Crucial Conversations is an integral part of the culture at American Enterprise Group, Inc. (AEG), and its reach extends beyond the classroom thanks to the creativity of April King and her team.
“I really feel we’ve maximized all our capabilities to train our employees on Crucial Conversations,” said King, who serves as director of employee engagement and development for the Des Moines-based insurance organization.
King certified in Crucial Conversations® for Mastering Dialogue in April 2020 and has taught the course virtually to a nationwide audience as part of a top-down initiative. Every employee participates in the course, with many taking it during new employee orientation or when it’s offered each quarter.
“This is a top-down initiative for a reason,” King said. “This is the way we have respectful conversations with each other when the stakes are high and when there are opposing opinions, and we sell that up front, so people are excited to take the course.”
She and her fellow trainers team-teach the sessions so learners experience variety in the course’s delivery.
“One size doesn’t fit all, so we want to hear feedback,” King said. “We all train a little bit differently, so there really is something for everyone.”
King’s first in-person course is coming up in June for incoming interns. While facilitating virtually started out as a necessity during the pandemic, King said it’s been a wonderful way for the Iowa office staff to connect with teams across the country.
“I love that we can hire an employee remotely in Texas, they’re never likely to see our home office, but they can build a relationship with me while I’m sitting at my desk in Des Moines,” she said. “I think it’s slick, and it’s fun to see people interact. Bringing people together from different demographics, different dynamics, and connecting them in the same conversation is rewarding.”
She’s continued that Zoom conversation with course graduates, thanks to monthly refresher sessions, focusing on course skills like Master My Stories.
King also writes articles for the company intranet, using scenarios tailored to AEG’s needs to keep Crucial Conversations skills top of mind for her course graduates.
“We’re three, four years out for some employees, so you have to keep the information fresh,” King said. “We’ve been able to keep the conversations front and center using resources like our intranet.”
King continues to work with course graduates through coaching sessions. She’s also developed a State My Path skills reminder sheet that course graduates can use as they face new Crucial Conversations.
To reach certain teams, King and her colleagues have had to think outside the box.
Sales agents work on commission, so asking them to step away from their phones for two days wasn’t an option.
“How do you still give them the full course in bite-sized chunks?” King wondered.
Her solution came by offering spaced learning via Zoom recordings, accessible only to sales agents. The bite-sized sessions paused in areas to allow learners to do the exercises in the learner guides as if in the classroom, but on their own schedules.
“Since launching, we have been able to train 18 internal sales agents that had previously been unable to attend the course,” she said.
Making sure every employee has the opportunity to take the course creates connection among teams and helps every team feel included. Working with our customer care and sales teams especially stands out for King.
“We got really great feedback and heard comments thanking us for making this training a priority for everyone,” King said. “Unless employees are told they have to do something, they might not make time to go through the course, so I would say it’s been a big success.”