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Called to Coach
Intentional Development Strategies at Election Systems & Software
Called to Coach

Intentional Development Strategies at Election Systems & Software

Webcast Details

  • How can organically introducing strengths empower workplace buy-in?
  • What can organizations do to effectively develop great managers?
  • What are some key elements of great managing that help drive employee engagement?

Called to Coach Webcast Series -- Season 12, Episode 2

Below are audio and video plus a transcript of the conversation, including time stamps.


Simply ... organically ... sustainably. That's how leaders at Election Systems & Software want their organization to operate. And that's the approach they have adopted as they've worked to embed CliftonStrengths® in their organization, engage their employees, and develop and empower great managers. What challenges has ES&S overcome, and what successes have they enjoyed over the years in doing things this way? Join ES&S's Vicki Nelson and let that organization's simple, organic emphasis reinvigorate your coaching.


We do things really simple here -- because simple works. And simple's replicatable and sustainable for us.

Vicki Nelson, 22:27

When you tell [people] that they need to do something, there's less desire to do it than when you will allow them to figure it out and start to use it and start to get comfortable with it.

Vicki Nelson, 10:31

The very first thing I say to [managers] when they start is, Be selfish about your time. ... We're investing in you, but we need you to invest in yourself.

Vicki Nelson, 39:27

Jim Collison 0:00
I am Jim Collison, and this is Gallup's Called to Coach, recorded on November 29, 2023.

Jim Collison 0:20
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, we'd love to have you join us in the chat room. There could be links above or below. If you have questions, just drop them in the chat; we, we are monitoring those. If you have questions after the fact, you can always send us an email: Don't forget to subscribe right there on your favorite podcast app or right there on YouTube, so you never miss an episode. Lauren Hunter is our host today. Lauren is a Key Account Leader with Gallup, and her Top 5 are Developer®, Positivity®, Arranger®, Responsibility® and Individualization®. Lauren, great to be back with you. Welcome back to Called to Coach!

Meet Our Guest on This Episode

Lauren Hunter 1:06
Thank you so much, Jim! I am so excited to be here. And I am thrilled to have our guest, Vicki Nelson, here with us this morning as well. Vicki is the Vice President of Shared Services at Election Systems & Software. And I've had the privilege of partnering with her and getting to know her, actually super closely, over the last year. And Election Systems' mission is to really provide valuable, trusted and proven election systems and services to our nation's elected administrators. So, Vicki, welcome! We're so excited to have you here this morning.

Vicki Nelson 1:38
Lauren, thank you. And Jim, thank you. I am very excited to be here to talk about this company that that I work for, and all of the great things that we're doing alongside with Gallup. So thank you for including me.

Lauren Hunter 1:55
Yeah, no, absolutely. We're so excited too. It's gonna be a great conversation here today. And, you know, Jim, and I read your bio, and there's so many fantastic insights that we're seeing in your bio and your strengths. I'd love for you to just recap for the audience a little bit about yourself, and make sure you include, I mean, some of that fun stuff about yourself just personally as well, to kind of recap it for the crew.

Vicki Nelson 2:14
Yeah, I'd be happy to. So Lauren, as you said, right now, I'm Vice President of Shared Services. And I've been with Election Systems & Software -- I'm going to abbreviate it as ES&S; it's just much easier to say -- but ES&S, I've been here almost 10 years. And prior to that I, I think of myself as kind of a mutt -- having lots of different experiences over the, over the years of my career that have brought me here to ES&S and have kind of helped the success that we're having here. I had the unique opportunity to work for Gallup for 9 years before coming to ES&S. And prior to that, I owned two of my own businesses. You're gonna laugh, but I owned a chain of day spas and tanning salons. You know, the good old American dream of owning your own business, and I decided to have tanning salons. And I also owned a marketing business. And prior to that, I've worked in marketing, worked in operations, I was COO for a medical supply manufacturing company. And again, all of those experiences have really led me here to ES&S to be a strategic partner and to help us think about how we do business better here. So, and then for fun, I am a grandma of two beautiful grandchildren; a mother to two. I love sports. You're gonna laugh, but I got scuba certified this year and also took up roller-skating. Yes, very unusual. But I do like to have fun outside of work as well.

Lauren Hunter 4:03
I love that. I can, I can actually hear your strengths coming out in everything that you just said -- from your personal, you know, experiences and owning your own business and what not to your just your personal life -- roller-skating, by the way? I mean, if you could teach me any tips out, after this podcast, please let me know, because that is not a, I do not have that in my Top 5 strengths, by any means.

Vicki Nelson 4:26
Wear knee pads, Lauren; just wear knee pads.

Lauren Hunter 4:29
And everybody, please take that -- you take that as a key takeaway here from us this morning.

Vicki Nelson 4:33
And elbow pads.

Lauren Hunter 4:34
Right. Vicki, I'd love for you to also share -- I mean, it's, it's so interesting with your background that you worked at Gallup as well. I'd love for you to share a little bit with the audience about what your Top 5 strengths are, and how those have really helped you in your background. And then of course, in your role at ES&S today as well.

Vicki Nelson 4:51
Yeah, yeah. You know, my, my No. 1 strength, my Top 5 are Maximizer®, Futuristic®, Strategic®, Arranger -- I mean, I've got those in the right order, arranged them in the right order -- but they're, and then last one is Self-Assurance®. And, you know, when I first saw my strengths at Maximizer, I looked at the, the, probably the basement side of Maximizer. And that is, you know, constantly going and striving. And what I've learned, what Maximizer and Futuristic and Strategic have allowed me to do is to really help our organization think about how to be better, how to, how to think in the future about what, what we want to do now, and then, How do we achieve it? And how do we constantly strive for doing great things?

Vicki Nelson 5:46
And I think about my role, not doing it myself, but doing it through our human capital. I think that's what allowed me to be successful here. Because our greatest tool at ES&S is not just our product; it's not our customers. But it is our people. The people that we have here is who makes us successful. And so my role as, as a leader in human resources is to help guide our leaders and our managers to think about how to best find the right people, how to put the right people in the right places, how to maximize, you know, get the greatest output from people. And so, I feel I'm real, I feel very lucky to have Maximizer and Futuristic and Strategic, all in the same package. Because I think that's what's allowed us to be successful.

ES&S, Strengths and Assessing Talent

Lauren Hunter 6:49
Oh, yeah. I love what you said, our -- I wrote it down, actually -- you know, I don't think of me as doing this myself, but it's our human capital, and your people are your greatest strength. And I just love kind of you sharing that and articulating how your Futuristic has helped you get there, and your Maximizer, you know, has really helped you in that way as well. We'd be really curious, you know, when we're thinking about strengths and your people and how you've used them personally, both in your past life and then, of course, here at ES&S as well, in your current career. What does the organization look like, ES&S, from a strengths perspective? Does everybody, you know, kind of know their strengths? How is your culture being set up around that?

Vicki Nelson 7:31
Well, I'm gonna give you, if you don't mind, I'm gonna give us a little bit of a history lesson of when I started 9 years ago, and get us to the point in where we are today. You know, we have, we're the leader in, in our industry, and have been a leader in our industry for many years. So we're successful, we've been successful, we continue to be successful. But when I came in 9 years ago, there's a couple of things that I observed about our organization. And the first thing is, we're a scrappy little company. You know, we're, not very many people know, or knew about ES&S; kind of flew under the radar. We're an organization of 450 people, you know, across the United States; get a lot done with not a lot of people. And what's really cool is that they're just really hard workers here. People work so hard, and they have a mission for the work we did, and do.

Vicki Nelson 8:31
And so when I came in 9 1/2 years ago, the, the, what I started was, How do we begin to articulate why we are successful? And how do we begin to put a formula together for how we replicate and sustain that success? And so it really started with articulating, Who do we want to work for the company? Not just the skills and knowledge we need somebody to bring to the table, but what are those kind of innate, intangible things that we want that, that make us successful and continue to support our culture? So that's where we brought in the Gallup talent assessments to help us think about, What does, what does a successful employee look like? And how can we continue to replicate that? How can we continue to, to hit more home runs, you know, versus just singles? And so we brought the, the Gallup talent assessment in. I will tell, and I can tell you stories about that later, but that has been, it is just a part of who we are today.

Vicki Nelson 9:50
Then, kind of organically, Lauren, we introduced the language of strengths. So once we identified who, who, what does a successful employee look like at ES&S? What are those intangible things? How can we begin to use data to find that person? Once we, once we got that down, then we wanted to articulate, How do people work? How do -- everybody's an individual, so how do individuals work? And how can we kind of lasso that and learn about that? And so, organically, we introduced strengths about 5 years ago. And when I say organically, what I learned about our company is when you tell them that they need to do something, there's less, there's less desire to do it than when you will allow them to figure it out and start to use it and start to get comfortable with it. And we start to get some momentum.

Vicki Nelson 10:47
And that's exactly what we did is people started to, you know, do their top 34. And then in team meetings, they would talk about their strengths, and then other people would get interested about what it is. And so now, it is a framework for how managers learn about who their employees are and how to best manage them. So every new person that comes to ES&S, within the first 5 days, takes their StrengthsFinder®. Every team in a team meeting will bring out a team's strengths. And so I think, as we stand today, we have probably about 75% to 80% of our employees that utilize their strengths, the language of strength, on a regular basis, both in team calls, individual coaching calls. It's just a natural part of how people speak about who they are and what they bring to the table.

Embedding Strengths Organically

Jim Collison 11:46
Vicki, I love what you said about allowing it to be kind of organic. It kind of reminds me of my, my, my own granddaughters. And we, when we want them to do something, we tell them not to. I don't want a hug before you go. Just go; I'm not interested, right? And while that's a silly example, I do think there is some, I think sometimes we take a strengths-based approach to some things -- I hear this from the community all the time -- is, How do I mandate this, so everybody does it? But you're kind of, you kind of came at it to say, No, I want them to come at it from an organic, using your word, or a more natural approach. Or maybe I would have used the word desire, right? They desire to, they come to you and say, Hey, how do we implement this in our teams to make this better? Is that -- do you, do, is that kind of the way it works is folks are coming in and saying, No, no, now, I want to implement this. How do I do it? Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Vicki Nelson 12:44
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we, we've learned our lesson. I, I have mandated things before. You know, we had an organizational development group that mandated learning and mandated, you know, these, these tools that managers have to use. And, you know, like your granddaughters, they're, you know, they know best. They don't want to use that stuff. To -- my job is not to do the work for them, but is to help managers learn how to be successful and, and provide the tools that they can use to be successful and to have successful teams. And what I'm finding is by the, the, you know, providing them choices -- my kids are always better with choices; do you want choice A or choice B? -- by providing choices about tools that are available, managers get to choose the things that work for them.

Vicki Nelson 13:44
And so what I'm finding is that, you know, the desire of utilizing the Gallup talent assessment, as I mentioned before, it is just a part of who we are anymore. There isn't a candidate that gets interviewed without having gone through the talent assessment. And it's not because we're mandating it. It's because, true story -- I, many managers will say to me, "Well, when I don't use it, it comes back and bites me in the butt." Or when I, when I don't pay attention to it, I can come back later and go, "Mmm, you know what? I knew that. I knew that from the information, from the, from the talent assessment, I learned that, and I ignored it." And so because, because now they know, it's just an important part of a decision that they get to make, and they want to make good decisions.

Lauren Hunter 14:44
Wow. I love, Vicki, that you're kind of expressing this organic way where we're helping people make decisions. I mean, that's what's going to make it part of your culture, and that's, that's where, in the last 9 years, you know, where you've been able to get ES&S where it is now. You mentioned that within the first 5 days that people start, they normally take their strengths. Is that right?

Vicki Nelson 15:03
It is. Yes. Yep, it's a part of the onboarding process.

Lauren Hunter 15:08
I was gonna say, could you share a little bit more kind of about what that onboarding process looks like? You know, so people go through the Gallup Talent Assessment, and then they're getting onboarded at ES&S. What do strengths look like? Are they just taking the assessment? Are they going through any sort of development or coaching sessions with their manager in that onboarding process?

Vicki Nelson 15:26
Yeah, you know, it's a, it's a great question. And, and Lauren, this is, you know, part of the lesson I've learned is, is, you know, introducing things at a time, you know, after people get comfortable with it, and, you know, continue to introduce new things or new opportunities or new choices down the road. And, and what I mean by that is, when a individual is hired, within the first, the first 2 weeks of actually being hired and receiving their, their offer letter, they have two or three touch points. And those two or three touch points are both from the human resource team that's welcoming them to the, to ES&S and providing them, you know, all of the links to the things they need to do beforehand -- all those legalese that we need to cross our t's and dot our i's -- and then a, you know, expectation for what the first, second and third day is going to look like. And then there's a touch point from their manager.

Vicki Nelson 16:30
They are, and once they are onboarded that very first day, they are, human resources has them for about 3 hours. And within that 3 hours, you know, they're, we go through the benefit, they go through the benefits; they, where's the bathroom? Where's my, where's my seat going to be? And we'd like for you to go through the StrengthsFinder and provide them that link. That then is sent to their manager within the first 5 days. The expectation, Lauren, is that the managers will sit down with them and go through their strengths. And, and what I, what we hope to do is continue to provide education for managers about how to, you know, better explain the strengths, be able to use that, you know, more often in onboarding a new hire. You know, and our, and our managers through the Boss to Coach platform are learning how to do that. And so we'll get better at that. And we'll get, we'll get, again, so that it's more organic and ingrained in what managers do with new hires, as they get more comfortable with it.

Resolving Challenges: Talent, Strengths, Managing

Lauren Hunter 17:41
Oh, yeah, definitely. And I'm excited to explore a little bit more too about how you all are leveraging Boss to Coach is really one of those key development strategies for managers to do exactly what you just mentioned -- you know, How can we have more intentional conversations about what people do best? And, you know, how is that helping in their role? I'd be really curious too, so you mentioned, you know, 9 years ago, when you started at ES&S, that these were all -- your Maximizer, your Futuristic, they were kicking in, and were like, How could we continue to change the culture? With 450 employees across the U.S., you know, what can we continue to do? I would just be curious, looking back, what kind of challenges did ES&S have as an organization, you know, 5 to 9 years ago that you feel like have really kind of been resolved with a few of these focus areas, from talent-based assessments to building a strengths-based culture to building high-performing managers?

Vicki Nelson 18:35
Yeah. Well, I think there's, there's two challenges that I recognized right from the very beginning. And the first one was the role of human resources. The, the role of human resources was very functional, you know, from getting your benefits, managing your benefits to policies and procedures and payroll -- very functional things that are extremely important, very important. They're the foundation, you know, to keep us, keep us in line. But they're not, they're not what I wanted our human resource group to be. I wanted our human resource group to be partners with our managers and our employees that help them make good decisions about their human capital. And that, man, that was uphill battle for, I would say, probably 3 or 4 years, to try to prove to people that human resources are not the policy police -- that our human resources was not the policy police, and that we were their partners.

Vicki Nelson 19:49
And, and the second challenge was to have managers own their role in, in the success of our human capital. That it wasn't, OK, human resources, what do I do now? It was myself and my team coaching managers to say, What are your challenges? What are you, what are the choices and the tools you have to make good decisions? What kind of decision would you like to make? What are the consequences if you make this decision?

Vicki Nelson 20:23
And so we shifted the role of human resources to be the, that we're going to tell you what to do, to we're going to help you make good decisions. And that's allowed human, our HR team to put the accountability and the responsibility back on managers, to realize that the power is in their hands to make decisions about their employees. And it seems really simple, but it, it's not. It wasn't. And again, it took us, like, probably 3, 4, 5 years to finally to get manager to go, Oh, I own that! You're right. You know what? Here's what I want to do. And the tools that we brought in, from the talent assessment to the strengths to the Boss to Coach, are all tools to help managers make good decisions. And so I feel like we've been successful in shifting that mindset to managers owning the outcomes.

Talent-Based Hiring at ES&S

Jim Collison 21:33
Vicki, I love that. You, you've said, we've said, we've alluded to this a couple times -- this talent-based hiring, right. And we talk about it some on Called to Coach, not a lot. There may be some folks kind of wondering, and as, we should probably just get this kind of out, out in the open. We, you, your organization's partnered with us to build a talent assessment that you actually have people take prior to joining the organization, right, that gives you some information about that. Can you, can you talk a little bit about, in that partnership, that is something, that's not a public product that we sell, yet -- maybe, maybe someday in the future. But can you talk a little bit about the partnership and why that's important to you, and how that continues to set you up post-, you know, once, it doesn't end just in a hiring process, right. That sets you up for the future as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Vicki Nelson 22:22
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I sure can. Well, again, we do things really simple here -- and, and, because simple works. And simple's replicatable and sustainable for us. And the partnership that we have is we use this model from Gallup that is a very simple model in its, from attraction to recruiting and hiring to onboarding to engaging and then developing and retaining. And that is a physical model that we use from Gallup, that, that helps us manage our employee experience. And within each of those, those, those modules or each of those steps in this model, there are tools in engagement that we use with Gallup to help us in, you know, better attracting and hiring the right person.

Vicki Nelson 23:25
And Gallup has been very instrumental in helping us think about what is the right talent assessment that we use for our jobs, our specific roles, and helping, helping coach us to using it in the right way. And then how do we use that tool, that information after someone is hired? And how do we continue to use that tool in the engaging and the retaining and development phase of the employee experience? Same thing with the, with the strengths -- helping us think about the, the, the onboarding and the engaging and the retaining components of the employee experience with our, with our, our strengths model. And then the development piece with our managers and Boss to Coach. So they aren't just programs; they're all very succinct, intentional tools that we use to, to, you know, grow this, grow and enhance the employee experience for both our employees and our managers.

Developing Great Managers: Boss to Coach

Lauren Hunter 24:35
Definitely. And it's so neat to, to hear, Vicki, how, throughout the employee experience, you know, every, every piece of this development is able to be kind of tied up too. Here's how we onboard. Here's how we're going to engage, retain and help with performance. And one of the key pieces, of course, of your strategy is when, when people are being hired, we're making sure that there's that talent fit -- for both the perception of that employee feeling engaged in their job, but also a fit to culture. And that's what's so important in all those conversations that you, you and I have had together a lot about, it's important that, it's good for the employee and the organization. You know, it kind of goes twofold. One of the key pieces of that employee experience, kind of as we break that into phases for ES&S, I know when we kind of look at that engaging and performing piece, is Boss to Coach, right, for your managers, and then going through that development program. I'd love for you to just share a little bit more about what that, what the Boss to Coach program looks like at ES&S and, you know, your managers that have gone through that, how that's kind of changed the landscape at ES&S.

Vicki Nelson 25:39
It's really been transformational. You know, I can point to multiple things that we've done that have been transformational -- you know, the talent-based assessments, talent-based hiring has been transformational. This, this transition to Boss to Coach, you know, prior to this, our managers, we have really, we have great managers. And there, we were transitioning from a manager's role of telling people what kind of work to do, how to do the work, kind of a functional, functional direction, to the manager owning the, the relationship in the conversation with an employee. And so we introduced Boss to Coach, gosh, what, 2 years ago, Lauren?

Lauren Hunter 26:31
Yep, about 2 years ago.

Vicki Nelson 26:33
And we have had two cohorts, so two separate groups that have gone through Boss to Coach. One group has gone through Boss to Coach 1 and 2; one has gone through just Boss to Coach 1. And because we're entering an election year, we have a group of managers that have not gone through Boss to Coach at all. And there are some both qualitative and qualitative -- quantitative and qualitative things that have come from this introduction of Boss to Coach. One is managers just coming out of that program who say, Wow, this is going to change the dialogue that I have with my employees! It's going to, now I know that I've got to become more invested in the relationship I have with my manager -- or with my employees. Not just, Hey, I need to make sure the work gets done. But in order for me to make sure that I'm getting the best out of people, I need to invest in that conversation.

Vicki Nelson 27:43
So we hear managers say that that have gone through the Boss to Coach 1 and the Boss to Coach 2. We collect data; we're huge data nerds here, and we collect a lot of data. And we collect data, again, to help guide us on whether we're doing the right thing. And one of the things, Lauren, that I've shared with you is on our engagement survey, we've looked at the engagement of teams for, or we've looked at the engagement for teams that have, their managers have gone through Boss to Coach 1 and 2; we've looked at the engagement of teams where they've gone through Boss to Coach 1; and we've looked at those who haven't gone through -- and there are huge differences.

Vicki Nelson 28:25
And, you know, just a couple differences. One of the questions we ask is, "I had a meaningful annual performance review." That seems like a very benign question. But there are 20 points' difference between the teams that have gone through, their managers have gone through Boss to Coach 2 and those who have not gone through at all. But I think it has a lot to do with the quality of the conversations and the, the ownership that the manager has in the investment of that relationship. They understand the importance of it. You know, we, "My opinions count" [Q07 of Gallup's Q12® engagement survey] there is almost a 30-point difference between managers that have gone through Boss to Coach 1 and 2 and those who have not, the managers haven't gone. Those are huge -- those are huge differences. But they also, when you've got a higher-engaged team, we see this, they're more productive. And so those differences aren't just great to see, and we're glad that our employees get to feel the difference. But for us as a business, we know that it makes a difference in our products; it makes a difference to our customers; and it makes a difference to our financial growth and profits.

Developing Great Managers: Managing to Outcomes

Lauren Hunter 29:39
Abs -- that is fascinating! I know you've actually shown me these, these slides before a couple times, Vicki, and we, we kind of geek out together when we're looking at this data to see, you know, these intentional strategies that you're putting together, they really are making a difference in your culture, in your data, but also, to your point, you know, these really important financial metrics that you have as a company. I'd be really curious to know too, just as we're thinking about the data and some of these metrics, what are you seeing too from a cultural perspective? So with your managers that have gone through Boss to Coach, I'll just kind of pick on that group, versus -- the people that have gone through half the journey versus managers that have gone through nothing. Do you have any real-life examples or stories of what you're seeing as well, kind of data aside?

Vicki Nelson 30:25
I do. I have some great stories. I have one, well, one, this is my favorite story. So about a year and a half ago, we hired, 2 years ago, we hired a new manager for our proposals team. And this is a team of 4, 5, 5 proposal managers who are extremely important to our business. We respond to hundreds of proposals or RFPs every year, and so they're a very vital piece to our business. And it's just a very high-stress, very high-stress role. And we hired a brand, brand new, she's never managed before, and the first year was pretty tough. It was pretty tough for her. You know, she was trying to get her feet on the ground; she was trying to transition from being a proposal writer to now being a manager of their proposal team. And we had her go through Boss to Coach 1. And when she walked out of there, she said, "Oh, my God. I've done it all wrong!" She said, "I've been telling people how to do the work. And what I need to do is I need to engage my team on how we get work done. And understanding that there, it's made, our team is made of four very unique individuals that all have opinions."

Vicki Nelson 31:43
And so her team had very high turnover when she first started. And the turnover, you know, eased off a little bit after she went through Boss to Coach 1. And then she went through Boss to Coach 2, and Boss to Coach 2 is really about the application in increasing, you know, high-performing teams and having critical conversations. And she has a team of just absolute rock stars. But what they said in our engagement conversation a couple months ago is, It feels different to be on this team because Lindsey, the proposal manager, the manager of proposals, lets us have a voice. We have a voice in how work gets done. We have a voice -- I feel like I, this, the individual employee said, "I feel like I have a stake in the game -- that I know that I am an important part. But I have a voice." And to me, if our, all of our employees feel that way, what a cool place that would be to come to work! Where you feel like your voice counts; where you feel like you're heard; like, you know, you're an individual that makes a difference. And a lot of that is just because of the way Lindsey changed the conversation she was having with her employees. And she was, she was helping them do their job better, not telling them what to do. That's my favorite story, my absolute favorite story -- kind of gives me chills when I think about, you know, the difference she made in the lives of those people on the team.

Lauren Hunter 33:24
It gave me chills, too, honestly, when you were saying that. Because that's, you know, that's really what we want is for people to feel like they do have a voice. And, Vicki, I think the coolest part about that is it has a really good bridge back to what you were saying at the very beginning, when you started at ES&S. You were like, you know, we don't want to just tell people what to do. You know, we as HR, we want to be their partner. And, to me, what I'm hearing is this really common thread in your culture and even just from working with you, and I know this, is that that is what your culture at ES&S is really built upon is powerful partnerships and ensuring that people have a voice. So hearing that story is fascinating.

Vicki Nelson 34:04
Here's another great story that's come out of Boss to Coach, but it's also come out of this conversation around strengths. And not just the strength as it's defined by Gallup; that's definitely an important part of it. But it's also understanding what, what does somebody just do really, really well? How do they do it? How do they operate? How do they show up to work? And one of the, the changes that we have really made here is the interdepartmental movement of people. And what I mean by that is if someone starts in a role, like in a customer service role, and maybe, you know, they're not, they're not liking the job, or it's, you know, it's not quite in line with, with how they best show up to work. Our managers do a really good job of looking across the organization to say, you know what? Is there another place that this person can fit? And so we now have a very robust stream of people that be, will be moving, you know, from one department or one team to another division, because it's a better use of their talents, it's a better use of their skills.

Vicki Nelson 35:26
And we keep people -- here's some data for those data nerds like me. Our average length of service is 10 years. In a technology company, I think that's very successful, because we try to retain people, not just because, you know, we don't want people to turn over, but we want people to be productive and successful. And we do work really hard to try to do that, so that the employee is in the right place. And if it's not where they currently are, it could be in some other, other team. I think that is another success we've had.

Lauren Hunter 36:06
It definitely is another success that you've had. I mean, 10 years in these technology roles, especially in today's workplace, that is almost unheard of. So that is absolutely something to celebrate. And you bring up this good point, you're kind of bridging between Boss to Coach and strengths, and how that's, and talent. I mean, that's kind of the perfect, it's, Hey, they're a culture fit, but maybe this role isn't quite a fit to what's driving them the most as an individual. With Boss to Coach, you know, managers, one of the fundamental, for the audience, pieces of the Boss to Coach journey is for managers to learn how to coach to people's strengths, and how to have really, you know, more impactful coaching conversations. Do you have any examples of that, Vicki, as well, of just where you've seen from, like, in that, even in that onboarding, coaching, that you have that expectation for managers to have coaching conversations? Has Boss to Coach helped in that way as well?

Vicki Nelson 36:59
Oh, yes, yes. Significantly, Lauren. You know, the, it, one is a, I, I feel like I'm oversimplifying this, but it, it gives, it's given managers kind of a framework for what makes up a good conversation. What should the elements of that be? So whether it's onboarding someone to a new role or whether it's having a performance conversation or whether it's offboarding someone, it's given them the control of what that conversation could look like and feel like. Yeah, and, you know, no matter whether it's talking to your peer, you know, across a team, or whether it's, you know, it's having a very difficult call, it's given a framework for managers to feel confident about being able to have those sorts of conversations.

Lauren Hunter 38:03
That's, that's amazing. Yeah, the framework is so important, you know, because I love your story that you shared about Lindsey, I believe was her name, you know, and how, when you're stepping into a management role, that can be challenging. And oftentimes, it's viewed as, Oh, this is going to be easy. This is great. And then you start to work with people. And it's this question of, How can I actually properly engage them? So I love the framework. One of the things, Vicki, that I think is really neat that you do at ES&S is when everybody comes to Gallup for Boss to Coach, you're always right here with them. And I think that's really neat, as a leader, is to kind of be kicking it off. Tell us a little bit more about what you say, to these people that are going through Boss to Coach and, and how your role as a leader is so important, because you're with them every step of the way. And to me, that's inspiring, when we go back to that powerful partnership piece.

Vicki Nelson 38:51
Yeah, yeah, it's probably one of my favorite things to do, because it goes back to empowering these managers to feel like they are in control of their role, and that they are in control of the outcomes of their teams. And that really, at the end of the day, it's, it comes down to them. And what I say to them -- you know, every business will say this, but -- every manager is busy. Every manager has, you know, 100 things on their plate, and they need to focus on the business. And the very first thing I say to them when they start is, Be selfish about your time. So we, we are investing -- I'll say this to them -- we're investing in you, but we need you to invest in yourself. And so while you're here, we want, I want you to be here, and I want you to be present, because this is, this is about helping you be the best leader that you can be. And there's all kinds of people that will want to, want to, you know, get your attention. And, and you're gonna get all kinds of emails; I know you're gonna have 3,000 emails in your box when you come, when you, when you go back. But today, and tomorrow is about you.

Vicki Nelson 40:10
And at first, I thought it was kind of corny when I would say that, and I'm thinking to myself, yeah, well, they're all going to be on their phone. I can attest that when they're in the room for those 2 days, they are not on their phone. And they took it, they take it seriously, that the company has invested in them. And I think the other thing is, the information just makes sense. You know, it just is, it makes sense. It's not some radical, you know, way of doing business; it just makes sense. And people can see themselves in the information that they're learning, you know, from understanding their own strengths, how they, how they each show up to work, and they have ownership to that, to then understanding how each of their employees show up to work -- it just makes sense. And it's something that they can incorporate in the work that they do every day. It's not something separate; it is just all a part of how they show up to work. And so it makes sense.

Vicki Nelson 41:11
And that's why we can get them to pay attention to this. It's why we can get them to own their learning during Boss to Coach. And it's why, you know, they show up for all the calls and why they go through all the online modules: Because it makes sense to them, and they're seeing the difference in how their teams are showing up when they apply some of these concepts. So I don't even have to sell it anymore. You know, I had to sell the Boss to Coach 1. I didn't have to sell Boss to Coach 2 to that group. And then when I, we shared the data with the next cohort that went through about the difference in the engagement survey, they're all like, Oh, oh wait, well, this makes sense. And now they're calling me, going, OK, what's next? I want to know what's next. What, when, when do we, when does, when do we go to Gallup again? When's our next session? You know, we're entering the busiest election cycle of a 4-year election cycle starting in December. And we have all of the people that are going to go Boss to Coach committed to those 2 days. Nobody pushed back. Nobody has said, "I can't make it." Nobody's made an excuse -- they're going to be out of town; they are committed to being there. That says a lot for what they're learning, and the difference that they feel that it's making in their job. So I don't even have to sell it anymore.

Gaining Leadership Buy-In

Lauren Hunter 42:36
You've already done that. And you know, you said, "Selfish with your time." And that is so important, you know, as people and as managers that we are selfish with our time for this development. And, Vicki I just think it's inspiring that you are in that course with everybody as well, and that you're showing up with them. You know, I think that's so important. From a leadership level, I'd be curious, kind of, as you think about ES&S as a whole, how is your full leadership team kind of helping? It sounds like it's a, just a vision from the top. You know what I mean? And everybody's bought in. How is that working at ES&S?

Vicki Nelson 43:11
Yeah. Well, you know, we, I made a mistake a couple of, about 5 years ago, where we had a formal organizational development group. And, you know, they had, we had classes people had to go through, and that didn't go well. So when I brought up the Boss to Coach, I, we did it organically, and invited the first group to it. And, and the leaders, the executive leaders, were committed to it -- you know, they allowed people the time to go. But the, the, the real commitment is when the leaders saw the difference in the engagement results. And they saw the difference in how the managers who are going through were making different decisions about, quicker decisions about performance issues, and managing those people either in or out. And the executive leadership team can see that. They can see, one, through the data, and they can see through, you know, we have lots of data we collect -- from turnover, to, you know, involuntary versus voluntary -- and the leaders can see the difference in the data that impacts our business.

Vicki Nelson 44:32
And I think I told you this, you know, kiddingly -- sort of kiddingly, Lauren: Our CFO said to me here a couple, about a month or so ago, "Vicki, you have an open checkbook for however many Boss to Coach programs that you want to introduce. Whatever you and Gallup want to do, you have an open checkbook." Kiddingly, but what he meant by that is, I get it now. I get that it makes a difference for us, and so it's a good investment of our time and our money. To me, that's the highest praise that we can get is when a CFO opens his checkbook and says, "Have at it!"

Lauren Hunter 45:13
Oh, yeah, no, definitely. And the coolest thing, too, is just how it's impacting so much more than just, you know, like, like I said, your data. But you have all these really amazing and inspiring stories to go along with that around how it's truly changing your culture and the wellbeing, you know, of people's lives. And that's, that's what, that's what, you know, what wants me, that's what gets me up every day, you know, in my job is for things like you're doing at ES&S. So that's amazing!

The Power Great Managers Bring

Vicki Nelson 45:40
You know, and one of the other stories, Lauren, everybody was impacted by COVID. Everybody, every business was impacted by COVID. Us, we were impacted by COVID. And what I, what I noticed is, you know, when we've come back to work, we had to run an election, a presidential election during 2020, during a COVID year, and we still had to do business. And what I noticed about our managers is that they were very receptive or very intuitive about how their employees were showing up to work during a very odd, unscripted time. And nobody had a book on how to, how to manage COVID and how to manage employees during COVID. And what I'm finding is, you know, as the world is coming out of COVID, I feel like COVID is so far in our rearview mirror, but managers are, are really paying attention to how our employees are working.

Vicki Nelson 46:50
You know, we haven't mandated people to come back to the building, because our managers are, are really paying attention to what is happening with people when they're not coming in to work, and how might their behavior be changing, and, you know, still managing to outcomes and using those conversations to drive the outcomes versus whether somebody has to show up to work or be in the office. And it's been very successful for us, because that managers have taken, taken responsibility for those conversations that they're having with employees, and I think that's minimized, our impact of this thing called COVID and how, how people work, you know, worked during and after COVID. I get a lot of, give a lot of credit to managers being able to, you know, be adaptable to that. But it's because they were so close and in tune with their employees.

Lauren Hunter 47:47
Oh, yeah, definitely. And they were able to just lead so effectively through that disruption by building those, what they already had -- those individualized relationships. That's such a great story.

Vicki Nelson 47:56
Yeah, yeah. Great point.

Lauren Hunter 47:58
Yeah. And, you know, you're bringing up COVID. That's such a good, I mean, I'm glad that it's in the past, but it's such a good example of challenges that companies were really facing and, I mean, still are. You know, I mean, you referenced kind of hybrid work, and you haven't mandated people to come back. But managers are watching it, and you have this culture of trust. What other type of priorities or strategies are you focusing on right now at ES&S? Like, wellbeing, sense of belonging? Are there any other priorities that you're, like, focusing on right now?

Vicki Nelson 48:30
Yeah, you know, wellbeing is one that we have, we have kind of played with a little bit, understanding that there is, you know, there are pillars, or there's components of what makes up someone's, you know, whole self, not just their work self, not just their career self. But it's also, you know, the personal and social side of a person, the, the financial side, you know, making sure that somebody, you know, feels confident about where they, you know, they are financially. And so, we're introducing, we're making sure that there's conversations that are being had, managers are having, and we listen a lot to what comes out of our engagement survey.

Vicki Nelson 49:17
And so around this kind of the social wellbeing, what our employees are saying is, Hey, we would like to have a little bit more fun at work. We would like to be able to socialize with our colleagues. We would like to be able to, you know, have more, you know, get-togethers. So we're talking with managers about paying attention to that sort of data and figuring out how they, how they, they include that in the work. How do you include fun in the work? How do you include the ability for people to socialize in the work, especially if your team works remote? What do you do? Let's talk about opportunities and possibilities of how you do that. And so, while we don't have a formal wellbeing program, we're using, you know, the information that we're getting out of our engagement survey to address those, you know, those, those specific, you know, issues about things outside of work, more than just the work person.

Lauren Hunter 50:21
That's amazing. And exactly -- more than the work person. You know, we're all human. How can we bring some of those elements into our day-to-day? I like the reference of fun. And, you know, it's, it's a back to like, our approach to engagement, you know, having a Best friend at work, it is so important, because it does help with retention. So I love that example. That's fantastic.

Vicki Nelson 50:39
Yes. Yeah. And I think, Lauren, to your, your point, it isn't just for the sake of fun to have fun; that there is a business side to it. That it's really tied to our business. We have, we have had this even before I came in, but we have our 4 Key Business Results. And the first Key Business Result is employee engagement/satisfaction. And our CEO, every October and November, talks for an hour and a half about what we're learning from our engagement survey. What are the things from the, the results from the comments that we're hearing that are important to people? And what, what, what we're seeing is that is one of the most important meetings for people, because they want to come and hear about not just the business side but the culture side. And our CEO ties that culture side to the business, because the next KPI is, is improved product quality and value, which ties to customer engagement and satisfaction, which ties to increased business, financial growth and profits. So, you know, it's something we've always had. We take each of those elements and break down, What does it mean? But at the end, it's all tied to having a better business making more money. And all of our employees are aware of that.

Customer Centricity and Meaningful Manager-Employee Conversations

Lauren Hunter 52:13
Yeah, definitely. And even hearing that, too, Vicki I, Culture Shock. I know you and I have talked a little bit about our, Gallup's new book, Culture Shock. Four of those kind of key components that we're seeing that people are really, and organizations are really looking for in the workplace today, one of them includes that focus of customer centricity, and a really kind of thinking through, How can we, as an organization, show up more effectively for our customers? So I love that you're making that, that reference point too, and that that's -- again, you know, what this is all about is we want our employee experience to be fueled, but also How is that driving our customer experience, at the end of the day? And it sounds like a lot of this is doing just that for you at ES&S.

Vicki Nelson 52:54
Yeah. And you know, one of the other, to that point, Lauren, one of the, you know, going back to ensuring that our managers are having meaningful conversations with each employee, part of that focus we talk a lot about is tying the work to the customer. You know, and our customer, we have multiple customers, we, you know, whether it's the voter, or whether it's the election official, or whether it's the secretary of state, we have lots of different customers. You know, but we have some people, like in our finance department, that never see a customer. But the managers tie the work that our finance, our finance group is doing, you know, to collecting, you know, collecting outstanding invoices, to making sure that the customer is getting an invoice in which they can understand. And so each manager is -- you know, in a, in a customer-facing role, it's very easy to tie your connection to the customer. But to those that are not direct customer-facing, we still want to tie what an individual has impact to our customer. And we're finding that to be very effective, again, through our key business results, but making that part of the meaningful conversations that managers are having.

Lauren Hunter 54:17
Oh, yeah, definitely. That's amazing that that's part of the, the meaningful conversation. And just, again, you know, singing Culture Shock -- it's one meaningful conversation per week that employees need, and if you can infuse those connections to culture in that, that's gonna be such, you know, such a valuable conversation.

Vicki Nelson 54:33
Yeah. We, we, again, data nerds, we collect that data in our engagement survey. And last year about having me, I had one meaningful conversation with my manager, we say per month -- or every other week, we went from 85% in 2022 to people saying Yes, absolutely, yes, to 95% of our employees this year said, Absolutely, yes. Am I having a meaningful conversation with my manager? I, I, and a lot of it just, I think a lot of it has to do with Boss to Coach too -- we're teaching them how to have those meaningful conversations.

Lauren Hunter 55:15
Absolutely. That is, that, again, those, those sorts of comments just give me chills, because that's amazing, you know, that when we're thinking about employees at ES&S are able to really show up. And, you know, for one, they're the talent fit to your culture. And for two, they're able to show up and do what they do best every day through that lens of their strengths. And then, for three, they have a manager that's engaging them and having these meaningful conversations that are inspiring them. It's so exciting. And, and Vicki, I love -- I know we only have a few minutes left here, but I just would love for you to share with the, with the audience, what are ES&S's next, like, top priorities? You have your Futuristic really high. So this might real -- you might love this question.

Vicki Nelson 55:52
Well, I don't know, Lauren. I'm not sure.

Lauren Hunter 55:55
You have no idea.

Vicki Nelson 55:55
No, great, great point. We have two really important things that we need to pay attention to. So real quickly, you know, the election industry hasn't changed a lot. You know, people are still voting on paper. You know, we still have some of the same equipment we did 30 years ago. But what we're finding is, you know, as the new generations are coming in, the desire for more technology is going to increase. You know, instead of changing election equipment every 10 to 15 years, we think that it's, you know, in the next 7 to 10 years, they're going to, they're gonna, we're gonna vote differently. I don't know that we're gonna vote on our phone, but we're going to vote differently. And so the need for making sure that we are upskilling our employees, being able to be ready when. you know, the technology needs or customers require that technology to change. And being very mindful about what the need of the, of the future employee is going to be. That's No. 1 focus, No. 2 focus is, again, data. Our average age here at ES&S is 49 years old, which means in the next, you know, 5 to 10 years, we're going to have a big retirement party. We're going to have lots of people that are going to be entering that stage of wanting to go run off in the sunset and do other things. So we need to be developing our top leaders today and beginning, begin to identify who those are and be very intentional about their experiences and making sure that they're ready. So those are our two top initiatives that we're paying attention to in the next 2 to 3 years.

Lauren Hunter 57:49
Wow. Really important initiatives, you know, succession planning, and everything that you're doing right now is tied so strongly to that, to really set your future up for success. So, and, Jim, it looks like you might have a question here.

Jim Collison 58:02
Well, I just want to say, you know, I love hearing all this data. I get questions from the community all the time of, Hey, we're doing these initiatives. How do we know we're doing them well? You know, and I love the fact that you're taking the opportunity to ask the questions, like, Are these meaningful conversations actually happening? Like, you know, what a great way, you know, you can, you can only, you know, you've got to measure that in some way. And it's not rocket science. It's just ask the question. Is it happening, right? Are these kinds of things happening? And so, super great to hear, you know, and it would make sense, as a, as a voting company, you'd be data nerds, right? Because it's 100% data in what you're doing there. And so just, just great to, great to hear that. Lauren, we are at the top of our time here. Can you, can you take a second? Would you thank Vicki for being here?

Lauren Hunter 58:59
Oh, of course! Yeah, no, Vicki, thank you, thank you so much, for, for one, for your partnership. I always love our conversations and working with you. And thank you for the great dialogue today and conversation. I think the work that you're doing at ES&S is inspiring and impactful, and it's making a difference on the community and your employees. So I'm just excited for all that's ahead in the future, and I can't thank you enough.

Vicki Nelson 59:19
Excellent. Thank you, Lauren. And thanks, Jim. Thanks. You know, I, I don't think about all these successes until you have this articulated, and I think back and go, Wow, we really have come a long ways! So thank you!

Jim Collison 59:31
It's why we put these together, because it's a great opportunity to get that done. And. listen, it, one, it's great to see you again. I've been around long enough to remember your time here. But, but two, super proud that ES&S is here in Omaha and that we are at the center of that, when we think about voting and democracy and all those things that go into that super important work that is done there. And so just super proud that, that you guys call Omaha your home, and, and that you're a part of the Omaha community. So thanks again.

Vicki Nelson 1:00:03
Excellent. Thank you, Jim.

Jim Collison 1:00:04
With that, we'll remind everyone to take full advantage of all the resources we have available -- There were some questions earlier about talent-based hiring or Boss to Coach. If you're interested in more information about that, we've got some information on our websites, but it might just be easier for you to contact us. Send us an email: We'll get somebody to call you back and work you through that. We are getting ready -- I know it sounds kind of weird, but the summer of 2024, June 2024 will be here before you know it. And the Gallup at Work Summit is, is on, and the planning is all in. We'd love for you to be there. Head out to -- all one word. Get more information about that. And we'd love to have you join us here, especially if you're in the Omaha area. And stay up to date on all the future webcasts by joining us in our Facebook group or LinkedIn. We post when we're going live over there. And, of course, you can find all things strengths by searching "CliftonStrengths" on any social, on any of the social sites. Thanks for listening. If you found this useful, we'd ask that you'd share it. And with that, we'll say, Goodbye, everybody.

Vicki Nelson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Maximizer, Futuristic, Arranger, Strategic and Self-Assurance.

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