and we have to do this for ourselves. And so, you know, really the heart of our work is helping people and we need to help our own people. And our tagline is, "We all need connection." So, so anyway, and then we, we've initiated one DEI survey, and then, with this will be the third employee engagement survey that we are going to wrap up here on Tuesday. So we're, we're, it's alive and it's critical. It's mission-critical with our executives and when our business unit leaders, and I don't think they would live without it.
Lindsey Spehn 55:03
Great. Well, with that, Jim, I know we just have a few minutes left. Any comments, questions from the group?
Jim Collison 55:09
Yeah, actually, we'll make it kind of quick. Remind us again, Renny? How often are you guys administering the Q12?
Renny Arensberg 55:15
Every 6 months.
Jim Collison 55:16
Every 6. And we do that as well at Gallup. It's kind of, kind of that recommendation. And then one of the things I love is I heard as I was listening to this, you guys started with engagement. And then be -- really began to use strengths as that accelerant for management, right, to kind of, you know, put gasoline on the fire, so to speak. And so it was just a great opportunity for you guys to use that. Any surprises as -- out of those questions? You know, often sometimes in the Q12, the questions themselves create conversations. Organizationally, did you have a question or two that maybe popped up that was a surprise, or that really helped drive engagement?
Renny Arensberg 55:51
You know, I think the, there are a couple of insights. First of all, you know, our mission in both surveys scored the highest. So we know that people are here because they're really committed to the mission; they're really committed to the work that we're doing. I think one, one of the things that surprised us in a way, and in another way not -- but that we've been able to effectively deal with because we heard so much about it -- is "I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work."
Renny Arensberg 56:30
And so we, we were able, I just had a conversation with our VP of Technology. And he said, "You know what? I am so glad that we were able to really uncover information around Q -- around, you know, Q2, because it, it has really been very helpful. And we've upgraded, you know, many computers, and we've, we've upgraded systems, and we've done things that, you know, we don't know that we would have gotten to in the time that, you know, on the time -- on the timeline that employees needed it to be.
Jim Collison 57:11
No, it's always -- it's good to hear, you know, those first two questions: I know what's expected of me and, and, you know, I have the right materials and equipment are so basic to get the organization rolling. Right. So, Lindsey, we are at the end of our time. Some great questions in the chat room. More information: kvc.org, as well, if you want to go out there and see what they're doing. Lindsey, let's thank Renny for coming and we'll wrap it up.
Lindsey Spehn 57:32
Sure, absolutely. So, Renny, what I love about your story, as I mentioned as we started, you know, is just how quickly you have truly infused CliftonStrengths and the science of engagement into your fabric at KVC. And I know you give a lot of credit to your team, but Mike McDonald and I, as your key points of contact here at Gallup, we really want to thank you personally for what you've done. And we really treasure your partnership and are cheering you on to, to what you'll achieve here in the future. So with that, Jim, over to you.
Jim Collison 58:01
Renny, thanks again, from me, thanks for coming out. You did a great job. So I appreciate you doing that. You guys hang tight for me one second.
Jim Collison 58:07
And we'll remind everyone to take full advantages of all the resources -- and you guys talked about many of them -- they're available now in Gallup Access. Easiest way to get to that is gallup.com/cliftonstrengths; take you right to your Strengths Dashboard. And we have tons of resources available for you. If you're in an organization and you're interested in doing this as well, you're hearing these kinds of things, contact us! Send us an email: email@example.com. If you have any questions on this, or on the engagement, the science around engagement or strengths, we'd love to hear from you. You can also follow us and listen to this as a podcast. So if you want to do that, head out to any podcast player and just search "CliftonStrengths." We also produce a pretty dynamite monthly CliftonStrengths Newsletter. So it's called -- it's a Community Insight letter for you. It's free and you subscribe to it. Head out to gallup.com/cliftonstrengths, go to the bottom of the page, give us your email address and we'll send that to you once a month. Don't forget to follow us on Eventbrite: gallup.eventbrite.com. That's where you would find out about when we're going to do these things so you can join us live. Big thanks to the 15 or 20 that joined us today. Great questions from the chat room and great learning out there as well. Again: gallup.eventbrite.com. And then of course, follow us on social. You can head out to facebook.com/ -- no, you go to facebook.com/groups/calledtocoach (got a lot of those URLs in my head). And then of course, we're on LinkedIn as well; just search "CliftonStrengths Trained Coaches" and join us that way as well. For those joining us live, thanks for joining us. For those listening to the recording, thanks for joining us as well. We've got more of these set up and thanks for listening. With that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.
Renny Arensberg's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Arranger, Connectedness, Responsibility, Individualization and Self-Assurance.