To remain competitive and relevant in today’s work climate, organizations need people to feel engaged and working collaboratively. But did you know, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, managers are missing out on the full potential of 85% of their employees? I’ve been a Gallup-certified Strengths coach since 2010 and have worked with dozens of companies to address common issues such as problems with employee engagement and/or culture. Most of my clients use my services because they want to better understand how to engage their employees. I firmly believe that the most successful organizations are those that use a strengths-based approach.
So, how does a company become strengths-based? Read on to hear about my recent partnership with Ambrose Property Group, an Indianapolis-based company that is a recognized leader in logistics and e-commerce real estate development, asset management and other industrial related real estate services.
In June 2019, Ambrose Property Group partnered with First Person Advisors, a leading benefits and people strategy firm, to launch a unique opportunity to enhance employees’ leadership skills and improve team effectiveness. Ambrose wanted to specifically focus on creating a positive culture that celebrates individuals’ strengths and talent, and how to use these talents for better business results.
To build a sustainable culture of strengths, Ambrose invested in a year-long StrengthsFinder initiative. Not only did all their employees take the full 34 Clifton Strengths assessment, but Ambrose also invested in Gallup’s Employee Strengths Portal Access, a cloud-based survey, analytics and learning platform. Within the platform, Ambrose employees can:
- Easily manage the distribution of Clifton Strengths assessments to their teams
- Get to know each employee’s strengths through access to their individualized Strengths report
- Analyze team dynamics and team Strengths grids for more effective team planning and feedback
- Gain insights into coaching and giving individual feedback through learning content that’s included with your subscription or through add-on online courses
I was thrilled to be brought on board to help guide Ambrose through this Strengths initiative. In the months prior to the kickoff, I worked with the leadership team to design a customized Strengths plan that involved regular training sessions and activities to help employees learn and embrace a Strengths culture. Due to the pandemic, all training sessions were held virtually with a mixture of content and small/large group discussions.
So how did this initiative turn out? Following is a Q&A I had with Julie Weisenbach, Vice President of Talent & Culture at Ambrose.
What made Ambrose decide to invest in the StrengthsFinder initiative? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish?
Some of our executive leadership had gone through StrengthsFinder in their time prior to Ambrose, so there was some familiarity with the program and its processes. Obviously, last year presented a lot of challenges to organizations. On top of that, we had several new team members join the company, and we anticipated continued growth over the course of the year. We wanted to find a program to help generate employee engagement and connectivity across a relatively new team during the remote time of COVID.
After 9 months of focusing on Strengths, what advice would you give to other organizations who are trying to improve culture and invest in their employees? Is there anything that the Strengths initiative provided that was different from another initiatives?
One particular aspect we really liked about StrengthsFinder compared to other programs was that it is in-depth but not super technical. It’s relatively easy to understand. To build on those insights outside of the sessions and help make it a part of the day-to-day culture, I think it’s incredibly helpful to put visual cues in people’s offices and workstations showing their strengths. We printed some nice placards with everyone’s top five strengths, and everyone keeps it visible in their office. It’s not realistic for people to log in and open up the team grid every day to refresh themselves on their teammates’ strengths. But it is realistic for them to notice these whenever walking by or stopping to talk to someone. Keep it present.
For those looking to do StrengthsFinder in the future, obviously being able to do it live and in-person adds a whole other layer of engagement. We had to utilize Zoom during our initiative, which worked fine, but you lose a little impact by not being face-to-face.
Tell me more about Ambrose, especially what sets Ambrose Property Group apart from other organizations? What are highlights of Ambrose Property Group, specifically any you have seen through the pandemic?
I like to describe Ambrose as a small, entrepreneurial and fast-growing organization. We’re always looking at what’s next and coming up with new processes and ways to better serve our clients. And, we look for individuals who have that same entrepreneurial spirit. We’re not a heavy-layered organization, so if you come up with an idea, odds are you’re going to get the opportunity to explore and try it out. Not all companies offer that same opportunity and confidence in their employees. This especially played out this past year, where we really trusted our team to keep the pace during a time of unprecedented challenges. Our team excelled and thrived in that setting, and as a result, we’re doubling in volume and size compared to last year.
Describe the office’s “vibe” and how employees have maintained working relationships to still be productive in the pandemic.
Our office vibe is, frankly, awesome. We have such a committed group of talented people that want to succeed. Every person brings a positive, can-do attitude, which was very beneficial during the past year. Like many organizations, we began working from home in March 2020. During those first months working remote, we took advantage of the technology available and scheduled weekly Zoom meetings with the entire team. Some were simple catch-up social hours, in others we shared company updates and we even had a guest speaker or two. We just wanted to make sure people stayed connected and collaborative even though we weren’t together in an office setting. We did the weekly meetings up until we started StrengthsFinder, which then took their place.
I think those efforts really paid off, and as we transitioned into a hybrid work schedule at the beginning of this year, it was really seamless. People have adjusted well and, we’ve just continued to excel. We’re a group of achievers – and I can say that honestly! Look at our team results! Achiever was our number one, top strength within our team. So, I can’t say I’m shocked that Ambrose and our team has done so well this past year, but we certainly don’t take it for granted.
Will Ambrose continue to implement Strengths moving forward?
We want to keep leveraging StrengthsFinder within the company, but I don’t have the full answer just yet. We printed the placards highlighting individual top five strengths, which everyone keeps at their desks. One path we are really interested in pursuing is dovetailing our experience with StrengthsFinder into a leadership program that we could roll out in the future. We’re currently looking into options on the best way to execute that concept.
What hopes and dreams do you have when it comes to growing the Ambrose team and investing in current employees?
In a nutshell, I would say to have an engaged workforce that enjoys their work and feels like they’re part of something bigger. We must be able to grow with the demand of the business. So, my hope is that we continue to have the capabilities, utilize our strengths and have an amazing culture (one that is very much a collaborative environment) as we keep growing. I believe that so much of culture is driven by employees. Leadership is important, but it’s really driven by every individual on the team. I want our employees to continue to be engaged and feel like they’re successful not only in their roles but in contributing to the overall success of Ambrose.
Through their Strengths-based initiative, Ambrose Property Group has had the opportunity to rise to the next level in terms of creating an amazing workplace culture. By investing in this opportunity, the Ambrose leadership took an active step to show their commitment to their employees. So, how about your organization? The workforce evolves, so too does your workplace. The key is to determine what this evolution means for your workplace culture. What do your employees want? What do they need? I urge all organizations to be bold. Consider the unique talents of your team and what makes the most sense. Trust me; it will be worth it.
Stephanie Brouwer has been a Gallup-certified Strengths coach since 2010 and has presented to hundreds of individuals in 1:1 and large group settings to allow individuals to expand their understanding of how to apply their Strengths. Stephanie currently works at Marian University in Indianapolis and lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Mark.